Go-away-bird and cuckoos
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Grey Go-away-bird L: 50 cm (20") A slender, long-tailed and long-necked ash-grey bird, with a crest that can be raised or laid flat, a chunky black bill and a beady dark eye . It forms small groups and is abundant in drier woodlands throughout Kruger, where it is estimated to number more than 65,000 individuals . The well-known nasal “guuu-waaaay” or “kwee” calls are often answered by others nearby . Birds clamber with considerable agility through vegetation, foraging on fruit, flowers, buds and insects, but fly with floppy wing beats . They will mob owls, goshawks, eagles and even mammalian predators, raising their crest, calling agitatedly and bouncing around . Much revered by some traditional cultures, the go-away-bird is believed to be able to see evil spirits called‘tokoloshes’and chastise them until they depart. Go-away-bird and cuckoos: 1 Go-away-birds can often be seen perched on top of bushes, while cuckoos, with their short, slightly curved bills, rather long wings and long tails, may be inconspicuous deep inside tree canopies. The calls are an excellent clue to their presence. 86 The Famous French naturalist Francois Levaillant worked with a collecting assistant named Piet. The story goes that upon collecting a female Red-chested Cuckoo, Piet was haunted by a male bird that followed and scolded him for his dastardly act, constantly singing ”Piet-mywife ”. Red-chested Cuckoo L: 30 cm (12") This is a slaty-backed and grey-headed cuckoo with dark bars on the underparts, and a broad, rusty band across the upper breast (palest in females); immatures have a charcoalgrey back, throat and breast, with barred underparts . It is a common spring and summer visitor (September–April) to Kruger, its presence revealed by an incessant, loud, threenote song “Piet-my-wife” or “it will rain”, although it can be frustratingly difficult to see . The Red-chested Cuckoo flies fast on pointed wings, strongly resembling a small goshawk (pages 196–198) . This clever piece of trickery may cause birds to flee their nests in fear, providing the cuckoo with an opportunity to locate the nest, lay an egg, and remove one of the host’s eggs without being detected . The parasitized bird then rears the young cuckoo . Hosts include wagtails, robin-chats and thrushes . BIRDS OF BROADLEAVED WOODLAND AND CAMPS 87 Jacobin Cuckoo L: 33 cm (13") A handsome, crested cuckoo that is mostly black and always shows a white wing patch . Two colour morphs occur in Kruger: pied and dark . The pied morph is by far the most common, and is black with plain greyish-white from vent to throat; dark-morph birds, which are very rare in the park, are all-dark apart from white wing patches and tail tips . Pied-morph Levaillant’s Cuckoo is similar to pied-morph Jacobin Cuckoo but is much larger and has a longer, floppier crest and heavily streaked throat . Dark-morph Levaillant’s Cuckoo is unknown from Kruger . The Jacobin Cuckoo is a fairly common spring and summer (October–April) breeding migrant to Kruger from farther north in Africa, although at the same time a few non-breeders migrate from Asia . It calls a loud “klleeuuw-klew-klew” and down-slurred “klew” . This cuckoo mostly parasitizes bulbuls and greenbuls . Cuckoos: 2 pied morph 88 Black Cuckoo L: 30 cm (12") This large cuckoo is entirely black except for white tips to the long tail, and sometimes has white bars on the vent, tail and underside of the flight feathers . It has a characteristic swerving flight . Dark-morph Jacobin and Levaillant’s Cuckoos are similar, but have crests and prominent white flashes in the wings . Black Cuckoo is an uncommon and widespread spring and summer visitor (September–March) to Kruger, preferring dense woodland and forest . It gives a mournful three-note song, “I’m so saaaaad”, the last note rising, sometimes followed by a rising crescendo of whistles . This cuckoo parasitizes boubous and bush-shrikes . Levaillant’s Cuckoo L: 40 cm ( 16") A large, dark-backed cuckoo, with a long, floppy crest, white wing patches, and pale underparts with heavily streaked throat and lower flanks . A dark morph occurs elsewhere in Africa but is not known from Kruger . The similar but smaller Jacobin Cuckoo lacks throat streaking . Levaillant’s Cuckoo is a fairly common spring and summer (October–March) breeding migrant to Kruger, where it parasitizes Arrowmarked Babblers (page 124) . Its call is a shrill “kreeeuu”, often followed by chattering notes . BIRDS...