Cercomela schlegelii (Karoo chat) 

Karoospekvreter [Afrikaans]; Karoo-spekvreter [Dutch]; Traquet du Karroo [French]; Bleichschmätzer, Wüstenschmätzer [German]; Chasco do Karoo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Muscicapidae > Genus: Cercomela

Cercomela schlegelii (Karoo chat)  Cercomela schlegelii (Karoo chat) 
Karoo chat, Tanqua Karoo, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©] Karoo chat, Tanqua Karoo, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]
Cercomela schlegelii (Karoo chat) Cercomela schlegelii (Karoo chat)

Karoo chat. [photo Neil Gray ©]

Karoo chat, with captured cicada. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from south-western Angola through Namibia to the Western and Northern Cape, marginally extending into the Free State and the Eastern Cape. It generally prefers succulent shrubland or stony hillsides within the Karoo; in the Namib Desert it prefers perennial grassland on stony and gravelly plains. It rarely wanders into villages, settlements and gardens, even if they are adjacent to a favoured habitat.

Distribution of Karoo chat in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project (© Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  


It mainly eats insects, doing most of its foraging on the ground, probing the bases of grass tufts and shrubs in search of food. It may also catch termites and other prey in soil mounds, especially if they have been freshly dug by an Aardvark (Orycteropus afer) or Bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis). The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The nest is built solely by the female in about 8 days, consisting of a deep cup set into a foundation of small twigs and sticks, lined with fluffy seeds or another soft material. It is typically placed on the ground beneath a shrub, usually facing south or south-east to maximise shade during the heat of the day.
  • It can breed opportunistically in response to rain at any time of the year but egg-laying season is mainly from August-March.
  • It lays 2-4 pale greenish blue eggs, freckled with reddish brown.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, who often mimic an injury-stricken bird in an attempt to coax a predator away from the nest.


Not threatened.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 



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