The homeland of Venda in the north east of South Africa close to the Zimbabwe border was granted independence in 1979. It also bordered the Kruger National Park and its capital was Thohoyandou. All the homelands were re-incorporated into South Africa in 1994. Of interest to us is that the area is home to several species of aquatic birds and this first day cover from 1987 features two ducks, two geese and a teal.

The first of these is what used to be known as the Knob-billed Duck but is now known simply as the Comb Duck (Sarkidiornis melanatos). These large ducks have a speckled head with contrasting blue-black and white plumage. Only the males sport a rounded knob on the bill, which grows larger during the breeding season. I have only seen them in the Kruger National Park, where they are a common resident. They can also be seen perching in trees and are known to breed in the same tree trunk in successive seasons.

The next is the rather elegant looking White-faced Duck (Dendrocygna viduata) – appropriately known as Nonnetjie-eend in Afrikaans, for it can fleetingly be compared with a nun’s habit. These dark brown ducks have a white face and throat and finely barred flanks. The neck of the female is tinged with russet. Thanks to their distinctive three-note whistling call, they used to be called White-faced Whistling Ducks. Flocks of these ducks occur in open water and they nest on the ground in thick vegetation near water. I have occasionally seen them in the Addo Elephant National Park, but mostly in the Kruger National Park.

The Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis) is one of the largest waterfowl, with the males weighing up to 10Kg. While it is a predominantly black bird, its bill, face and long legs are a pinky-red. It nests in dense grass, or in a shallow scrape in the ground. They prefer moist habitats such as dams, vleis, pans and large rivers, although fly some distance to feeding grounds.

The Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) has a distinctive chestnut patch on the chest (giving rise to its Afrikaans name, Kolgaans – akin to a target) and a broad chestnut rim around the eyes. They are common residents all over South Africa, frequently claiming small pools or dams for their own use and aggressively chase away others during the breeding season especially.

The commemorative cover features the Red-billed Teal (Anas erythrorhyncha), which is readily identified by its dark cap, pale cheeks and definitive red bill. These common residents are seen around dams and waterholes all over South Africa. They usually occur in either pairs or flocks, rather than as single birds. They nest in dense vegetation close to water. It is interesting to note that the males depart before the young can fly.

Reference: Complete Photographic Guide: Birds of Southern Africa by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan.

My dearth of waterfowl photographs shows a gap that simply must be filled!


9 thoughts on “STAMPS: WATERFOWL

  1. Ive never thought about stamps as being anything more than (sometimes) attractive means of sending mail. Very interesting that nature’s objects and political history can


  2. Very interesting.
    You won’t believe it but in Roberts VII the Comb Duck is back to being known as The knob-billed Duck – Annoying isn’t it?
    Perhaps if we stick to all the ‘old’ names they’ll come back again!


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