South African Country Life - - Birding - Mark Brown’s Favourite Birds

1. The stun­ning African Black Oys­ter­catcher

(Swart­to­bie) along our coast­line epit­o­mises the con­ser­va­tion strug­gle and the way we can over­come it – work­ing to­gether to un­der­stand the bio­di­ver­sity and min­imise our im­pact to co-ex­ist. A real wow bird.

2. I just had to throw in the Gor­geous Bushshrike

(Konkuit), a stun­ning bird I of­ten get up close and per­sonal with dur­ing my work in KwaZulu-Na­tal.

3. The Kelp Gull (Swartrug­meeu). Yup, I put a gull in my top ten. What a fab­u­lous group of birds. Suc­cess­ful ur­ban in­vaders, highly adapt­able, and very sassy – great birds to watch and work with.

4. Rap­tors are an­other ob­ses­sion, and work­ing with species like the African Crowned Ea­gle (Kroonarend) has been a ma­jor high­light of my career. The one pic­tured here was the first in­di­vid­ual trapped as part of a large study on how th­ese re­gal ea­gles co-ex­ist within cities like Dur­ban and Pi­eter­mar­itzburg.

5. The del­i­cate Fairy Tern is a beau­ti­ful, gen­tle bird that epit­o­mises is­land liv­ing. They oc­cur in the Sey­chelles where we are study­ing the im­pacts of cli­mate change on se­abird breed­ing.

6. South­ern Dou­ble-col­lared Sun­bird (Klein­rooiband­suiker­bekkie). I have an ob­ses­sion with nec­tar-feed­ing birds. I did my PhD on the re­la­tion­ships be­tween birds and the plants they pol­li­nate, and spent loads of time study­ing sugar and con­cen­tra­tion pref­er­ences of both spe­cial­ist and oc­ca­sional nec­tar­feed­ing birds. Cap­ti­vat­ing stuff.

7. Once re­garded as one of the world’s rarest birds

(by the 1970s there were only 16 in­di­vid­u­als left on one is­land), the Sey­chelles Mag­pie-Robin is now re­garded glob­ally as one of the ma­jor con­ser­va­tion suc­cess sto­ries, with more than 250 in­di­vid­u­als lo­cated on five is­lands. Such a priv­i­lege to have done work on them.

8. The Cape White-eye (Kaapse Gla­so­gie) is one of the species I have stud­ied and ad­mire the most. A great ex­am­ple of a gen­er­al­ist species – eats al­most any­thing, oc­curs al­most ev­ery­where, and adapts readily to change. Ubiq­ui­tous in SA – doesn’t mat­ter where I go, chances are I will see or hear white-eyes.

9. The White-fronted Plover (Vaal­strand­kiewiet) is a com­mon species dis­ap­pear­ing be­fore our eyes.

Did you know that in some prov­inces num­bers have dropped 30 per cent in just 30 years – mostly due to dis­tur­bance while breed­ing on our beaches? Yet sim­ple in­ter­ven­tions and aware­ness pro­grammes can sig­nif­i­cantly in­crease breed­ing suc­cess.

10. The gor­geous Diederik Cuckoo (Diederikkie) is the first species I spent time study­ing in the field as an or­nithol­ogy post­grad­u­ate. The com­plex world of brood par­a­sitism, with a con­tin­ual arms race go­ing on be­tween host and par­a­site, is fas­ci­nat­ing.

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