Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Brown-chested Alethe (Chamaetylas poliocephala)


French: Cossyphe à poitrine brune German: Braunbrust-Braunschwanz Spanish: Alete pechipardo

Trichophorus (Criniger) poliocephalus


, 1850,

Dabocrom, Ghana


Considerable confusion regarding type locality and subspecific nomenclature: type locality was claimed to be Bioko, apparently due to misunderstanding; under such an arrangement the Bioko race was considered nominate poliocephala, while westernmost race bore name castanonota; however, type series convincingly shown not to have come from Bioko, but probably Ghana, and plumage of syntypes matches skins from there; type locality thus emended, westernmost race becoming nominate, with Bioko race adopting name compsonota. Described race nandensis (from W Kenya) considered synonymous with carruthersi. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • C. p. poliocephala (Bonaparte, 1850) – Grey-headed Alethe – extreme SW Guinea and Sierra Leone E to Ghana.
  • C. p. compsonota (Cassin, 1859) – Chestnut-backed Alethe – S Nigeria, Cameroon and SW Central African Republic S to extreme W DRCongo (Luki Forest#R), NW Angola (Quiculungo in Cuanza Norte), and Bioko.
  • C. p. hallae (Traylor, 1961) – Gabela Alethe – W Angola (Kumbira Forest, Gabela).
  • C. p. giloensis (Cunningham-van Someren & Schifter, 1981) – S South Sudan (Imatong Mts), possibly this race in NE Uganda#R.
  • C. p. carruthersi (Ogilvie-Grant, 1906) – Brown-chested Alethe – SE Central African Republic, NE DRCongo, Uganda and W Kenya.
  • C. p. akeleyae (Dearborn, 1909) – Kenya E of Rift Valley.
  • C. p. vandeweghei (Prigogine, 1984) – Rwanda and Burundi.
  • C. p. kungwensis (Moreau, 1941) – Mt Kungwe, in W Tanzania.
  • C. p. ufipae (Moreau, 1942) – SE DRCongo (Upemba National Park) and SW Tanzania (Mt Mahale, Ufipa Plateau).
  • Descriptive notes

    15–16 cm; 22–38 g. Nominate race has crown dark grey, whitish-grey supercilium, blackish-brown ear-coverts, reddish-brown mantle, wings and rump; blackish tail... read more


    Generally very silent. Song a series of a standard phrase consisting of 5–10 pure mournful... read more


    Primary lowland, transition and lower montane forest, swamp-forest and gallery forest, old... read more

    Food and feeding

    Only animal food recorded, almost all invertebrates: insects and their larvae (beetles, termites, ants, mantids, mole-crickets), millipedes... read more


    Jul in Sierra Leone; breeding-condition birds May–Jun and juveniles Jun–Sept (some Oct–Jan) in Liberia; breeding-... read more


    Sedentary. Ringed individual in Kenya recaptured after nine years only 100 m from site where first... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant overall, but considered uncommon to scarce in W Africa and parts of WC Africa. Common on Bioko, especially in primary forest below... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2019). Brown-chested Alethe (Chamaetylas poliocephala). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 18 September 2019).