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Fauna & Flora

Fauna at Doornbosch

Longclaw, Cape

A large ground-dwelling pipit-like bird. The upperparts are brown and cryptic, but the underparts are striking: the throat is deep orange, hemmed by a broad black necklace, and the belly is yellow. It has white-tipped tail feathers that make the tail distinctive in flight.

Pairs occupy high-altitude and coastal grasslands and open pastures. The species is frequently located by its distinctive nasal “wheeeeah” call. Breeding Yellow-breasted Pipit resembles young Orange-throated Longclaw, but the pipit’s outer tail feathers are white, rather than white-tipped.

African Marsh- Harrier

Large, brown, wetland harrier. Like all harriers, has long, slender wings and tail, and graceful, swooping flight. Found in and around marshes, swamps, and wet grasslands.

Dark brown overall coloration separates it from all other harriers except female Eurasian Marsh-Harrier. African Marsh-Harrier can be identified by the presence of barring in the wings and tail, as well as by its darker head.

Brown Throated Martin

Small, very plain brown swallow with a white belly. Uses many different open habitats, usually near water. Most often seen on the wing, sometimes in flocks, which can also contain other species of swallow or swift. Weak, fluttering flight. Inconspicuous “chit” call.

Can be distinguished from all other swallows in its range by its plainness and small size. Rock Martin shows white patches in the tail. Bank Swallow has bright white underparts with a brown chest band.

Rock Martin

A small brownish member of the swallow family. Note the slightly forked tail with white spots. Varies throughout range, from whitish gray in the northern Persian Gulf to dark brown with rust-brown underparts in central and eastern Africa; most populations are intermediate, brown above and pale below.

In areas of overlap, averages smaller and paler than the very similar Eurasian Crag-Martin, with underwing coverts that are only slightly darker than the rest of the wing. At a distance, can be confused with “Riparia” martins; look for present species’ bright white tail patches. Nests in canyons, escarpments, and gorges, as well as towns and villages; often in arid areas. Often seen in pairs or small groups; in winter congregates in larger flocks. Not very noisy; sometimes gives a short, dry trill.

Southern Masked Weaver

This red-eyed masked-weaver has a lightly streaked green back and pink-brown legs. The breeding male has a black face mask with a narrow black band on the forehead above the bill. The female and juvenile are dull. The species is an abundant resident throughout open savanna and semi-arid areas, nesting colonially above water or in large trees.

Many similar-looking weavers do not overlap in range. The larger and more robust male Village Weaver differs from Southern Masked-Weaver by having a more mottled back; the female Village Weaver has a stouter, more robust bill and a duller red eye.

Common Moorhen

Distinctive dark waterbird that resembles a cross between a duck and a chicken. Adults have a bright red bill with a yellow tip, while immatures have a duller bill and legs. Note big white oval patches under the tail, and white streaks along the flanks.

Inhabits fresh and brackish marshes, on ponds, lakes, and along slow-moving watercourses with bordering vegetation. Smaller and more retiring than coot, and rarely far out on open water. Swims with jerky motion and walks with stealthy gait, the tail often slightly cocked; does not usually dive. Gives a variety of loud, somewhat frog-like calls.

Red-faced Mousebird

A slaty-gray mousebird with naked red facial skin and a buffy forehead. In flight, the streamlined tail is sleek and long, and a pale patch can be seen on the rump. Pairs and small groups occur in a wide range of wooded habitats, where they are resident and nomadic. In flight it gives a distinctive high-pitched melodious “ti-wii-wii” call.

Speckled Mousebird

A geographically-variable, dumpy-bodied, brownish-gray bird with a long, scruffy tail. Differentiated from other mousebirds by its blackish face and gray-brown crest. It is often found scrambling through bushes and tangles, creeping around on short legs.

In flight, it flutters rapidly, and its tail seems to drag it down, as if it were too heavy to make it to the next bush. Occurs in small, sociable groups in forest edge, savanna, thickets in grassland, and gardens, feeding on fruit, leaves, flowers, and nectar. After eating, birds may hang upside-down and expose the black skin on their bellies to absorb heat and aid digestion.

White-backed Mousebird

A mostly grayish, buff-bellied mousebird with a long tail, black-tipped silvery bill, and back with diagnostic white patch flanked by two dark stripes. Small groups inhabit coastal shrublands, farms, and semi-desert; prefers drier areas.

A cooperative breeder; chicks from the prior year will remain with parents and help feed and protect the new brood. Sings a melancholic “cheee-wee-wee-wiit”; also produces a distinctive series of buzzes and clicks.

Neddicky

Small, very plain cisticola of uplands. Note the rufous cap. The underparts are gray in southern South Africa and buffy throughout the rest of the range. Found in open woodland, scrub, plantations, and fynbos.

Song is a repeated, high-pitched peep. As with all cisticolas, habitat and voice are important cues in identification. Similar to Short-winged Cisticola, but Piping shows rufous on the cap.

Fiery-necked Nightjar

Medium-sized, typical nightjar, with a strong rufous collar. Both sexes have small pale marks in the outer wings and large ones at the tail corners that are white in males and buff in females. Found in a variety of habitats, including savannah, woodland, forest, and plantations.

Song is a distinctive series of whistles: “dear lord, deliver us!” Most similar to Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, but darker, with a brighter and more distinct rufous collar. Male has less white in the wing and more in the tail than Rufous-cheeked Nightjar. Female has larger buff tail corners than Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.

African Olive Pigeon

Big, dark pigeon with a gray head, and bright yellow feet, bill, and eye ring. Plain in flight. Found in forest, plantations, and woodland. In most of its range, it is a montane species that is restricted to high and middle elevations.

Often in small flocks, especially near fruiting trees. Common vocalization is a raspy “brrruuur” call, usually followed by several series of quick hoots. Separated from all other pigeons in its range by its bright yellow bare parts.

Common Ostrich

A mostly grayish, buff-bellied mousebird with a long tail, black-tipped silvery bill, and back with diagnostic white patch flanked by two dark stripes. Small groups inhabit coastal shrublands, farms, and semi-desert; prefers drier areas.

A cooperative breeder; chicks from the prior year will remain with parents and help feed and protect the new brood. Sings a melancholic “cheee-wee-wee-wiit”; also produces a distinctive series of buzzes and clicks.

Barn Owl

Medium-sized owl with a heart-shaped facial disc and deep dark eyes; the only Tyto owl present throughout much of its range. Varies across a wide global range, but always note white-and-black speckling on the upperparts, beautiful gray-and-tawny wings, and large round head.

Color of the facial disc and underparts varies from pure white to rusty orange. Hunts primarily rodents in open areas by night, foraging with a slow and buoyant flight. Roosts in old buildings, tree hollows, caves, and nest boxes by day. Its call is a bone-chilling, rising shriek.

African Paradise Flycatcher

This remarkable flycatcher occurs in both rufous and white morphs, but it always has grayish underparts and a strong crest. The breeding male has ludicrous central tail feathers, twenty centimeters long, that trail like the ribbon of a rhythmic gymnast, while the female lacks the tail streamers and has a smaller crest. Singles and pairs occasionally join flocks in open woodland, riverine forest, and thickets, avoiding lowland evergreen forest.

Very vocal, often giving a repeated grating “dzee-zwee” call and a sweet melodic “willie-willie-willie-wee-wooo” song. The very similar Rufous-vented Paradise-Flycatcher differs from African Paradise-Flycatcher by having a rufous undertail and a shorter crest.

Speckled Pigeon

Big, dark pigeon with white spots across the shoulder and a big red patch of bare skin around the eye. In flight, shows a gray tail band and rump. Found in many different open habitats, and nests in towns and cities and on cliffs.

Only absent from thick forest. Common vocalizations are a “rrrour” call and an accelerating series of hoots. Somewhat similar to Rameron Pigeon, but largely absent from forest, and shows much larger wing spots and red rather than yellow bare facial skin.

African Pipit

The default pipit across much of Africa. Brown above and pale below, with a streaked back, well-marked face, and white outer tail feathers. There is considerable geographic variation, from pale and sandy to rich brown and rufous. Found in a variety of open and usually grassy habitats, both near water and in dry areas.

Call is a sneezing “tzsht”. Song comprises consecutive series of rattles, given in flight. Very similar to other pipits; some of the key features to look for include the yellow base of the bill, streaked back, and white outer tail feathers.

Long-billed Pipit

A large, slender pipit with considerable variation across its range. African and South Asian birds average browner, warmer-colored, and more heavily streaked on the breast than the grayer-toned Middle Eastern subspecies. All subspecies possess a pale eyebrow, a long tail, and a relatively long bill.

As with many other pipits, can be frustratingly difficult to identify in the field; habitat and voice are important clues. Prefers dry, open areas with clumps of vegetation and scattered rocks and boulders, typically on slopes. Calls include squeaky sparrow-like chirps and sweet two-noted whistles. Song doesn’t quite sound like a song: a sequence of plaintive whistles, two-noted chirps, and other call-like vocalizations strung together with pauses in between.

Plain-backed Pipit

Large pipit with buffy outer tail feathers and a plain or very diffusely streaked back. Found in open areas with very short grass and also sometimes in agricultural fields.

Call is a scratchy “tchit”. Song is a series of high then low notes, like a question that is being answered over and over. Often sings from the ground. Extremely similar to Buffy Pipit but separated by the yellowish rather than pink base to the bill.

Kittlitz's Plover

Small plover with a brown back and pale underparts. Distinctive head pattern, with one black stripe behind the eye and another across the forehead. Found on mudflats, on saltpans, and in open fields, sometimes far from water.

Generally most common along the coast, though locally common inland. Acts like a typical plover, running and plucking food from the ground. Bold head pattern and lack of chest bands separate adults from other plovers. Plainer juveniles can be confusing, but are smaller than White-fronted and Caspian Plovers.