Tag Archives: Birding South Africa

White-backed vulture

We have had an incredible and rare sighting of a White-backed vulture again on Sibuya this week…and it’s brought along a mate…These vultures are not usually found in this coastal region due to the high winds and lack of thermals – so we and the birding community are very excited!

Photo taken by Ranger Christiaan

Like other vultures it is a scavenger, feeding mostly from carcasses of animals which it finds by soaring over savannah. It also takes scraps from human habitations. It often moves in flocks. It breeds in trees on the savannah of west and east Africa, laying one egg. The population is mostly resident.

Did you know: A number of protected areas in Africa hold populations of white-backed vultures, including Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, a World Heritage Site. arkive.org

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Green Wood-Hoopoe

The Green Wood-Hoopoe is a common resident breeder in the Sibuya Reserve, forests, woodlands and suburban gardens of most of Sub-Saharan Africa. It is found in groups of up to a dozen or so birds with only one breeding pair. The breeding female lays two to four blue eggs in a natural tree hole or old barbet nest and incubates them for about 18 days.

On hatching, she and the nestlings are fed by the rest of the group, even after they have fledged and left the nest hole. The group is fearless in defence of the nestlings against intruders. This species is parasitised by the greater and lesser honeyguide.

This abundant species is a metallic dark green, with a purple back and very long diamond-shaped purple tail. Distinctive white markings on the wings and white chevrons on the tail edges make it easily identifiable, as does its long, thin, curved red bill. Sexes are similar, but immatures have a black bill.

The green wood hoopoe is an insect-eating species. It feeds mainly on the ground, termite mounds, or on tree trunks, and forms flocks outside the breeding season. Its specialised claws enable it to cling easily to the underside of branches while closely inspecting the bark for insects.

This conspicuous bird advertises its presence with its loud Kuk-uk-uk-uk-uk call and other vocalisations.

Southern double-collared sunbird

This sunbird is common in gardens, fynbos, forests and coastal scrub. The southern double-collared sunbird breeds from April to December, depending on region. The closed oval nest is constructed from grass, lichen and other plant material, bound together with spider webs. It has a side entrance which sometimes has a porch, and is lined with wool, plant down and feathers.

The southern double-collared sunbird (as seen in the photo captured below while walking about in the Sibuya Game Reserve) is usually seen singly or in small groups. Its flight is fast and direct on short wings. It lives mainly on nectar from flowers, but takes some fruit, and, especially when feeding young, insects and spiders. It can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perches to feed most of the time.

Southern Double-Collared Sunbird

The call is a hard chee-chee, and the song is high pitched jumble of tinkling notes, rising and falling in pitch and tempo for 3–5 seconds or more.

Aloes

Winter time is not as cold, dull and boring as people may think. With the warmth of these bright oranges and reds scattered across the bushveld and all the beautiful insects and colourful birds that accompany these beauties, it’s actually a time of visual feast!

Amongst flashes of brilliant orange come the florescent greens, reds and blues of the many different species of Sunbird found in the Eastern Cape: Malachite, Greater double-collared, Southern double-collared, Collared and the greenish-purple iridescent Amethyst Sunbird. These gorgeously colourful little birds can be seen visiting the Aloe flowers on Sibuya Game Reserve and are a crucial part in pollination of these plants.

Southern Double-Collared Sunbird

On the Reserve, Aloe ferox (Bitter Aloe) and Aloe pluridens (French Aloe) are currently both flowering with long inflorescent spikes densely covered in brilliant flowers. Aloes have been used for jams and ‘living fences’ but are better known for their medicinal value and health benefits. Skin care, purgative and dietary products are commonly found in any Pharmacy stocking natural options.

As Aloes are easily propagated – why not grow one in your own garden and help boost a bee, Sunbird or other species with a winter treat of delicious nectar or a juicy insect!
Photo Credit: Chris Ovens

Red-Throated Wryneck

The Red-throated Wryneck has a height of 20 cms and weighs around 55 gms. The head is coloured brown while the bill is coloured grey. The Jynx ruficollis has a brown coloured throat, olive legs and a brown coloured back. The eyes are brown.

This bird forages for food on the ground.  The Red-throated Wryneck is usually seen hunting for food within the tree foliage (as seen in the photo captured below while walking about in the Sibuya Game Reserve).  This bird eats insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps, locusts and ants. These invertebrates are usually hawked aerially, killed and then eaten.

 

 

With a juicy grub in its beak, a Red-Throated Wryneck peeps out of a hole in a rotten tree-trunk. This is a close relation of the Woodpecker family.

With a juicy grub in its beak, a Red-Throated Wryneck peeps out of a hole in a rotten tree-trunk. This is a close relation of the Woodpecker family.

Red-throated Wryneck Jynx ruficollis is an ant-eating specialist with adaptations to assist in the mopping up of large numbers of Hymenoptera (Ant) prey.  Capable of holding hundreds of ants or ant larvae in each beakful, it is impossible for these birds to control all subsequent movement of prey, resulting in ants crawling around the birds beak and head when delivering food to the chicks.

African Pygmy-kingfisher

Distribution and habitat

The African Pygmy-kingfisher is widespread across sub-Saharan Africa, absent only from parts of East Africa and southern Africa. Within southern Africa it occurs in the Caprivi Strip (Namibia), Botswana, Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique and eastern South Africa (including Sibuya Game Reserve). It generally prefers savanna, riverine forest, coastal bush, plantations and gardens.

Migrations

Intra-African breeding migrant, arriving in southern Africa in the period from September-October. Once the breeding season is over (around March), the juveniles and adults migrate back to other parts of Africa.

Diet

Unlike many other Alcedinid kingfishers it rarely eats fish, but rather feeds mainly on insects, occasionally supplemented with small vertebrates. It usually hunts by sitting on a perch, trying to locate prey. Once it locates something it dives to the ground, picking up the prey item before returning to its perch.

Breeding

It nests in burrows dug into an earthen banks, such as a erosion gullies, stream banks, termite mounds, trenches and pits. Egg-laying season peaks from October-December. It lays 3-6 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for roughly 18 days (recorded in captivity) The chicks stay in the nest for about 18 days (recorded in captivity), after which they rapidly develop hunting skills, becoming fully independent soon after fledging.

The Giant Kingfisher

The giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) is the largest kingfisher in Africa, where it is a resident breeding bird over most of the continent south of the Sahara Desert (including Sibuya Game Reserve) other than the arid southwest.

The giant kingfisher is 42–48 cm (16½-18⅞ inches) long, with a large crest and finely spotted white on black upperparts. The male has a chestnut breast band and otherwise white underparts with dark flank barring, and the female has a white-spotted black breast band and chestnut belly.

Breeding is from August to January, 3–5 eggs being laid in a riverbank tunnel.

There are two subspecies, M. m. maxima, found in open country, and M. m. gigantea in the rainforest. The forest race is darker, less spotted above, and more barred below than maxima, but the two forms intergrade along the forest edge zone.