Cercomela tractrac (Tractrac chat) 

Woestynspekvreter [Afrikaans]; Woestijn-spekvreter [Dutch]; Traquet tractrac [French]; Namibschmätzer [German]; Chasco-pálido [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 tractrac (Tractrac chat) 

Tractac chat, Walvis Bay, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Tractac chat,Port Nolloth, South Africa. [photo Trevor Hardaker ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to southern Africa, occurring from south-western Angola through western Namibia to the Northern Cape, marginally extending into the Western and Eastern Cape. It generally prefers open plains with scattered shrubs, perennial grassland, Karoo and dune shrubland

Distribution of Tractrac 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 sometimes on gravel roads, as it likes to feed on road-killed beetles. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:


  • The nest is a deep cup, set into a foundation of dry twigs and sticks and lined with fluffy seeds of plants such as the Karoo rosemary (Eriocephalus). It is typically placed beneath a shrub, next to a stone or inside a Welwitschia mirabilis plant, often facing east or south-east to maximise shade during the heat of the day.
  • Egg-laying season is from about August-April, peaking from September-October.
  • It lays 2-3 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes.
  • The chicks leave the nest after about 18 days, remaining under their parents care for at least 9 weeks (in one observation).


Not threatened, although overgrazing of Karoo shrubland is cause for concern.


  • 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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