This is a post about birds.
The guests I have been hosting lately have had a heightened interest in them, making Rob Hlatswayo (the tracker I work with) and me very happy! I am constantly reminded about how exciting, dynamic and interesting bird life is.
Here’s an example; this morning I watched an African Harrier-Hawk (a fairly large bird of prey) navigate a dead Leadwood tree to find the hatchlings of a hornbill. He/she (the harrier-hawk) picked away the mud that covered the hole of the hornbill nest with its beak then stuck its featherless legs right up into the nest and grabbed a chick! Throughout this scene, the harrier-hawk was getting mobbed by a flock of starlings and the parent pair of hornbills. The successful raptor clasped the chick in its talons and flew off, leaving only a feather dancing around in the breeze behind it.
This is just one of the incredible behaviours and sightings happening each day in the bush.
This is an appreciation post about birds and their incredible lives they lead, most of which goes unseen by us…
A pearl-spotted owlet takes a little bee-eater. The owlet is only about 20cm tall and 100g in weight, yet we find it preying on impressively large animals for its size. A fellow-guide once told me that he saw an owlet with a hornbill in its talons, and another guide saw one take a grey go-away-bird. These birds are twice the owlet’s size! Owls are impressive hunters, to say the least.
A male village weaver hangs onto the bottom of its nest, displaying. The male will weave the nest – which takes him about 12 hours – and then display his striking plumage to attract a female. However, if the female weaver does not approve of the nest, he will have to tear it down and rebuild it. Each male will build between three and five nests.
Yellow-billed oxpeckers have a striking yellow bill, as you can see. These beautiful birds are rarer than red-billed oxpeckers. Most of the times I have seen the yellow-billed variety they have been on the backs of buffalo but they can also be found on kudu, giraffe, rhinos, zebra and hippo. They feed on ticks and other ectoparasites on the bodies of these large mammals. They also eat/drink blood from open wounds on the animals.
A mighty lappet-faced vulture decides on where best to pull meat from a male impala carcass. We believe the impala died naturally. There were seventy vultures at this carcass before the lappet-faced vulture arrived. The carcass was almost finished. The significantly bigger lappet-faced landed and all the other vultures stepped aside for this powerful bird to feed. They are like the lions of the vulture world; the top of the hierarchy. They weigh almost 7kg, they’re a meter tall and have a wingspan of 2.8m!
Hamerkop, meaning ‘hammer head’ in the Afrikaans language, describes the clear head shape of this bird. Most of this bird’s diet is made of up frogs but they will also eat fish and insects. This species make a huge nest about two meters in length and width!
A male coqui francolin calls from a perch on a termite mound. This call is to advertise territory. He was really giving it all he had, calling with such determination. These francolin are one of the herder-to-see francolins in this area. In this photo the male’s nictitating membrane covering his eye, giving it a cloudy blue appearance.
A green-backed heron waits patiently for fish to jump upwards toward it. The crafty, agile and patient green-backed heron hunts waterways and can move in thick riverine areas to find food. They are very patient and will strike out with incredible speed, elongating their necks like a coiled spring.
Birds, birds, birds! If you let them, these wonderful creatures will add so much value to your safari. Open your eyes to the incredible birdlife around you and make sure that you do more than just tick off the species on your list. Watch what they are doing because their behaviour is fascinating.