Archive for February 23rd, 2020

Birds of South Africa

My husband, Lee, and I are not birders, but he is a photographer with a good eye and a ready camera. Fortunately, as we’ve traveled together through Kruger National Park in South Africa (a birders paradise), whenever he spotted a beautiful bird, I would grab my camera and get some pretty good shots myself. My pictures aren’t as exceptional as his, but I enjoyed taking them, and I’d like to share a few with you. So here’s a tiny sampling of a half-dozen of our feathered friends.

1. Lilac Breasted Roller

Of the approximately 500 species found in the park, I believe the Lilac Breasted Roller is one of the most beautiful. If you’re in search of this colorfully feathered creature, you will usually find it perched at the top of a tree from which vantage point it can spot its meals of insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds or rodents on the ground.

Lilac Breasted Roller in Flight

I was fortunate enough to catch this one about to take flight. At this angle you can see the beautiful cerulean blue under its wings.

And then there’s Africa’s big bird with its long legs and weighing 140 to more than 300 pounds – the Common Ostrich

2. Ostrich in the wild
Ostrich hanging around the lodge

This large flightless bird is in the order Struthioniformes–yes, I had to look that up–along with kiwis and emus. The ostrich also lays the largest eggs. It has the fastest land speed of any bird and with those long legs can run thirty-five to forty miles per hour. But the ones I’ve encountered were in no such hurry as they enjoy the main source of their diet which is plants.

Now let’s take a look at a bird that’s a little–make that a lot–smaller. The weaver birds range in size from about 4 1/2 to 10 inches long.

3. Weaver Bird

It gets its name from the unique way it uses grass, leaves, twigs and roots to build their nests. You can tell this individual is a male by the bright yellow coloring, and using its beak and feet, it can actually tie knots with these materials. If she approves of it, the female, which is a brown and buff color, will help him to complete it.

4. Martial Eagle

One of the largest eagles, (and the largest in Africa) the martial eagle is an average of thirty-four inches in length with a wingspan of six to more than eight feet. It was a real treat to get a picture of this one. They have extremely keen eyesight, and can spot their prey from as far as three miles away.
You can often see the martial eagle soaring high above hilltops so that binoculars may be needed to get a good look at them.

5. Verreaux’s eagle-owl

And then there’s this unique fellow. The Verreaux’s eagle-owl is the only owl with bright pink eyelids, and he is also the largest African owl measuring up to twenty-six inches long. The fact that it’s nocturnal may explain why he is looking kind of sleepy in this shot. They sleep rather lightly during the day and wake quickly to defend themselves if attacked.

6. Wire-tailed Swallow

With the bright blue top feathers, the bright white underneath, and the chestnut cap, I think the wire-tailed swallow is gorgeous. He is of course named for the long thin tail feathers that look like two wires trailing behind.

Wire-tailed Swallow in flight
(Google image)

I hope you enjoyed seeing a few of my favorite South African birds. Let me know if you’d like to see more.

Until next time…

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