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Birds Archives

Giant Kingfisher Scanning for Prey

Giant Kingfisher scanning for prey
Caption: Giant Kingfisher perched on a branch watching for potential prey, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania.

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mk II; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/1250; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

The Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima), the largest kingfisher in Africa, is found across most of the continent south of the Sahara Desert.

Like other kingfishers, the giant kingfisher is a fairly stocky bird with a short neck and straight, dagger-like bill. In size — about 45 cm long — it is not much smaller than a green-backed heron, with a similar shape and flight pattern.

Both male and female giant kingfishers sport a shaggy crest, while the male has a rufous breast band with black and white speckled underparts (as in photo above). In contrast, the female’s breast band is speckled and the belly rufous

The giant kingfisher feeds on fish, crabs and frogs, caught in the typical kingfisher way by a swift dive from a perch, from where it can usually be sighted scanning any nearby water for potential prey.

To find out more about this kingfisher and others found in the southern African region, see safari guide Roddy Smith’s article, Kingfishers of Southern Africa.

(Please Note: If you’re not reading this post on Scotch Macaskill’s Wildlife Photography Blog, then you’re not seeing the original version. Please go to Giant Kingfisher Scanning for Prey to read the original.)

Lesser Doublecollared Sunbird Feeding on Nectar

Lesser doublecollared sunbird (now known as Southern Double-collared sunbird) hovers in the air while feeding on nectar from a freylinia tropica flower, Curry’s Post, KZN, South Africa.

For more and additional photos, see Double-collared Sunbird Hovering

Camouflage of the Red-crested Bustard

Red-crested Bustard or red-crested korhaan
Caption: The superb camouflage of the Red-crested Bustard ( Lophotis ruficrista) allows it to blend almost seamlessly with the long winter grass in the background, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mk II; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/1250; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO 400.

The Red-crested Bustard (formerly known as the Red-crested Korhaan) is a largish bird, standing around 50cm tall.

The red crest that gives it its name is found only on males and even then is rarely seen, except for when the male is displaying, in which case the elongated rufous feathers are erected to form a crest down the back of the head.

During the mating season the male performs a fascinating courtship display that starts off with a rapid vertical flight after which the wings are closed, allowing it to tumble to earth before landing safely.

This bustard is a solitary bird that prefers to stay on the ground as it can run better than it can fly. Its brilliant camouflage allows it to blend into the surrounding vegetation in the dry woodland and thick grassland that it prefers, making it difficult to spot.

The red-crested bustard, while walking through the vegetation, forages for seeds, small invertebrates, and fruit.

(Please Note: If you’re not reading this post on Wildlife Photography Blog from Wildlife Pictures Online, then you’re not seeing the original version. Please go to Camouflage of the Red-crested Bustard to read the original.)

Southern Ground Hornbill, Close-Up

Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) male, close-up
Caption: Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) male, close-up of head and neck and, below, extreme close-up of ground hornbill’s eye, showing the spectacular eye lashes that these birds are blessed with, Kruger National Park, South Africa.

extreme close-up of ground hornbill's eye
Camera: Canon EOS 450D (Canon Rebel XSi 12.2MP); Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6 L USM; Focal Length: 400mm; Shutter speed: 1/640; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

The ground hornbill is a large, black, turkey-sized bird standing about 90 to 130cm (around 3ft) tall and weighing from 3.5 to 4.2kg (males) and 2.2 to 3.2kg (females). The wingspan is around 1.2 to 1.8m, but the wings are not often used as these hornbills are mainly terrestrial, only taking off in flight when disturbed, or when going to roost in a tree.

The face is bright red, as is the throat pouch. Females are smaller, with a blue central patch on the pouch. The ground hornbill has a casque on the top of the large, dark bill, although it’s not as prominent as on other hornbill species.

These easily-identified birds usually forage in groups of four to 10, walking slowly through their favored habitat — bushveld, woodland, and montane grassland — looking for large insects, rats, lizards, snakes, frogs, rats, and even tortoises.

Their call, a deep, reverberating “oomph, oomph-oomph” usually made early in the mornings, is surprisingly similar to a lion’s roar.

Redbilled Queleas Flocking

Redbilled Queleas Flocking, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia
Caption: Redbilled queleas (Quelea quelea) weave aerial patterns as they swoop through the surrounding trees in a dense flock, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia.

Camera: Canon EOS 1D Mark II; Lens: Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM; Shutter speed: 1/640; Aperture: f/5.6; ISO: 400.

Redbilled queleas flocking in the sky above, Lower Zambezi National Park, Zambia

Quelea flocks can number in the thousands — and tens of thousands in breeding colonies — resembling columns of swirling smoke in flight, sometimes even darkening the sky above.

Breeding males are distinctive with their black faces and bright red bills and legs but out of breeding season are more drab, with both non-breeding males and females having red bills and legs, as in the pictures above.

Below: Flock of redbilled queleas perching in a thorn tree, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana.
Redbilled queleas perching in thorn tree, Mashatu Game Reserve, Botswana

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