Rubeho Akalat Sheppardia aurantiithorax

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Identification

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A rather small, demure understory denizen resembling a cross between a robin and a flycatcher. Mostly dull brown above, with an olive-brown crown and richer orange-brown underparts. Juvenile is more mottled. A highly local bird, found singly and in pairs in the understory of primary and secondary montane forest in a narrow range along the Rubeho and Ukaguru (and possibly Uluguru) mountains escarpment between 1800 and 2200 meters. Sits for long periods, sallying to catch insect prey, or forages on the ground, often in the company of ants and other ant-following birds. Sings a simple high-pitched “tsoot-tseeet-soo-seeet” and other similar songs. Calls include an invariable piping “wheet” uttered once a second. Alarm call is a grating, ticking “drrrzzt, drrrt, drrrt.” May be mistaken for a flycatcher, but its furtive nature and preference for thick understory are unique within its range.

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