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Cape Batis - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by max1
Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa, 23 November 2015

Alternative name: Cape Puffback Includes Malawi Batis

Batis capensis


Photo © by louisdup
Baviaanskloof, South Africa, October 2005

Cape Batises have large heads relative to their small bodies. They weigh 5.1 ounces (13 grams) and are 6 inches (15 centimeters) long. They have short tails, round wings, and orange eyes.

Adult male: Has a dark blue-gray back and tail, black head with a grey crown, white throat and belly, reddish brown flanks, and a black breast band.

Adult female: Similar to the male, but with reddish brown throat patch and breast band.


Cape, South Africa, January 2009]] Southern Africa
Eastern Africa: Zambia, Mozambique and Malawi
Southern Africa: Zimbabwe, South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Lesotho and Swaziland


Male Cape Batis feeding a juvenule Klaas's Cuckoo
Photo © by Alan Manson
Slanghoek Mountain Resort, Western Cape, South Africa, January 2009

Batis capensis has six subspecies, variation being mainly in size (northern races larger) and shades of grey and rufous plumage:1,2

  • B. c. capensis
  • B. c. hollidayi
  • B. c. kennedyi
  • B. c. erythrophthalma
  • South-central plateau of Zimbabwe
  • B. c. dimorpha
  • Mountains of southern Malawi and adjacent Mozambique
  • B. c. sola
  • Northern Malawi

Sibley & Monroe6 recognised the Malawi Batis (B. c. dimorpha and B. c. sola) as a separate species. This splits from the Cape Batis has, however, not been recognised by Clements1 or Howard & Moore3. Recent genetic evidence from a study of the forest Batis species2,5 indictates that birds from Malawi are closely related to South African birds, but the two populations are sufficiently different to recognise them as separate species. However, birds from Zimbabwe and Mozambique were not included in this study.


The Cape Batis makes his home in forests, scrub, and planted gardens in southern Africa. Their range is from sea level to 7,050 feet (2,150 meters).



Like other flycatchers, Cape Batises eat insects and actively seek them throughout the forest canopy by flushing, frightening, them from their places of cover, hiding. The birds then capture their prey as it flies.


This species mates from September to December, building a small cup-shaped nest of dry grasses, held together with spider webs. The nest is built low in thick brush in the fork of a branch and holds one to three eggs. The female incubates, sits on and warms, the eggs for seventeen to twenty-one days. Mating pairs stay together for life. Parasitised by Klaas's Cuckoo.


  1. Clements, JF. 2011. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. 6th ed., with updates to August 2011. Ithaca: Cornell Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0801445019. Spreadsheet available at http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/downloadable-clements-checklist
  2. Feldsa J, RCK Bowie and J Kiure. 2006. The Forest Batis, Batis mixta is two species: description of a new, narrowly distributed Batis species in the Eastern Arc biodiversity hotspot. Journal of Ornithology 147, 578-590.
  3. Dickinson, EC, ed. 2003. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. 3rd ed., with updates to December 2007 (Corrigenda 7). Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0691117010
  4. Gill, F and M Wright. 2008. Birds of the World: Recommended English Names. Princeton University Press, Princeton NJ, USA. 2006. ISBN 9780691128276. Update (2008) downloaded from http://worldbirdnames.org/names.html.
  5. Percy Fitzpatrick Institute. 2006. A new Batis in East Africa. Africa Birds and Birding Vol. 11, Part 6, p26. (Avilable at http://www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za/pdf/fitzdj06.pdf)
  6. Sibley, CG and BL Monroe. 1996. Birds of the World, on diskette, Windows version 2.0. Charles G. Sibley, Santa Rosa, CA, USA.
  7. Avibase

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