Family Batises and Wattle-eyes (Platysteiridae)

Least Concern

Grey-headed Batis (Batis orientalis)


French: Pririt à tête grise German: Heuglinschnäpper Spanish: Batis oriental

Platystira orientalis


, 1870,

#R, Modat Valley, Bogosland, Eritrea


Precise distribution uncertain, and relationship with some congeners unclear. May be close to B. molitor, to which similar acoustically, and in E of range could in fact be largely confined to Ethiopian highlands and separated from that species by a band of semi-desert low country, which is occupied to a certain extent by B. perkeo. Possibility of N–S intergradation of present species with B. erlangeri in general area of Chad–Central African Republic–W Sudan has been suggested; males of the two are extremely similar (old specimens from NE DRCongo cannot be reliably identified) and they may have been confused in Sudan, but according to one author they are separable in Ethiopia by wing length. Proposed race somaliensis (Somalia) included in bella, which itself is sometimes merged into nominate. Four subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • B. o. chadensis Alexander, 1908 – NE Nigeria (just W of L Chad from Arege to Malamfatori), NE Cameroon, S Chad, N Central African Republic, SW Sudan, South Sudan and W Ethiopia.
  • B. o. orientalis (Heuglin, 1870) – E Sudan, Ethiopia (except SW & S) and Eritrea.
  • B. o. lynesi C. H. B. Grant & Mackworth-Praed, 1940 – E Red Sea Province of NE Sudan.
  • B. o. bella (Elliot, 1897) – S Ethiopia, Djibouti, N & S Somalia and locally NE Uganda (Mt Moroto) and N Kenya (Moyale area).
  • Descriptive notes

    10–11 cm; 8·8–13·4 g. Small flycatcher-like and shrike-like bird with contrasting black, grey and white (and some rufous) colours. Male nominate race has forehead... read more


    Described as bell-like, usually 4 notes or metallic clicking and a series of high-pitched notes;... read more


    Vegetation near large rivers in arid and semi-arid regions. Habitat also described as dry savanna... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet insects; ants (Hymenoptera) recorded. Uses lower part or centre of tree. Very active. Gleans from foliage.


    Circumstantial evidence indicates season from Feb to, probably, Jul. Territorial. Nest a neat small cup of bark and lichens, bound with... read more



    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Status not well known, as very few ornithologists have field experience with this species and probably only few are able to identify it correctly.... read more

    Recommended citation

    Louette, M. (2020). Grey-headed Batis (Batis orientalis). 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 29 February 2020).