Ostrich, terrestrial herons and ibises
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Common Ostrich L: 1·9 m (6 ft) This enormous, long-legged and long-necked flightless bird – the world’s largest – is easily identified by size alone . Males have black and white feathers, and pink-flushed skin when breeding; females have grey-brown plumage . The Common Ostrich is uncommon and widespread in open grasslands and sparse woodlands, but commonest in Kruger’s eastern plains, especially north of Letaba . Gives a deep booming call like a distant Lion’s roar, “hooo booo hoooomph hooo”, that can be heard kilometres away . Ostriches have a complex breeding system with one ‘alpha’ female and several subordinates laying 15–30 eggs in the same nest, the chicks subsequently forming large crèches . Zulus call the Ostrich the‘renewer’because the fat, boiled and mixed with ochre, was used to protect skin, bring dreams and visions of the future, and to act as a burial agent to help transport people to the spiritual world. Ostrich eggs were also thought to be an aphrodisiac amongst Khoi-khoi men. Ostrich, terrestrial herons: 1 and ibises male female chicks 58 Cattle Egret L: 56 cm (22") |WS: 88–96 cm (35–38") The smallest and dumpiest white egret, with a short, compressed neck and rather short legs . Breeding adults have a yellow bill and legs, and a diagnostic honey-coloured hue to their head and breast . Non-breeding and immature birds have darker legs, but the bill remains yellow, unlike that of the Little Egret (page 23) . Generally an uncommon resident and nomad (although numbers are increasing in southern Kruger) occurring singly or in small groups in grassland, bush or wetland . Flocks often associate with large mammals such as buffalos, wildebeests and elephants, feeding on insects flushed by the animals as they move . Occasionally seen riding on the back of mammals, especially where the vegetation is dense . Hadeda Ibis L: 76 cm (30") A medium-sized brown bird with an iridescent green-purple gloss on the wings, the Hadeda Ibis has a distinctive downcurved bill – black underneath with red at the base of the upper mandible – and a characteristic white streak across the cheeks under the eye . It is common and widespread in open habitats in Kruger . The frequently heard call is one of the most evocative sounds of Africa – a loud, raucous, trumpeting “ha-da-da”, which gives the bird its name . Arrival and departure from tree roosts are normally accompanied by much raucous calling, often to the irritation of local people who have little option but to put up with the cacophony . Birds forage on the ground, digging and picking up invertebrates with their long bill . BIRDS OF PLAINS AND OPEN WOODLANDS cattle egret hadeda ibis breeding non-breeding 59 ...