|Red-headed Weaver, seen near Dete, Zimbabwe, Africa|
Early each morning I walked along the road observing and photographing birds. The abundance, diversity and beauty of Zimbabwe's birds were a continual source of enjoyment for me. The beautiful Red-headed Weaver, seen above, builds its nests in smaller colonies than does the Southern Masked Weaver I wrote about in last week's post.
Some of the most intriguing interactions I witnessed were between two different species. Here, a fledgling Jacobin Cuckoo begs for food from its host parent, a Dark Capped (Common) Bulbul.
Cuckoos are brood parasites that lay their eggs in the nests of other species who (for the most part) accept the egg and expend their time and energy rearing the parasites' young, often along with their own. The cuckoos' strategy demands close cooperation between male and female. Together they quietly approach a potential host nest. The male cuckoo starts calling to distract the host. Eventually he perches just above the nest, taunting the host. When the host leaves the nest to attack the intrusive male, the female cuckoo moves in and lays her egg. Then the cuckoo pair flies off, leaving their genetic legacy to the (hopefully) good parenting skills of the host.
Five days later I saw the young cuckoo again with its host parent. It looked to me like the cuckoo had grown and was now using its size and and perhaps aggressive nature to bully the bulbul. The cuckoo would relentlessly thrust its bill at the host parent, until it would finally fly off in search of another meal. At other times the host parent, probably by now exhausted, appeared to resist: a standoff.
Whenever the cuckoo finished eating what the bulbul had brought to it, the bullying began again.
Often I used my photos, like this one of the Red-backed Shrike, to identify a bird with my app once I was back home.
Striped Kingfisher with an insect in its bill. Many kingfishers feed on insects, reptiles, and frogs, even small mammals, either exclusively or more frequently than on fish and other aquatic creatures.
When I photographed this Yellow-billed Hornbill I thought it was eating a flower. Enlarging the image revealed that it was actually a moth.
The Laughing Dove is distinguished by its blue wings.
The Tropical Boubou's call is lovely, haunting. I only saw it making that sound once, or I would have forever been mystified. When the bird was foraging low in the foliage or on the ground for insects, I could often see that it was uttering a completely different call, hoarser, and more coarse.
By eight a.m., the sun was burning away the cool, fresh morning air and I headed home, eager to rehydrate, look at my new photos, and identify new bird sightings.