Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Mocking Cliff-chat (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris)


French: Traquet à ventre roux German: Rotbauchschmätzer Spanish: Roquero imitador
Other common names: White-crowned Cliff-chat (coronata)

Turdus cinnamomeiventris


, 1836,

Cape Province, South Africa


White-crowned race coronata has been treated as a separate species, sometimes with kordofanensis; females of these two taxa have more rufous, less grey breasts, reinforcing possibility they deserve species rank; but black-crowned birds in sympatry or close allopatry could indicate polymorphism rather than species status, and very limited recorded material suggests no difference in voice, hence modern trend to split coronata regarded here as requiring stronger evidence. Nine subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • T. c. bambarae Bates, 1928 – S Mauritania (Assaba Escarpment), SE Senegal and SW Mali (Bamako Region).
  • T. c. cavernicola Bates, 1933 – C Mali (Mopti Region).
  • T. c. coronata Reichenow, 1902 – N Ivory Coast and SW & SE Burkina Faso E, discontinuously, to W Sudan (Darfur).
  • T. c. kordofanensis Wettstein, 1916 – Nuba Mts, in CS Sudan.
  • T. c. albiscapulata (Rüppell, 1837) – N Eritrea, N, C & E Ethiopia and extreme SE South Sudan (Jabal Fazughli).
  • T. c. subrufipennis Reichenow, 1887 – SE South Sudan (Boma Hills) and SW Ethiopia S through Rift Valley and Tanzania to E, C & S Zambia and Malawi.
  • T. c. odica Clancey, 1962 – C & E Zimbabwe, adjacent W Mozambique and E & SE Botswana.
  • T. c. cinnamomeiventris (Lafresnaye, 1836) – E South Africa and W Swaziland.
  • T. c. autochthones Clancey, 1952 – S Mozambique S to NE South Africa (E Limpopo, E Mpumalanga, NE KwaZulu-Natal) and E Swaziland.
  • Descriptive notes

    19–21 cm; 41–51 g. Recalls Cossypha in appearance, but slimmer. Male nominate race has glossy black upper body, wings and tail, with white shoulder patch... read more


    Song (by both sexes) a fine, rich, powerful and far-carrying fluty warbling, of two types (possibly... read more


    Requires mix of rocks and trees; thus occurs on cliffs, kopjes, inselbergs, gorges and boulder-... read more

    Food and feeding

    Figs of several species, including Ficus ingens; insects, including flying ants; also spiders, as well as aloe nectar. Forages in... read more


    Nestlings in May and fledglings Jul in Ghana; Dec–May in Nigeria; Feb and Apr–Jun in Ethiopia; rainy season (Mar–Jun, Nov... read more


    Resident. In some higher areas a vertical migrant; e.g. in South Africa, absent in some years from... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Locally common from Eritrea S to E South Africa; common in Malawi, abundant in Burundi, frequent in Ethiopia, local and uncommon to common in Sudan,... read more

    Recommended citation

    Collar, N. (2020). Mocking Cliff-chat (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris). 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 25 February 2020).