The Cape Robin-Chat rather paradoxically can be shy as well as confiding. These lovely little birds occur over much of South Africa where there is dense enough vegetation to provide for their needs.

Like thrushes and other robins and robin-chats, they are predominantly ground foragers, although they can hawk on the wing, and they also glean prey from foliage and tree trunks. They have adapted well to gardens and parks. Their varied diet includes many insects, especially beetles, ants, moths, termites and caterpillars and they also eat ripe fruits.

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Cape Robin-Chats often forage near to or on the ground when concealed by low-growing vegetation, but they also venture out onto garden lawns seeking prey

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A Cape Robin-Chat watching from a fence post in our garden for prey to feed its hungry fledgling baby in the late afternoon

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This Cape Robin-Chat took advantage of my bit of gardening to venture near to see what it might find in freshly exposed earth

 Male and female Cape Robin-Chats look alike. Although they are territorial birds and form monogamous breeding pairs when the opportunity arises, they mostly forage on their own. They advertise their territory by singing loudly, though females only do this in the absence of a male. They can also mimic the calls of other species. There is a Cape Robin-Chat on record that mimicked the calls of 36 species of birds, resulting in it having about 75 different calls (Roberts VII Multimedia PC Edition).

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A parent Cape Robin-Chat keeping an eye out for prey to feed to its constantly chirping baby (in the background) that has recently fledged

Both parents share in raising their young.  There are usually 2-3 eggs per clutch. Nests can be on the ground or in low-growing vegetation. Sometimes they make use of human-built structures and even pot plants to house their nests.

Cape Robin-Chats are commonly parasitized by the much bigger Red-chested Cuckoo (Piet-my-vrou), and I have seen a pair working very hard to feed the very vocal and very large cuckoo fledgling that they were raising.

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I managed to snap a closer shot of the same Cape Robin-Chat fledgling as in the photo above. It was very wary and alert despite it seeming to be fixated on demanding food from its parent

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Cape Robin-Chats prefer to bathe daily if water is available. This one is taking a dip in the shallow end of our garden pond. In coastal areas they have been seen bathing in intertidal rock pools

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This individual, also enjoying bathing in the garden pond, is a juvenile in the process of acquiring its adult plumage

Cape Robin-Chats moult post-breeding, with the timing of this process varying across summer-and winter-rainfall regions. Their colour is at its most vivid after acquiring their new feathers, and their feathers become more bleached in appearance over time.

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A portrait of a Cape Robin-Chat showing its white eye-brow and the lovely orange wash on its throat and chest

Cape-Robin-Chat 10Sources: Hugh Chittenden, Greg Davies, Ingrid Weiersbye. 2016. Roberts Bird Guide: Illustrating nearly 1,000 Species in Southern Africa (2nd edition). Cape Town: Jacana; Roberts VII Multimedia PC Edition.  1997-2016 Southern African Birding. For details go to

Posted by Carol

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