Rufousnaped Lark

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

Week 28 - A Special Visitor to the Garden

When we first moved into our house in 1994, I would often hear a Greater Honeyguide calling from a stand of exotic eucalyptes trees on the other side of the highway from where we live, a distance of about 1km. The call is very distinct and can be described as victorrr, victorrr or whitpurr called repeatedly for long periods. (Follow this link to hear the call for yourself

Over the past year there has been some Greater Honeyguide activity around the garden. I first heard one calling on 23 August 2010 and spotted him in the White Stinkwood tree behind the house.

Adult Male Greater Honeyguide

This caused some excitement initially but when we did not hear him again assumed he was just passing through. Then a week later I found another or possibly the same bird at the bird bath having a drink.

Adult Male - Greater Honeyguide

These birds are parasitic (they lay their eggs in another birds nest) and target Hoopoes and Wood-hoopoes as their host species. The males are also known to use the same calling posts year after year in the breeding season which stretches from September to January in our area. He will call incessantly to let females know where he is and then once she is ready to lay comes to him for fertilisation. This must have happened close to where we are because this year I spotted a juvenile bird at the small dam in our garden.

Juvenile Greater Honeyguide

There seems to be more bees around as well, especially drinking at the dam, which possibly indicates a hive nearby. This species is known to lead people and badgers to a hive where once the hive has been robbed they descend to feed on the grubs and bee larvae. The Zulu people believe that a hunter should always leave a bit of the hive behind for the honeyguide, if he has lead them there, or else the next time the honeyguide will lead the hunter to a poisonous snake or something equally dangerous!

It will be great to see these birds more often around the garden as it adds a bit more variety to the more common ones. Hopefully they have set up a territory encompassing our garden!!

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