The Blue Crane is South Africa’s national bird. Compared to other cranes, it is quite small, growing to between 1m and 1.2m in height. They were named because of their silvery-blue-gray coloured feathers. Their tail feathers are much darker, almost black, while their heads are covered in white feathers. This creates a very aesthetically pleasing affect as their feathers create an ombre of colours. Like all cranes, they have very skinny legs!
The Knysna Turaco is also known as the Knysna Lourie. It is endemic to South Africa and found predominantly in Knysna area of the Garden Route., they are also extremely shy – so seeing one on Lalibela is a huge treat. It is a large, green bird with a short, hooked bill and bright red wings. The easiest way to identify the Knysna Lourie from other green turacos is by the white tip on its rounded crest.
The Narina Trogon is a spectacular bird – it is mostly iridescent metallic-green and has a scarlet belly, broad yellow bill and white under tail. The males have a green face and throat. Females have a less attractive dirty gray-brown neck and face. It is well-known for being difficult to spot because it perches still for long periods of time with its back to any potential threat so that it blends in with its surroundings.
The Diderick cuckoo is one of the smaller birds of the cuckoo species – it is only 19cm in length. The male has glossy green upperparts and head and a copper sheen on his back with white flecking on his wings. His underparts are a dirty white. He has a white stripe next to his bright red eye and a dark bill. The female has similar colouring, but she has a diagnostic white patch in front of her eye, white patches in hers wings and a plain back.
These might be one of the first birds you spot at Lalibela because they build nests at every lodge. Females and non-breeding males are dull, olive-green in colour. Breeding males are a distinctive bright, yellow colour. Its wings are a blackish colour with yellow and green at the edges.
White-bellied Bustard / Barrow’s Korhaan
This is a small, tawny-backed bustard with a distinctive white belly and reddish base to its bill. The males have a blue-grey neck and dark facial markings. The females strongly resemble the female Black-bellied Bustard except for its shorter neck and legs and white instead of black foreparts to the underwing.
A stealthy little bird with a densely spotted face and underparts. The male has a reddish crown and moustache. The female has faint, dark moustache and a dark crown marked red only toward the back of her head. They live in pairs in forests, forest edges, thickets and plantations. They move slowly, foraging for insects. They do not drum.
Cape Clapper Lark
The Cape Clapper Lark is a medium-sized, stocky lark. The rufous-gray barring and scalloping on the feathers of its head and upperparts give it a scaly appearance. They prefer thick dense shrubland in mesic fynbos and semi-arid karoo – here they are difficult to see except when they are displaying from August to October.
Denham’s Bustard is a large to medium-sized bustard. It has a chestnit nape and hind neck with a pale gray foreneck. Its grayish head has distinctive black and white crown stripes. Spot pairs and small groups march purposefully through the grassland, in search of plants and small animals.
Birds of Prey
The Secretary Bird is unlike other birds of prey – it has long legs, wings and a tail. It gets its name from its crest of long feathers. These resemble the quill pens that 19th lawyer’s clerks or secretaries – secretaries wore gray coats and knee-length black pants would tuck quill pens behind their ears, – similar to the bird’s colouring and head feathers.
The Jackal Buzzard is a large buzzard. It has striking black, chestnut, and white patterning that is made especially clear during flight. The Jackal Buzzard is identified by the dark forward part of its underwing.
The Fish Eagle is distinctive and large eagle that you’ll spot sitting prominently on perches near lakes, rivers and waterbodies. It is chestnut and white in colour. If you are lucky, you will see it gracefully plunge to the water’s surface to catch a fish. It tosses its head backwards while making a loud penetrating “wheeee-ah-kleeuw-kleeuw-kluuu” call – one of the most distinctive bird sounds of Africa.
This bird of prey is a medium-sized sparrowhawk. It has plain brown-orange underparts and a dark grey back. When in flight, it shows strong barring to wings and tail.
The African Goshawk is a medium-sized hawk. It has yellow eyes and legs, brown-barred underparts and grey-brown upperparts. It differs from the similar Red-Chested Goshawk in that has less white in its tail bands, less red on its chest and barred thighs.
The Black-Winged Kite is small, distinctive and falcon-like. It is light underneath and blue-grey above. It has black wing coverts which form conspicuous black shoulders.
This striking bird of prey is mostly dark with large white panels in its underwings, a white rump and bands on its tail.
In search of more reading? Read our top birdwatching tips for beginners!