restricted access Rails and crakes
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Black Crake L: 20 cm (8") Crakes are waterside birds that creep in or beside dense vegetation or over small patches of mud . The Black Crake is small, rotund, almost tailless and entirely blackish except for its diagnostic bright pink-red legs, red-brown eye and yellowish bill . The immature is browner, with duller legs and bill . It is a common resident in almost all wet areas of Kruger where there is some cover into which it can retreat if disturbed, and the call is often heard – an odd wheezy bubbling and chattering “cheeew-t-t-t-t treeew, t-t-t-t-t-treew” . Prefers reedbeds and emergent vegetation on the edges of swamps and other waterbodies, where it forages, sometimes quite boldly . Like all crakes, its walks tentatively with its head lowered, picking and probing for invertebrates and plant matter . This crake is surprisingly aggressive and will kill other small birds it regards as competition . It will also scuttle over Hippopotamuses and Warthogs to remove parasites for food . Common Moorhen L: 30–38 cm (12–15") A medium-sized and mostly dark rail usually seen at the water’s edge . It is readily identified by the large red facial shield and yellow-tipped red bill, yellow-green legs (red above the joint), a characteristic white patch under the tail and white flank stripe . Immatures are all-brown, including the bill, but have the same bold white patches under the tail as adults, and yellow legs . An uncommon and nomadic resident in all wetlands in Kruger, swimming, walking or clambering through aquatic vegetation in search of both plant and animal food . Rails and crakes The only potentially confusing species is the rare and erratic Lesser Moorhen (not illustrated), which is smaller and has a mostly yellow bill with red along the top. 38 Red-knobbed Coot L: 35–41 cm (14–16") More duck-like than the Common Moorhen, this large, chicken-sized, black waterbird, is more often seen swimming than walking . It has a characteristic ivory-coloured bill and frontal shield, which is crested with two red-wine coloured knobs high on its head . These knobs expand in the breeding season . Common elsewhere in South Africa, it is a rare and erratic visitor to Kruger, where numbers may be greater in wetter years . It is very aggressive and will chase off much larger birds . BIRDS OF RIVERS AND WETLANDS black crake immature common moorhen immature red-knobbed coot immature 39 ...