Category Archives: South African Wildlife

The inhabitants of South Africa’s wild places

African Firefinch

 

Lagonosticta rubricata

The shy African Firefinch is a tiny (11cm, 10g) seedeater inhabiting humid thickets in savanna and riverine woodland. They are usually seen in pairs or small groups.

Pairs are monogamous and the male is responsible for the building of the small ball-shaped grass-nest in a densely-leaved bush or dense grass during the summer months. Both parents share the incubation duties for the clutch of 2-5 eggs, which hatch after about two weeks. The nestlings are fed on small insects and fledge when they about 3 weeks old. The chicks become independent around 2 weeks after leaving the nest.

The African Firefinch has a rather patchy distribution across much of sub-Saharan AfricaThe IUCN lists it as being of least concern. In South Africa they can be found from the Eastern Cape, through Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo and into Gauteng and the North West Province.

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It is time for the annual SA Blog Awards again! In 2017 we won in both the “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Environmental Blog” categories and we need your help to defend our titles!

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Sombre Greenbul

Andropadus importunus

The Sombre Greenbul is a shy species, often more easily heard than seen. They are usually encountered singly or in pairs, feeding on insects and other invertebrates as well as ripe fruit and berries, nectar and flowers. They prefer dense habitats, ranging from forests to thickets in coastal scrub, where they usually move around in the middle and upper levels, and has adapted well to densely planted suburban gardens. Sombre Greenbuls breed in spring and summer, building their cup-shaped nests amongst dense leaves quite high above the ground.

The IUCN lists the Sombre Greenbul as being of least concern. It is distributed along Africa’s Indian Ocean coastline and adjacent hinterland from Somalia to South Africa, where it is to be seen in the Western and Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal and the Lowveld and Escarpment of Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces.

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It is time for the annual SA Blog Awards again! In 2017 we won in both the “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Environmental Blog” categories and we need your help to defend our titles!

If you enjoy de Wets Wild as much as we enjoy sharing our love for South Africa’s wild places and the wildlife that thrives there with you, please support us again in the 2018 South African Blog Awards? We’ve again entered the categories for “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Environmental Blog“, and you are allowed to vote for us in both. Clicking on the badge below will bring you to the voting site. After voting, you’ll receive an e-mail requiring you to click on a link to confirm your votes.

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Greater Striped Swallow

Cecropis cucullata

One of our most familiar swallows, often found in close association with human habitation, is the Greater Striped Swallow. They prefer open, undulating and mountainous habitats, often near open water, where they hawk the flying insects that form their staple diet.

Greater Striped Swallows breed from early spring to deep in autumn and build mud-nests beneath overhanging rocks and toppled trees, but they have adapted well to using the underside of roofs and bridges for the purpose (see photos). Usually clutches consist of 3 eggs, incubated by the female alone for 3 weeks though both parents feed the chicks once hatched. The chicks start flying when they’re a month old but will return to the safety of the nest for a few days afterwards still. Adults measure about 18cm long and weigh around 25g.

Greater Striped Swallows are to be seen seasonally in most of Africa south of the equator, “wintering” in the DRC, Angola and Tanzania and moving southwards to breed in southern Africa from August to March – during summer they occur in virtually every corner of South Africa.  The IUCN considers it to be of least concern.

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It is time for the annual SA Blog Awards again! In 2017 we won in both the “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Environmental Blog” categories and we need your help to defend our titles!

If you enjoy de Wets Wild as much as we enjoy sharing our love for South Africa’s wild places and the wildlife that thrives there with you, please support us again in the 2018 South African Blog Awards? We’ve again entered the categories for “Best Travel Blog” and “Best Environmental Blog“, and you are allowed to vote for us in both. Clicking on the badge below will bring you to the voting site. After voting, you’ll receive an e-mail requiring you to click on a link to confirm your votes.

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Thank you very much for your support – we really do appreciate it!

Arrow-marked Babbler

Turdoides jardineii

True to its name, the Arrow-marked Babbler is a noisy, social bird, usually encountered in territorial groups of between 3 and 15 individuals and commonly found in thickets in savanna and woodland habitats. Here they forage mostly on the ground, feeding on a variety of fruits, seeds, invertebrates and small reptiles. Pairs of Arrow-marked Babblers are monogamous, and assisted in the processes of nest building, incubation and chick-rearing by the entire group. They may breed at anytime of year, and clutches consist of 2-5 eggs that hatch after about 2 weeks. Adults of the species have a length of about 24cm and weight of around 72g

The Arrow-marked Babbler occurs in Africa south of the equator, and is listed as being of least concern by the IUCN. In South Africa it can be found in the provinces of Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga, Limpopo, North West and Gauteng.

Umbrella Thorn

Vachellia (Acacia) tortilis

The Umbrella Thorn is one of the most characteristic large trees of our dry savanna regions, and occurs from South Africa through eastern Africa into northern Africa and Arabia. It is a hardy species and can grow to a height of 21m, with a classic umbrella-shaped canopy, though in very arid areas it seldom grows beyond a small scrub. The Afrikaans name, Haak-en-Steek, literally translates as Hook-and-Prick and is an excellent description of the arrangement of the Umbrella Thorn’s spikes. Umbrella Thorns flower in summer, producing dense masses of white flowers.

Umbrella Thorn wood can be used for making furniture, tools and fence posts, the leaves and pods are excellent fodder for game and livestock, and several parts of the plant is used in traditional medicines.

European Roller

Coracias garrulus

The European Roller is a summer visitor to much of South Africa as well as most of the rest of sub-Saharan Africa, migrating to this part of the world from Europe, the Middle East, Asia and North Africa. They arrive here from October and depart again from March. Although they migrate in large flocks numbering into the hundreds, European Rollers are usually seen singly or in loose aggregations during our austral summer, inhabiting grasslands, savannas and open woodlands and to an increasing extent coastal heathland in the extreme south. They feed mainly on invertebrates and small vertebrates like chicks, lizards and frogs.

European Rollers breed in the mid-summer in their northern hemisphere abodes, using holes in trees or cliffs as nests in which clutches of 1-7 eggs are incubated by the female for just short of 3 weeks. The chicks start flying when they’re about a month old and remain dependent on their parents for at least another month more. Adults measure around 30cm in length and weigh approximately 120g.

European populations of this Roller has undergone considerable declines in recent years, due to hunting, poisoning and a loss of breeding habitat, though the IUCN still considers it to be of least concern.

African Mourning Dove

Streptopelia decipiens

African Mourning Doves inhabit tall riverine woodlands, feeding predominantly on grasses, seeds and small fruits, and occasionally termites, found by foraging on the ground. They are quite large doves, adults weighing around 160g and measuring about 30cm in length. This dove is usually seen singly or in monogamous pairs, only rarely congregating in larger groups, but often associates with other kinds of doves. They appear to breed throughout the year, using flimsy stick platform-nests built in trees. Typically, clutches contain 2 eggs.

The African Mourning Dove has a limited distribution in South Africa, occurring only in the Limpopo Valley and Lowveld, where the Kruger National Park‘s Letaba, Satara and Shingwedzi Camps are excellent locations to go looking for them, and enjoying their characteristic voices. They’re distributed more widely, if patchily, north of our borders, occurring through east Africa and the Sahel. The IUCN considers the African Mourning Dove to be of least concern.

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