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red billed hornbill

The Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus ruahae) is found in open, wooded savanna with sparse groundcover, especially areas heavily trampled by game or livestock, and feeds mostly on insects, small mammals, and rarely, on seeds and fruit. They are common on alluvial flood plains with occasional large trees, and in Mopane Colophospermum mopane woodland; wanders into more open habitats in dry season.


It is one of the smaller hornbill’s. The adult has a grey-brown head and grey neck with ear coverts streaked white.  It boasts a broad white post-orbital stripe, narrowly streaked grey, from above eye to nape. Its back is black with a central white stripe and underparts are white.  The coverts are sooty brown, each with a large white central spot, and the greater secondary coverts being mostly white.

The flight feathers are black with small white spots across the centre primaries, outer secondaries are black, inner secondaries white with a black base, retrials dark brown with narrow cream edges.  

The bill is red with a narrow yellow base. The eyes are yellow with black skin around the eye and facial skin pink. The legs and feet are grey.

The immature hornbill will look the same as the adult but the bill assumes the same colour as the adult within a year. The juvenile will be the same as the adult but with eyes that are grey, changing to brown as it ages. The bill is a bit small, but more orange with a black patch at the base of the lower mandible in both sexes. The wing coverts are finely edged buff. 


The Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill issues high, clucking notes, usually given in long series that accelerates and breaks into faster double notes during territorial Bobbing display, given with head down: kok kok kok kok kok kok kokok kokok kokok kokok

The first syllable of the double note is longer and more intense than the second. Shorter sequences or single notes are used when the hornbill is in alarm, contact or threat. It will make low growling sounds in close contact, screeches when frightened, and gives squark of fear when suddenly surprised. Chicks beg with high piping notes, and females and chicks give harsh squawks when receiving food.

General Habits

The hornbill is usually territorial, found in pairs or small family groups, but may gather in flocks in the dry season. It spends much time running about on ground; regularly sunbathes and dustbathes. It is known to fly with direct flap-and-glide, returning to roost in trees close to the trunk or large branches, and reverting nightly to a favourite roost in summer breeding territory.

Foraging & Food

Most food items are taken from the ground by the hornbill by digging with its bill in loosen soil, detritus or herbivore droppings. It rarely pursues prey on foot but feeds mainly on small insects, favouring beetles, ants, termites, or flies and their eggs or larvae. In summer, its diet is often supplemented with larger arthropods including grasshoppers, centipedes, termite alates, scorpions and solifugids. Sometimes it will eat small vertebrates including reptiles, or even birds’ eggs and nestlings (eg Crimson-breasted Shrike and Red-billed Quelea), or scavenges dead rodents. They will rarely eat small seeds and fruits, eg of Shepherds-trees (Boscia spp) and corkwoods (Commiphora spp).


The hornbill is a monogamous, solitary nester, and is territorial. Male and female display together, bobbing up and down with head bowed and wings held close to body.

They will nest in a natural cavity in a tree, 0.3-9 m up. The female will inspect the nest holes and is often courtship-fed and brought lining by the male. The nest entrance is often only 30-40 mm wide, sealed by the female from inside, using own faeces, to narrow, vertical slit 10-15 mm wide. Cavity 200-250 mm diameter. Most nests have an escape hole above the main chamber. 2 – 7 eggs will be laid over an interval of 2 – 4 days.  The female will remain on the nest during incubation and be fed by the male.

The female leaves the nest when oldest chick is 16 – 24 days and helps the male deliver food. The chicks will reseal the nest entrance. Nestling period is 39 – 50 days and then the hornbill chicks remain hidden near the nest for a few days after fledging before joining adults to forage.

If you wish to see the Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill on one of our tours, take a look at the following tours available to do this:



Contact us to book your birding experience at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Multimedia

Diedericks cuckoo

The Diedericks Cuckoo has a very distinctive call, which just so happens to sound much like its name. It is known for its plaintive high-pitched fluty whistles, dee-dee-deederik, rising and falling in pitch, repeated at regular intervals.


The Cuckoo is 18-20 cm in size. The sexes are dimorphic in plumage coloration with the female being slightly larger than the male.

The adult male’s bill is black, eyes and eye ring red, with grey legs and feet.

The male’s head and along its back is metallic green, with bronze patches on the back of head and nape. The Supercilium forehead and median crown are striped white. Its tail is dark green; with the exception of the central pair of rectrices with white tips and white spots along both edges. The upper wing coverts are a glossy bronze-green, with large white spots. The flight feathers are blackish, with white bars across inner webs of primaries. Underwing coverts and undersides of the flight feathers are dark with white bars with the underparts being white and flanks, thighs and undertail coverts barred green. 

The adult female’s bill is black with hazel to reddish brown eyes and a brown eye ring.

The female is similar to the male, but duller, with or without white forehead. The upper parts are green, rufous or intermediate, but usually rufous or bronze.  The upper wing coverts with white to buff or rufous spots. The female has a dark green tail, rectrices with rufous spots and notches; and second to fourth pairs with broad rufous bars. The underparts are white to buff with the throat and breast usually washed brown. The breast is often lightly streaked or barred dull green or bronze. 

In the juvenile, the sexes are alike. The upper parts are dull green, bright rufous or intermediate, with green and rufous barring; some with rufous restricted to the crown. The upper wing coverts with pale spots (except in rufous birds) and the underparts are white; with the throat being dark greenish or rufous streaks. The breast and belly are blackish with dark green spots. The bill is coral red, and grey to brown eyes. While still in juvenile plumage, the eye ring of the male will become red, and the legs and feet dark brown.

Diedericks Cuckoo


The introductory notes of the call may vary in number and the song is sometimes followed by shorter, rapid di-di-di-di-di, falling in pitch. When courtship-feeding, the female solicits with deahdeahdeahDEAH; male gives wavering weah, weah, weah, weah.


The cuckoo searches through the foliage while moving from perch to perch, or searches from perch and flies out and takes prey from the ground or from tree stem. It will also glean prey from leaves and stems, and hunt like hover-hawks. 

Mainly caterpillars are eaten, including the Chestnut Eggarlet Anadiasa punctifascia (which occur in a protective woolly cluster), Barred Eggarlet Bombycomorpha bifasciata, Mopane Emperor Moth Imbrasia belina, and the distasteful Acraea spp. It will also feed on termites, including alates, grasshoppers and adult butterflies. Caterpillars are grasped near the head and eviscerated by shaking. The juvenile cuckoo skins caterpillars by holding it at one end, flicking it until the skin separates from the body, then shaking to remove the skin. Hosts’ eggs are sometimes eaten.


The Diedericks Cuckoo is located in Sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. It is widespread in South Africa but largely absent from the Namib Desert and central and northwest Karoo.

It inhabits forest edges, mesic savanna and closed woodlands, drainage-line woodlands, open arid savanna, semi-arid shrublands, parks and gardens; mostly below 1 200 m. They are uncommon in Mopane Colophospermum mopane woodland.


The Diedericks Cuckoo is found solitary or in pairs. They are conspicuous in the breeding season; with males calling for extended periods from prominent perches. The females are less conspicuous but often seen in interactions with males. The female will be found sitting for long periods concealed in foliage close to breeding colonies of host nests. Their flight is direct with rapid wingbeats.

After sighting a female in his territory, a male Diederik Cuckoo courts her with song and hairy caterpillars. After mating, she will leave him and lay a single egg in an alien nest. She then flies off leaving the “foster” parents to hatch and raise her offspring. If she enters a nest when the host is absent she will remove a host’s egg from the nest. She will fly up to 100 m away, perch and eat the egg, or discards or drops the egg at or near the nest. The female may lay as many as 20 to 24 eggs in as many different nests during the breeding season.

The Diedericks Cuckoo is not threatened and has most likely expanded its range. 

If you want a chance to see a Diedericks Cuckoo on a birding tour, contact us and find out how you can book one of our tours at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Spotted Thick-knee

The answer to this question is ‘Yes’. The Spotted Thick-knee is native to the grasslands and savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa and Mauritania in the west to EthiopiaKenyaTanzania and South Africa in the east and south. The Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis), also known as the Spotted Dikkop or Cape Thick-knee, is a wader in the family Burhinidae. 

Spotted Thick-knee Identification

The Spotted Thick-knee can reach up to 45.5 cm (17.9 in) in height and has long legs and brown-and-white speckled plumage which provides camouflage. This makes it difficult to spot the bird in the grasslands and savannah, where it roams. 

Photo: Stewart Bentley

Its head is large and round with a prominent yellow eye and a short, stout beak. When in flight or standing in a characteristic position with its wings raised, it shows a striking contrasting pattern. Its legs are long and yellow and the tibiotarsal joint is expanded, giving it the name “thick-knee”. 


This bird has a loud, distinctive “ti-ti-ti teeeteeeteeee-ti ti ti” call.


The Spotted Thick-knee is a nocturnal bird and squats on the ground during the daytime, making it difficult to spot. It hunts exclusively on the ground, feeding on insects, small mammals and lizards, and grass seeds.


The Thick-knee is found in a variety of habitats, ranging from grasslands and semi-desert, to urban areas.


The female typically lays two eggs, and males and females rear the offspring together, with both bringing food back to the nest. The Spotted Thick-knee is monogamous with the male becoming aggressive and territorial when breeding. 

A nest of twigs and leaves is built on the ground, lined with small stones, normally placed under a bush. They lay between one and three eggs, that are incubated by both parents for around 26 days. The birds will defend the nest and adopt a defensive pose with wings spread and tail cocked, and will even peck an intruder. Sometimes they will fake injuries to lead predators away from the nest.

The Spotted Thick-knee is often found on the ground, but when in flight, they fly with rapid wing beats. They are normally found either singly or in pairs. These birds are well camouflaged and rely on this to avoid predators. Thick-knees are mostly nocturnal.

If you want to see a Spotted Thick-knee on a birding tour, contact us and find out how you can book a tour at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Sources: Wikipedia, eBird, Southafrica.

Black Bellied Bustard - timothy Kadlecek

Hearing a Black-bellied Bustard is an unusual experience. They have a rather striking call.

Identification assistance 

The male and female Bustard differ in their plumage and colours.

The adult male has:

  • Long legs and long slender neck.
  • Large whitish cheek patch extends down sides of neck to form large white patches on either side of the breast.
  • Head buffy-brown, with black eye stripe (mostly behind eye) and faint whitish supercilium.
  • Hind neck buffy-brown, finely mottled darker brown.
  • Back, rump, upper tail coverts and tail buffy brown, with prominent blackish chevrons; tail with 3-4 evenly spaced, darker brown bars.
  • Upper wing coverts mostly buffy brown, with prominent blackish chevrons; white greater coverts form line along leading edge of folded wing.
  • Underwing black, except for white flash in primaries. Black line down foreneck broadens onto a black breast and belly.
  • Bill blackish. 
  • Eyes pale brown. 
  • Legs dull yellow.

The adult female has:

  • Similar to adult male, but with plain brown head and neck.
  • Chin and throat white.
  • Breast buff, finely vermiculated with black; belly white.
  • Greater coverts buff, with dark central spots.
  • Primaries blackish, with white bars at base.

The juvenile has:

  • As with the female, but cheeks, throat and neck rufous-brown.
  • Buff tips to flight feathers and upper wing coverts.


The male Bustard calls by slowly raising his neck, bill upwards and half open. The neck expands, displaying his black and white throat; with a slight tuft at the nape and pale ear covert feathers raised. This gives a drawling, frog-like quark; as he immediately pulls his head back onto his shoulders with his bill horizontal, then extends his neck and gives abrupt, explosive kww-ick, like a cork being pulled from a bottle. 

This is repeated every 10-15 sec, for 30 minutes or more. They sometimes calls at night. Males gives a growling call when fighting and an alarm call that sounds like a hoarse krak. Half grown young give a high-pitched wailing call when handled.


The Bustard forages by walking and pecking close to the ground. They are omnivorous and feed on mainly small invertebrates (especially locusts, grasshoppers and beetles), as well as caterpillars, termites, mantids, crickets, Hemiptera, cicadas, ant-lions, wasps, ants, cockroaches and centipedes; also including vegetable matter (berries, seeds, fruits, flowers, palm kernels and green leaves). 


This Bustard inhabits the tall dense grassland and grassy savannah, in both hilly and flat country, where the rainfall is more than 600 mm. 

Black Bellied Bustard - timothy Kadlecek
Photo: Tim Kadlecek


The bustard is likely polygynous and a solitary nester. Its eggs are laid directly on the ground, in a shallow scrape, among tufts of tall (under 1 m) grass; sometimes at the base of sapling or termite mound.

The eggs are virtually spherical; some with nodules at ends. They are olive green to olive-brown, with yellowish- and chocolate-brown markings, underlain with purple or grey in colour. The eggs are incubated for a period of 23 days (in captivity); by the female only.

Males will display at regularly used sites and the females nest away from display arenas. Males may gather in loose leks with 4 displaying males and 1 young male in close proximity at 1 site. The male display flight will typically occur after rain, in late afternoon and after calling. 

They fly high up, with exaggerated wing-beats, displaying white primaries (wings raised high on upstroke, almost touching over back; barely reach horizontal on downstroke), with breast feathers puffed out. They return to ground in a shallow glide with wings held in deep ‘V’. Aerial displays and calling are concentrated in pre-breeding season. 

In courtship, the male approaches the female Bustard, with mincing steps and the neck outstretched, throat puffed out, along with head and neck feathers raised to form ruff. He repeatedly retracts and stretches out his neck horizontally, and then raises it back to vertical position with sinuous, reptilian movement. 

The male also runs after the female in crouched position, with tail raised vertically while competing males strut in front of each other; they fight with heads down, feathers fluffed out, rearing up to kick, tails raised, giving growling calls. 

If you want to witness one of these unusual sounding Black-bellied Bustard’s, contact us and find out how you can book a tour at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Birds

yellow billed stork

Seeing a Yellow-billed Stork (Latin name – Mycteria Ibis) is an unusual experience. They are not small birds, which makes for an interesting sighting. The Yellow-billed Stork is a large wading bird in the stork family – Ciconiidae, but although one may expect them to be ungainly, they have extremely quick reflexes.

Identification assistance 

One of the first indicators to be aware of when trying to identify a bird is its relative size, ie. how big is the bird compared to a well known familiar bird. The Yellow-billed Stork is a big bird – much larger than a Pied Crow. The height of the Yellow-billed Stork is about 97 cms, and its weight is about 2 kgs. 

The male and female are the same when it comes to plumage and colours:

  • Head is red
  • Eyes are yellow
  • Bill is yellow
  • Throat is white
  • Back is white
  • Legs are pink.

The Yellow-billed Stork is a stealthy bird, moving slowly and quietly on its long legs.

Storks will generally travel in flocks. During the breeding season, the storks make a hissing sound and adults may make a hollow banging sound with their bills. The babies will beg for food with a braying sound. 


The Yellow-billed Stork feeds on the ground and in or around water mainly. Their diet consists of mostly:

  • Reptiles
  • Invertebrates
  • Seeds
  • Aquatic life forms.

When hunting, they stand on one leg and use the other leg to muddy up the water and get the prey to move from their hiding places. Once the prey is moving, the stork is able to dunk its head into the water and catch the prey with its lightning-quick reflexes.

stork in step
Photo: Akio and Yasuko Yamada

Habitat and flocking behaviour for this bird

The preferred habitats for Yellow-billed Storks are wetlands and riverine areas.


They breed when food is abundant. The breeding cycle often takes place toward the end of rainy season, or in a dry season, depending on food availability, or when fish and frogs are more easily caught in shallow pools.

When mating, the female stork approaches the male. The male stork selects the nesting spot and together the male and female build a nest of sticks and debris. Most often the nests are built in a tree, away from predators. It can take the pair several days to build the nest. The Yellow-billed Stork is monogamous unless its mate dies. In the event of a partner dying, the stork will seek out a new mate

Once the female has laid her eggs (normally 2-3 eggs), the incubation period is about 30 days long. The eggs are laid on alternate days, so they also hatch accordingly. The babies remain in the nest for up to 55 days when the fledging period begins. The stork comes of breeding age at around 3 years old. The lifespan of a stork is about 19 years in captivity.

Unusual Facts about this stork

  • They have one of the fastest swallowing reflexes known, enabling them to catch moving prey in water very quickly.
  • They can snap their beaks shut in just 0.025 seconds.
  • Storks will nest in groups in trees, sometimes with other species.
  • Storks regurgitate water over their babies to keep them cool, and to encourage water intake.
  • Storks are smart birds, they stand on one leg, and stir the water and mud with the other, disturbing their prey, and then catching it quickly as it moves.

If you want to see one of these large, feathered friends and find out why they are so popular, you can enquire or book with us at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: The Kruger, Desert USA.

Augur Buzzard

The joy of birding is best shared, and so, this week, the bird we are following is the Augur Buzzard.

The Augur Buzzard is a fairly common bird that is nomadic in response to the supply of available prey.


They are commonly found on rocky outcrops in the mountainous country as well as in woodlands and arid scrub.

The population is found intermittently from Ethiopia and East Sudan through Eastern and Central Africa to Zimbabwe. There is some isolated population in South West Angola and Namibia. In Southern Africa, the species is confined to Central and North Western Namibia, Zimbabwe and adjacent Mozambique. There are vagrants at Tsodilo Hills, North Western Botswana.

They are resident, with some juvenile dispersal; and occasional nomadism linked to prey availability.

The general habits of the Augur Buzzard can be described as living solitary or in pairs. They have a longevity of about 9 years. They spend most of the day perched (58%), with the remaining time split between soaring (29%) or hovering (13%). Towards midday, the buzzard rests perched in shaded areas in the trees or will soar much higher than at other times. The Augur Buzzard is known as territorial but will range most widely in the non-breeding season.

Photo by Akio and Yasuko Yamada


The call of the bird can be described as a harsh kow-kow-kow, sometimes led by a whistling note made mainly in display, but also in greeting, or when soliciting food, or alarmed. The young bird calls with a penetrating pi-pi-pi-pee-ooo-ooo, or cheeu-cheeu, occasionally interspersed with tuk, tuk notes.

Adult Male Pale Morph

The adult male can be described as having a blackish slate crown, face and upper parts, along with whitish streaks, especially on frons, supraorbital ridge, mantle and scapulars. 

It’s upper tail coverts and the tail are rich rufous or chestnut. Upper wing coverts are blackish slate, with streaked white. The flight feathers whitish, with fine black bars and broad blackish tips. 

The underwing coverts are a white, with greater primary coverts mostly presenting with blackish tips forming a dark comma. Undersides of the flight feathers are mainly white, with broad blackish trailing edge and fine dark grey barring on secondaries and inner primaries. 

The underparts are white, with throat and sides of breast sometimes presenting with dark streaks; along with undertail coverts rufous. Some males retain a narrow, dusky grey-brown juvenile subterminal undertail band. Its bill is black, cere yellow, and eyes are dark brown. The legs and feet are yellow.

Adult Female Pale Morph

The female is much like the male, but the throat and breast usually have more extensive blackish streaking, often forming a distinct bib.


By one year, the underparts are mainly creamy white, with blackish spots on flanks, thighs and underwing coverts. The immature bird moults into adult plumage over the 1.5 year period after this, with mosaic of adult and juvenile plumage visible during this time.


The juvenile’s upper parts are dark brown, head and neck feathers edged by buff, with whitish bases showing as streaks. The upper tail is brown and upper wing coverts are dark brown. 

Flight feathers present as grey-brown (with darker brown bars), forming a slightly paler panel visible in flight and at rest. Underwing coverts are buffy, with dark carpal patches and dark tips to flight feathers that are more diffused than adults. 

The underparts are buff with irregular brown blotches on the throat, flanks and thighs. Undertail shows as a greyish brown, with narrow dark brown bars and broader subterminal band with the tail being distinctly longer than the adult.


The Augur buzzard likes to hunt from a perch with a downward swoop to catch its prey. It will also hunt from the air in a rapid parachute drop with its feet extended in front of it to catch mostly reptiles. It feeds on insects, nestlings, rodents and reptiles, and will sometimes chase prey on the ground.

Alternative Names

German = Augurbussard
French = Buse augure
Portuguese = Bútio-augur
Dutch = Augurbuizerd

All our Tanzania Tours guarantee an Augur Buzzard! 

If you want to see one of these beautiful feathered friends and find out why they are so popular, you can enquire or book with us at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Multimedia Birds guide

red billed firefinch

Following hot on the heels of our Facebook bird of the week post, we present our bird of the week as the Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala).

The Red-billed Firefinch or Senegal Firefinch is a small gregarious passerine bird. There are two types in East Africa, which are: 

  1. Lagonosticta senegala ruberrima Reichenow, which occur in most of Eastern Africa, and the 
  2. Lagonosticta senegala rendalli which occur in most of Southern Tanzania and down into Southern Africa.


The Red-billed Firefinch has a wide distribution, and are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, from south Mauritania to Sudan and Somalia, south through east and central Africa to South Africa; absent from Congo Basin and arid areas in east Africa. 

Populations that have been introduced have spread in:

  • Central Algeria.
  • South Africa, in northern Namibia. 
  • North and East Botswana.
  • Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and Swaziland. 

In South Africa: 

  • widespread in NW and Limpopo Provinces, 
  • Gauteng, 
  • Mpumalanga,
  • Northern KwaZulu-Natal,
  • more locally in Western Free State, 
  • Northern Cape and interior of Eastern Cape, with small numbers extending through Little Karoo to Western Cape, with several recent records west to Robertson, in Breede River valley.
  • In KwaZulu-Natal, formerly mainly north of Tugela River, but now along the coast as far south as Ramsgate.

They are residents of grassy habitats and thickets with a preference for Acacia Savanna. The Red-billed Firefinch have an extremely large geographic range, with a fairly stable population. They have one breeding partner and their nest is placed near the ground and forms a ball shape. Usually found in pairs or small flocks with other birds where they are seen feeding on seeds and grains on the ground and are considered sedentary, with some localised movements. 

📷 Akio and Yasuko Yamada


The Firefinch has a call of a soft fluty “dwee” or “fweet” notes which is a simple melodious phrase of 2-6 soft fluty whistles, rising slightly in pitch towards the end, preceded by sharp tzet alarm note. The local dialects and individual songs will vary slightly. 

The contact call is a soft, thin dwee, uee, peee or fweet, slurred and usually rising, sometimes repeated as a double note; which is restrained by the close proximity of the same species. The Firefinch alarm call is a sharp, low-pitched tzet, tzet, tzet, sometimes rapidly repeated. The young of the species beg with wis and we call.

Adult Male Firefinch

The sexes are dimorphic in feather colouration. (L. s. rendalli). The adult male will be brown along the centre of crown and nape, mantle and back, sometimes suffused with pale red. The remainder of his head will reflect a dull pinkish-red. The rump and base of the upper tail are a pinkish red. 

  • The tail is blackish-brown, with reddish outer margins. 
  • Wing coverts are brown, sometimes suffused pale red. 
  • Flight feathers dark brown, narrowly edged pinkish-brown with the underparts mostly dull pinkish-red, sides of breast faintly spotted white. 
  • The lower belly and the undertail coverts deep buff. 
  • Bill red, with dark horn culmen ridge; palate black, the rim of palate yellow. 
  • Eyes red to red-brown, eye-ring white or bright yellow. 
  • Legs and feet pinkish brown.

Adult Female Firefinch

The upperparts are brown with a reddish rump, as well as the upper tail coverts and fringes of rectrices. The face, underparts buff and lores are a dull rose red. The white spotting on the breast is more extensive on the female than in the male.

Juvenile Firefinch

The juvenile is similar to the female but lacks reddish lores and white spotting on breast. Its bill is black; with recently fledged birds, base is pink and a petite white gape tubercle. The eyes dark brown and the eye-ring grey.

All our Tanzania Tours guarantee a Red-billed Firefinch! 

If you want to see one of these beautiful feathered friends and find out why they are so popular, you can enquire or book with us at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Multimedia Birds guide

bald-eagles-nest 2

Want to know where birds choose to lay their eggs? In a birds nest of course. But this doesn’t mean that all birds nests are the same. Today we look at different kinds of nests for different species of birds around the world. These all have different kinds of structures that are specifically built for raising their young. 

1. Cavities and Burrows

Holes in trees are referred to as nest cavities, and underground nests are called burrows. Burrowing owls will sometimes dig their own nests, whereas other birds will rely on spots that have been dug out by other animals in the wild. Some other types of birds that are considered underground nesters include bank swallows, belted kingfishers and Atlantic puffins. Find out more about owls in Tanzania at https://www.tanzaniabirding.com/birding/the-usambara-eagle-owl-10-birding-facts/.

2. Floating Nests

Some waterbirds, including many ducks, choose to nest in grasslands far from water. Others, such as loons, grebes, coots and gallinules, make their Their eggs will sink, so the birds construct a floating nest out of natural resources such as cattail plants, reeds, other aquatic vegetation, or mud. They attach their nests to surrounding vegetation to camouflage them and to keep them from drifting off, eg. Wattled crane.

3. Cliffside Nests

Colonies of birds such as murres, razorbill and guillemots nest on shelves on the coastal cliffs. These birds do not usually build a nest structure, but rely on laying eggs that are pointed at one end which helps the eggs balance and prevents them from falling over the cliff edge. This is also a defence mechanism for the birds, providing more shelter from predators due to the difficulty of accessing the nesting area. But these cliff nesters aren’t found only on the coast. Other species of birds such as condors, ravens and falcons, use cliffs by building stick nests in the crevices of the cliffside.

4. No Hassle Nests

It does sometimes happen that birds choose to build very little nest at all. It does sometimes happen that birds choose to build very little nest at all. Laying and protecting eggs is still important to them, by they tend to be more opportunistic in nesting. Beach nesting birds such as terns and plovers lay eggs in a depression in the sand. The eggs laid by these species are suitably camouflaged in colour with speckles that match their surroundings. Sometimes extra debris from the adjacent areas are scraped together. As beaches become more developed, some of these birds have chosen to move their nests to rooftops nearby the beach.

5. Detailed Nests

Orioles and weavers are the seamstresses of the bird world. Their stylised pendant nests hang daintily from the outermost tree branches. The nests are impossible to miss during the breeding season. They will use whatever material is available in the area to stitch their bag nests together: long grasses, palms, even horsehair. They line the nests with soft materials such as plant fibres, feathers or animal wool. 

6. Tiny and Flexible Homes

It should come as no surprise that hummingbirds, the smallest birds, construct the tiniest nests. These nests are artfully constructed on top of tree branches using plants, soft materials and even some spider silk webs. Some hummingbirds even decorate their homes with flakes of lichen. The nest construction is completed around the eggs with this soft lining which then stretches as the birds grow. Hummingbirds usually lay 2 eggs around the size of black beans, inside a nest that is about the size of a walnut shell, only several centimetres big. 

7. In It for the Long Haul Nests

Considered the King of nest building is the Bald Eagle! In 1963, an eagle’s nest near St. Petersburg, Florida, was measured at nearly 3 metres wide, 6 metres deep and weighed over 2000kgs. Although this nest was extreme; most bald eagle nests are under 2 metres in diameter and about a metre tall. The building of this nest can take up to three months. Eagles will generally use the same nest year after year, adding to it over the years.


If you are looking for a memorable birding tour, consider our experienced guides to get you in the best spots to see that bird you have been waiting to see. You can get in touch with us from our website.

birding with kids

For a hobby your kids can start that is educational but loads of fun (and can be done when sheltering or in isolation), why not start them on bird watching?

Children can be hard to keep entertained, but there are some ways to make it more manageable while getting them hooked on this easy and inexpensive hobby.

Here are some ways that you can make bird watching a regular family adventure that your children will have indelible memories of.

1. Get your kids to help set up a bird feeder

To watch birds, you need to attract them. You can buy or build birdhouses and bird baths. Bird feeders are essential to attract birds though and it would be wise to have a few on your property to give birds a good reason to stop in.

Preferably, these should be placed near cover so that the birds can quickly move to safety should they feel threatened. Encourage your children to regularly fill the bird feeders.

2. Get bird books, apps or flashcards

There are so many birds. How do you even start identifying them? The easiest is to find some bird books about the birds that are native to the area you are in. You can also look for birding apps online (some are free to download). Another way to keep the kids (and yourself) entertained is to get some flashcards. You can carry these on a binder and take them with you whenever you are birdwatching. At this point, you may want to invest in some binoculars for your kids as well.

3. Make a scavenger hunt

Now that your kids are set up to go bird watching, make it even more fun with a scavenger hunt. Write a list of different types of birds they need to see by a set time or date. The first one to see all the birds is the winner!

4. Make a seen-it book

When you begin watching birds as they start visiting your yard, you can create a book that details the birds as your child first sees them. If your child is able to, let them write the list. As an additional interesting task, get your child to draw their version of the bird with the date they first saw it.

This can be carried out as birds return seasonally. This will also make your child aware when new birds and rare birds are seen.

5. Join in

Make a point of enjoying bird watching with your children. Take note of the bird feeders, look outside and keep an eye out for bird movement. When you do spot birds, call the children over to look at them and see if you can identify them together. Kids are eager to join in and enjoy anything their parents love too.

If you are looking for a fantastic birding experience in Tanzania once world borders are open, take a look at our tours, or contact us on tours@tanzaniabirding.com. We look forward to meeting and hosting you.

Source: Mothering

birding checklist

Birding Apps and checklists can keep you up to date with the latest information on what birds are being seen in a given area. In other words, if you are a birding enthusiast, it can keep you birding ‘fit’.

Today we are going to take a look at some Apps to help you identify and get facts on birds. We also take a look at some birding checklists that you can download to have with you while birding, and then some birding competition sites that you can list your sightings on (just for those that are a little competitive).

Birding Apps

There are a number of these worldwide the cover different geographical regions. They range from free options to paid versions and can be incredibly useful when starting out to identify family groups, colours and calls, or even when you are experienced to make sure you are correct when it comes to similar species. Let’s take a look at some of these Apps.

#1 iBird Pro Guide

Whether you are an experienced birder, a bird watcher or a beginner at birding, iBird’s intelligent search engine and comprehensive species accounts will turn you into a birding expert. From well-known birds to exotic rare species, iBird works like magic, revealing a list of birds that perfectly matches your search choices.

This can be purchased for the UK and North American regions. There is a free version available.

#2 Merlin Bird ID

Merlin is more than just a field assistant to help you identify birds, Merlin is a customizable field guide for birds around the world. Get identification help and discover what birds to look for near you with Merlin Bird ID. You can download the app here.

#3 Audubon Bird Guide

The Audubon Bird Guide is a free and complete field guide to more than 800 species of North American birds, right in your pocket. Built for all experience levels, it will help you identify the birds around you, keep track of the birds you’ve seen, and get you outside to find new birds near you. 

#4 Song Sleuth

Song Sleuth turns your Android phone or tablet into an automatic bird song identifier covering the 200 most common vocalizing land birds in the U.S.A. Not just for beginners, the App also has features for intermediate birders who might need an identification hint or wish to study the included example recordings to take their birding ‘ear’ to the next level. Advanced birders who don’t need any identification help will appreciate the ability to make and keep recordings for further study.

#5 Newmans Birds Southern Africa

Includes over 1000 high-quality photographs of 975 bird species (i.e. ALL the species for the region). There are detailed descriptions (including species’ status), illustrations and distribution maps and accurate illustrations of each bird as it is seen in the field, with labels showing diagnostic features. The App includes over 800 bird calls with multiple call types (song, duet, alarm, mating). Buy the full version here or try the free version first (download here).

#6 Roberts Bird Guide

Roberts Bird Guide displays Southern African birds on full pages of the book for instant comparison and identification. Search the family list or swipe the pages for a bird, play the sound, view the distribution, add to your list, view and compare similar birds, open the Bird Page for text and photographs, or open the Bird Guide list for the selected bird. This can be purchased here.

Birding Checklists

For some birding checklists of species in Southern Africa, see the different options below:

Zest for Birds


African Bird Club

Birding Tracking Lists

Tracking which species of birds you have seen and where you spotted them, is good fun. You realise as the numbers start adding up how many different types there are and also which birds you are more likely to see in different areas.

Here are some Bird Tracking List sites:

Bird Lasser

BirdLasser is a fun, easy way to record your bird sightings and share with friends, your community and contribute to conservation. You can also share that special sighting with your fellow birders in real-time via email or post a trip report.


Record all your wildlife observations with any device. Import all your past records and create your personalised Tree of Life. Manage your wildlife observations and photos from all over the world. Get prepared with personalised country checklists. You can visit the iGoTerra website for further details.


eBird Mobile makes it easy to record the birds you see in the field, and seamlessly link these observations to eBird with a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world. This free resource makes it easy to keep track of what you see, while making your data openly available for scientific research, education, and conservation. 

If you want to find out more about birding tours, take a look at our birding tours for 2020 in Tanzania, or email us on tours@tanzaniabirding.com.