Reader John Harshman is an avid birder; he gives us today our daily bustards. John’s notes, as are all readers’, are indented. Bustard puns are welcome in the comments (I almost called this post “Lousy Botswanan bustards” but decided to keep my dignity).
Here are some pictures from Botswana, a selection of bustards. We saw five species, but unfortunately didn’t get a picture of the black-bellied bustard (Lissotis melanogaster). Here, from top to bottom, are northern black korhaan (Afrotis afraoides), kori bustard (Ardeotis kori), Denham’s bustard (Neotis denhami), and red-crested korhaan (Lophotis ruficrista).
Bustards are all long-legged ground birds of grasslands and savannahs. Traditionally, they belong to the order Gruiformes, which is unfortunately a wastebasket group, and their actual closest relatives may be cuckoos and/or turacos. The kori bustard is said to be the largest (by weight) flying bird in Africa. [JAC: Weighing up to 19 kg., they’ve also been described as the heaviest flying bird in the world.]
Red-crested korhaans seldom display the red crest, and I never saw it. They do however have a fancy display flight, which I saw, and a loud call, which I heard often. Description from here: “The male starts vocalizing on the ground with an ascending piping call. All of a sudden and as the call reaches a crescendo it then flies vertically up into the sky. On reaching a certain height the korhaan merely folds its wings, and plummets back down towards terra firma, body seemingly prone – almost as if having been shot in mid-air. Shortly before hitting the ground, it opens its wings for a soft, elegant landing.”
Okay, before we proceed you’re gonna want to see that. I can’t find the whole display on one video, but I’ll show one video with the mating call, and the other the “dive-bombing” display.
The call begins with some beak-clacking and then loud vocalization (the first 50 seconds is the call, then Liaan Lategan explains the vocalization; it’s worth listening to both bits):
Back to John’s photos:
I forgot to add earlier that reader Christopher Moss wants this bird identified. I don’t know from birds, but I’m sure someone will have the answer within 15 minutes:
Sadly, each year we get some casualties that come as a result of have lots of glass and being set amongst trees. This morning a loud thump disturbed my breakfast egg and I found this character on the front deck. Rapid resps, head looked off, beak open. Didn’t look well at all, but on being picked up I could see the neck wasn’t broken, so I placed him or her in a safe spot. The bird keeled forwards into the crash position shown above, but his beak soon closed, respirations slowed and he sat up. After twenty minutes he flew off, but still was a bit stunned as he flew again into the window before making it off into the trees.
This is a bird I see often here in NS [JAC: I assume he means Nova Scotia] in the summer, usually in undergrowth and bushes, and I always thought it was a pine warbler, but closer inspection shows it cannot be according to my bird books (I am no expert in birding at all). Olive green above, and a lighter green on the flanks fading to a cream belly. The two things I had never appreciated before were the two black bars on the head and the heavily speckled breast that can just be glimpsed below. I’m sure it’s a warbler or a vireo, but might be unlike the typical photos one finds if female of immature.