Dark Batis

Information about the Bird Dark Batis

The dark batis (Batis crypta) is a small passerine bird belonging to the genus Batis in the wattle-eye family, Platysteiridae. It is found in highland forest in south-west Tanzania and northern Malawi. These birds were formerly thought to be forest batises (B. mixta) but in 2006 were described as a new species based on differences in morphology and mitochondrial DNA from those birds in northern Tanzania and Kenya.

The dark batis is about 10 centimetres in length and weighs 10-15 grams. It has a dark bill and legs and red eyes. The male is white below with a broad black breastband. Above it has a dark grey crown, grey back with some black feather-tips, a black face-mask and black wings with a white stripe. The female has a greyish crown, brownish back, dark mask, slight white supercilium and a narrow rufous stripe on the wing. Below it has a rufous chin-spot and breast with whitish tips to some of the feathers.
The forest batis has a slightly shorter tail. Males of the two species are very similar but forest batises have a narrower breastband and usually some hint of a white supercilium which is lacking in the male dark batis. The females are more distinctive: female forest batises have a paler breast and chin with more white tips giving a mottled appearance. There is a conspicuous white supercilium and a broad rufous wing-stripe.
The dark batis has a variety of whistling and harsh churring calls and its wings make a whirring sound in flight. The male's song is a series of short, low whistles.
It is found in the Eastern Arc Mountains of East Africa from the Ukaguru Mountains and Uluguru Mountains of central Tanzania south-westwards as far as the Misuku Hills in northernmost Malawi. It inhabits evergreen forest from 540 to 2,140 metres above sea-level and is most common around 1,500 metres. It forages mainly in the lower and middle levels of trees, feeding on insects such as termites.

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