“Even the dullest bird or face becomes interesting when you give it a good look in the wild/flesh. The way the shadow drops across the cheek, the light hits an eyebrow, etc… There are many more angles, positions etc. than you can ever imagine. My heart always makes a little jump when I see things in birds or faces that surprise me.” – Siegfried Woldhek

Every time one drives up to a waterhole, or towards the meandering Sand River, one could encounter a wide variety of aquatic or even land based animals. They take advantage of the cold refreshing water to quench their thirst and to cool down on these hot spring days. Look a bit closer though! You might be surprised what hides in a dense undergrowth of reeds, or even runs across the water as if it bears no weight at all! These are the magical water birds which call Londolozi home.

The tiny Black Crake, displaying dazzling colours. Or the Black crowned night heron, just waiting for the opportune moment to strike the unlucky small fish as it swims past its hideout. Water birds could perhaps be some of the most interesting and beautiful creatures to walk this earth.


A pair of black crakes busily search for food along the riverside. Photograph by Talley Smith

The African Jacana scoots across the water as if it’s weightless; next time on safari, use your binoculars to have a closer look at their toes. They are extremely long! This adaptation spreads their weight evenly, allowing them to move over water grasses and lily pads in a swift and smooth motion. They feed on little insects, gleaning them whilst moving over the top of these plants.


An African Jacana feeds off some water foliage. Photograph by Andrea Campbell

Look in the branches sticking out of the water where a tree is submerged. The black bird with the long neck that is sitting there is called an African Darter. They perch on those branches drying their wings after diving through the water looking for fish. Unlike other water birds their feathers aren’t water resistant. This makes them less buoyant and enables them to dive under the water without floating back up.


A motionless pose atop a mirrored pedestal. This African Darter dries his soaked plumage post-fishing in order to fly again. It is always a wonder how they fish underwater so well, all the while avoiding patient crocodiles hiding in the murky waters. Photograph by Sean Cresswell

Hovering over pools in the Sand River, its eyes fixated on an unsuspecting fish is the magnificent Pied Kingfisher. From their hovering flight, they dive down and claim their quarry. This poetry in motion can be compared to the grandeur of a cheetah chasing down an impala.


A Pied Kingfisher hovers over the water in hopes of breakfast. Photograph by Andrea Campbell

A bird we often encounter around waterholes is the Egyptian Goose. Their colours might not be as attractive as the above-mentioned birds but that doesn’t make them less interesting. In suburban areas, these birds are found on golf courses, feeding on the soft grass on the greens. Someone that loves golf, like me, should therefore not be the biggest advocate of these birds. However I find their raucous call and behaviour quite interesting because it makes me laugh. Every time I hear them I think of a story that my tracker Euce, told me about these birds. Egyptian Geese are monogamous and you will often find them in pairs. Euce says that when they are moving around and start calling (and I reiterate it is a horrendous sound) the female Goose says ‘AAAAHHHHAAHH AAHHHAAAHHA’ and then the male says ‘SSSHHHH SSSHHH SSSHHH’.


Egyptian geese care for their young for 60-70 days until the goslings can fend for themselves. The young birds often stay with their family for several more months until they are able to set up their own territory. Photograph by Simon Smit

The Sand River which flows through Londolozi, is where we can find enchanting trees on the banks, resembling statues of yesteryear. We can find hippos and crocodiles, and even herds of elephant coming down to the water to enjoy a drink. The next time you visit though, as you drive over the causeway, stop and take some time to look into the nooks and crannies of this magnificent river and you might just be surprised to see how much life there is to encounter…

Do you have a favourite water bird? If so, what makes it stand out for you?

Written by Londolozi Ranger Werner Breedt 

Filed under Life Wildlife

About the Author

Werner Breedt

Field Guide

Werner guided at Londolozi from 2014-2016, but misses it so much now that he is based down in the Western Cape that he begged to be able to continue contributing to the blog. Look out for his posts on a wide range of ...

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on The Wondrous Lives of Waterbirds

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Martha Myers

What a treat to have waterbirds take front and center stage! Lovely images. I especially was taken with the setting in which you found the Egyptian geese, but then I’m partial to them. And, of course, the reflection of the darter is stunning. Many thanks.


Birds are interesting and beautiful creatures… its the small things that make the large ones stand out!

marinda drake

Lovely blog Werner. Water birds are so interesting and always worth watching. My favourite must be the black crake. Especially when they have chicks.


Those colours are mesmerizing aren’t they? I have to say my favourite is probably the Pied Kingfisher!


So good to see your blog posts Werner! I hope all is well.


Thank you Lynne! Thank you for the feedback! All is well! We’ll look for some of these on your next visit?

Shehan R

Werner – how’s it going buddy? Great blog post. Definitely plan on doing more birding on the next Londolozi visit. Hope you’re keeping well! Say hi to Euce from us. Cheers!


Great! Very good and yourself! Am keeping very well! Yes, the Leopard hunt might have been too intense the last time round! Will definitely give him your best!

Jill Grady

The water birds are definitely interesting to watch and also very beautiful. Thanks for a great blog Werner.

Joe Kelley

Werner, great article. We can’t thank you andEuce enough for the time we spent together. Please drop me am email so I can share a few photos.

Callum Evans

Brilliant post and video, I love waterbirds! My favourite would either be the malachite kingfisher, pgymy goose or African finfoot (still need to see the last two).

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