Tag Archives: Cape bunting

Birding in Tankwa Karoo National Park

Last week I blogged about our camping trip to the Tankwa Karoo National Park.  As I said, we were blown away by the beautiful scenery, but that isn’t the only charm of this tiny arid park.  The bird life is also exciting and Rob was able to get some nice photos of the local avian residents.  So, before I start, let me ask you this – when is a tent not a tent?  When it’s a bird hide, of course!  Rob took his camera and wandered off along the dry river bed near the campsite, hoping to get photos of birds and animals, while I sat reading in our tent.  Imagine my surprise and delight when loads of birds came into our camp.  They didn’t see me and I had a wonderful couple of hours watching them unnoticed from our tent.  When Rob came back he immediately set up his camera and captured the shots that follow.

Southern double-collared sunbird

Most campsites have resident birds that are relatively tame, and this site was no exception.  A beautiful Familiar chat was quite at home around the tent, as was his constant companion, a Cape bunting.  They seemed to hang out together which was rather nice to watch.

Familiar chat

At times they were joined by two other buntings and happily pecked around on the ground for crumbs and insects.

Cape bunting

Two of the more colourful visitors were a Bokmakierie and this female African paradise flycatcher.  She came back often and wasn’t put off by the clicking of Rob’s camera at all.

African paradise flycatcher

Acting as if they owned the place was a pair of Cape spurfowl.  They wandered around and at times even got under our feet.  What beautiful feather markings these birds have.

Cape spurfowl

It being the Karoo, it wasn’t surprising that we were visited by a Karoo prinia.  These rather shy birds are not that easy to photograph as they flit about restlessly and hardly seem to sit still for a moment.

Karoo prinia

We placed a bowl of water on the ground hoping to see the birds drinking or bathing, but in spite of the heat and the desert-like conditions they weren’t interested in it at all.  It wasn’t in vain though, as we were soon visited by a field mouse that spent ages slaking its thirst.  It was so enchanted by this unexpected new water source that it disappeared into the bush and came back later with three more of its family.  They all drank as if they hadn’t seen water for years.  We tried this in the Central Kalahari once and our generosity had unintended consequences.  We had lots of birds drinking and bathing, but we also had a visit from a puffadder that wanted some water as well.  Not wanting to encourage snakes, we moved the water a long way from the campsite itself.

Karoo lark

Karoo larks, robins and batis’s were also spotted from out tent.  Later in the day we took a drive to a rather large dam where there was an abundance of waterbirds, but we couldn’t stay there for very long as there was no shade and the heat was a bit over-bearing.  If SANParks wanted any suggestions for improvements at Tankwa, I would happily recommend they erect a small shelter at the dam where people could sit in shade and watch the birds.

Next week I will chat about our drive up the stunning Gannaga Pass.

Bird of the Week – Week 77 – Cape bunting

The Cape bunting is a fairly small bird, just 16 cm in length, and is often to be seen foraging on the rocky and fairly open ground along quieter roadsides.  It is a near endemic to the southern African region and is fairly widespread throughout Namibia and South Africa but is rather strangely absent from most of Botswana.  Outside of the designated southern African region its range stretches into southern Angola and Zambia.  It prefers arid scrubland and rocky hillsides, and may also be found in quieter gardens where it becomes quite accustomed to the presence of humans.

Cape bunting

The Cape bunting has a black crown, white supercilium and white and black striped face;  uper parts are grey-brown with some dark streaks;  wings are chestnut; under parts are grey and the throat is pale;  the bill is black;  eyes are brown and legs and feet dark horn-coloured.  The sexes are alike in size and similar in plumage colouration, although females have buffy, rather than white, head markings.

Cape bunting

The Cape bunting is fairly common within most of its range and is usually found singly or in pairs, or in small groups, but seldom in larger flocks.  Its call is repetitive and whistle-like, often made by the male from a prominent perch.

It forages on the ground, particularly on open rocky ground, feeding on seeds, insects and spiders.

Cape bunting

The Cape bunting is monogamous, building a cup nest of grass, twigs and roots and is usually placed on the ground or low down in a bush.  The female lays a clutch of two to five white or pale bluish-green eggs that hatch after an incubation period of approximately 15 days.

Cape bunting

The scientific binomial for the Cape bunting is Emberiza capensis; Emberiza from the Greek for a “bunting” and capensis from the Latin for “from the Cape (of Good Hope)”.  Thus a bunting from the Cape of Good Hope.  Can’t say better than that.

Cape bunting