Old World Flycatchers: Muscicapidae
Cape Batis (batis Capensis): Species Accounts
Physical characteristics: Cape batises belong to a group called wattle-eyes. All thirty-one wattle-eyes live in Africa. They are called wattle-eyes because they have bright flesh colored circles around their eyes. This group of birds is being reconsidered as an Old World flycatcher and has been granted its own family grouping by some taxonomists, scientists who classify animals according to specific traits.
Also called cape puffbacks, cape batises have large heads relative to their small bodies. They weigh 5.1 ounces (13 grams) and are 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. They have short tails, round wings, and orange eyes. Males have dark blue-gray backs and tails, black heads, white throats and bellies edged in reddish brown, and a black breast band. Females have brown heads, a brownish wash over the breast, and no breast band.
Geographic range: Cape batises live along the coast of South Africa and deep into the escarpments, steep slopes or cliffs, of Swaziland and Zimbabwe.
Habitat: Cape batises make their home in forests, scrub, and planted gardens in southern Africa. Their range is from sea level to 7,050 feet (2,150 meters).
Diet: Like other flycatchers, cape batises eat insects.
Behavior and reproduction: This species lives in permanent territories with a mate, either alone or in small groups, though some populations will gather in large flocks of ten to thirty birds.
Sometimes, cape batises will forage for food with other bird species. Some populations migrate to different elevations as the seasons change.
Cape batises actively seek insects throughout the forest canopy by flushing, frightening, them from their places of cover, hiding. The birds then capture their prey as it flies.
This species mates from September to December, building a small cup-shaped nest of dry grasses, held together with spider webs. The nest is built low in thick brush in the fork of a branch and holds one to three eggs. The female incubates, sits on and warms, the eggs for seventeen to twenty-one days. Mating pairs stay together for life.
Cape batises have a monotonous, unchanging, call of repeating "tu" syllables and a simple whistle.
Cape batises and people: This species has the potential to contribute to ecotourism, an industry based on attracting tourists to view birds and other animals in their environments.
Conservation status: Cape batises are not threatened with extinction. ∎
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Perrins, Christopher. Firefly Encyclopedia of Birds. Richmond Hill, Canada: Firefly Books, 2003.
Robbins, Michael. Birds: Fandex Family Field Guides. New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1998.
Stattersfield, A. J., David R. Capper, and Guy C. L. Dutson. Threatened Birds of the World. Barcelona and Cambridge, U.K.: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, 2000.
Weidensaul, Scott. Birds: National Audubon Society First Field Guides. New York: Scholastic Trade, 1998.
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