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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+Scotch Macaskill