The rollers are an Old World family, Coraciidae, of near passerine birds. The group gets its name from the aerial acrobatics some of these birds perform during courtship or territorial flights. Rollers resemble crows in size and build, and share the colorful appearance of kingfishers and bee-eaters, blues and pinkish or cinnamon browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but not the outer one. They are the unofficial gird if Kenya, for good reason. It is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula, preferring open woodland and savanna; it is largely absent from treeless places. Usually found alone or in pairs, it perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level. I will have more photos of this beautiful bird.
The little bee-eater (Merops pusillus) is a near passerine bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae. It is resident in much of Sub-Saharan Africa. It should not be confused with the little green bee-eater, Merops orientalis. Migration is limited to seasonal movements depending on rainfall patterns. This species, like other bee-eaters, is a rich and brightly coloured slender bird. It has green upper parts, yellow throat, black gorget, and rich brown upper breast fading to buffish ocre on the belly. The wings are green and brown, and the beak is black. It reaches a length of 15–17 cm, which makes it the smallest African bee-eater. Sexes are alike. Often silent, their call is a soft “seep.”
The white-fronted bee-eater (Merops bullockoides) is a species of bee-eater widely distributed in sub-equatorial Africa. They have a distinctive white forehead, a square tail and a bright red patch on their throat. They nest in small colonies, digging holes in cliffs or earthen banks but can usually be seen in low trees waiting for passing insects from which they hunt either by making quick hawking flights or gliding down before hovering briefly to briefly to catch insects.
The southern carmine bee-eater (Merops nubicoides) (formerly carmine bee-eater) occurs across sub-equatorial Africa. It is a large, spectacular, long, slender, carmine-pink and teal-blue bee-eater with a long, pointed tail and black bill and facial mask. Immatures are duller than adults and lack long tail feathers. This is a migratory species, spending the breeding season, between August and November, in Zimbabwe, before moving south to South Africa for the summer months, and then migrating to equatorial Africa from March to August. It is a common non-breeding summer migrant (December–April) to Kruger, where it can gather in large groups and often attends bush fires to feed on fleeing insects.
The red-billed buffalo weaver (Bubalornis niger) is a species of bird in the Ploceidae family. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Its natural habitat is the dry savanna.
Burchell’s coucal (Centropus burchellii), is a species of cuckoo in the Cuculidae family. It is found in sub-Saharan Africa. It inhabits areas with thick cover afforded by rank undergrowth and scrub, including in suitable coastal regions. Common names include Gewone Vleilourie in Afrikaans and umGugwane in Zulu. It is sometimes considered a subspecies of the white-browed coucal.
The giant kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima) is the largest kingfisher in Africa, where it is a resident breeding bird over most of the continent south of the Sahara Desert other than the arid southwest. The giant kingfisher is 42–46 cm (16.5–18 in) long, with a large shaggy crest, a large black bill and fine white spots on black upperparts. The male has a chestnut breast band and otherwise white underparts with dark flank barring. The female has a white-spotted black breast band and a chestnut belly. The forest race M. m. gigantea is darker, less spotted above, and more barred below than the nominate race, but the two forms intergrade along the forest edge zone. This large species feeds on crabs, fish, and frogs, caught by diving from a perch.
The pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) is a water kingfisher and is found widely distributed across Africa and Asia. Originally described by Linnaeus in 1758, it has five recognised subspecies. Its black and white plumage, crest and the habit of hovering over clear lakes and rivers before diving for fish make it distinctive. Males have a double band across the breast while females have a single gorget that is often broken in the middle. They are usually found in pairs or small family parties. When perched, they often bob their head and flick up their tail. Male has double breast band; female has a single, incomplete breast band. The pied kingfisher is estimated to be one of the three most numerous kingfishers in the world; the other two are the common kingfisher and collared kingfisher. It a noisy bird, hard to miss.
The crested barbet (Trachyphonus vaillantii) is a sub-Saharan bird in the Lybiidae family. Its specific name commemorates François Levaillant, a famed French naturalist. With its thick bill and very colourful plumage the crested barbet is unmistakable. This small bird has a speckled yellow and red face with a small black crest. The belly is yellow with red speckles, wings are black with white specks and it has a broad black band on its neck. Yellow head and body with black and white feathers, red markings on end of body, its colour blends well in the bush. They like to bounce around on the ground looking for food, they usually call from a branch out in the open. They do not fly easily and then only for short distances. Crested barbets roost in holes in trees. They are very vocal, the call being a trill that can continue for long periods.
The crimson-breasted shrike (Laniarius atrococcineus) or the crimson-breasted gonolek, (‘gonolek’ – supposedly imitative of its call), is a southern African bird. It has black upper parts with a white flash on the wing, and bright scarlet underparts. The species was first collected by William John Burchell in 1811 near the confluence of the Vaal and Orange Rivers. He named it atrococcineus meaning ‘black/red’, finding the striking colour combination quite remarkable. The generic name Laniarius was coined by the French ornithologist Louis Jean Pierre Vieillot and was meant to call attention to the butcher-like habits of the group. In South West Africa its colours reminded Germans of their homeland flag and it therefore became the Reichsvogel (“Empire bird”). The sexes have the same coloration and are indistinguishable from each other. The upper parts, including the wings and tail, are black, the wings having a broad white bar. The underparts are vivid scarlet.
The blacksmith lapwing or blacksmith plover (Vanellus armatus) occurs commonly from Kenya through central Tanzania to southern and southwestern Africa. The vernacular name derives from the repeated metallic ‘tink, tink, tink’ alarm call, which suggests a blacksmith’s hammer striking an anvil.
Burchell’s Starling or Burchell’s Glossy-starling (Lamprotornis australis) is a species of starling in the family Sturnidae. The name of this bird commemorates the English naturalist William John Burchell. Burchell’s starling or Burchell’s glossy-starling (Lamprotornis australis) is a species of starling in the family Sturnidae. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In some light it looks black but with the right lighting the blue coloration emerges.
The speckled mousebird (Colius striatus) is the largest species of mousebird, as well as one of the most common. It is distributed from Cameroon east to Eritrea and Ethiopia, south through eastern Africa to southern South Africa. Most habitats are suitable for this species, except the rainforests and more arid areas. This mousebird prefers open bushveld habitats. It is widespread in savanna and open woodlands, as well as areas with tangled thickets. It is a common “backyard bird,” often seen in urban areas that contain gardens and orchards.
The magpie shrike (Corvinella melanoleuca synonym Urolestes melanoleucus), also known as the African long-tailed shrike, is a species of bird in the Laniidae family. It is the only species within the genus Urolestes. It is native to the grasslands of eastern and southeastern Africa, where its natural habitats are dry savannah, moist savannah, and subtropical or tropical dry shrubland. It has a very wide range and is common in places, and the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed its conservation status as being of “least concern”. The adults are black while the juveniles are sooty brown as seen above.
The Bennett’s woodpecker (Campethera bennettii) is a species of bird in the family Picidae. It is found in woodlands and bushes in Africa. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has assessed it as a least-concern species. Its habitat is woodlands and bushes, including miombo, Baikiaea, Acacia and mopane woodlands. It mostly forages on the ground, either bare or with short grass, and also feeds in trees. It mostly eats ants and termites, including their eggs. This species was described by Andrew Smith in 1836. Two subspecies are recognised: Campethera bennettii bennettii and C. b. capricorni. Best told from male Golden-tailed Woodpecker by white throat and spotted (not streaked) breast. Female has diagnostic brown throat and cheek stripe; forecrown blackish with white spots. Sides of neck, breast and flanks are spotted in C. bennetti , but C. b. capricorni (n Namibia and nw Botswana) has little spotting, and is paler, with a yellow wash on underparts and rump.
The black-winged pratincole (Glareola nordmanni) is a wader in the pratincole bird family, Glareolidae. The genus name is a diminutive of Latin glarea, “gravel”, referring to a typical nesting habitat for pratincoles. The species name commemorates the Finnish-born zoologist and explorer Alexander von Nordmann. The black-winged pratincole is a bird of open country and is often seen near water in the evening, hawking for insects. This pratincole is found in warmer parts of south east Europe and south west Asia. Its 2–4 eggs are laid on the ground. It is migratory, wintering in tropical Africa, and is rare north or west of the breeding range. Southern Africa (Botswana) supports most of the world population during the southern summer. Numbers and flock sizes decreased dramatically during the 20th century, but occasional large flocks still occur. Very good views are needed to distinguish this species from other pratincoles, such as the collared pratincole and the oriental pratincole which may occur in its range.
The common swift (Apus apus) is a medium-sized bird, superficially similar to the barn swallow or house martin but somewhat larger, though not stemming from those passerine species, being in the order Apodiformes. The resemblances between the groups are due to convergent evolution, reflecting similar contextual development. The swifts’ nearest relatives are thought to be the New World hummingbirds and the Southeast Asian treeswifts. Common swifts are migratory. Their summer breeding range runs from Spain and Ireland in the West across to China and Siberia in the East. They breed as far south as Northern Africa (in Morocco and Algeria), with a presence in the Middle East in Israel, Lebanon and Syria, the Near East across Turkey, and the whole of Europe as far north as Norway, Finland, and most of sub-Arctic Russia. Swifts migrate to Africa by a variety of routes, ending up in Equatorial and Sub-Equatorial Africa, excluding the Cape. Common swifts do not breed on the Indian Subcontinent.
The red-billed spurfowl (Pternistis adspersus), also known as the red-billed francolin, is a species of bird in the family Phasianidae. It is found in Southern Africa, including Angola, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. The only francolin in southern Africa with yellow around the eye. This, as well as the combination of red bill, red legs, absence of white or red on the throat make identification of this species easy.
Plumage of male and female is similar but the male can be distinguished by his long, sharp leg spurs.
The Swainson’s spurfowl, Swainson’s francolin or chikwari (Pternistis swainsonii) is a species of bird in the family Phasianidae. It is found in Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. In the Shona language in Zimbabwe this bird is called the chikwari and is considered a delicacy by outdoor and hunting enthusiasts. Swainson’s francolin was named after William Swainson, an English ornithologist.