Kalahari: Little Birds

In a previous post – Kalahari: Big Brown Birds (a.k.a. raptors) –  I’ve shown our photographs of the birds of prey in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (KTP). Now it’s the turn of the “little birds”.

According to the SANParks Kgalagadi Guide, 264 species of bird have been recorded there. Due to the harsh semi-desert conditions, not all of these can survive all year round in the Kalahari. The guide says that only 78 species are permanent residents, 16 species are seasonal migrants, and 18 species are nomads. Which means that the large majority of the birds which have been spotted in the Kalahari are vagrants or irregular visitors to the KTP. I love the use of the terms “nomads” and “vagrants” for birds, although I have no idea of how they’re defined in this context.

We saw many more birds than I’m showing in this post, but these were the best photographs. If you would like more information on any of these species, click on the photograph itself, to link to the relevant Wikipedia page.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill (©2009 WMB)

These two Hornbills are residents at the Nossob Camp. They like perching on top of the vehicles, or sitting above in the thorn trees watching the activity in the camp.

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills in a more natural setting! (©2009 WMB)

Lilac-breasted Roller (©2009 WMB)

Red-headed Finch (©2009 WMB)

Red-headed Finch pair (©2009 WMB)

Swallow-tailed Bee-eater (©2009 WMB)

Below are Sociable Weaver birds. These ones at the Grootkolk camp came to the camp for water (see Kalahari: Wilderness Camps I – Kiekie Krankie and Grootkolk for a more detailed explanation).

Sociable Weavers at the Grootkolk camp (©2009 LB)

Sociable Weavers build huge communal nests. Here is an explanation from the SANParks Official Information Guide for the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park:

These birds build huge nests which are usually situated in the lower branches of trees where they get the maximum amount of shade. These nests may have up to 50 chambers and house up to 300 birds, including chicks.The chambers occupy the bottom of the nest to make them as inaccessible as possible to both airborne and climbing predators, and to provide the easiest way in for the residents.

The weaver nests are superbly insulated.The inside temperature never falls below 15°C in winter, nor rises above 30°C in summer. The tiny pygmy falcon, which cannot survive the harsh winter without the thermal comforts of a good nest, uses the weavers’ chambers for warmth whilst offering the weavers protection from lizards and insects.The presence of the pygmy falcon is easily detected by the ring of white droppings around the chamber entrance. The Cape cobra, by moving methodically from chamber to chamber, feasts on chicks, sometimes wiping out an entire brood. Honey badgers are also unwelcome intruders and can destroy the whole nest structure in their efforts to get at the eggs and chicks.

For more photographs of the shapes these nests can take, click on the image below to link to the corresponding Wikipedia site.

Sociable Weaver nest (©2003 WMB)

Groundscraper Thrush (©2009 WMB)

Namaqua Doves (©2009 WMB)

As we were driving past a waterhole one day, we saw what looked like some very dirty doves having a mud bath. With the binoculars and camera though, we could see that they were Namaqua Sandgrouse.

Namaqua Sandgrouse (©2009 WMB)

White-browed Sparrow-weaver (©2009 WMB)

The Kori Bustard below is quite a large bird, but I’ve decided to include the photograph in this post. It is one of the strangest birds I have ever seen. It looks like a pre-historic bird – almost like one of those Pterosaurs or “flying dinosaurs”. With a weight of up to 19 kilograms (almost 42 pounds), it is the heaviest flying bird in the world.

Kori Bustard (©2009 WMB)

This is part of a series of photographs from our 2008 and 2009 trips to the Kalahari.  Click here to see a map of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

Credits: Photographs: Willie (WMB) and Lisa (LB), photo processing and text: Lisa @ Notes from Africa | Photoblog


About lisa@notesfromafrica

I live on the Southern coast of South Africa, and write about the things that interest, amuse or inspire me. You can find me at http://notesfromafrica.wordpress.com and https://southerncape.wordpress.com (my photoblog)
This entry was posted in Nature ● Environment, Photography and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Kalahari: Little Birds

  1. Oh WOW! These are beautiful! The Lilac-breasted Rollers are so pretty. Thanks for showing the Kori Bustart too. I bet you can’t wait to get back there. 🙂

  2. Whoa, the sociable weavers have been named aptly! That nest is huge! Love the Lilac-Breasted Rollers too, colourful yet understated.

    • The Sociable Weavers are such happy little birds! They’re pretty sociable around humans too. Like hanging around the camps.

      That photo of the Lilac-breasted Rollers was taken in the late afternoon. So the low light may make their colours more subtle than in bright sunlight. But they are very pretty little birds.

  3. 2summers says:

    Stunning. I love hornbills.

  4. So, so fascinating, Lisa. The lilac-breasted rollers are beautiful! I love it when you do these kinds of posts: I learn so much!

  5. Gorgeous photos, Lisa – what beautiful birds, all of them. I especially love the hornbills and the Kori Bustard (whose name I’ve always found amusing!) Thanks for sharing – sorry I’ve been behind on reading.
    Sunshine xx

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