My first encounter with Red-headed Finches (Amadina erythrocephala) in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park left me in awe of them – so pretty they are, well the males are particularly attractive with their distinctive red heads! I have since seen them in my brother’s Boksburg garden and marvel at them each time I visit.

A number of these uniformly grey-brown little birds caught our eye whilst we were driving through the Mountain Zebra National Park. Sometimes there seemed to be large flocks of them, but often there were only a couple that settled on branches of bushes near the road. One cannot always hope for ideal conditions and so I photographed this one.

The slightly barred underside with flecks of white attracted my attention yet had me puzzled for a while. One gets out of practice when away from the wild for as long as we have and so, as we drove through the grassland habitat I kept an eye open whenever I saw these sparrow-like birds fly about. At last … a pair settled closely enough for me to make out the red head of the male: Red-headed Finches – of course that is what they were!

I suspect this male is not yet in full breeding plumage – especially if you compare it with the one in the first photograph. Somehow, having identified them, we actually saw more red-heads among the several flocks we passed along our route.