On August 8, 2010, I published my first blog post from South Africa. The first photo in that post was a picture of a hadeda in my back yard.

hadeda old

A hadeda at the Lucky 5 Star — my first South African blog photo. 

I’ve mentioned hadedas in passing over the years but I’ve never devoted a blog post to them. This is inexcusable, I now realize. The hadeda is more than a bird; it’s a Joburg icon. If you live in Joburg — whether it be in Melville or Mondeor, Sandton or Soweto — you probably awaken to hadedas every single morning of your life. You might love them, you might hate them, or you might have become immune to them. But the hadeda is always hovering on the edge of your subconscious, standing silently a few feet away or scaring the crap out of you as it launches into the air with a deafening screech.

The hadeda (pronounced HAH-dee-dah, scientific name Bostrychia hagedash) is a large ibis, recognizable by its long beak and clumsy demeanor. Hadedas live all over sub-Saharan Africa, mostly in grasslands. But they have adapted exceptionally well to cities and especially to Joburg.

Hadeda at Rietfontein

I met this hadeda earlier in the week at the Rietfontein Nature Reserve in Paulshof. He caught my eye because he is particularly large.

While hadedas have a striking appearance, they are known more for how they sound than how they look. Hadedas are notorious for waking up well before the sun and piercing the dawn with shrieks as they take off from their evening roosts.

When friends visit me from the U.S. for the first time, their first question of the day is always: “What was that terrible noise outside the window this morning?”

“Oh, that was a hadeda. You’ll adjust.”

You can read about hadedas on Wikipedia but the entry doesn’t do them justice. If you want to understand what hadedas are about, watch this nine-minute documentary on YouTube. The South Africans among you should watch too, if you haven’t already. It captures the spirit of the hadeda.

There’s a reason why I was suddenly inspired to blog about hadedas today.

I’ve been working with my friend Fiver Löcker to develop a new blog header, which is nearly done. Fiver has a knack for drawing on her iPad and she has created a sketch illustrating various aspects of my life in Joburg. I don’t want to give too much away; the sketch is being finalized and I’ll publish it on the blog next week.

In the meantime, here’s a teaser:

 

hadeda

The 2Summers hadeda, created by Fiver. I think it’s the most beautiful bird in the world. The hadeda features in my new blog header.

Come to think of it, I’m a lot like a hadeda. I’m not originally from Joburg but I’ve adapted well here. There are plenty of other places I could live but I’ve made this city my home, for mysterious reasons that I myself do not fully understand.

Wow, that’s deep. I typed that paragraph before I even thought it.

Here’s to the hadeda.

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