Readers’ wildlife photographs

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).

northern black korhaan

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:

kori bustard

Denham’s bustard

red-crested korhaan

red-crested korhaan

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.



  1. David Ball
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    You had to post of photo of a bustard. MENTAL FLASHBACK: A limerick by George S. Vail:

    The bustard’s an exquisite fowl
    With minimal reason to howl:
    He escapes what would be
    By the grace of a fortunate vowel

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Those are some magnificent bustards!! Thanks, John!

    • barn owl
      Posted August 18, 2016 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Seconded! Beautiful birds. Those bustards made my day!

      (As opposed to: Those b@stards ruined my day!)

  3. bluemaas
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    re “ … … give us today our daily b___ “ !

    heh.heh.heh: I see wha’cha’ did there, Dr Coyne. O yeah: big wooishly ICK Factor … … that !

    Smashingly B I I I I G bustardly boids here, Dr Harshman ! Mighty pretty !


  4. chrism
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Thank you, Jerry, for posting my mystery bird.
    I was born in Wiltshire, and the county bird was the bustard, and one still appears standing on top of a knight’s helm on the county’s coat of arms. They became extinct long before my time and the closest I have ever come to one was a stuffed example in a museum.

  5. Joseph McClain
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    HuffPo headlines:

    Global warming causes decrease in frozen bustard stands

    Transit workers rebel after being ordered to pick up & bag bustards

  6. Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    Looks like a Swainson’s Thrush (Catharus ustulatus)

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

      I only recently identified Swainson’s Thrushes as the source of a distinctive rising trill that never seems to be visible.

      I used Cornell Lab’s Merlin as mentioned by Christopher in the comments below.

      Here is one of the Macaulay Library recordings they use with Merlin.

  7. Christopher
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    I think the mystery bird may be an oven bird.

    • Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      Agree on oven bird (Seiurus aurocapilla). Even better match.

    • Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

      Ovenbirds have an orange crown. This is a Worm-eating Warbler, the only warbler with
      black stripes on the head. Good bird…hard to see because it feeds on the ground and is hard to see.

  8. david campbell
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Concur that mystery bird is an ovenbird. Frequently heard but less often seen.

  9. chrism
    Posted August 18, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Thank you! An ovenbird it is:

    I must find one of those nests!

    • Achrachno
      Posted August 18, 2016 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      It’s a different ovenbird that builds “those nests” The mud ovens are built by an unrelated S American bird.

    • Christopher
      Posted August 18, 2016 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      A handy resource for bird ID’s, if you are a smartphone user is one put out by the Cornell Ornithology lab called Merlin Bird ID. It doesn’t have every bird in N. America, but it has a fair share, and it’s free. It’s simple to use, asks five questions like date of your sighting, your location, what main three colors, size of the bird (it gives several silhouettes to choose from), and what was the bird doing (soaring, swimming, in trees, etc.) and then gives a list of possibilities, including maps, pics, some general info, and songs/calls. I use it along with my trusty Peterson field guide and I’ve ID’d several species that I could never quite be sure of before, like the confusing Pewees and Phoebes that frequent my parent’s lake house. It’s great fun.

      • JohnnieCanuck
        Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

        Just yesterday my iOS app announced that localised extensions to the database were now available for free download. I’ve not got the local one and I’m looking forward to testing it out. It’s quite rewarding to use.

        • JohnnieCanuck
          Posted August 18, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

          now got the local one. Sheesh.

  10. Posted August 18, 2016 at 1:45 pm | Permalink


  11. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 19, 2016 at 2:55 am | Permalink

    Obvious, but nice to get off one’s chest:

    “Which of those flying bustards is Trump?”

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