Tag Archives: raven

The Bird of the Week – Week 110 – Cape crow

The Cape crow is widespread and fairly common throughout the southern African region; the only all black crow that is native to the region. The sexes of these crows are alike in both size and plumage; being about 50 cm in length and with a purplish gloss to the all-black plumage. They have relatively slender black bills; black eyes and black legs and feet. They are usually found singly or in pairs, but may gather in groups when not breeding.

Cape crow

Cape crows are found in a variety of habitats, but prefer grassland and semi-arid areas. They are often found in farmlands and plantations. They are omnivorous and feed on a wide variety of items including spiders, lizards, insects, frogs, the eggs of tortoises and ground-nesting birds, and carrion from road-kill, as well as grain and other seeds and fruit.

The number and range of the various species of crows in southern Africa is slowly expanding as they are quite tolerant of humans and seem almost unaffected by the changing landscape. This may pose a threat to some of the local raptor species as they compete for much the same food sources.

Cape crow

The Cape crow’s  loud “kraa, kraa” is distinctive cry, as is their liquid warbling and the variety of gurgling sounds that carry surprisingly far. They also have a talent for mimicry and many years ago the Queen’s Park Zoo in East London (in the eastern Cape of South Africa) was home to a Cape crow widely known as “Jimmy the Crow” and locally famous for its ability to talk. Its large vocabulary included a loudly shouted “Border!” in support of the local provincial rugby team! As children we visited Jimmy many times and have fond memories of his raucous call.

Cape crow

The Cape crow is monogamous and they build a large bowl-shaped nest of sticks placed high in a tree or on a telephone pole. The female lays a clutch of three or four eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 18 days. The nest may be parasitized by the Great spotted cuckoo (Clamator glandarius),

Cape crow

The scientific binomial for the Cape crow is Corvus capensis; Corvus from the Latin for “a raven or a crow”; and capensis from the Latin for “from the Cape (of Good Hope)”. Thus we have a crow from the Cape, and it couldn’t be clearer than that.

Cape crow

Bird of the week – Week 11 : Lilac-breasted roller

One of the most delightful avian sights to be seen in the central and northern parts of Southern Africa is that of the male Lilac-breasted roller in his courtship flight. He ascends to up to 50 metres or so, calling a harsh “ghak, ghak, gharrak”, as if advertising his display, then descends in a dive with wings closed, repeating this climb-and-dive a few times, before ending with a high speed dive,  rolling from side to side rapidly four or five times, flashing the brilliant blues of his wings in the bright sunlight. He usually lands close to a female, who then joins him in a duet of calling. A wonderful treat to watch.
Common throughout the more northerly parts of Southern Africa, the Lilac-breasted roller is actually quite sedentary and is more likely to be seen perched on a dead tree or telephone wire, surveying the area, searching for prey.
Spotting a likely morsel, it swoops down and will either eat the prey, usually an insect, on the ground, or it will return to its perch and batter the victim on a branch before swallowing it whole. Their diet includes a variety of insects, scorpions, snails, beetles, frogs, small snakes, lizards, and even small birds and rodents.
A fairly large bird, some 36 cm in length, the Lilac-breasted roller is usually solitary or seen in pairs and is easily recognizable. It has a large head with a washed green crown, a short thick neck and a white chin that contrasts with the bright lilac breast and blue underparts, the flight feathers are violet, as is the rump. The tail is narrow and the outer tail feathers are elongated and somewhat darker. The sexes look alike.
They are found in a variety of habitats – savannas, open woodlands, farmlands, and grasslands. Nesting takes place in a hole in a tree, either a natural hole or one conveniently excavated by a woodpecker or barbet. They do not excavate their own nests. The female lays a clutch of 2–4 eggs that hatch after an incubation period of about 22 days.
The scientific name for the Lilac-breasted roller is Coracias caudatus; coracias from the Greek “korax” meaning a crow or raven and caudatus from the Latin, “cauda”, a tail.  So we get  “a crow or raven with a tail”. How helpful is that?