I like birds as much as the next person, but I am not a Birder with a capital B. In fact, I’ve been known to make fun of Birders occasionally. (Sorry, Birder friends. You make me laugh sometimes.)
I did, however, catch a hint of birding fever on my recent Kruger trip, and came away with more bird pictures than I know what to do with.
So I’ve decided to throw them all into a blog post. If you’re a serious South African Birder, you won’t find any dramatic surprises here. Most of the birds pictured are common in the Kruger. But I think you’ll find the photos pleasing all the same.
15 Birds of the Kruger
I’ll start with the birds we saw most often and work my way up to the rarer sightings.
1) Glossy starling
Glossy starlings, or greater blue-eared starlings, are all over the Kruger, especially in the rest camps where they are prolific scavengers of human food. They’re very naughty and also ridiculously beautiful.
2) Southern yellow-billed hornbill
Similar to glossy starlings, yellow-billed hornbills love to hang out at rest camps and beg for food. They are hard to resist because they’re so damn cute. (I did resist though, as humans should never feed animals in the Kruger. More on that in a future post.)
Francolins are all over the park; in fact it’s quite a challenge to avoid running them over in the road because they rarely fly and don’t move out of the way very fast. I snapped a picture of this one because it’s unusual to see a francolin in a tree.
5) Lilac-breasted roller
Lilac-breasted rollers look totally different from every angle. They’re most amazing when they fly off and flash the cerulean blue undersides of their wings.
6) African fish eagle
African fish eagles are easy to spot in the Kruger but that doesn’t make them any less magnificent. If you’re lucky, you might even catch one with a fish in its talons.
7) Kori bustard
Kori bustards are the heaviest flying birds in Africa. I think they’re really beautiful although they’re always hanging out in tall grass so it’s hard to catch a glimpse of their whole bodies.
We saw quite a few ostriches, always from a distance, but this one actually ran toward us down the middle of the road. Ostriches don’t fly.
9) Burchell’s Coucal
We have Burchell’s coucals in Joburg but I’ve never managed to see one, although I’ve heard their beautiful calls. We saw lots of them in the Kruger. Some people say they like to call just before it rains; I supposed that’s why they’re also called rainbirds.
10) Southern ground hornbill
We spotted quite a few southern ground hornbills — I think they possess an interesting combination of ugliness and beauty — throughout the trip. (Again, southern ground hornbills are difficult to photograph through the tall grass they frequent.)
11) White-backed vulture
White-backed vultures perched in a tree are often a sign that an animal has been killed nearby. It’s easy to go speeding past the vultures, looking for the kill, but the vultures are beautiful and fascinating in their own right. They are also critically endangered.
12) Yellow-billed stork
The yellow-billed stork would make a great cartoon character. Look at the size of that nest!
13) African scops owl
As the South Africans say, owls are my best. I’ve never met an owl I didn’t love and this little African scops owl, who was perched in a tree just outside Satara Rest Camp reception, was no exception.
14) Dark chanting goshawk
Ray and I were quite proud of our dark chanting goshawk sighting; it was the last bird we spotted before leaving the park, on a side road leading to a watering hole. We’re 90% sure it was a dark chanting goshawk, although according to our book it looks very similar to a gabar goshawk.
15) White-fronted bee-eater
The white-fronted bee-eater is such a lovely little bird, and this one posed so nicely for us right next to the car window. We spotted it in a forested area in the Pafuri region of the Kruger, in the very far north of the park. Definitely my favorite bird of the week.
These photos represent only a fraction of the number of birds we saw over the course of the week, but birds are hard to photograph and I don’t have the patience of a true Birder. Maybe I’ll get more bird-serious on our next trip.
For anyone curious, I shot all of these pictures with my Canon EOS 6D and a Canon 70-300mm f4-5.6 lens.
One more Kruger post to come.