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Kian Barker
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A to Z of Birds

Greetings and Salutations

Well, guess what?  A little bird whispered in my ear "The A to Z of birds needs to be written." Therefore, if you are tired of counting Impala jumping over a game fence in an attempt to get a little sleep, then it is time to read on, and start counting starlings flying over the very same thing. Moreover, I am prepared to go one step further, and feature the crustaceans as well, (scary stuff), for they helped us out with the mammal list. So very soon, crabs could start climbing over the very same fence. Should all fail, there are a few other options, although I shall try to avoid smaller organisms like bacteria, plasmodium and viruses. I am still undecided about the funguses...

And no, there are no prizes of fully paid holidays to St. Lucia , for guessing what alphabetical letter I shall be starting with:

A - Avocet, this is a little black and white water number, associated with mud banks, estuaries and pans. Has an unusual upturned beak.

B - Barbets are cool; closely related to woodpeckers, they have the same habit of chipping nesting burrows into dead branches and/or trees.

C - Coucals- several to be found in this area, including the Green Coucal. Allegedly green because it could not afford a BMW. There might be a few of those in Sandton too.

D - Dabchicks, Drongos, Doves and Ducks- well, I once had a couple of Australians that were on an Imfolozi Tour and they just about fell out of the vehicle when I pointed out a Drongo, in fact a Fork-tailed Drongo. In Australia , a 'drongo' is a drunkard, and I suppose the possibility of a drunkard wondering about the African bush is what really amuses the odd Australian.

E - For "easy" and Egret. Several species to be found in this area, Great White, Yellow Billed, Little, Squacco, Night, to name but a few. Being a Wetland, the Park will attract a large variety of these birds.

F - Now we are dealing with the "F" word, and there are plenty - Finches, Francolins, Flycatchcatchers, Falcons and Flamingoes. I can hear you saying "f....f.... flycatcher!". Alas, no, it is a Flamingo! And there are two types that visit this area from June-ish to Octoberish, depending on the rainfall and general weather conditions. The biggest is obliviously the Greater Flamingo that eats crustaceans and dipteral larvae, followed by the Lesser, which eats green and blue algae.

G - Goose, Goshawk, Gulls and Guinea fowls - check 'em out, the Gulls are here - the Grey headed ones, that is...

H - Hornbills, I was about to say this is the only bird that begins with "H", but I would be accused of favouring a certain BnB, so added to this list are Hoopoes, Herons, Hammerkops and Honey Guides.

I - Ibis, one of which is the Hadeda, lots of them in town at the moment.

J - Jacana, or Jacana, or there is the Jacana - decided that the book that I am using should go out the window, as the options are rather limited here...

K - Kingfishers, Korhaan and Kites - on Kites: two of the common ones are the Black Shouldered Kite and the Yellow Billed Kite. The latter arrives in late July, only to return to North Africa in February.

L - Louries - a little controversial, as St. Lucia Village is where the Livingston Lourie is considered different to the Knysna Lourie, found on the other side of the Umfolozi river. Twitchers had a field day on this bird. I shall not mention the 'thick knees' - saga...

M - Mannikins, Martins, Mousebirds and Mynas. The Indian Mynas are starting to become a problem in St. Lucia, and yes, like Durban and many other areas in KZN, we have a Myna problem, which is a major issue, because they tend to chase away all the indigenous birds - half the alphabet might disappear.

N - Neddicky, Noddy, Nicator and Nightjar; since there are Shakabarker nite drives: Nightjars are regularly sighted and the favourite is the Fiery Necked Nightjar, whose call that sounds like: "Good- Lord- deliver- us"...

O - Oyster Catchers, Owls, Osprey and Oxpeckers - this is a case of "Oh dear, none of these are easy to see". Take a hike, safari or night drive, if you really wish to bag one of these.

P - Pelicans, Pigeons, Petrels, Pintails, Pipits, Plovers, Pratincoles, Prinias, Puffbacks - readers' choice here - "break a leg", and choose a bird!

Q - "Hah" and you thought it would be 'queen prawns with extra garlic'. Not a chance! Quails and Queleas got me out of trouble here...

R - Robins, Rails, Rollers and Ruffs are but a few. Robins are a definite, and at least every garden in St. Lucia has the odd Natal Robin or two.

S - There are many options, Shrikes, Sanderlings, Sandpipers (11 types in South Africa ), and so the list goes on, good sleeping material...zzz... - 34 that start with "s", more zzz...

T - Tchagra - who on Earth decided on this name? Others are more modest, like Tern, Tealthrush, Tit (if this bird could understand English at all it would most probably be called the "blushing tits").

U - Uil (Afrikaans), and this is the bit where the "wheels came off" for the bird alphabet.

V - Vultures sneak in without any competition!

W - Waders, Waxbills, Wagtails, Warblers, Wattle-eye, Weavers, Wheatear, Whydahs, Whinchat, Widow, Widowfinch, Woodhoopoe, Woodpeckers and Wryneck, a good show for the end of this alphabetical list, but it is not over until the fat bird sings - the "Zwergbienfresser"

X - Ouch - a dead bee-eater - or x-bee-eater that has joined the 'choir invisible' or fallen off the 'proverbial perch'.

Y - Yellowlegs - Greater and Lesser, borrowed these from another area, so they have never been spotted here, although with climate change it is quite possible that Twitchers might get twitching.

Z - Zebra Finch - had to borrow this from the Pet shops and that is it, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz....

Hasta la vista,

The Knait Wryda

Posted by Kian Barker

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