Monday, 31 March 2014

Broad-billed Roller

Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus
Bishangari, Ethiopia
21 January 2014

    This was our only sighting of this small, compact roller. A pair was perched near the top of a solitary tall tree, a behaviour typical of this species. In Ethiopia they tend to frequent thick savannah woodland and open plains with scattered trees. 


Male left, female right


Sunday, 30 March 2014

Great Horned Owl on the Nest

Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
on the Nest
25 March 2014

     A fellow member of the Kitchener-Waterloo Field Naturalists lives in a beautiful home in Kitchener, located up against a ravine which is a veritable magnet for wildlife. A pair of Great Horned Owls has taken up residence there and nesting was already underway by late February. Despite the cold temperatures and the continued presence of deep snow, Great Horned Owls routinely begin to breed well before winter is over, so this nest is not exceptional in terms of timing.
    We were very kindly invited to visit and view this spectacle and we were happy to so, of course.
    The following pictures lay no claim to photographic excellence, for they were taken from a distance and at an angle not especially conducive to photography. Furthermore the owl's tail is blocking part of its face. Of paramount importance, however, it was incumbent upon us not to disturb the bird on the nest.
    We are looking forward to a return visit when the young owls have fledged and are sitting out on a branch.

Black-headed Oriole

Black-headed Oriole Oriolus larvatus
Dilla, Ethiopia
20 January 2014

    This species frequents dry forest, especially acacia and broadleaf woodlands, and dense shrubby areas. Despite its striking colour it is more often seen than heard, camouflaging well in the foliage where it gleans insects and their larvae. This single bird represented the only reasonable photographic opportunity we had, but it did not perch for long and one had to be content with a few quick shots.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


Shikra Accipiter badius
Bure Hora, Ethiopia
20 January 2014

    Shikra is a small accipiter (25 - 30cm) found in parts of Asia and over a good deal of Africa. Its preferred habitat is dry, open woodland, with trees, riverine forest, even orchards or similar areas of cultivation. Unlike other accipiters its principal diet is comprised of small lizards and insects, although in true accipiter fashion it will take small birds, and even raids nests.
    It uses a perch in dense foliage from which to make a rapid dash to seize its prey, although in areas of human habitation it will perch more openly and rush onto a building to grab a lizard from the wall.

Red-bellied Parrot

Red-bellied Parrot Poicephalus rufiventris
Bure Hora, Ethiopia
20 January 2014

    The principal range of Red-bellied Parrot is in the Horn of Africa, but it also occurs in NE Tanzania, E and N Kenya. It favours dry bush and wooded country and it was exactly in this kind of habitat that we located it. This was the only day on our trip that we were able to see this species.

    The following picture has little merit photographically, but it does show the green on the lower belly and undertail.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Nubian Woodpecker

Nubian Woodpecker Campethera nubica
Yabello Area, Ethiopia
19 January 2014

    Nubian Woodpecker was quite common in some of the areas we visited in Ethiopia. It is a small woodpecker of drier bushland and riverine woods. The bird shown in the following pictures is a female.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Ring-necked Dove

Ring-necked Dove Streptopelia capicola
Yabello Area, Ethiopia
19 January 2014

    This small, slim dove was relatively common and fairly easily approachable. It was quite at home in villages and towns and seemed to be well habituated to humans. 

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus
Yabello Area, Ethiopia
19 January 2014

    Martial Eagle is Africa's largest eagle and is found in a broad swath from West Africa over to the Horn of Africa, down the eastern part of the continent, and southward from Kenya through the entire section of southern Africa over to the west coast. Its prey covers a wide range of species depending on the area where it forages. We saw dikdiks fairly often in this area and I suspect that they formed a substantial part of the Martial Eagle's diet, as well as hares which were quite numerous also. Large birds such as guineafowl and bustards are also taken.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Red-and-Yellow Barbet Trachyphonus erythrocephalus
Yabello Area, Ethiopia
19 January 2014

    In all we experienced ten species of African Barbet, most of them seen on only a few days when we travelled in their preferred habitat. Red-and-Yellow Barbet is a dry country specialist and I have included a couple of pictures at the end to show the kind of terrain in which we found them. The termite mounds are especially important since they are used for nesting and roosting tunnels.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Ring-billed Gull Larus delawarensis
22 March 2014

    Yesterday I attended the Annual Meeting of the Ontario Chapter of the Eastern Bluebird Society, held at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, and during the lunch break took advantage of a half hour to spare to get down to the waterfront in Hamilton.
    Ring-billed Gull is far and away the most common gull in this part of the world; hence it often escapes our attention. It is now in wonderful, crisp, clean, breeding plumage and is really a handsome bird indeed. Yesterday the birds, were vocal, quarrelsome at times, all the while posturing and courting with all the passion stirred by their hormonal state at this time of year.
    Amidst all the posts of birds from Ethiopia, which are exotic to us of course, it seems entirely appropriate to insert a post of this familiar, but no less impressive, resident of southern Ontario.

Rosy-patched Bushshrike

Rosy-patched Bushshrike  Rhodophonius cruentus
Mega Area, Ethiopia
18 January 2014

    This species seemed always to be deep in a thorny thicket and it was rarely that we had a view of the bird in the open. It was a spectacular bird and I never tired of seeing it, though it was hardly common. 
    The Rosy-patched Bushshrike is almost endemic to the Horn of Africa, but its range does extend into SE Egypt. It feeds almost exclusively on insects, gleaned either from the ground or in the bushes in which it forages.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

Black-capped Social Weaver

Black-capped Social Weaver Pseudonigrita cabanisi
Mega Area, Ethiopia
18 January 2014

     The Black-capped Social Weaver is a gregarious, ground-feeding species that nests in colonies in acacia trees. It appears that the long, extremely sharp points of the acacia thorns provide at least a measure of protection against some would-be predators and nest parasitic species.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Northern Red-billed Hornbill and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

Northern Red-billed Hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus
and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill  Bucorvus abyssinicus
Mega Area, Ethiopia
18 January 2014

    Ethiopia was certainly rich in its diversity of hornbills, some of which were actually common in certain locations. Northern Red-billed Hornbills were seen quite frequently, although they proved not to be the easiest species to photograph.

    Abyssinian Ground Hornbill was seen far less frequently. A spectacular species by any standards, it is a huge bird and struts across the grassland with confidence, feeding on a variety of prey, including tortoises, lizards, amphibians, mammals, birds, spiders and insects.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Von der Decken's Hornbill

Von der Decken's Hornbill Tockus deckeni
Mega Area, Ethiopia
18 January 2014

    I have seen fourteen species of hornbill on two continents, yet they never cease to amaze me, and always serve to reinforce that I am somewhere tropical, somewhere I am privileged to be. Once again this was the only day that I saw a species and it was simply spectacular. Despite its enormous bill it feeds mainly on fruit, seeds, buds, and insects including grasshoppers, mantids, crickets, beetles, termites ants and cicadas. Opportunistically it will also take tree frogs, snails, small rodents, lizards and nestling birds.

African Pied Wagtail

African Pied Wagtail  Motacilla aguimp
Mega Area, Ethiopia
18 January 2014

    This species is easily distinguished from the similar White Wagtail Motacilla alba by its unique head pattern. Its song and calls are also quite distinct. This individual was located near a raging torrent and was busily engaged picking insects, and other aquatic invertebrates perhaps, from the rocks and the surface of the water.

Vulturine Guineafowl and Magpie Starling

Mega Area, Ethiopia
18 January 2014

Vulturine Guineafowl Acryllium vulturinum

    Vulturine Guineafowl was not an easy species to photograph; it quickly scampered into dense thickets as soon as the vehicle stopped, and we only saw it a couple of times on this one day throughout the entire trip.
    It is pretty much confined to the Horn of Africa with an adjunct population in the eastern lowlands of Kenya.
    Possessing an outrageous, scrawny neck and tiny head, it is nevetheless a very attractive bird and one which we were decidedly happy to locate. In dry areas it appears to survive without drinking, but where waterholes are present it is a regular patron.

Magpie Starling Speculipastor bicolor

    This species was also seen on this day only. The picture is hardly fantastic but it does serve to record the sighting of a species pretty much confined to the Horn of Africa, save for populations in northeastern Uganda and northern Kenya.

    This picture shows a male and female. The males are blue-black dorsally and white ventrally with conspicuous white patches in the wing. Females are similar, but the head and chest are grey.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Golden-breasted Starling

Golden-breasted Starling Lamprotornis regius
Mega Area, Ethiopia
18 January 2014

    This slender, long-tailed starling, with brilliant iridescent green, blue  and purple on the upperparts and throat, with a golden-yellow chest and belly was one of the most spectacular species we saw in Ethiopia. Below I posted images of Superb Starling; perhaps this one ought to be named More Superb Starling!

Land Acknowledgement

We acknowledge that the land on which we are situated are the lands traditionally used by the Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabe, and Neutral People. We also acknowledge the enduring presence and deep traditional knowledge, laws, and philosophies of the Indigenous Peoples with whom we share this land today. We are all treaty people with a responsibility to honour all our relations.