Migratory birds spend the Namibian winter months in the northern hemisphere, but nevertheless numerous species of birds can be watched at the Chobe River from May to September as well. On foot, on game drives and by boat a total of 92 different bird species were recorded in and around Chobe River Camp during five days in May. They ranged from the Grey Penduline Tit – with a body length of less than nine centimetres (tip of the tail to tip of the bill) and an average weight of 6.5 grams – to the Southern Ground Hornbill which measures 110 cm and weighs 3.77 kg.

Gorgeously coloured Lilac-breasted Rollers are foraging around the main building while Cape Glossy Starlings, Greater Blue-eared Starlings and Wattled Starlings descend on the flowerbeds for a drink as soon as the flowers have been watered. Red-billed Oxpeckers sit on the gable and wait for cattle or antelope to appear on the nearby floodplains of the Chobe River to pick ticks and other parasites from the mammals. Grey Penduline Tits and Common Scimitarbills look for insects in the flowering ana trees at the campsite, a female Bearded Woodpecker hammers on a dry branch to extract the insect larvae living inside and Weavers feed on the flowers.

Chobe Birds
The Grey Penduline Tit weighs only around seven grams and measures just nine centimetres from the tip of the tail to the tip of the bill. Its nest sports a false entrance to confuse enemies.

At a settlement in the vicinity Red-billed as well as Yellow-billed Hornbills and Magpie Shrikes hop around on the ground, gorging themselves on harvester termites. The substantial, protein-rich food also attracts other birds, such as starlings. Village Indigobirds can be seen high up in the trees. The plumage of the males looks somewhat unkempt as they are moulting. The steel-blue summer dress will be replaced with the striped dark and light brown winter dress. A Chinspot Batis is flitting through the branches of a camel thorn tree in search of food.

On the banks of the Chobe an Openbill Stork with a large snail in its bill attracts attention. Suddenly eight black-and-red Southern Ground-Hornbills, flying low over the grassy flood plain, approach behind the stork. The seven adult birds and one juvenile land less than fifty metres away and immediately start searching for food. Just a few hundred metres further on flames are eating their way through the tall, partly dry grass and reeds. Very close to the fire several Fork-tailed Drongos are having a feast with fleeing insects.

Chobe Birds
Southern Ground-Hornbills also live in groups. Their most striking features are the bright red face and neck. The primary feathers are white but visible only in flight. These big black birds like to walk. They are classified as critically endangered in Namibia.

A Grey Heron has some difficulty swallowing a catfish and repeatedly regurgitates the catch until it can finally gulp it down headfirst. On the other side of the river a Squacco Heron swiftly grabs a large grasshopper, which it discovered after landing. A conspecific a few hundred metres away is not as lucky – it falls prey to an African Fish Eagle. A Brown-hooded Kingfisher sits on a dried-out tree trunk and attentively observes its surroundings, while a Pied Kingfisher hovers over the water, then dives in like lightning and flies off with a fish in its bill.

As daylight starts to fade, three Black-collared Barbets settle into their night quarters in the cavity of a dry tree close to the camp’s staff accommodation. Shortly after sunset a Pearl-spotted Owlet calls in the vicinity of the chalets. Another exciting day at the Chobe has come to an end.

Author: Dirk Heinrich

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