Monday, 14 May 2018

Post number 9 on the birds I saw in Southern Africa.

Southern Pale chanting goshawk (Melierax canorus); Botswana...

Pale chanting goshawks 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. 

Immature tawny eagle (Aquila rapax).  KwaZulu_Natal. It breeds in most of Africa, both north and south of the Sahara Desert, and across tropical southwestern Asia to India. It is a resident breeder which lays one to three eggs in a stick nest in a tree or crag or on the ground. Throughout its range, it favours open dry habitats such as desert, semi-desert, steppes, or savannah plains.  Apologies we did not see an adult and this was at a long distance !

Yellow-throated Longclaw (Macronyx croceus).  KwaZulu-Natal.   It mainly eats insects and other invertebrates, doing most of its foraging on the ground, plucking food from grass and occasionally hawking prey aerially. 
Monogamous territorial solitary nester, with males performing an aerial display in which they slowly fly in a circle with the tail spread. The nest is built by the female, consisting of a thick-walled cup of coarse grass blades and stems, lined with fine grass and rootlets. 

Martial Eagle (Polemaetus Bellicosus).  KwaZulu-Natal.  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....  

Food varies in the area that they live, varying from quite large birds, to mammals, smaller of the cat families and jackals. They build nests in the highest of trees using sticks, and where they have a good lookout. They often use the same nest for several years.  The female only lays one to two eggs and generally, they only breed once every two years.  The average age of a bird is thought to be around 14, but one banded bird was aged 25.

They could soon be on the endangered list. Martial Eagle sightings have dropped by as much as 60% since the late 1980s.

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Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Post number 8 on the birds I saw in Southern Africa.

Pied Crow (Corvus albus). KwaZulu-Natal.

The Pied Crow is omnivorous, feeding on various insects and molluscs. It also takes small vertebrates such as amphibians and lizards, rodents, small birds and fish. It may sometimes catch insects, birds and bats in flight. It takes roadside kills and frequents the rubbish dumps with raptors and marabou storks.

The Pied Crow is known to raid bird’s nests, taking eggs and nestlings. It follows the bushfires for insects and the plough for invertebrates. It has been reported that it can break eggs of an Ostrich dropping stones from a height!

Steppe Buzzard (Buteo vulpinus). KwaZulu-Natal.
The Steppe Buzzard is a common summer visitor to South Africa. They prey mostly on small mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates, and will scavenge from carcasses.

The Great White Pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus) in the foreground, with a Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus)in the background.
The Pelican in an enormous waterbird, mostly white with short legs and a massive, broad and very long azure blue bill which has a central red stripe and ends in a small, red hook. The mostly white bird has contrasting black flight feathers on the wings. In the breeding season, the Pelican takes on a pinkish flush and there is usually a yellow wash on the breast.

The Great White Pelicans with Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis) in the background.

Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus parasitus).

As above.
Urban areas suit this bird well, as it is incredibly opportunistic in its behaviour. Diet is varied, and it will feed on any prey small enough to be caught and eaten, such as small mammals, reptiles, birds, and insects. Carrion is regularly eaten, as well as human leftovers and scraps. It is not uncommon for yellow-billed kites to swoop down and steal food from under the nose of humans.

As above.

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Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Post number 7 on the birds I saw in Southern Africa.

Arrow-marked babbler (I think), (Turdoides jardineii). Botswana.

African Pied Wagtail, (Motacilla aguimp). South Coast.

Red-winged starling, (Onychognathus morio).  South Coast.

The southern red bishop or red bishop (Euplectes orix).
This was a bird on my bucket list to take lots of photos of; sadly this was the only one I saw, and at a distance 😞 KwaZulu-Natal.

Lesser Doublecollared Sunbird, (Nectarinia chalybea).
She was sitting on eggs in a friends garden which is the only reason a got a true identification.  All hatched apparently after we left with no problems..
Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.

African harrier-hawk, or gymnogene (Polyboroides typus). KwaZulu-Natal.
They are usually solitary and they are specialised in robbing nests of other birds of eggs and chicks!  It will also eat lizards and oil palm nuts.

Mocking cliff chat, mocking chat or cliff chat, (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris).  KwaZulu-Natal.

As above.

Long-crested eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis).  KwaZulu-Natal

The Long-crested Eagle feeds mainly on small rodents. It drops from an exposed perch on its prey, and catches it. It does not hunt on the wing. It is often perched on trees on the road sides, fences or telegraph poles. It hunts generally in the early morning or at dusk, and it rests during the day under the shadow of a tall tree.

The females are generally slightly larger than the male but often have a shorter crest.

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Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Post number 6 on the birds I saw in Southern Africa.

The ring-necked dove (Streptopelia capicola), also known as the Cape turtle dove or half-collared dove.  Botswana.

The Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca). They were considered sacred by the Ancient Egyptians. Not the best photo but I think they are very pretty geese.  Botswana.

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.  South Africa, Mahikeng.

Hadeda in flight.

One of my favourite birds. The southern masked weaver or African masked weaver (Ploceus velatus)....

they are true artisans, creating distinct dome nests that hang suspended in trees. To build such an abode, the male selects a suitable branch, strips it of any leaves, then knots a long, thin blade of grass around it (no easy task when using just your beak and feet).
From this he weaves a sturdy hoop, continuing to thread, knot and plait until his construction resembles a neat oval dome. The whole process takes about five days, and the more experienced the weaver, the more intricate and attractive the results.
When he is finished, the male advertises the residence to potential mates with fluttering wings and song, but females are picky and select only the freshest, finest abodes. Indeed a male may have to build several before a partner is satisfied enough to move in, lining the nest herself before laying her eggs...

I could watch them for hours.  This one was seen working in a garden close to Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa.

The white-browed sparrow-weaver (Plocepasser mahali).  Botswana...

Monogamous, colonial cooperative breeder, living in groups (nests within a large nest) in which each bird has their own nest. However, there can only be one active breeding pair per group who are usually the largest in size, remaining dominant until their death, at which point another pair steps up to the plate. The group are highly territorial, vigorously defending their 50 metre long foraging territory, often chasing intruders out of the territory....

The nest (see behind this bird) is built by both breeders in about 5-30 days but maintained throughout the year, consisting of an untidy, retort-shaped structure made of dry grass, with two entrances one of which is closed by the breeding pair. It is typically wedged into the branches of a thorny tree, but it may also use telephone wires, power lines and fences.

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Tuesday, 17 April 2018

Post number 5 on the birds I saw in Southern Africa.

Cattle egret (Bubulcus ibis) seen on buffalo.  Botswana.

 Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides).

Little egret (Egretta garzetta).  Botswana.

Yellow-billed Egret (Ardea brachyrhyncha). This is the only photo I managed so hope the identification is correct.  Botswana.

Red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus) on a giraffe. They feed almost exclusively on ticks or insects collected from the skin of large African mammals. See notes below on the Yellow-billed oxpecker.  KwaZulu-Natal...

Red-billed on a wildebeest. Botswana...

As above on an Impala. KwaZulu-Natal.

The yellow-billed oxpecker, (Buphagus africanus), is from the starling and myna family. It feeds exclusively from the backs of large mammals, eating ticks and insects on their hides. It is good for the animals and provides food for the birds, a win-win arrangement as with the cattle egrets.!

The red-billed spurfowl (Pternistis adspersus), also known as the red-billed francolin. Botswana.

The spur-winged goose (Plectropterus gambensis). Botswana.

As above.

The red-billed teal or red-billed duck (Anas erythrorhyncha).

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