Family Old World Flycatchers and Chats (Muscicapidae)

Least Concern

Rusty-flanked Robin-chat (Dessonornis macclounii)


French: Cossyphe de MacClounie German: Rostflankenrötel Spanish: Cosifa flanquirroja

Callene macclounii


, 1903,

Nwenembe, 7500 feet [c. 2285 m], Malawi


Hitherto treated as conspecific with D. anomalus and D. mbuluensis, but (along with D. mbuluensis) differs from D. anomalus by its (olive-tinged) dull dark grey vs dull olive-rufous upperparts (2); clear white vs white-tinged narrow grey supercilium (3); blackish vs grey face and moustachial area (2); more intense white of throat (and extending more onto upper breast in D. macclounii) (ns[1–2]); less extensive grey of breast (much darker in D. mbuluensis) with more white on mid-belly (ns[1–2]); more rufous, less olive-ochreish lower flanks and undertail-coverts (ns[1–2]). Race grotei greyer on crown and back, more chestnut on rump, vent and in tail, and possibly distinct vocally; further study may accord it species rank. Two subspecies recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • D. m. grotei Reichenow, 1932 – Grote's Robin-chat – E & S Tanzania (Ukaguru and Uluguru Mts to Udzungwa Mts S to Njombe and Songea).
  • D. m. macclounii (Shelley, 1903) – MacClounie's Robin-chat – SW Tanzania (Tukuyu), N Malawi (Nyika and Viphya Plateaux) and adjacent NE Zambia.
  • Descriptive notes

    14–15 cm; 17·5–29 g (nominate), 22·5–28 g (grotei). Adult has mainly dark grey upperparts including forecrown (darker anteriorly), black or blackish-grey head-sides... read more


    Song of nominate is similar to, or slightly shorter than, that of formerly conspecific D.... read more


    Montane evergreen forest, forest patches, edges and adjacent gardens, at 1000–2600 m; mainly above... read more

    Food and feeding

    Only insects reported. Forages mainly on ground or on logs, but frequently ascends into middle strata to glean on creeper-laden and moss-... read more


    Season Jul and Oct–Dec in Tanzania; late Nov–early Jan on Nyika Plateau, in Malawi, and from Oct on Zambian side. Territory size 0·25–2·5... read more


    Sedentary on Nyika Plateau, in Malawi; retrapped birds moved 0–620 m (mean 150 m) from initial... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened (Least Concern). Restricted-range species: confined to Tanzania–Malawi mountains EBA. Overall range estimated to encompass c. 212,000 km². Population... read more

    Recommended citation

    del Hoyo, J., Collar, N. & Kirwan, G.M. (2019). Rusty-flanked Robin-chat (Dessonornis macclounii). 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 6 December 2019).