Cover image: Pririt Batis by Ryan Tippett– Carnarvon district, Northern Cape – BirdPix No. 252534
Batises make up a genus of small, uniquely African, flycatcher-like birds, that are in fact most closely related to Bushshrikes and Helmetshrikes.
The Pririt Batis is sexually dimorphic, with the sexes differing in plumage colouration. Unusually for birds, the females are more colourful than the males.
Males are striking black, white and grey birds. The forehead, crown and nape are dark grey, bordered by a narrow white supercilium. A black facial mask extends from the base of the bill to the sides of the neck. The rest of the upper parts from the hind neck to the rump are grey. Flight feathers are black with a distinct white wing bar. The undersides, from the chin to the vent are white, except for a broad, glossy black breast band. The flanks show indistinct grey speckling. The tail is black with white outer tail feathers.
Females have the same general plumage as the males, but the chin, throat, lower sides of the neck and breast are pale orange, shading to white on the belly. Juveniles resemble females but are duller with dark brown mottling on the buff-orange breast. In both sexes and juveniles, the bill, legs and feet are black and the eyes are relatively large and yellow.
The female Pririt Batis is unlikely to be mistaken for any other species within its range, but males closely resemble those of the Chinspot Batis (Batis molitor). The Chinspot Batis lacks the grey speckled flanks. The distribution of the two species overlaps marginally in the north and east of the Pririt Batis’s range.
Male Pririt Batises could also be confused with the black, white and grey of the Fairy Flycatcher (Stenostira scita), but that species has a longer tail and does not have a broad black breast band.
Status and Distribution
The Pririt Batis is a common resident and near-endemic to southern Africa, extending only marginally into south-western Angola. There are two disjunct populations. The northern population occurs in Namibia, Botswana and central and north-western South Africa (Northern Cape, Free State and North West Province.) The southern population occurs in the succulent Karoo regions of the Western and Eastern Cape. The gap in distribution corresponds to a high-lying and virtually treeless region on the escarpment and central plateau.
No widespread regular movements have been recorded for the Pririt Batis. However, there may be some movement into the periphery of its range, mainly in the south and east, during winter and drought periods. The Pririt Batis does not seem to be under any threat across its large range. The species probably benefits from bush encroachment in response to overgrazing.
The Pririt Batis inhabits various arid and semi-arid woodlands, especially Acacia (Vachelia) savanna. It also occurs along wooded watercourses in deserts and Karoo scrub. In the north-eastern part of its range it is present in dry Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) woodland. In the Karoo, the Pririt Batis also occurs in stands of alien Mesquite (Prosopis spp). The Pririt Batis is a common garden bird at farmsteads and villages in the Karoo.
The Pririt Batis occurs in pairs or small family groups and readily associates with mixed bird parties, especially in winter. It is quite tame and inquisitive. The Pririt Batis is very active, often jerking the head and flicking its tail as it searches the canopies of trees and bushes for food. Flights between trees are undulating, often with conspicuous ‘wing-snapping’. They frequently mob predators such as the Pearl-spotted Owlet.
Most prey is captured by gleaning insects from leaves, twigs and branches, and food items are often seized with an audible bill snap. Also hawks flying insects, and sometimes descends to the ground to catch prey. The Pririt Batis is insectivorous feeding on a variety of small crawling and flying insects.
Over most of its range it is the only batis present, but along an extensive common boundary in the north and east it comes into contact with the Chinspot Batis. There appears to be regular interaction between these species where they co-occur.
The Pririt Batis mostly breeds during summer from September to May. Breeding has also been recorded in July and August which suggests breeding may be opportunistic at any time of the year according to rainfall.
The nest is a small, neat cup made from plant fibres and bound with spider web and decorated on the outside with cocoons and small bits of bark. The nest is most often placed on a fairly slender, horizontal branch in thorn trees.
1 to 4 eggs are laid per clutch. The eggs are incubated by the female only and the eggs hatch after 17 days or so. The nestling period also lasts for around 17 days, during which time they are fed and cared for by both parents. Fledglings are dependant on their parents for about 6 weeks after leaving the nest. The Pririt Batis is a regular host of the brood parasitic Klaas’s Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx klaas).
Species text adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.
The use of photographs by Dieter Oschadleus, Gerald Wingate, Gregg Darling, J.K. Boyce, Jorrie Jordaan, Josu Meléndez, Maans Booysen and Zenobia van Dyk is acknowledged.
Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).
Other common names: Priritbosbontrokkie (Afrikaans); Pririt de Vieillot (French); Pririt-vliegenvanger (Dutch); Priritschnäpper (German); Batis de Pririt (Portuguese)
Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Pririt Batis Batis pririt. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available online at https://thebdi.org/2024/01/29/pririt-batis-batis-pririt/