Tag Archives: Lanner falcon

Bird of the week – Week 65: Cape turtle dove

One of the most common of the collared (or ring-necked) doves found in the southern African region is the Cape turtle-dove and its distinctive call can be heard almost throughout the region. It is not a call that I enjoy hearing while I am on holiday or out in the veld for the weekend, for it sounds ominously like a guilt-inducing “work harder! work harder!” And the dove repeats this admonition almost endlessly, at all times of the day. We choose to think, in the late afternoon, that the bird is actually encouraging us to “drink lager! dring lager!“. This doesn’t fit the call quite as well, perhaps, but is a lot easier to comply with.

Cape turtle-dove

Although the Cape turtle-dove has a range that embraces most of the southern African region and well beyond, it is, in spite of its name, absent from the winter rainfall  area of the western Cape of South Africa.  It is a medium sized dove, around 27 cm in length, and is grey overall, with a black collar and the white under-tail feathers are conspicuous when the bird is in flight.  Legs and feet are purple and the eyes are dark brown to black.  The sexes are similar in plumage and the males are slightly larger than the females.

Cape turtle-dove

Generally absent from forested areas, the Cape turtle dove is very common in woodlands, farmlands and in parks and gardens where it has adapted well to the presence of humans.  Although generally found singly or in small groups, large flocks may form at good water sources.  At watering points in the Kgalagadi we have seen flocks that must have numbered in the hundreds of birds (and witnessed one of them being struck from the air by an incredibly fast-moving Lanner falcon).  They feed mainly on seeds, but also on fruit, earthworms, termites and insects.

Cape turtle-dove

The Cape turtle dove is monogamous and builds a flimsy platform nest of twigs and grass, usually three to four metres above the ground in a tree.  The female lays a clutch of two or three creamy-white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 15 days.

Cape turtle-dove

The scientific name of the Cape turtle dove is Streptopelia capicola; Streptopelia from the Greek for a collared dove and capicola from the Latin meaning an inhabitant of the Cape (of Good Hope).  Thus we have a collared dove from the Cape.  Can’t say fairer than that.

Cape turtle-dove

 

Bird of the Week – Week 19 : Lanner falcon

There are a large number of Cape turtle doves at Nossob in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and they visit the waterhole in their droves, literally scrambling over each other for a position at the edge of the water.
Sitting and watching from the bird hide we noticed that every few moments they would take to frantic flight, often for no apparent reason at all. But on occasion the reason was clear; a Lanner falcon coming in fast and horizontal flight across the open veld. Sometimes it seemed as though the falcons were just taunting the doves as they made no real attempt to do any harm, or perhaps they were just flushing the birds for a second falcon to do the actual strike, although we never witnessed this behaviour.
But several times we saw a single falcon hurtle over the waterhole with a more deadly purpose, striking a slower moving dove in full flight and bringing it crashing to the ground in a burst of flying feathers.
In a flash the falcon would have the hapless dove pinned to the ground and a few seconds later it would be dead, its neck apparently broken. Even a relatively plump dove would then be seized in the talons of the hunter and carried away in apparently effortless flight.
The Lanner falcon is fairly widespread through Africa, the Middle East, and southern Europe, preferring mountains, agricultural lands and open country to forests. It has also been widely used in the sport of falconry in various parts of Europe.
It is a medium sized bird with a length of about 40 cm, the female considerably larger than the male, and weighing a little over 500 g. It is similar in plumage to the Peregrine falcon, but is a little larger, Generally solitary or found in pairs, larger groups are sometimes seen around waterholes. The major part of their diet is made up of birds, but they will also take small mammals and even insects on occasion. They are inclined to hunt by horizontal pursuit, rather than stooping from a great height, the method favoured by the Peregrine falcon.
The call of the Lanner is a harsh “kak-kak-kak”, or a more piercing “kiree” that may be repeated several times.
The Lanner falcons are monogamous and do not make a nest, laying their eggs in a scrape on a suitable ledge, or sometimes taking over the old nest of one of the species that nest high up on trees or pylons, such as crows or herons. The female lays 3 or 4 creamy white eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 32 days.
The scientific name for the Lanner falcon is Falco biarmicus; Falco from the Latin for a falcon, while the origin of biarmicus seems to be the subject of conjecture.