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Select Specials: Kalahari

Kori Bustard

Famed as the heaviest flying bird in the world (although contested by certain Mute Swans), the Kori Bustard is remarkably common in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park and is sure to be encountered in the riverbeds. Early settlers of Dutch origin, whose initial knowledge of natural history was largely based on tales of previous European exploration in Southeast Asia, often named African animals after these exotic beasts. Hence, leopards were called ‘tygers’ (‘tigers’, see p.8) and the Kori Bustard was named ‘pou’ (‘peacock’) because of its gaudy display, when the male inflates a feathery throat-pouch and splays its tail feathers. The Afrikaans name Gompou (‘gum—peacock’) refers to the bird’s curious habitat of feeding on gum oozing from the bark of camelthorn trees. These majestic creatures also occur more scarcely in the Augrabies Falls National Park, and indeed throughout Bushmanland and the Kalahari.

Giant Eagle Owl

Despite its widespread presence in Africa, this species is rarely easy to find and will be a target of many birders visiting the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park. The best place to look for it is along the broad, dry bed of the Auob River, where it roosts by day in the huge, gnarled camelthorn trees. By driving along and scanning the trees for large silhouettes on the heavier branches, you are bound to pick up at least one or two on the drive from Twee Rivieren to Mata Mata. One dead give-away is the presence, under trees, of small piles of neatly peeled-off spiny skins of the Southern African Hedgehog (Atelerix frontalis), which is a favoured prey item.

Burchell’s Sandgrouse

This near-endemic can be quite elusive, and is best seen in the Kalahari Gemsbok National Park (p.110). They are quite specific in their habitat requirements, and are only found on the red Kalahari sands. The best way to see them is to wait near a waterhole, especially between 2 and 4 hours after sunrise (p.110). Here a male is pictured soaking his absorbent, water-retaining belly feathers, which will provide moisture for his thirsty chicks upon his return to the nest.

Clapper Lark

This endemic is named for its rapid wing-clapping display (conspicuous in spring and summer) when the wings are beaten together a remarkable 26 times per second. Although it superficially resembles just another of Africa’s brown larks, closer examination reveals exquisite, richly marked upperparts. The bird pictured here is the inland grassland subspecies that occurs in the Kalahari: the birds in the southwestern Cape show darker brown upperparts that contrast more with the orange underparts (see photograph on p.64). Taxonomic comments are provided on p.13.

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27/09/09: Dalton Gibbs reports back from Gough Island! Read the blog!

26/09/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip report from trips of 12 and 19 September 2009.

30/08/09: British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water proved very successful, with sunny weather and over 20,000 visitors. Callan's "Birding Namibia and the Okavango" was the most highly-attended lecture on the Saturday, with over 240 people. Congratulations to the winners of the Birding Africa competition and the African Bird Club raffle that we helped sponsor!

12/08/09: New Cape Town Pelagics trip reports from August and July 2009. Highlights: Little Shearwater and more!

07/08/09: The sub-adult Black Sarrowhawk visits our garden again! Read on about Raptor Research in the Western Cape.

27/07/09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has grown! And its sibling never had a chance to hatch. See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

27/07/09: To follow modern nomenclature and systematics, we've adopted the IOC World Bird List, Version 2.1.

13/07/09: The 8th African Bird ID Challenge has launched! Win a 50% discount on a Cape Town Pelagics trip, a copy of Southern African Birdfinder, or African Bird Club membership for 1 year.

6 July 09: Cape White-eye research in our garden.

2 July 09: Cape Town's Verreauxs' Eagle Chick has hatched! See the pictures of the chick, its nest and the breeding pair. Find out more about the Western Cape Raptor Research Programme.

2 July 09: Campbell Fleming, a Cape Town scholar, avid birder and photographer, joined Birding Africa last month as an intern. Click here, to see what he got up to.

2 July 09: New pelagic trip reports from the Cape Town Pelagics trips in June 2009. Highlights: Slenderbilled Prion and Leach's Storm Petrel

30 july 09: Our latest Cape Fynbos and Karoo trip reports feature Hottentot Buttonquail, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler and other fynbos and Karoo endemics...

26 June 09: Tungsten mining threatens RAMSAR site, South Africa's Verlorenvlei. Read the Media Release.

22 June 09: Claire Spottiswoode, one of the Cape Birding Route founders, was part of the exploratory team at Mount Mabu. The mountain is part of the newly discovered largest rainforest in Southern Africa.

11 June 09: A colour-ringed Black Sparrowhawk visits the Birding Africa office garden. Read why it's a 10 months old male!

14 June 09:
Wildlife at the office of The Cape Birding Route, Birding Africa and Cape Town Pelagics.

31 May 09:
Michel Watelet wins the 7th African Bird Club & Birding Africa ID Challenge. Test your African birding skills and WIN a Birding Africa Cape town day trip or a copy of the Birdfinder!

30 May 09: A tragedy unfolds at Kommetjie south of Cape town as 44 beached False Killer Whales were shot. Click here for more details and pictures.

14 March 09: Raptor Watch in Cape Town on 14 March 09