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10 Top Tweeters: Karoo Birding

10 Top Tweeters: Karoo Birding

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


  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. White-backed Mousebirds (Witrugmuisvoël) roost communally, bunched up tightly together. They generally perch by hanging below a branch, exposing their belly to the sun.

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