Tuesday, 17 July 2018

Post number 17 Birds from Southern Africa

These are photos again taken by my friend, Christelle Miller, while in the Kruger national park in May 2018.
Thanks go to Christelle for allowing me to use these photos on my blog.

I hope that my identification is correct, please let me know if there should be any mistakes.

Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). They still-hunt by sitting very upright on a prominent perch, much like a shrike. They are usually solitary and form monogamous breeding pairs. They are aggressive and fearless, regularly mobbing or attacking much larger species, including birds of prey if their nest or young are threatened, or their territory is compromised. Two to four eggs are laid in a cup nest in a fork high in a tree.

Green-backed Heron (Butorides striata).  This bird has a specially adapted bill which helps it hunt for fish, crabs, shrimp and other aquatic animals in the water.  It also eats insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants. It is a monogamous bird which means that the bird finds and breeds with one partner for the rest of its life. The bird lays between 2 to 6 eggs and they are coloured blue, green. The bird builds its nest above water as a means of protecting itself from predators and to be close to its main food source which includes fish, shrimp and frogs.

Natal Spurfowl (Pternistis natalensis). The Natal Spurfowl feeds on the ground and in foliage, mainly on Invertebrates, Fruits or Seeds. It is monogamous unless its mate dies. They create a nest on the ground laying between 2 to 7 eggs. The preferred habitats for Natal Spurfowl are woodlands, river areas and hilly regions.

Red-crested korhaan (Lophotis ruficrista). It is omnivorous, feeding on invertebrates, especially termites, beetles and grasshoppers, and plant matter, especially seeds and fruit, foraging on the ground, picking up food items with its bill. The male puts on a spectacular courtship display to multiple females, who solely incubate the eggs and raise the chicks. See also Part 10.

African White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus). They may be the most numerous of African vultures. It has gregarious feeding habits. It feeds mainly on carrion. It can be found in big numbers when food resources are abundant. These birds are adapted to feed on soft tissues, and cannot rip open large carcasses with thick skin.  It makes its nest in trees, and breeds in loose colonies. The nest is small in size, for these large vultures. It is located at the top of a tall tree in their territory and often along streams. It is a platform made of sticks, and the interior is lined with grass and green leaves. The female lays one single egg. Incubation lasts about 56 days, by both parents. Chicks are fed by both adults and may fledge at about 4 months.

African hawk-eagle (Aquila spilogaster). Both adults are similar in plumage, but the female is larger than male, and she is more heavily streaked on underparts than male.  They live in open woodlands and scrubs, where it can find rocky cliffs and wooded streams. is a secretive bird of prey, often seen alone, but also sometimes in pairs......  

 It searches for prey while flying, but also from a perch. It may catch prey taking it from the ground, or performing a dashing aerial manoeuvre.  The nest is located in a fork, in a tall tree, along wooded river banks. It is made of sticks.  The female lays one or two eggs. Incubation lasts about 43 to 44 days, shared by both parents. Only the strongest chick is reared if there is more of one egg.

Giant eagle-owl (Bubo lacteus). Africa’s largest eagle-owl, The female is substantially larger than the male and has a rounder facial disk.  It occupies a number of different habitats, including dry savanna, open woodland, open grassland, agricultural land and riparian habitat such as rivers, marshes and floodplains, but is largely absent from bare desert and dense woodland. Large trees are required for nesting, and nests are usually found in open woodland, adjacent to floodplains Due to the large size of the Eagle Owl, they need to consume larger types of prey than other species of owls. Their diet consists of rabbits, mongoose, and plenty of types of small game. They also consume rats and pigeons if they are readily available in their area of residence. These owls have a very long breeding season. It lasts from March until September. The females will usually have two eggs, but sometimes only one. They will incubate them for about 28 days. She will remain with the eggs from the time they leave her body until they hatch. It is the job of her mate to bring her back enough food for survival.   The first egg to hatch is the one that is the most likely to survive. The parents will feed this one immediately and continually. If they have enough food available they will feed both of the young. However, if food sources are scarce the second one will get no food at all. Sadly, it will die within a day or two. The young can fly when they are about 9 weeks of age.

Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) See also in Part 4. This particular hornbill species’ diet consists mainly of invertebrates that are readily found on the ground (including spiders), as well as lizards, snakes and amphibians.   It mates between September and December. The female will make her nest in a tree or a cliff hollow and will usually lay two eggs. Interestingly, she will lay the first egg about four days before the second, giving this chick the opportunity to be stronger than the other. Only one chick will survive to fledgling stage.  They are on the endangered list.

Lappet-faced Vulture (Torgos tracheliotos). The lappet-faced vulture is one of the most aggressive of African birds. It possesses one of the strongest beaks, usually arriving last to the carcass due to its ability to tear off flesh (such as skin, tendons, and other coarse tissue) that is too tough for smaller scavengers. They have a wingspan of almost 3 metres....

It frequents steppes and deserts with isolated trees such as flat-topped acacias where it may build the nest.   It needs open and arid areas, including mountains and semi-desert.  It usually lives in a pair, but flocks of up to 50 vultures can be seen mixed with other raptors around carcasses or at water. It dominates all other birds of prey around the food, performing some displays such as bounding attacks, but it spends more time in these displays than feeding, and it returns later to the carcass.  Pairs nest solitary, and build a large, bulky, flat nest (about 2 metres of diameter), with small sticks on a thorny tree-top. The interior is lined with dry grasses. The female lays only one egg in the middle of the nest. The young fledge at 125-135 days after hatching.  They do not breed until they are about 6 years of age and they are on the endangered list.

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Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Post number 16 Birds from Southern Africa

I have been away for the past week so just a short post to let you know that I am back.  We are very busy with a number of jobs that are doing here at home at the moment. These are photos again taken by my friend, Christelle Miller, while in the Kruger national park in May 2018.
Thanks go to Christelle for allowing me to use these photos on my blog.

I hope that my identification is correct, please let me know if there should be any mistakes.

The Lilac Breasted Roller, (Coracias Caudata).  See my photos for details on this bird on the previous post.

African jacana (Actophilornis africanus) is a wader in the family Jacanidae, identifiable by long toes and long claws that enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes,  which is their preferred habitat....

It feeds on aquatic insects and larvae, worms, snails and other arthropods. It may take seeds sometimes when it forages on open cultivated areas. To avoid predators, it can swim underwater, and in the same situation, the chicks can stay underwater for a moment with only the bill tip above the surface, and they swim as well as the adults. The mating system of the African Jacana is reversed. The male performs all the nesting duties while the female has access to several males and defends the territories against other females.

Brown Snake Eagle (Circaetus cinereu). It lives in savannahs, woodlands and dry wooded countries with tall trees. It is uncommon in open plains. It feeds on snakes and other reptiles, carrying them by the head while flying. It spends most of its time perched in trees, performing short flights from one tree to another, and hunting from these perches. Prey is always taken on the ground, often by dropping on it from a perch....

The nest is made with small sticks and lined with some green leaves. Birds may return to the same tree and rebuild a nest after some years.  The female lays only one white egg. Incubation lasts about 47 to 50 days, by the female. She flattens in the nest if an intruder approaches, becoming almost invisible. The male feeds her at the nest.

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Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Post number 15 Birds from Southern Africa

As with the last couple of posts,  these are photos taken by my friend, Christelle Miller, while in the Kruger national park in May 2018.
Thanks go to Christelle for allowing me to use these photos on my blog.
I hope that my identification is correct, please let me know if there should be any mistakes.
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) are wading birds that favour areas like marshes, dams, lakes, lagoons, rivers and reservoirs. They can be found throughout South Africa, as well as in many parts of Europe and Asia....

This heron is happy to eat whatever fish, crustaceans and other animals it can find in the water in which it wades. Its diet includes various fish species, eels, lizards, worms, small snakes, frogs and little birds.  It is a sociable bird and will nest with a sizeable group of other individuals. 

It is a monogamous bird that will likely stick to an established heron nesting area, set up by previous generations in their natural habitat. These are called heronries. The female usually lays between three and six eggs during autumn or in the early part of winter. The male and female take turns to incubate these eggs for almost four weeks before they hatch.

The Lilac Breasted Roller, (Coracias Caudata), is a heavy-billed, beautifully coloured bird with a green head, lilac throat and breast, a blue belly and even brighter blue wing feathers. Both sexes have the same colouration. The species is found throughout Eastern and Southern Africa.....    

All rollers, including the lilac breasted rollers, are highly territorial. They are also thought to be monogamous. The species make their nests in tree holes, as well as in termite mounds. They may also make use of unoccupied or abandoned woodpecker or kingfisher’s nest holes. Both males and females incubate the 2 – 4 eggs which are laid.....   

Food is mainly insects such as grasshoppers and large beetles, scorpions, snails and occasionally lizards.

Saddle-billed stork, (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) a truly beautiful bird that is sadly very threatened with numbers dropping every year.  They are the largest of the African storks and can be up to 1.8 metres (6 ft) tall. Their wingspan is up to 2.8 metres (9) feet. They can weigh up to 6kg (20lbs).  They like to eat grasshoppers, frogs, fish, crabs, molluscs, lizards, and young birds.
They lay one to two eggs at a time. The incubation period is 30 to 35 days. The mating pair takes turns taking care of the young birds until they are fledged – about 70 to 100 days after hatching.

Swainson's francolin, Swainson's spurfowl, or chikwari (Pternistis swainsonii).  It is usually seen in small parties in fairly open country. It eats seeds, berries, shoots, bulbs, insects and molluscs. It is monogamous unless its mate dies. The nesting habit is to create a nest on the ground. The bird lays eggs which are pink in colour and number between 3 to 12.

Note: I will be away next week so I will miss a post.

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Tuesday, 19 June 2018

Post number 14 Birds from Southern Africa

As with the last post, this is a little different, as again these are photos taken by a friend, Christelle Miller, while in the Kruger national park in May 2018.
Thanks go to Christelle for allowing me to use these photos on my blog.
I hope that my identification is correct, please let me know if there should be any mistakes.

 Martial Eagle (Polemaetus Bellicosus).... 

 They are the largest of the African eagles and incredibly powerful, capable of knocking an adult man off his feet. They reputedly have enough power in one foot to break a man's arm....

The Martial eagle weighs in at almost 14 pounds (6.5 Kg.) and has a wingspan of about 6 feet 4 inches. It is about 32 inches long.

Burchell's Coucal, (Centropus burchellii). Also known as the rain bird.  Their diet includes small mammals such as rabbits, field mice and other rodents. Rodents are usually taken from the ground and killed using the sharp claws.... 

The bird builds its nest on the ground with figs, straw and leaves. The nest is placed under a bush to protect the young from predators. Fairly common in South Africa.

Southern Pale chanting goshawk (Melierax canorus); they can be found throughout their range in arid habitats with less than 75 cm of rainfall per year. These habitats include the Namib Desert and other dry woodland, shrubland, and grassland areas. Pale chanting goshawks are often seen perching on trees and poles for power lines near the roads.  It sits upright on its long legs when perched on a tree. It is often seen walking about on the ground. It can run very fast when pursuing a prey. But it also hunts from a perch. When prey is selected, it dives and runs after it. It also performs agile aerial chases after birds or hares running on the ground.  It is found singly or in pairs. Pairs have a well-defined territory and usually stay in and around the same group of trees. When breeding season starts, the male performs some displays. It perches on the top of a tall tree and utters its melodious call, often for hours. Both mates can soar together, making circles at about 200 to 300 feet in the sky. They also perform an undulating flight display while calling.

The Hadada or Hadeda ibis (Bostrychia hagedash). It has a distinctively loud, penetrating and recognisable haa-haa-haa-de-dah call that is often heard when the birds are flying or when startled, hence the name.  It feeds mainly on earthworms, using its long scimitar-like bill to probe soft soil. It also eats larger insects, such as the Parktown Prawn, as well as spiders and small lizards. These birds also favour snails and will feed in garden beds around residential homes. It nests in isolation, sometimes on telegraph poles instead of trees or bushes. Males display and eventually choose a mate. The pairs then engage in mutual bowing and display preening. Males usually gather nest materials, which they ritually offer to their mates. Both sexes incubate the three to six eggs and feed the young.

Southern red-billed hornbill (Tockus rufirostris). This bird forms flocks outside the breeding season. It feeds mainly on small insects such as beetles, ants, termites, flies and grasshoppers, but it also eats larger arthropods, birds' eggs and nestlings also small seeds and fruits. The Red-billed Hornbill does most of its foraging on the ground, rarely hawking prey aerially.

During the incubation (brooding of the eggs), the nest entrance is typically blocked off with a plaster of mud, droppings and fruit pulp. The purpose for this is to keep the nest, including the brooding female, eggs and young chicks protected from predators, usually 3-5 eggs. A narrow opening is left to allow the male to transfer food to the mother and the chicks. See Here.

Hornbills are unique in that their first two neck vertebrae have been fused to support their large bill.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Post no 13 on Birds from Southern Africa.

This post is a little different, as these are photos taken by a friend Christelle Miller, while in the Kruger national park in May 2018. A few also from Mahikeng on their return from Kruger.
Thanks go to Christelle for allowing me to use these photos on my blog.
I hope that my identification is correct, please let me know if there should be any mistakes.
Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) The largest of the kingfishers. It is monogamous unless its mate dies. In the event of a partner dying it will seek out a new mate. It creates its nest in a hole in the ground and lays eggs which are white in colour and number between 3 to 5. The Giant Kingfisher feeds in, or around water mainly, eating aquatic life forms.  Kruger.

Brown-hooded Kingfisher (Halcyon albiventris). It is a bird about the same size as a starling. The height is about 24 cms and its weight is about 60 gms. Also monogamous unless its mate dies; and again, the nest is a hole in the ground. Preferred habitat; woodlands and riverine areas or along wetlands. Kruger.

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) is a medium size bird living close to water...

Studies show that it has a complex behaviour. It may have several non-breeding birds as helpers, up to four. They sometimes are the young of the previous year, but they may be completely exterior to the pairing family...

Hovering in preparation for diving into the water for food.  Kruger.

Malachite Kingfisher ( Alcedo cristata). This small bird it is about 14 cms in height and its weight is about 17 gms. It feeds in, or around water, mainly on Aquatic life forms. Also monogamous unless its mate dies, and as in the first two kingfishers posted here, it nests in a hole in the ground.  Kruger.

Crested Barbet (Trachyphonus vaillantii). A small bird about 23 cms in height and its weight is about 80 gms. Its diet is mainly Invertebrates and fruits....

Another bird that is monogamous unless its mate dies. They create the nest in a hole in a tree trunk. The bird lays eggs which are white in colour and number between 2 to 5.  Garden in Mahikeng.

Marico Sunbird (Cinnyris mariquensis) female. It feeds mainly on nectar and arthropods, gleaning prey from foliage and hawking insects aerially.  As you can see here though it is also eating fruit...

The nest is built solely by the female in about 6-12 days, consisting of a compact, pear-shaped structure built of dry grass reinforced with spider web, with a side-top entrance covered by a hood of grass stems. It is usually camouflaged using dark material. 1-3 eggs are laid which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-15 days. The chicks are fed solely by the female, but once they fledge, both parents continue to feed them for weeks after. Garden in Mahikeng.

Speckled Mousebird (Colius striata).  It is a noisy species, with loud warning calls. It avoids arid regions and dense woodlands, but is quite common in other places, including suburban gardens. Often seen in groups of up to 20 birds. This species lives in flocks all year round, including the breeding season. It feeds mainly on plant matter such as fruits, buds, flowers and leaves. It also consumes nectar. It often damages orchards and plantations, eating cultivated fruits and flowers. It is monogamous and may have helpers. The nest is situated in tree or bush, at 2 to 3 metres above the ground. Garden in Mahikeng

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Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Post number 12 on birds seen in Southern Africa

Black-collared Barbet (Lybius torquatus). The photo was taken by my friend Christelle in her garden in Mahikeng. Thanks Christelle for allowing me to publish your photos....

The Black-collared Barbet is a smallish bird but somewhat larger than a house sparrow. The height of the bird is about 20 cms and its weight is about 58 gms.   The male and female have the same plumage and colours...

It eats invertebrates, fruits, and nectar. It is monogamous unless its mate dies when it will seek out a new mate. The nesting habit of the bird is to create a nest in a hole in a tree trunk. It lays between 2 to 5 eggs which are white in colour.

The Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo Africanus)....

It hunts mainly at night, but will also eat carrion, and is therefore frequently encountered by roadsides scavenging road kill. Hunting, it either snatches prey up in its talons or pursues it on foot along the ground. Airborne prey, such as bats, birds and insects may also be skilfully chased and caught on the wing.

The bond between breeding pairs of spotted eagle-owls is strong, and they may stay together for life.

Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus).  One of the smaller vultures and the female is slightly bigger than the male.  As with many vultures, this is another one endangered and on the red list.  KwaZulu-Natal.

White-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis).  A medium size vulture and yet another one on the endangered list.  KwaZulu-Natal.

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Wild Bird Wednesday 306