Summer Birds in Southern Africa

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Below’s summer birds is the courtesy of the photographic talent of Ranger James Hobson. In particular the images below take a look at some of the more colorful, migratory Summer birds that frequent southern Africa in the warmer months.

Comb Duck by James Hobson 

Here you can see the prominent and enlarged knob on the bill of the male comb duck (Intra-African migrant) during breeding season. It is not uncommon for birds to grow tail feathers in breeding season but I’m not aware of too many birds growing appendages. Also visible in this photo are the iridescent (literally means ‘showing rainbow-like colours’) wing feathers which mostly appear dull greyish black.

Red Billed Hornbill by James Hobson 

A strange looking red billed hornbill perches with a scorpion held firmly in its beak. You’ll notice the short tail which is abnormal for this bird. A possible explanation lies in the fact that females voluntarily incarcerate themselves within a cavity in a tree to lay their eggs, thereafter undergoing a feather moult. This female may be regrowing her tail feathers and the scorpion is potentially food for her chicks. Incredibly, the lack of tail feathers didn’t appear to affect the bird in flight.

Yellow Billed Oxpecker by James Hobson 

Two red-billed oxpeckers display to one another on the back of a rhino. The red-billed with its all red bill and yellow eye-ring (eye-ring absent in the less common yellow-billed) and the yellow-billed are both monogamous and co-operative breeders.

Yellow Billed Oxpecker by James Hobson 

An oxpecker seen in action on the back of a giraffe (they have a very high concentration of ticks given their body structure). The bill is designed for a ‘scissoring’ action for solid prey in longer fur, ‘scooping’ for fluids such as blood and mucus and ‘plucking’ for solid prey on exposed skin.

Bee Eater by James Hobson 

Below follows a collection of photo’s of some of the bee-eaters found at Londolozi. Carmine Bee Eater above.

Bee Eater by James Hobson 

Juvenile White Fronted Bee Eater by James Hobson

Bee Eater by James Hobson 

Little Bee Eater by James Hobson

Carmine Bee Eaters and Storks 

A flock of southern carmine bee-eaters feed on insects that the white storks are flushing as they walk. This is a good example of commensalism; symbiosis where one species benefits by the presence of the other (the bee-eaters) and the other (the storks), neither suffers nor benefits.

White Stork by James Hobson 

White Stork by James Hobson

Marabou Stork by James Hobson 

A marabou stork in all its glory! Contrary to belief, an inflated pouch is not an indication of food consumed, but rather the need to thermoregulate. They expand the sac to expose more blood to the cooling or warming influence of the air or sun.

Vultures Feeding by James Hobson 

Over the last few weeks we’ve seen quite a lot of vulture activity and on inspection there never seems to have been any predation involved. We’ve witnessed vultures descending on young impala lambs which have died of natural causes. Here a bunch of white-backed vultures squabbled over the remains.

White Backed Vultures Feeding by James Hobson 

A white-backed vulture comes into land amidst a feeding frenzy.

White Back Vultures at Sunset by James Hobson 

A white-backed vulture perches on a dead tree at sunset. Diagnostic of all vultures (with the exception of the bearded and palm-nut vultures) are the bald or lightly feathered heads and necks. This is an adaptation for probing around in dirty carcasses, the grime and body fluids being much easier to wash off than if the bird was fully feathered.

African Pygmy Kingfisher by James Hobson 

Slightly smaller than the malachite kingfisher, the violet-washed ear coverts are also diagnostic of the African pygmy-kingfisher. Interestingly, 5 of the 10 local species of kingfishes (despite their name) don’t actively hunt at water sources, the pygmy included. These birds mainly eat invertebrates and small vertebrates, captured away from water.

Malachite Kingfisher by James Hobson 

Unlike the pygmy above, the malachite is certainly aquatic. We were fortunate to have this one nesting in the bank next to Camp Dam for a while. Amazingly, these small tunnels can be dug up to a distance of 3 meters into banks. The point of the bill does get worn as some excavations can take up to 3 weeks or more, but because the keratin of the bill is ever-growing, the damage is quickly corrected.

Malachite Kingfisher by James Hobson 

Malachite Kingfisher by James Hobson

Photographed by: James Hobson

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