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 Short-tailed 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 Short-tailed Batis has a slightly shorter tail. Males of the two species are very similar but Short-tailed 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 Short-tailed 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.
Distribution and habitat
Its 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.