The warmth of orange helps to keep the chill at bay and so I present to you some orange-themed photographs. The first is a bright morning sky as seen from my bedroom window:
While we are used to seeing Red-billed Oxpeckers in places such as the Kruger National Park, their resident range has become greatly reduced over the years because of their need for ungulate hosts. Red-billed Oxpeckers feed on ticks and blood-sucking flies and so can usually be spotted on game such as zebra, buffalo, kudu as well as domestic animals like cattle and horses. With the increase in private game reserves and game farms, it became viable to re-introduce these birds to the Eastern Cape, where they had become extinct, partly due to the practice of dipping cattle with toxic chemicals. The first Red-billed Oxpeckers – from the Kruger National Park – were released in 1990 in places such as the Addo Elephant National Park, the Great Fish River Reserve and some years later on a private game farms and reserves.
It has been exciting to spot them in the Addo Elephant National Park. Last year I saw a few perched on cattle on the edge of our town, but they were too far away to photograph. It seemed to have been a chance sighting until last week when I spotted three of them on this pony only ten minutes from home:
Symbiosis is an interesting word meaning ‘living together’ which derives from the Greek syn = together and biono = living. It is frequently used in the form of symbiotic relationships between plants / animals / birds. A very common example of a symbiotic relationship between birds and animals is the presence of Cattle Egrets that follow close in the wake of grazing cattle.
They are also often seen in the company of buffalo or zebra.
What these birds are doing is catching insects that are disturbed by the movements of the grazing animals. This is a type of commensalism whereby the birds benefit enormously from the animals, although what the latter get out of the relationship is uncertain – unless the birds act as a warning system perhaps.
I suspect this Red-winged Starling was using the bull as a convenient perch for the same reason – there were several other cattle grazing nearby.
A symbiotic relationship with more mutual benefit would be this one between the Red-billed Oxpeckers and the Nyala bull: the oxpeckers probe the skin and ears of animals in order to feed on the parasites harboured there. This benefits both them and the animal concerned.
In the case of these oxpeckers on a Cape buffalo, only one appears to be ‘working’, while the others are enjoying a free ride!
A number of South African birds have ‘red’ in their name, although this appellation does not necessarily refer to bright red feathers such as those of the Scarlet-chested Sunbird, this one seen in the Kruger National Park:
Or the Black-collared Barbet, as seen in my garden:
Instead, these birds have red in their name because it is a defining feature of their appearance. Among them are the African Red-eyed Bulbul, which has reddish eye-rings and is a common resident in the drier northwest region of South Africa, Namibia and Botswana. This one was photographed in the Augrabies Falls National Park:
The Red-knobbed Coot, this one photographed in Cape Town, not only has two distinctive red knobs – which turn bright red during the breeding season – on its head but red eyes too. They are common resident water birds in South Africa and, interestingly, do not have webbed feet!
Delightful birds to watch are the Red-headed Finches. While they tend to live in the dry savannah areas, I photographed this one in Boksburg:
Hornbills are comical birds and the Kruger National Park hosts several varieties, among which is the Red-billed Hornbill. Although it is one of the smaller hornbills, the Red-billed Hornbill is one of the characteristic birds in the park:
While there are many more birds with ‘red’ in their name, such as the Red-eyed Dove, Red-necked Spurfowl, and the Red-winged Starling, I leave you with a particularly interesting bird, the Red-billed Oxpecker – also photographed in the Kruger National Park. This one is feasting on ticks on an impala:
NOTE: Click on a photograph for a larger view.