Recycling mynas

Am I the only birder who secretly likes mynas? Despite their bad reputation, you have to admire their tenacity and adaptability. This post solves a mystery that has intrigued me for several years, and highlights a behavioural quirk of mynas that actually contributes to environmental conservation. Recycling!

By | January 7th, 2016|Birds, Conservation|7 Comments

Avian Architects

How many palm strips does it take to build a weaver nest? Foolishly, I dedicated a morning of my life to determine the answer to this question. In the process I discovered some fascinating aspects of weaver life, and gained even more appreciation of these beautiful, talented and energetic birds. Guess the answer, before you continue!

By | January 7th, 2016|Birds, Videos|2 Comments

Mountain Pipits: A piece of the puzzle

Mountain Pipits are regarded as breeding summer visitors to the mountain kingdom of Lesotho, and the adjacent Drakensberg. But after years of research and atlasing, we still don't know where these enigmatic birds disappear to in winter. A recent sighting of a migrating party of Mountain Pipits at Ezemvelo, Gauteng provides at least one piece in the puzzle.

By | October 22nd, 2015|Birds|5 Comments

Curiouser and curiouser: Brown-backed Honeybird displays

Despite being the epitomy of the term LBJ, Brown-backed Honeybirds are fascinating and curious creatures: brood parasites that can digest waxy scale insects and establish their territories by incredible aerial maneuvers. But there is still a great deal that we don't know about these easily overlooked birds - hopefully my observation on previously undescribed courtship behaviour and calls can contribute one piece to the puzzle.

By | August 30th, 2015|Birds|5 Comments

Sharing is Scaring: mimicry in Black-bellied Starlings

If you're a Black-bellied Starling and you want to outcompete your frenemies to hook up with a GF, the most chillaxing way is to do it vocally. Talk the talk, gansta, by copying all the birds you hear around you, obvs. I try my hand at teen slang, and analysis of the vocal repertories of Black-bellied Starlings - possibly Africa's most under-rated mimic. If you're too lazy to read the post, just listen to the audio clip where I isolated mimicked phrases from 11 other species in a 22s recording. Peace!

By | August 29th, 2015|Birds|2 Comments

Welcome Owen Callum Peacock

Today is your birthday - welcome to the World, Son! This is a strange but wondrous place, and you will have so much fun exploring it, meeting all the thousands of species that inhabit it, and discovering their secrets. I suggest that you start by getting to know doves and pigeons, some of the most awesome birds out there. So much so, that your Mom and I decided to name you after them!

By | July 20th, 2015|Birds|4 Comments

Shot in the dark: field ID of nightjars

Nightjars are astonishingly cryptic birds - and differentiating the various species can be a nightmare. Is is possible to confidently identify a nightjar to species-level without hearing it call or capturing and measuring it? You betcha! I promise that if you can summon the mental energy to wade through this technical article - the older brother of the piece that appeared in the Jul/Aug 2015 edition of African Birdlife magazine - you'll be a nightjar fundi!

By | July 15th, 2015|Birds|5 Comments

The Cuckoo Finch: deceiving birds & birders alike

The parasitic Cuckoo Finch has a talent for deceiving its cisticola hosts - through mimicry of their egg colours and patterns. However, adult female Cuckoo Finches closely resemble female bishops and widowbirds. Could it be that this is also a form of mimicry? Could hiding in plain sight allow broody female cuckoo finches to infiltrate prinia nesting territories undetected? Some inspired research from a team in Zambia suggests this is indeed the case.

By | July 15th, 2015|Birds|0 Comments

Winter is coming…

Birders tend to prefer the summer months, when everything is singing, breeding and displaying. However, during South Africa's precious short winter months our 'resident' bird species undergo a remarkable shift in distribution. This is evident even in your own garden! Here are some of the more interesting changes I've noticed over the last few chilly weeks...

By | July 14th, 2015|Birds|0 Comments

Harry Potter and the HBW Checklist: Splits and Lumps

In this second Harry Potter-themed review of Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International's collaborative Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (Volume 1, Non-passerines) I'll give you some more specifics on the book's layout and content. In addition, I reveal some of the more shocking findings of the book's taxonomic research team - and how these lumps and splits will affect us Muggles and our lifelists. Oh, and there's some Dumbledore quotes.

By | June 15th, 2015|Birds|0 Comments