Our Mission and Values at GBT...
Here at GBT we hope to foster an interest in all things birding, and in so doing, also create a deep and abiding respect for our natural environment. We do so without taking ourselves too serioulsy, but we do take the state of our environment very seriously. We share our knowledge and our passion for all things birding willingly and enthusiastically.
Fee: Free! When: Theory any time on the GBT forum, practical whenever you feel the need to get out in nature! Most of us are keen all the time to accompany you! Where: Where ever you want to access the GBT forum from. Instructors: Everyone on GBT! Course material: Your own bird guide. Any bird guide will do! And your own pair of binoculars. I have an extra one to spare if you don't have binoculars yet.
South African: Fascinating Facts About Common Garden Birds
1. Very few people know this, but the Cape Sparrow is a southern African (South of the Zambesi river) endemic, which means that its movements are confined mostly to the region and that it also breeds within this area.
2. Scientific studies have shown that birds are able to see an ultraviolet spectrum of color. If you look at the male Cape Sparrow you will notice conspicuous black markings on the face and chest. Females of the species will pick the male mate with the most distinct markings as the black is translated into spectacular ultraviolet markings to the female's eye. A certain male may have more than one female during breeding.
3. Too many times do people just glance over this bird, but next time stop and have a proper look at it. It is genuinely a very handsome bird, and not just compared to its introduced cousin, the House Sparrow. Being a southern African endemic it also makes it a much sought after species for overseas visitors. So also keep that in mind next time you see it feeding in your garden.
4. The Diderick Cuckoo parasitize this bird, which means that the Diderick Cuckoo will lay its eggs in the nest of the Cape Sparrow. It makes up to 21% of the Diderick Cuckoo's host species.
1. Previously it was lumped as one species with the Olive Thrush which it could now be confused with.
2. Easily confused with Common (Indian) Myna. The easiest way to distinguish the two is to watch them move. A Karoo Thrush jumps or hops forward whereas a Common Myna walks, one leg in front of the other and only hops or jumps when in a hurry. For interest sake, the smallest bird in Southern Africa who is capable of walking is the Cape Wagtail. Watch them carefully next time and you will notice this interesting fact.
3. Seeing that both these species occur in the Gauteng area it will be worthwhile to always look carefully at the much more common Karoo Thrush before ticking it off hesitantly. The main differences between the two species are discussed here. An Olive Thrush find in the Gauteng area will always classify as a very good one!
4. I also only recently noticed that the Karoo Thrush can mimic other bird calls! And I saw and heard that first hand early last night.
5. The Karoo Thrush acts as one of the hosts for the Red-chested Cuckoo.
1. The Red Headed Finch is a very messy nester and will use anything from string, wool, paper, plastic, sticks and grass to line their nest.
2. They also sometimes evict the rightful owners for their own use. Birds that they evict are normally sparrows and weavers.
3. This used to be a sparrow's nest and have recently been converted into a Finch nest, but they aren't very aggressive birds so the sparrows stayed in the same tree and started building a new nest further up.
4. Wildtuinman have noticed that these birds in his garden would make a raucous the moment they notice him and he believes that they do this in order to get his attention so that he can feed them.
1. When the winter is at its dullest and coldest, the male Southern Mask Weaver comes to the party and enlighten our burdens with a dash of bright yellow and black! Yes, they start obtaining breeding plumage in June and start building nests, sing and breed soon after.
2. There are actually friendly competition amongst birders as to whose resident Southern Masked Weaver obtains his breeding plumage first and start building his nests first, probably to get the thought of winter out of our heads.
3. I noticed recently in my garden that they really take a liking to pears and with fruit not really forming a documented part of their diet, I found this quite interesting.
4. Distinguishing the Southern Masked Weaver from the similar Lesser Masked Weaver and Village Weaver may sometimes be difficult. The easiest way is to look at the back and eye of the bird in question. A Village Weaver has a distinct spotted back. And the Lesser Masked Weaver has a pale yellow eye. The Southern Masked Weaver's back is almost plain and the eye is red in color.
5. The Southern Masked Weaver also makes up to 20% of the Diderick Cuckoo's host species.
2. The Cape Robin-Chat is an excellent song bird who also has the ability to mimic other birds' calls. On average it can mimic over 20 bird calls and one individual was recorded to have a repertoire of 70! I heard one imitating a Brown-hooded Kingfisher just the other day whilst playing putt-putt with my daughter in Pretoria.
3. Together with the Karoo Thrush it is one of the first birds to announce dawn, known as the dawn chorus. These two species have exceptional large eyes of which only a small part is visible to us. That enables them to see much better in low light conditions and therefor enabling them to start singing long before the other birds. It is thought that their song serves, amongst other things, as a warning to predators to tell them that they are awake and that they can see whatever is going on in their area very well.
4. It is one of the hosts of the Red-chested Cuckoo.
1. The Laughing Dove has little fear of man and will begin making a nest within a few hours after it is caught and caged.
2.The young tend to leave the nest before they are able to fly and are picked up by well meaning people who think they fell from the nest. If the young are left alone or placed in a position high enough that they are easily visible to the parents, they will continue to be cared for.
3.The unmistakable characteristic of this bird is it's call, which is a reflection of it's name 'Coo roo coo-coo-coocoo' reminiscent of gentle laughter. It can easily be distinguished from the calls of the Red-eyed Dove with its: "I'm a Red-eye. Dove... I'm a Red-eye. Dove..." and the Cape Turtle Dove's: "Work haaarder... Work haaarder..."
1. The white ring around the eye consist of feathers and has a complete lack of the melanin pigment in it.
2. Look careful when you encounter these birds. One never knows, it might be a nice surprise in the form of Orange River White-Eye as what was the case with me and a group of birders in Heidelberg, Gauteng. I wrote it off as a Cape White-Eye before others pointed out that it was indeed a much scarcer Orange river White-Eye. Take a closer look at the flanks. A pinkish wash on the flanks points to Orange River White-eye. Read all about our experience here.
3. A few accidental records exist that it acts as host for the Jacobin Cuckoo.