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!
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.
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...
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.
Do you believe in magic? After reviewing Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International's collaborative Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World (Volume 1, Non-passerines), I certainly do. How else do you manage to include an illustration, distribution map and a taxonomic review to subspecies-level for almost 4,500 species into one book? In the first of this two-part review, I summarise the taxonomic concepts behind this magical publication.
What is birdwatching but watching feathers? A good ornithologist should also be a good plumologist (feather studier). As birders we consider the whole, and not just the parts...but identifying feathers provides one with much deeper insight into ‘how birds are put together’. How many of these 12 feathers sets can you identify? Challenging but fun! Be careful not to reveal the answers accidentally!
In April, Aden Gower photographed a young Lanner Falcon mantling over its prey - but what was the prey species? Turns out it is something quite unusual - a melanistic Gabar Goshawk. Read on for the full story, and some insights into colour aberrations and the biology behind them.
Dave Deighton must be one of the luckiest birders alive, and his name is synonymous with waders, rarities and twitching. Whether they know it or not, the majority of serious listers owe him their gratitude. This is the story of three of Dave's most remarkable discoveries, and how those birds changed birding in southern Africa.
I’ll admit that my entomological knowledge is limited to a few disparate field guides lying around the house, some undergraduate entomology courses at university, and whatever punchy, non-peer-reviewed factoids the internet can produce. Be that as it may, I just had to share my sighting of this little chap - a remarkable example of crypsis!
According to the philosopher Confucius, "Real knowledge is to know the extent of one's ignorance". While simply meandering about in the bush, making sketches and just "checking stuff out" as my other favourite philosopher, Jerry Seinfeld, would say, I became aware of a sound that I could not identify...read on to see if you can identify it.