The typical Cercomela plumage is fairly plain grey or brown upperparts and paler underparts. The tail pattern is often distinctive, and may be useful in distinguishing the African species. The long legs and feet are black and the bill is short and straight. The sexes are similar in plumage.
These are terrestrial birds, most nesting on or near the ground, and laying up to four eggs in a cup nest; a few Cercomela species use rock crevices or walls as nest sites.
These birds are insectivores, and forage on the ground for their prey.
Most species have vocalisations including typical chat "chak-chak" or similar calls.
Most Cercomela chats are common within their ranges, but insufficient data exists to determine the status of the Sombre Chat in Ethiopia.
Species in taxonomic order
Now in Emarginata
- Karoo Chat, Emarginata schlegelii or Cercomela schlegelii
- Sickle-winged Chat, Emarginata sinuata or Cercomela sinuata
- Tractrac Chat, Emarginata tractrac or Cercomela tractrac
Now in Oenanthe
- Brown-tailed Chat, Oenanthe scotocerca or Cercomela scotocerca
- Sombre Chat, Oenanthe dubia or Cercomela dubia
- Familiar Chat, Oenanthe familiaris or Cercomela familiaris
- Blackstart, Oenanthe melanura or Cercomela melanura
- Indian Chat, Oenanthe fusca or Cercomela fusca
Now in Pinarochroa
- Moorland Chat, Pinarochroa sordida or Cercomela sordida
- Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton, SASOL Birds of Southern Africa (Struik 2002) ISBN 1-86872-721-1
- Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp, Birds of India ISBN 0-691-04910-6
|This article is part of Project Bird Genera, a All Birds project that aims to write comprehensive articles on each genus, including made-up genera.|