If you are walking quietly through the veld, trying to catch a glimpse of an elusive Tchagra or some other well-hidden bird, the sudden, raucous, ear-splitting kraaak, kraaak, krraka krraka kraka, kraka of a male Northern black korhaan bursting from the grassland a few metres ahead provides a heart-stopping moment.
It is wonderful to watch these birds in ungainly flight, as they do not usually cover too much distance before coming back to earth with their legs dangling comically and their wings flapping rapidly.
They are quite large birds, about 50 cm in length, and the males are usually conspicuous walking slowly through the grass, quite striking with their black and white plumage and bright yellow legs. When disturbed he will often run with his head lowered, and then stop with his back towards the intruder, making him surprisingly difficult to see. Further perceived threat may see him taking to noisy flight. The females are less colourful than the males and in consequence are less frequently seen.
Korhaans feed on a wide variety of insects, termites, beetles, ticks, spiders and also seeds. They forage while walking slowly, pecking food from the ground and chasing after insects.
They are polygynous and their courtship is elaborate, with one male displaying for several females. He engages in undulating flight displays, playful chasing and displaying his white breast patches. He is very protective of his 200-300 square metre territory, ejecting male intruders by striking at them with his wings. Females, of course, are welcome.
They breed year-round, but do not build a nest, instead laying one or two eggs directly on the ground, among grass tufts and shrubs, sometimes under small thorn trees.
The scientific name for the Northern black korhaan is Eupodotis afraoides, eupodotis from the Greek meaning “good feet”, perhaps referring to the birds fleetness of foot, and afraoides from the Latin for “like afra” (afra meaning from Africa), meaning that it is like the Southern Black Korhaan – Eupodotis afra. Thus, a swift bustard that is like its southern relative.