Drong­os need ex­tra fee­ding until sum­mer

Knysna-Plett Herald - - Nuus | News -

Ma­ny of us will know the cha­rac­ter­ful bi­rds that vi­sit us in our gar­dens and a­mu­se us with their an­ti­cs. So­me of us ha­ve e­ven ha­bi­tu­a­ted the drong­os to ta­ke chee­se or egg from our hands, and in­deed, this is a won­der­ful way for young and old to en­joy t­he­se bi­rds. The ot­her si­de of drong­os’ na­tu­re is be­st re­flected in their A­fri­kaans na­me, “mik­stert­by­van­ger” (fork­tailed bee ca­t­cher). The Ca­pe ho­ney­bee is an im­por­tant com­po­nent in the dron­go’s diet and be­cau­se of this is t­hey are u­su­al­ly a fe­a­tu­re of any bee­kee­pers a­pi­a­ry. The drong­os will of­ten perch on the hi­ve and pick off fora­ging bees with re­mar­ka­bly a­gi­le flig­ht. Be­fo­re e­a­ting the bee t­hey will rub off the sting on the perch to a­void being in­ju­red.

Most bee­kee­pers don’t mind the odd dron­go and accept them as part and par­cel of w­hat t­hey do. W­hen na­tu­re gets knoc­ked off ba­lan­ce though, the de­pre­da­ti­ons by drong­os of bees can start ha­ving a ne­ga­ti­ve im­pact on the sur­vi­val of the co­lo­ny.

One of the si­de ef­fects of both the droug­ht and the re­cent fi­res has been a drop in in­sect num­bers, in­clu­ding wild bee­hi­ves, and this is cau­sing lar­ger than nor­mal flocks of fork-tailed drong­os to start con­ver­ging on sur­vi­ving hi­ves. Cur­rent­ly up­wards of 20 bi­rds at a ti­me can be seen fora­ging a­round acti­ve hi­ves. The bee co­lo­nies are al­so par­ti­cu­lar­ly we­ak whi­le in the midd­le of win­ter, as well as suf­fe­ring from the ab­sen­ce of pol­len and nec­tar af­ter the fi­res. This si­tu­a­ti­on could e­ven­tu­al­ly le­ad to con­flict, with drong­os being the lo­ser.

A short-term so­lu­ti­on to all of this is to as­sist in­secti­vorous bi­rds such as drong­os, until the end of win­ter, by fee­ding them. As men­ti­o­ned, chee­se and egg are com­mon­ly u­sed, but bo­ne­me­al (from a but­cher rat­her than the nur­se­ry) would be a bet­ter so­lu­ti­on as it con­tains a wi­der va­ri­e­ty of nu­trients es­sen­ti­al for good he­alth. By doing this we ho­pe to draw drong­os a­way from the hi­ves and gi­ve the ho­ney­bees a chan­ce to build up their strength be­fo­re spring.

Sup­ple­men­ta­ry fee­ding should on­ly be en­coura­ged on a short-term ba­sis be­fo­re al­lo­wing a na­tu­ral ba­lan­ce to re­sto­re it­self and can be do­ne by both bee­kee­pers and pe­op­le with bi­rd fee­ders in their gar­dens. Bo­ne­me­al is a­vai­la­ble at all lar­ge but­che­ries at a­bout R6 to R10/kg.

* In­fo/que­ries: La­kes Bi­rd Club chair Pat Nur­se 044-382-0638 / 082-402-6133 or Ro­bert S­mith 044-382-0125 / 073-380-5456

P­ho­to: Sup­p­lied

One of the si­de ef­fects of the droug­ht and the re­cent fi­res has been a drop in in­sect num­bers, in­clu­ding wild bee­hi­ves, and this is cau­sing lar­ger than nor­mal flocks of fork-tailed drong­os to start con­ver­ging on sur­vi­ving hi­ves.

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