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Olive-flanked Robin-Chat - BirdForum Opus

Alternative name: Olive-flanked Ground Robin; Mbulu Robin-Chat (mbuluensis); MacClounie’s Robin-Chat (macclounii); Malawi Robin-Chat (nominate)

Cossypha anomala


14-15 cm. A Robin-Chat with rather different-looking subspecies.

Nominate form

  • Olive-brown from crown to mid-back, shading to chestnut rump and chestnut-brown tail
  • Darker wings
  • Grey forehead and supercilium
  • Black lores and cheek
  • Off-white chin to throat
  • Grey breast and belly, shading buffier on flanks and whitish on lower mid-belly


  • Prominent white supercilium
  • White throat
  • Blacker head, face and upperparts
  • Greyer upper flanks, more rufous on lower flanks and vent
  • Bright rufous rump and tail, tail with blackish central feathers and terminal band


  • similar to grotei but with blackish sides of throat and breast (small white bib)


  • Dull olive tinge on upperparts
  • White rump

Sexes similar. Juveniles with buff speckles. gurue similar to nominate.


Patchily distributed in East Africa, in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Very common on Mount Mulanje, common on Nyika Plateau, scarce in rest of habitat.


Recent results indicate that this species does not belong in genus Cossypha. It might instead be placed in Bessonornis, Dessonornis or even Caffrornis. The Opus awaits clarification before acting on this.


Five subspecies recognized:

  • C. a. grotei in the highlands of east Tanzania
  • C. a. mbuluensis in north-central Tanzania (Mbulu region)
  • C. a. macclounii from south Tanzania (Tukuyu District) to north Malawi (Viphya Plateau), including adjacent northeast Zambia
  • C. a. anomala in north-central Malawi (Mount Mulanje region)
  • C. a. gurue in montane forests of north-central Mozambique

Some authorities don't accept gurue and include it in the nominate subspecies.


Moist montanes, edges and also adjacent gardens. Prefers areas with dense understorey and streamsides and steep wet ravines with tree-ferns.
Occurs from 1000 to 2600 m.



Feeds on insects.
A shy species, often hidden in vegetation. Forages mainly on the ground and on logs, but also in lower levels of the forest. Regularly seen at ant swarms.


Breeding recorded in July and October to December in Tanzania, November to January in Malawi. The nest is an open cup made of moss and dead leaves. It's palced in a hollow top of a tree stump, on a horizontal stem in a thicket or on a bankside. Lays 2 eggs.


A sedentary species with some possible altitudinal movement.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2022. IOC World Bird List (v 12.2) DRAFT. Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.12.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  3. Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive (retrieved November 2016)

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