The poor Spotted Dikkop (Burhinus capensis) having been re-named the Spotted Thick-knee – what an undignified name that is for a bird, and all because of the bulging tibio-tarsal joint midway up its legs! ‘Thick-knee’ indeed! Then, Trevor Carnaby in his wonderful book entitled Beat about the bush: birds, informs us that that is not the knee anyway, but the bird’s ankle! He also maintains that the new name is “far better than the old name of dikkop, an Afrikaans name literally translated as ‘thick-head’” – referring to the dorso-ventrally flattened head that bulges to the sides. I beg to differ: no-one has ever suggested that dikkops are stupid in any way – in fact their amazing ability to stand stock still and to blend into their surroundings is anything but stupid! The renaming of birds does not always make sense to many of us, who remain more comfortable with the old nomenclature.
We do need to move with the times though and so I will share with you the only reasonable picture I have of the Spotted Thick-knee that recently paid us a visit during the gloomy crepuscular time of the day, once the sun was well set and the last of the light was beginning to lose the battle against the creeping dark.
Note the large eyes that are suited to their nocturnal activities as well as the cryptic colouring of its plumage. This is the first time I have seen one so close to home, although they occur all over the Eastern Cape and elsewhere in the country.