Our birding guru Peter Chadwick visited the Karoo National Park for a feathered feature. As usual, he returned with fascinating tales and the photographs to match.
Here’s just a taster. How many of these birds can you identify before reading Peter’s explanations below?
Words and Pictures: Peter Chadwick www.peterchadwick.co.za
- The Sickle-winged Chat (Vlaktespekvreter) is similar in size to the Familiar Chat but is paler, with a pale, rusty-coloured rump and tail. It is a common resident of the Karoo.
- Usually found in pairs, the Rufous-eared Warbler (Rooioorlangstertjie) mainly forages for insects, including ants, on the ground or low down in shrubs. Males sing from the tops of bushes.
- The largest living bird, the ostrich (volstruis) male reaches a height of 2m and a recorded weight of up to 157kg. They swallow stones to aid digestion.
- The Cape Robin-Chat (Gewone Janfrederik) builds a nest of leaves, twigs and moss lined with fine rootlets. Two to four mottled olive-green eggs are laid and take 13-15 days to hatch.
- One of the smaller woodpeckers, the Cardinal Woodpecker (Kardinaalspeg) measuires 14-16cm in length. The male is differentiated from the female by a brown forecrown and red hindcrown
- The Karoo-Long-billed Lark (Karoolangbeklewerik) uses its long slightly decurved bill to dig up insects and small seeds. It often perches on a stone or mound when disturbed and to look around.
- Highly nomadic, the Lark-like Bunting (Vaalstreepkoppie) is found throughout the dry western half of the country. It is a highly gregarious species, sometimes forming flocks of hundreds.
- The male Southern Masked Weaver (Swartkeelgeelvink) only attains his bright yellow plumage with black mask during the breeding season. The red eye is a distinctive feature of this species and is only also found in the Village Weaver which has a speckled back as opposed to the plain back of the Southern Masked Weaver.
- African Hoopoes (Hoephoep) breed in almost any unused hole and lay 4-7 plain blue eggs. The nest becomes increasingly fouled and smelly as the chicks develop, taking 26-32 days to fledge.
- White-backed Mousebirds (Witrugmuisvoël) roost communally, bunched up tightly together. They generally perch by hanging below a branch, exposing their belly to the sun.