Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Backyard Birds in my SA garden

One of the big worries I had when we left our beautiful life in Tanzania, was that we're not going to be "birding" any more. 

This is so not true! We've been blessed with sightings of birds in and around our garden while we're just sitting drinking tea on the patio.

Although when I created my garden, I used primarily indigenous plants and shrubs, I left "un-thirsty" and non-invasive bushes such as the hawthorn already established on my sidewalk and one which hangs over the boundary wall between our property and Angus' garden. 

Another thing I discovered over the fifteen years that we've lived here and especially since becoming a birder, was that the birds LOVE the berries which the pyracantha (also known as firethorn)  produces between January and May every year.  
Black-collared barbets enjoying the berries on the firethorn overhanging our garden

Black-collared Barbet has a bright red face, throat and upper breast, bordered by a broad black collar. It has a large black bill. Sexes are alike;  juveniles lack the red face. This bird is a common resident in our summer gardens. Their diet consists mainly of fruit, mainly figs but they also take insects and nectar. Their call is a synchronized duet with one giving two and the other, replying poudle creating two-poudle repeated 10-20 times; with the birds usually facing each other and bobbing their heads. They are hole-nesters and over the years we've provided sisal nests (bought from the nursery) which we attach to strong branches of our white-stinkwood trees.

Fortunately a few days later, the Black-collared barbet landed on my garden wall and I managed a clearer photo to post here! 
Black-collared Barbet

While I watched and photographed the above birds, another barbet landed in the firethorn bush and began to feast.  

Crested Barbet

The Crested Barbet has a yellow face specked with red, its black crest and chest band making it easily identifiable. This bird is omnivorous, taking insects and a large range of fruit. The female is fairly similar to the male but less brightly colored.  This is the largest barbet in the area and the pairs normally remain together throughout the year.  The Crested Barbet's call sounds like an alarm clock (for those of us old enough to remember what a analog clock's alarm sounded like!); it's a loud and unmusical trill: tr-r-r-r-r-r-r-r-r...

Fortunately a few evening ago while I was photographing Common Mynas in a tree in the garden behind ours, I also snapped a Crested Barbet. Hence the clearer photo for this post! 
A clearer image of the Crest Barbet 

Common Myna

The Common Myna (also known Indian Myna) is a locally introduced resident. It was obviously brought to the coastal city of Durban in the nineteenth century. (read more here) This bird is family of the Sturnidae (starlings and mynas) and native to Asia. This bird has a strong territorial instinct and have adapted well to urban environments. They nest in cavities in buildings and trees, sometimes evicting other species to do so. The Common Myna's call consists of unmusical squawks, whistles and croaks; it's a competent mimic making it a popular bird to teach. 

A day later while watching the birds in the firethorn bush again, I photographed a small flock of ten mousebirds. 

Red-faced Mousebird

After having their fill of the juicy berries, the mousebirds flew into an Australian Tea bush in Angus' garden. 

These three birds are Red-faced Mousebird, Juveniles. Their ear coverts are buff and facial skin is still bare with a greenish tinge

On Monday evening while watching the sun set, I noticed a bird sitting quietly high up in a tree behind our house. While I snapped away, Grant and I agreed that it could only be a flycatcher. These birds will sit still for an absolutely age. This one was facing west and catching the last of the sun's warm rays.
Fiscal Flycatcher
A glimpse over its shoulder, afforded me a better picture! 

While on our evening walk around the area last night, we noticed a small flock of birds pecking away in the ground: White-browed Sparrow-weavers. These weavers are boldly marked with  a conspicuous broad white eyebrow. They are locally common and usually found in groups.  They're a noisy species with songs of a series of chattering and squealing phrases. They eat insects, seeds (as seen in my photos - they were eating grass seeds here) seed pods, fruit and fleshy leaves.
White-browed Sparrow-weaver
Ditto: W-B S-W!

I hope you've all enjoyed seeing our local birds in the Eastern Free State town of Marquard. I'm linking to Wild Bird Wednesday which you can visit here

Happy Birding to all who enjoy this pastime and Happy Wednesday everyone! 


  1. a neat bunch of birds. i like the mousebirds. :)

  2. How fun to see all those different birds right in your backyard!

  3. Oh, I'm so glad you are seeing in your new home the birds that I know you love and enjoy!! And I love your captures of them!! Wonderful!! It does sound as though things are settling in well! Holding good thoughts for you, Jo! Big moves are never easy!!!

  4. Apparently they really love the berries, it is a beautiful tree !

  5. HI Jo I am so glad you are now settling down and finding the birds in your area. This is a lovely selection and I have seen most, though not all in Malawi but it is great the information that you are putting with each species. Thanks. I have seen that Myna bird in Australia.

  6. Hello Jo, what a great variety of garden birds. You are lucky to see so many species right in your yard.. I love them all! Have a happy day!

  7. that crested bird is so cute and i am glad you go the close up on the wall so we could see the collar better. they blend right in with the berries. my dad had a pyracanthica bush that had berries like these, the birds would eat and eat and eat and then fly over the cars and poop the red stuff on his car... this brought back memories of him ranting at the birds for eating the berries.

  8. You have a great variety of birds! You were smart to leave the hawthorn;, since they love the berries. Nice that you have the time to enjoy the birds.

  9. Your bird variety is so fascinating! I love the hawthorn's one of my favorites!

  10. Exciting birds in your garden!


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo