You don’t have to visit the largest, most developed cities in the world to view Engineering genius. A visit to Londolozi will persuade you to believe in the marvel of the natural world. More specifically the magic of birds!
These avian architects construct masterpieces with the simplest materials and in quite a short amount of time! At Londolozi, the summer months have arrived with the first drops of rain on the barren grounds, that have been craving water throughout the drier winter months. These first drops prompts a striking infusion of colour into the bush that was quite drab a couple of weeks ago. Various male birds have molted their lackluster winter plumage in exchange for a dazzling array of colours! New life is abundant; the winged termites have exploded out of their mounds and all the insects that provide the necessary nourishment for the future generation of hatchlings are all around us!
The Male weavers construct wondrous nests to attract their hard to please mates. It takes on average 10 to 14 hours to complete the task of building a nest. Nests are typically attached to the thin branches of free-standing trees, very often over water to discourage predators
The nest is woven from green strips of reeds, grass leaves or palm blades and once completed is a round structure with a large entrance on the underside. The amount of energy it takes the male weaver bird to construct this nest is quite staggering. He will lose up to half his own bodyweight in the process.
The male will defend his small territory around his nest, displaying to the females, attracting their attention to his nest. If the female accepts his displays and nest, the male adds an entrance tunnel and the female will line the inner part of the nest with feathers and soft grass to suit her comfort levels. The female usually lays between 2-5 eggs, which are incubated only by the female for about 12 days. The male helps the female to feed the new brood and the young ones will fledge the nest when they are 17 – 25 days old
In a study, one weaver built 270 nests during his life. Only 17 of these nests were accepted by a female and only 7 of these chicks made it to adulthood!
To say that hamerkops builds elaborate nests is perhaps the understatement of the century. These birds are not only compulsive nest builders (constructing about 3-5 nests per year, whether breeding or not), but they build nests large enough to support a man’s weight. The total weight of the material used in the construction of a nest can add up to 100kg and can be as much as 2m in diameter and 2m tall! A pair starts by constructing a platform of sticks held together with mud, and then builds walls and domed roof with sticks, grasses and leaves. A mud-plastered entrance in the bottom leads through a long, slim tunnel to a nesting chamber. They prefer to build the nest in dead trees standing in water or overhanging water, but alternatively on cliff ledges, rock columns, on the ground or on sandbanks.Closer to developed areas they can get creative with their nest building material – one nest was found to include wash rags, a feather duster, a bathing costume, a ball of string and a few handkerchiefs, presumably stolen from a nearby clothes line! The female will lay 3-7 eggs which both parents incubate for approximately 30 days.
The hamerkop nest is vitally important not only for the hamerkops and their chicks, but also for a host of other species. The verreaux’s eagle owl, snakes, small mammals, and various birds, including some weaver species utilize abandoned hamerkop nests.
These are perhaps some of the most beautiful birds you might find on your safari to Londolozi. Their colours are mesmerizing and their aerial acrobatics leave this author dumbstruck every time I am lucky enough to witness it.
Bee eaters are cavity nesters, more specifically, the nests are burrows dug into the ground, either into the sides of earth cliffs (usually in close proximity to a river bank) or directly into level ground. These nesting sites are extremely vulnerable, those on level ground to trampling and predators, whereas those in the river banks are under threat in the event of a flash flood. The burrows are dug by both the male and female bird and in some cases helpers ( some species are cooperative breeders). The soil or sand is loosened by stabbing the soil with its sharp bill, and then the feet are used to kick out the loose substrate. These bee eaters are so well versed in the art of excavation that they have adapted a phenomenal ability. They use their beaks and wings as a tripod, to balance themselves in the burrow whilst kicking out the loose sand! A number of nests will be abandoned before the perfect one is created. The process of nest building can take as long as twenty days to complete, during which the bill can be both blunted and shortened!
Catching a glimpse of an African paradise flycatcher can be compared to seeing the beautiful colours of a rainbow against a backdrop of dark clouds for the first time.
These passerines are notoriously hard to find or photograph for that matter. In fact, one of our rangers, Mike Sutherland spent three years trying to find a pair!
These alluring birds are intra – African migrants, spending the Winter months in the warmer Sub Saharan Africa, North of the equator. A couple of weeks before the first rains fall at Londolozi, they secretively make their way to the riverine and open forested areas in search of potential nesting sites. During this time, the male will display his bright under parts and long flashy tail by bobbing in mid flight to attract females. If a female shows interest, he even adds a little dancing display to impress her!
If he wins her over with his display, they form a monogamous bond. Both the male and female will build the nest and incubate the eggs.
At first glance the nest looks like quite a simple structure, but if you look closely, you will notice fine pieces of lichen and spider webs that cover the exterior part of the nest. These two extra components add to the structural support of the plant fibres, rootlets, fine pieces of bark and dried leaves used to build the nest.
The nest is built between 4 and 10 metres above the ground, in a fork of a tree. At Londolozi the African paradise flycatchers prefer tamboti, acacia and other trees with thorns or spikes protecting them. This is an ingenious method of protecting their hatchling from potential predators!
Every one of these amazing birds can be seen on your next safari to Londolozi. We want to create an experience that exceeds the benchmark of the Big Five. Yes, we want to show the Big Five, but we want every one to appreciate the smaller animals and birds that makes Londolozi the special place it is.
Do you know of any other interesting nests?
Written by Werner Breedt