Doves & Pigeons
The Rock Dove or Rock Pigeon is a member of the bird family Columbidae (doves and pigeons). In common usage, this bird is often simply referred to as the “pigeon”. The species includes the domestic pigeon (including the fancy pigeon), and escaped domestic pigeons have given rise to feral populations around the world. Wild Rock Doves are pale grey with two black bars on each wing, although domestic and feral pigeons are very variable in colour and pattern. There are few visible differences between males and females. The species is generally monogamous, with two squeakers (young) per brood. Both parents care for the young for a time. Habitats include various open and semi-open environments. Cliffs and rock ledges are used for roosting and breeding in the wild.
The African Olive Pigeon or Rameron Pigeon is a pigeon which is a resident breeding bird in much of eastern and southern Africa from Ethiopia to the Cape. It is locally common, although there are sizeable gaps in its distribution due to its habitat requirements. The adult male African Olive Pigeon is a large pigeon at 37 to 42 cm in length and a weight of 300 to 450 g. Its back and wings are maroon, with the shoulders heavily speckled with white spots. The underparts are maroon with heavy white spotting, and the head is grey with yellow patches around the eye, and a yellow bill. The neck plumage, used in display, is streaked maroon and white, the underwing and undertail are dark grey, and the feet are yellow. Females are very similar but somewhat duller. Juvenile birds have the maroon and grey replaced with dark brown, the bare parts are a dull greenish-yellow, and the wing feathers have pale fringes. In flight, this pigeon looks very dark. Its flight is quick, with the regular beats and an occasional sharp flick of the wings which are characteristic of pigeons in general. The call is a loud coo coo.
The Ring-necked Dove, also known as the Cape Turtle Dove or Half-collared Dove, is a widespread and often abundant dove species in East and southern Africa. It is a mostly sedentary bird, found in a catholic variety of open habitats. Within range, its penetrating and rhythmic, three-syllabled crooning is a familiar sound at any time of the year. Its name is derived from the semi-collar of black feathers on the lower nape, a feature shared with a number of Streptopelia species. Like all doves they depend on surface water. They congregate in large flocks at waterholes in dry regions to drink and bathe. Their body feathers are darkest on the upper side, where they are coloured in dull tones of grey and brown, with shades of lavender on the nape. It is paler below, where a tint of pinkish lavender is usually present. The lower belly and crissum is white. As with related species, they have white fringes and conspicuous white tips to the otherwise slate grey tail feathers. The tail pattern is particularly noticeable during the display flight. Individual plumage variation is high, with some light and others almost sooty. Males and females look alike, although the males are slightly bigger. They measure 25–26.5 cm in length and weigh 92–188 g. The eyes are almost black, the bill is black and the feet are dark purple. An immature is duller and lacks the semi-collar of an adult. It also has buff edges to all the upper part and wing covert feathers, while the plumage below is broadly edged greyish-white.
The Spur-winged Goose is a large bird in the family Anatidae, related to the geese and the shelducks, but distinct from both of these in a number of anatomical features, and therefore treated in its own subfamily, the Plectropterinae. It occurs in wetlands throughout sub-Saharan Africa. Adults are 75–115 cm long and weigh on average 4–6.8 kg, rarely up to 10 kg, with males noticeably larger than the females. The wingspan can range from 150 to 200 cm. On average, the weight of males is around 6 kg and the weight of females is around 4.7 kg. Among standard measurements, the wing chord is 42.5 to 55 cm, the bill is 5.7 to 6.4 cm and the tarsus is 5.7 to 12 cm. They are the largest African waterfowl and are, on average, the world’s largest wild “goose”. They are mainly black, with a white face and large white wing patches. The long legs are flesh-coloured. The nominate race gambensis has extensive white on the belly and flanks, but the smaller-bodied subspecies niger, which occurs south of the Zambezi River, has only a small white belly patch. The male differs from the female, not only in size, but also in having a larger red facial patch extending back from the red bill, and a knob at the base of the upper mandible. This is generally a quiet species. Typically, only males make a call, which consists of a soft bubbling cherwit when taking wing or alarmed. During breeding displays or in instances of alarm, both sexes may utter other inconspicuous calls.
The Egyptian Goose is a member of the duck, goose, and swan family Anatidae. It is native to Africa south of the Sahara and the Nile Valley. Egyptian Geese were considered sacred by the ancient Egyptians, and appeared in much of their artwork. They have been raised for food and extensively bred in parts of Africa since they were domesticated by the ancient Egyptians. It swims well, and in flight looks heavy, more like a goose than a duck, hence the English name. It is 63–73 cm long. The sexes of this species are identical in plumage, and the males average slightly larger. There is a fair amount of variation in plumage tone, with some birds greyer and others browner, but this is not sex- or age-related. A large part of the wings of mature birds is white, but in repose the white is hidden by the wing coverts. When it is aroused, either in alarm or aggression, the white begins to show. In flight or when the wings are fully spread in aggression the white is conspicuous. The voices and vocalisations of the sexes differ, the male having a hoarse, subdued duck-like quack which seldom sounds unless it is aroused. The male Egyptian Goose attracts its mate with an elaborate, noisy courtship display that includes honking, neck stretching and feather displays. The female has a far noisier raucous quack that frequently sounds in aggression and almost incessantly at the slightest disturbance when tending her young.
Ducks & Teals
The Yellow-billed Duck is a 51–58 cm long dabbling duck which is an abundant resident breeder in southern and eastern Africa. This duck is not migratory, but will wander in the dry season to find suitable waters. It is highly gregarious outside the breeding season and forms large flocks. These are Mallard-sized mainly grey ducks with a darker head and bright yellow bill. The wings are whitish below, and from above show a white-bordered green speculum. Sexes are similar, and juveniles are slightly duller than adults. The north-eastern race is darker and has a brighter bill and blue speculum. It is a bird of freshwater habitats in fairly open country and feeds by dabbling for plant food mainly in the evening or at night. It nests on the ground in dense vegetation near water. The clutch numbers between six and twelve eggs. The male has a Teal-like whistle, whereas the female has a Mallard-like quack.
The White-faced Whistling Duck is a whistling duck that breeds in sub-Saharan Africa and much of South America. This species is gregarious, and at favoured sites, the flocks of a thousand or more birds arriving at dawn are an impressive sight. As the name implies, these are noisy birds with a clear three-note whistling call. This species has a long grey bill, long head and longish legs. It has a white face and crown, and black rear head. The back and wings are dark brown to black, and the underparts are black, although the flanks have fine white barring. The neck is chestnut. All plumages are similar, except that juveniles have a much less contrasted head pattern.
The Fulvous Whistling Duck is a whistling duck that breeds across the world’s tropical regions in much of Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Indian subcontinent, and the Gulf Coast of the United States. The Fulvous Whistling Duck is a common but wary species. It is largely resident, apart from local movements, but vagrancy has occurred to southern Europe. It nests on a stick platform in reeds, laying 8–12 eggs, but hollow trees or old bird nests are occasionally used for nesting. Its habitat is freshwater lakes, paddy fields or reservoirs with plentiful vegetation, where this duck feeds mainly at night on seeds and other parts of plants. The Fulvous Whistling Duck is 48–53 cm long. It has a long grey bill, long head and longish legs, buff head and underparts, the latter reddish-tinged on the flanks, a dark crown, and dark grey back and wings. The tail and wing patches are chestnut, and there is a white crescent on the upper tail which is visible in flight. All plumages are similar, except that juveniles have less contrasted flank and tail colouration. This species is gregarious, and at favoured sites substantial flocks can form. As the name implies, these are noisy birds with a clear whistling kee-wee-ooo call.
The White-backed Duck is a waterbird of the family Anatidae. It is distinct from all other ducks, but most closely related to the whistling ducks in the subfamily Dendrocygninae, though also showing some similarities to the stiff-tailed ducks in the subfamily Oxyurinae. These birds are well adapted for diving. On occasions they have been observed to stay under water for up to half a minute. They search especially for the bulbs of waterlilies. From danger, they also escape preferentially by diving; hence, the namesake white back is hardly visible in life. White-backed Ducks live in southern Africa, especially between Senegal and Chad in the west and Ethiopia and South Africa in the east. Their habitat consists of lakes, ponds, swamps and marshes where they are well camouflaged against predators.
The South African Shelduck or Cape Shelduck is a species of shelduck, a group of large goose-like birds which are part of the bird family Anatidae, which also includes the swans, geese and ducks. This is a 64 cm long bird which breeds in southern Africa, mainly in Namibia and South Africa. In the southern winter, many birds move north-east from the breeding range to favoured moulting grounds, where sizable concentrations occur. This species is mainly associated with lakes and rivers in fairly open country, breeding in disused mammal holes, usually those of the Aardvark. Adult South African Shelduck have ruddy bodies and wings strikingly marked with black, white and green. The male has a grey head, and the female has a white face and black crown, nape and neck sides.
The Cape Teal is a 44–46 cm long dabbling duck of open wetlands in sub-Saharan Africa. This species is essentially non-migratory, although it moves opportunistically with the rains. Like many southern ducks, the sexes are similar. It is very pale and mainly grey, with a browner back and pink on the bill (young birds lack the pink). The Cape Teal cannot be confused with any other duck in its range. It is a thinly distributed but widespread duck, rarely seen in large groups except the moulting flocks, which may number up to 2 000. This species feeds on aquatic plants and small creatures (invertebrates, crustaceans and amphibians) obtained by dabbling. The nest is on the ground under vegetation and near water. This is a generally quiet species, except during mating displays. The breeding male has a clear whistle, whereas the female has a feeble “quack”.
The Red-billed Teal is a dabbling duck which is an abundant resident breeder in southern and eastern Africa. This duck is not migratory, but will fly great distances to find suitable waters. It is highly gregarious outside the breeding season and forms large flocks. The Red-billed Teal is 43–48 centimetres long and has a blackish cap and nape, contrasting pale face, and bright red bill. The body plumage is a dull dark brown scalloped with white. Flight reveals that the secondary flight feathers are buff with a black stripe across them. The sexes are similar, but juveniles are duller than adults. This is a quiet species, but the displaying male has a whzzt call, whereas the female has a soft Mallard-like quack. The Red-billed Teal is a bird of freshwater habitats in fairly open country and is an omnivore. It feeds by dabbling for plant food, or foraging on land mainly in the evening or at night. It nests on the ground in dense vegetation near water.
The Hottentot Teal is a species of dabbling duck of the genus Anas. It is migratory resident in eastern and southern Africa, from Sudan and Ethiopia west to Niger and Nigeria and south to South Africa and Namibia. The Hottentot Teal breed year round, depending on rainfall, and stay in small groups or pairs. They build nests above water in tree stumps and use vegetation. Ducklings leave the nest soon after hatching, and the mother’s parenting is limited to providing protection from predators and leading young to feeding areas. This species is omnivorous and prefers smaller shallow bodies of water.
The Southern Pochard is a duck. There are two subspecies, the South American (Southern) Pochard N. e. erythrophthalma (Wied-Neuwied, 1833) and the African (Southern) Pochard N. e. brunnea (Eyton, 1838). The African Pochard occurs from the Cape to the Ethiopian highlands on water bodies with or without emergent vegetation. They are suspected to have been strong migrants in the past but the construction of numerous farm dams seems to allow them a more sedentary lifestyle. They reach highest concentrations in Africa’s central plateaus and in the south-western winter rainfall region. This bird is sociable and gregarious. It has been seen in groups of up to 5,000. The clutch consists of six to fifteen eggs.
The Helmeted Guineafowl is the best known of the guineafowl bird family, Numididae, and the only member of the genus Numida. It breeds in Africa, mainly south of the Sahara, and has been widely introduced into the West Indies, Brazil, Australia and southern France. The Helmeted Guineafowl is a large (53–58 cm) bird with a round body and small head. They weigh about 1.3 kg. The body plumage is gray-black spangled with white. Like other guineafowl, this species has an unfeathered head, in this case decorated with a dull yellow or reddish bony knob, and red and blue patches of skin. The wings are short and rounded, and the tail is also short. Various sub-species are proposed, differences in appearance being mostly a large variation in shape, size and colour of the casque and facial wattles.
The Crested Guineafowl is a member of the Numididae, the guineafowl bird family. It is found in open forest, woodland and forest-savanna mosaics in sub-Saharan Africa. It has a total length of approximately 50 cm and weighs 721–1,543 g. The plumage is overall blackish with dense white spots. It has a distinctive black crest on the top of its head, the form of which varies from small curly feathers to down depending upon subspecies, and which easily separates it from all other species of guineafowl.
Francolin, Spurfowl & Pochard
The Swainson’s Spurfowl or Swainson’s Francolin is a species of bird in the Phasianidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Swainson’s Francolin was named after William Swainson, an English ornithologist.
The Red-winged Francolin is a species of bird in the Phasianidae family. It is found in Angola, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia.
The Grey-winged Francolin is a species of bird in the Phasianidae family. It is found in Lesotho and South Africa.
The Natal Spurfowl or Natal Francolin is a species of bird in the Phasianidae family. It is found in Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.
The Crested Francolin is a species of bird in the Phasianidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. One of its subspecies, Dendroperdix sephaena rovuma, is sometimes considered a separate species, Kirk’s Francolin.