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Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris (Mocking cliff-chat, Mocking chat) 

Dassievoël [Afrikaans]; iQumutsha-lamawa [Zulu]; Roodbuik-kliftapuit [Dutch]; Traquet à ventre roux [French]; Rotbauchschmätzer [German]; Chasco-poliglota [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

Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris (Mocking cliff-chat, Mocking chat) 

Mocking cliff-chat. [photo Gerhard Theron]

Distribution and habitat

Occurs in a neat band from central Ethiopia through Tanzania, Malawi and northern Mozambique to southern Africa. Here it is locally common in Zimbabwe, south-eastern Botswana, the eastern half of South Africa and southern Mozambique. It generally prefers well-wooded rocky ravines, cliffs and gullies, boulder-strewn hillsides and watercourses in valley bottoms with scattered rocks.

Distribution of Mocking cliff-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.  

Movements and migrations

Resident throughout most of its distribution, although in the Drakensberg it tends to head to lower altitudes in winter.


It eats insects, fruit and occasionally the nectar of aloes, such as Krantz aloe (Aloe arborescens). It does most of its foraging from a perch, pouncing on prey on the ground, but it may also glean food from leaves and branches.


  • The nest is built by both sexes in about a week, consisting of an open cup set into a foundation of twigs, leaves, roots and feathers, lined with the hair of antelopes and hyraxes. It is typically placed in the nest of a striped swallow, sometimes kicking them out while they are in the process of breeding, usually position beneath a rock overhang, bridge, culvert or in a cave. It may occasionally use a hole in a wall or a cavity in agricultural machinery.
  • Egg-laying season is from August-December, peaking from September-November.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 14-16 days.
  • The chicks are fed by both parents, leaving the nest after about 19-21 days.


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.