Birds & Birding on the Orange River
Birds and Birding on the Orange River. This segment of the subcontinent has less species diversity than its eastern and northern parts. Bundi staff have been tracking the Richtersveld birds along the Orange River since 1995, and have identified over 127 species so far, officially bird enthusiasts estimate it at 276 species. Observing a large variety of bird species over a relatively short distance is fascinating about the Richtersveld. We have created a page in PINTEREST of all the birds you can spot on the Orange River Rafting experience. A true bird lovers paradise.
Among the many bird species seen at the mouth of the Orange River are flamingos, spoonbills, little bitterns, white-backed night herons, maccoa ducks, and Cape shovellers. There are many raptors in the coastal plains, including the Lanner and Peregrine Falcons, Black-breasted Snake Eagles, and Rock Kestrels. Among the strange and imposing animals, you might see on these vast plains are eight species of Lark, Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle, Ludwig’s Bustard, Dusky Sunbird, Ground Woodpecker, and Southern Grey Tit. Many species of water birds live in the Orange River zone, while bush also draws the Diederick Cuckoo, Cardinal Woodpecker, Barn Owl, Acacia Pied Barbet, Freckled Nightjar, Orange River White-eye, and African Hoopoe.
Southern Masked Weaver (Swartkeelgeelvink)
The nests look like a strange fruit hanging from a tree. The nests are built on the tips of branches, mainly of thorny trees to protect their chicks from predators like snakes. Males build a nest for a female. If she does not approve, he will tear it down and start over. If she does like the nest, the female will line it with grass and feathers, and lay eggs. The male will then try to build a nest for another female. This species is polygynous, with one male mating with up to about 12 females in a single breeding season. These social birds live together in noisy colonies. They feed mostly on seeds and insects
African Fish Eagle (Visarend)
Their diet comprises mainly fish such as catfish and tilapia, sometimes dead, but mostly caught live. They have been known to eat dassies, monkeys, monitor lizards, frogs, terrapins, insects, and even crocodile hatchlings. They also, occasionally, hunt water birds which include ibis, storks, herons and spoonbills and Lesser Flamingo. They rarely feed on carrion unless food is particularly scarce. Live caught fish account for about 90% of their diet. Fish Eagles are monogamous (mate for life). Pairs will often maintain two or more nests, which they will frequently re-use. Their call is the famous “call of Africa” and is easily recognizable.
Red Eyed Bulbul (Rooioogtiptol)
It can be seen foraging for fruit nectar and insects, arboreally and on the ground. It is a very vocal bird and produces liquid whistles and harsh alarm calls. They are common in gardens, arid, semi arid areas and dry riverine bush. The diet is mainly fruit, supple mented with nectar, flowers and arthropods. Foraging is done in pairs or large groups. Males aggressively defend their territory against other males and vicious fights are often observed. The nest is typically built by the female, and is an untidy cup of fine twigs, dry grass and other small plant fibres, reinforced with spider web. It is usually concealed in the fork of a bush or tree branch.
Reed Cormorant (Rietduiker)
Also known as the Long-tailed Cormorant. It can occupy almost any freshwater habitat, excluding very fast-flowing streams, but it generally prefers bodies of water with gently sloping shores. The Reed Cormorant can dive to considerable depths, but usually feeds in shallow water. It frequently brings prey to the surface. It eats a wide variety of vertebrates and invertebrates including fish, frogs, small birds, insects, dragonfly larvae, beetles, molluscs & freshwater crab. It hunt by pursuing them through the water using its large webbed feet. Its mainly forages in water under two metres in depth. They can often be seen perched on a rock or tree branch drying their outstretched wings.
Grey Heron (Bloureier)
It generally favours any shallow water body (including the sea shore). Mainly fish are caught, and three different hunting techniques are used: it can wait at one spot for prey to come within striking distance; it can walk carefully and ambush its prey, or it drops into the water from the air. This large bird has a slow flight, with its long neck retracted (S-shaped). The call is a loud croaking “fraaank”. They are large birds and not many predators are capable of handling their size and spear-like beaks, but nests
and chicks come under attack from predatory birds and snakes.
Malachite Kingfisher (Kuifkopvisvanger)
Living in a wide variety of freshwater habitats, this small, colourful Kingfisher eats mainly small fish, tadpoles and aquatic insects. It normally breeds in small watercourses, with steep mud banks for nesting holes (makes a tunnel in the bank of river) and plenty of marginal vegetation. Seen as a brilliant flash as it skims over the water, or perched on a twig over the river before darting to catch a fish.
The most noticeable aspect of Hamerkop behavior is the huge nest that it constructs, sometimes more than 1.5 meters across and strong enough to support a grown man’s weight. The birds decorate the outside bright-coloured objects, including man-made items. They, most often, build their nest in the fork of a tree, often over water, but if no suitable tree is available the nest is constructed on a bank, cliff, human-built wall or dam, or even on the ground. Hammerkops are not fussy about the type of water body they inhabit and can even be found feeding in small puddles in gravel roads. Their diet includes frogs, small fish and insects, using a variety of foraging techniques.
Giant Kingfisher (Reuse Visvanger)
This is the largest kingfisher in Africa. It is a fairly uncommon bird that inhabits the wooded banks of freshwater bodies. They feed mainly on crabs, with fish largely making up the rest of its diet. Both sexes excavate the nest, which takes about 7 days, and is dug into vertical sandbanks. Amazingly, they can excavate tunnels as long as 8.45m. Once prey is located from a tree canopy, it dives into the water, sometimes immersing itself completely. Despite its size, the giant kingfisher can remain unseen, as it sits motionlessly for long periods. Carapaces and limbs of crabs are seen around the perches of Giant Kingfisher.
Goliath Heron (Reuse-reier)
It is the world’s largest heron. This bird inhabits shallow water near the shore of large water bodies. It hunts, mainly, fish, doing most of its foraging among floating vegeta tion in shallow water, walking very slowly (3-4 steps per minute). When it spots prey it stops moving, coiling its neck before stabbing the prey with its bill slightly open. Once caught it takes the fish to the shore and swallows it whole. Fish, birds (rarely), Heron has a distinct deep bark, often described as kowaark, audible from a distance of up to 2 km.
Brown Throated Martin (Afrikaanse Oewerswael)
This is a resident swallow species (unlike most other species that are migratory). They forage in small flocks over water bodies with other swallows and swifts, grabbing their insect prey from the water surface. It also aerially hawks insects over grassland or shrubland. The nest is a hole in a sandbank excavated by both sexes, consisting of an approximately 30-80 cm long tunnel ending in a chamber, where a platform is built of fine grass lined with feathers and other soft material. Brown Throated Martins occasionally use old burrows of other birds to nest in.
Blacksmith Lapwing (Bontkiewiet)
Their name derives from the repeated metallic ‘tink, tink tink’ alarm call, which sounds like a blacksmith’s hammer hitting an anvil. They nest on the ground and are known for dive-bombing intruders, even humans (sometimes even making contact), to protect their eggs from being eaten or trampled on. They can be found in just about any flat moist habitat. Their diet consists of aquatic as well as terrestrial invertebrates. After spotting prey, it dashes forward to grab the animal from the surface of the ground or water. Aside from that, they tremble their feet as a way of attracting aquatic invertebrates.
Familiar Chat (Gewone Spekvreter)
They can be found in a wide variety of habitats including human habitation. The call is either a soft “shek-shek”, a warbling trill. It has the distinctive habit of flicking its wings once or twice every time it moves. This chat is more tame and approachable than most wild birds (hence the name Familiar Chat). Its diet includes insects, fruit, animal fat and scraps left by people. Familiar Chats build nests in a wide variety of places including letter boxes and farm sheds.
Pied Kingfisher (Bont Visvanger)
It feeds mainly on fish, supplemented with invertebrates. It uses the hovering technique for catching fish, rapidly beating wings, searching for prey from a high vantage point in the air, and then diving straight down into the water to grab the prey item. Predators of the Pied Kingfisher include the Water Mongoose and birds of prey. This kingfisher is a cooperative breeder, which means that the breeding pair is assisted by helpers. Primary helpers are usually one year old offspring of the breeding pair, and help with incubation, the feeding of the chicks and the defending of their territory. Secondary helpers appear after the chicks hatch.
Little egret (Kleinwitreier)
Little Egret nests in colonies, with other heron species. Unlike other herons and egrets, which hunt stealthily, it usually hunts actively, darting, twisting and dashing about in pursuit of prey. The nest is a platform of sticks constructed in vegetation near water, up to 20 meters above the ground. Their diet includes small fish, frogs, lizards and a wide variety of aquatic invertebrates. Foraging techniques sometimes exploit the movements of other animals, such as Hippopotamus (Hippopotamus amphibius), cormorants or African Spoonbills, as it catches the prey they disturb.
African Sacred Ibis (Skoorsteenveer)
This was the sacred bird of ancient Egypt where it was venerated and often mummi-fied as a symbol of the god Thoth. They can be found in a variety of wetland habitats. Nest colonies can be found in trees and bushes or even abandoned buildings. They compete aggressively for nest sites with Cattle and Little Egrets. Most of their foraging is done on moist ground, probing the soil with their curved bills or snapping up prey from the ground surface. Prey organisms include: insects, earthworms, molluscs, reptiles and the chicks of birds such as the Cattle Egret and Cape Cormorant.
Black Headed Heron (Swartkopreir)
It generally favours open grassy habitats. It mainly eats terrestrial insects, supplemented with small mammals, reptiles and birds, doing most of its foraging solitarily. It hunts by slowly and purposefully moving through the grass, rocking its head from side to side; when it spots prey, it freezes and then strikes with its bill.
The male calls from a perch to attract a mate, raising its head and giving a loud yelp, sometimes extending its bill vertically as it does so. The nest is mainly built by the female with material provided by the male, consisting of an untidy platform of twigs, lined with leaves and other soft material. It is typically placed in the canopy of a tree or in a reedbed, rarely on a cliff ledge or the ground of a small island.
African Jacana (Grootlangtoon)
It is often seen walking daintily on the floating leaves of aquatic plants, often giving the impression that it is walking on water. Due to their unusually long toes, they are able to achieve this. Its diet includes insects, aquatic larvae, insects, small crabs, and snails. Predators of their eggs include snakes, otters, water mongooses, and other birds. Since eggs and young chicks are often preyed upon, the survival of this species is largely dependent on the mother’s ability to lay several clutches of eggs in one season. These birds are polyandrous meaning that females mate with multiple males in order to produce multiple clutches.