The sickle-winged chat, Cercomela sinuata
, is endemic to southern Africa. It is a common resident breeder in South Africa and Lesotho, also found in southernmost areas of Botswana and Namibia. Its habitat is Karoo scrub, short grassland and barren sandy or stony areas. On the Highveld they totally adore burnt areas, one bird often keeping to the same such patch for weeks. Large view
Sickle-winged chats migrate from higher altitudes when severe winter conditions sets in. Places like Lesotho may be vacated completely in winter. Although these movements are normally marginal, some birds have been seen significantly far away from their normal ranges, recently near Devon (initially in Gauteng, then later moved to a spot in Mpumalanga) and Vrede (North-eastern Free State). These sightings constitute the most north-eastern records reported to SABAP in the last four years.
The contrast between the dark upperparts and the much paler underparts distinguish this species from the more uniformly coloured familiar chat with which it can easily be confused. It is more slightly built and longer-legged than the familiar chat. It also has the pale salmon-buff on the flanks and rump extending only onto the base of the tail, whereas the Familiar Chat has a richer hue which almost reaches the tail’s tip.
This species is monogamous, mating for life.
The sickle-winged chat is usually seen singly or in pairs, foraging on the ground for insects. In comparison with the Familiar Chat, it spends more time on the ground and runs more swiftly. It flicks its wings, but less frequently than the Familiar Chat.