Monday, March 4, 2019

ZIMBABWE, Birds of Hwange National Park, Guest Post by Karen Minkowski

Yellow-billed Hornbill in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe
My friend Karen Minkowski is spending several months in Africa and sent me some of her wonderful photos taken on a trip to Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Karen and I were on the same memorable trip to East Africa in 1971 that I wrote about in my post on May 16, 2011. Karen has been back to Africa many times since then, both for work and for pleasure. I thank her for sharing her terrific photos and observations of African wildlife with The Intrepid Tourist.

Last week Karen reported on some of the many wild animals of Zimbabwe. Here is the second half of Karen's report about Hwange National Park and some of the many birds she saw and photographed there.

Birds were everywhere, calling and singing and displaying.

White-crested helmet-shrikes cock their heads as they search for invertebrates in the bark of a fallen tree.

The Kori bustard is Africa's largest flying bird, but at about 40 pounds it does not often leave the ground. It hunts invertebrates, lizards, snakes and carrion, but also eats vegetable matter.
The male Red-crested Korhan can often be heard calling in preparation for his “suicide” display, an impressive aerial feat performed in hopes of securing a mate. The male suddenly flies up about 15-20 meters high, then stops flapping his wings and falls straight down as though he's been shot dead.  A couple meters above the ground, he spreads his wings and lands gracefully. While falling he is at risk of being grabbed by a raptor. 
Our guide told us that the Korhan displays to show the female that he is willing to risk his life for his family and is thus worthy of fathering her chicks...An amazing performance (and too quick for me to photograph, but you can watch an 11 second video at ) The red crest reportedly is erected only as part of attracting a female; displaying it at other times might attract a predator.
This little Rufous-naped Lark positions itself on a termite mound or thin dead stump, about 2 meters above ground, and belts out its beautiful call. We heard and saw them all along our game drives.

Maribou Storks, above, White-backed Vultures below...not the beauties of the bird world but they do a lot of the cleanup.

Here's a mother Magpie-shrike (aka long-tailed shrike) gazing lovingly at her offspring. Or perhaps it's the dad.

A few of the many raptors in Hwange National Park include the black-chested snake eagle, the dark chanting goshawk, and tawny eagle and more.
Here is a black-chested snake eagle perched on a branch. This bird feeds mostly on snakes, but will also prey on lizards, small mammals and frogs.
The Secretary bird is a ground raptor. When it raises the quill-like feathers at the back of the head it brings to mind an old-fashioned secretary with quills tucked behind his/her ear.

When I go to Hwange I am accustomed to joining a walking safari. I love this way of seeing wildlife, following the tracker as he picks up the spoor of a lion or rhino. There's nothing between me and the wildlife, and ... I get to walk. On this safari we viewed everything from a vehicle, but I did appreciate that we were able to approach birds and animals much closer without disturbing them, and we saw more wildlife.

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