My real interest in birds was still in its fledging years when I met a Kurrichane Thrush (Turdus libonyanus) for the first time whilst travelling through Botswana. This bird was named by the explorer and naturalist, Andrew Smith, in the late 19th century: Turdus is Latin for ‘thrush’, while libonyanus is derived from a Tswana name for this bird, which is fairly common in the north-eastern part of southern Africa. I found them enchanting birds to watch as they scuffled their way through fallen leaves to find invertebrates or pecked at wild fruit.
Their bright orange beaks, large brown eyes with an orange eye ring and the confiding way they looked at us were charming attributes – as is the black speckling on their throats creating a dark malar stripe. The breast of a Kurrichane Thrush is light grey brown grading towards a dull, rather pale, orange colour. Quite noticeable is that the centre of the belly is whitish. The orange eye-ring can clearly be seen in the photograph below.
When I first saw a thrush in our Eastern Cape garden I automatically assumed it was a Kurrichane Thrush. How wrong I was: closer observation made me realise that the orange underparts are more conspicuous and, while there was black streaking on the throat, there was no malar stripe. In contrast to the Kurrichane Thrush, their eye-ring is a dullish brown. I was actually seeing an Olive Thrush (Turdus olivaceus).
This common name is derived from the olive-grey colouring on the back of the bird. Here you can see the beak of the Olive Thrush is paler as well as the heavy streaking on the throat.
Olive Thrushes like to forage on the ground and in leaf litter – often clearing away the latter that gathers in the gutters of roofs! Both of these thrushes enjoy bathing and drinking from a bird bath – so it is worth investing in at least one for your garden.
Both of these thrushes look similar to the American Robin (Turdus migratorius).