Author Archives: de Wets Wild

About de Wets Wild

Nature and wildlife enthusiast, based in Pretoria, South Africa.

Cape Canary

Serinus canicollis

The Cape Canary inhabits arid scrub, fynbos, grassland, dune vegetation, agricultural fields, parks and gardens, even at high elevations. They’re usually encountered in small flocks, though these occasionally swell to number 500 or more birds, and subsist on a diet comprised chiefly of grass and weed seeds.

Breeding in the Cape Canary has been recorded throughout most of the year, with a peak in the spring and early summer. Their cup-shaped nests are built in tall trees using soft plant material. Clutches of up to 5 eggs are incubated for about two weeks, with the chicks leaving the nest when they’re about 3 weeks old. Adults measure about 12cm in length and weigh around 17g.

Naturally, the Cape Canary occurs only in the highlands on the border of Mozambique and Zimbabwe, in Swaziland, Lesotho and South Africa (parts of all provinces except North West). Apparently they have also been introduced to Mauritius and Reunion in the Indian Ocean. The IUCN lists the Cape Canary as being of least concern. though trapping for the illegal caged bird trade should be of concern.

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Southern Rock Agama

Agama atra

The Southern Rock Agama occurs only in South Africa (portions of every province), Lesotho and very marginally into Namibia and Botswana. They occur in a wide range of habitats, from the seashore to semi-deserts to high mountain plateaus, provided there’s rocks among which to shelter. They feed mainly on various small insects and other invertebrates. When danger threatens they’ll rely on their camouflage and if that fails they’ll race to the nearest crevice.

Southern Rock Agamas live in dense colonies in which both males and females hold territories (those of males being larger and encompassing the areas of several females). Females usually lay two clutches of between 7 and 18 eggs each in a year – one in spring and the other in late summer – in shallow holes dug in damp soil. The eggs hatch after 2-3 months. Adults grow to about 20cm in length (including the tail).

Although it is listed as being of least concern, unfortunately populations near or in our towns and cities are increasingly being threatened by domestic cats.

Levaillant’s Cisticola

Cisticola tinniens

The tiny (11g) Levaillant’s cisticola inhabits wetlands, marshes, reedbeds and open grassland with rank growth. It feeds on small invertebrates.

Levaillant’s Cisticolas are usually seen singly, in pairs or small family groups and breed throughout the year. Their nests are built of grass in the shape of a ball with a small side entrance in thick grass in or over water. Clutches contain 2-5 eggs and are incubated for 2 weeks, with the chicks fledging more or less the same length of time after hatching.

Levaillant’s Cisticola occurs patchily over east, central and southern Africa, and is considered as being of least concern by the IUCN. With the exception of the arid west of the country they are found over most of the rest of South Africa.

Rainforest Brown

Cassionympha cassius

The Rainforest Brown butterfly occurs in forests, wooded ravines and thick bush, flying low along thickly vegetated margins and paths and settling often. They’re endemic to Swaziland and South Africa and occur commonly along the southern and eastern coastline and adjacent interior as far inland as the escarpment and the Lowveld of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.

Larvae feed on grasses of the Juncus and Pentaschistis genuses. Adults are seen between September and May and have a wingspan of 3-4cm. The Rainforest Brown is listed as being of least concern in the South African Red Data Book.

African Olive-Pigeon

Columba arquatrix

The African Olive-Pigeon, previously known as the Rameron Pigeon, is a large, dark dove inhabiting forests, woodlands and plantations, moving around locally to wherever fruit trees are bearing. Apart from fruits and berries they’ll also consume insects encountered while foraging. Adults measure about 40cm in length and weigh around 400g.

African Olive-Pigeons are mostly found in flocks numbering between 5 and 70, though larger aggregations in the 1000’s may come together in prime feeding areas. Pairs are monogamous and probably territorial to some extent while nesting. They breed throughout the year. Clutches of one or two eggs are incubated for a period of about 3 weeks in large stick nests built high up in dense trees, with the chicks fledging about the same length of time after hatching.

The IUCN lists the African Olive-pigeon as being of least concern. Its range extends from Eritrea southwards to South Africa, though its specific habitat requirements means that it is rather patchily distributed throughout. Here in our country they’re found mainly along the southern and eastern coasts and adjacent interior, and in the temperate forests found along the escarpment. It is only in recent years that they seem to have moved into the urban “forests”of Gauteng province’s big cities boasting with well-planted gardens and parks suitable to their needs.

Highveld Cabbage Tree

Cussonia paniculata

The Highveld Cabbage Tree is closely associated with rocky ridges in grasslands and bushveld, and occurs in all South Africa’s provinces with the exception of the Northern Cape. It is also found in Lesotho and marginally into Swaziland and Botswana. Being adapted to high altitudes (up to 2,100m asl), they’re quite resistant to frost and grow rather slowly, rarely growing higher than 5m, and often setting down roots in crevices, even splitting rocks as the tree grows. These trees flower from January to April, the flowers being very popular with all manner of flying insects, with the fruit becoming mature around mid-winter.

As a decorative plant the Highveld Cabbage Tree is quite often planted in gardens. In the old days the wood was used to make brake-blocks for ox-wagons.

White-rumped Swift

White-rumped Swifts visit South Africa from equatorial Africa during our warmer months (August to May, though a few stay through the winter). They’re usually seen on the wing, catching flying insects over open country, often close to water and commonly in towns and cities. Usually seen in small flocks of around a dozen, they migrate in larger groups of up to a hundred.

Monogamous pairs of White-rumped Swifts often breed in colonies throughout spring and summer, usually in nests hijacked from other kinds of swifts and swallows. Clutches consist of 1-3 eggs and are incubated for about 3 weeks. Compared to many similarly-sized birds the chicks develop slowly and only fledge shortly before reaching two months old. Adult White-rumped Swifts measure 16cm long and weigh around 24g.

The IUCN lists the White-rumped Swift as being of least concern.