The month of February offers much to bird lovers and love birds alike….
In the green season, when vegetation has come back alive, birds are singing constantly and building nests, turning the South Luangwa National Park into a summer-time place of lush foliage and scented air; this is when the rains result in more breeding and activity overall.
This is the time that the very punctual White-browed robin chat wakes me up in the early mornings and a couple of hours later loudly and proudly announces that the day has gone by.
It’s that time of year when you have plenty of chances to study birds. Learn about the long-tailed paradise whydah, a small resident bird that looks like an ordinary sparrow. But not in the breeding season that is. This is when the male transforms into an attractive partner, showing off his glossy breeding plumage with a magnificent long tail, about 3- times the length of his body – which he loses once the breeding season is over.
Then there is the masked weaver, not a rare or threatened finch, but with an interesting way of building his woven nest and owing his name to his nest-building skills. The nest, being a round structure hanging from a branch with entrance near the bottom, is built for his female and she will inspect and approve it first before accepting him as her mate.
It takes an average of a full day and a bit to build the nest and the male will destroy it within 3 hours if the female doesn’t like it- and then will start all over again. You can imagine this can be hard work, what if he keeps on choosing the wrong spot?
A favourite among birders and non-birders are the colourful and energetic bee-eaters. White fronted bee-eaters are often found sharing nesting colonies with Carmine bee-eaters on the steep banks of the Luangwa river. These colonies can consist of more than a thousand individuals forming one of the greatest birding spectacles in the world.
Once again, the valley has turned into a summer-time place of lush foliage and scented air and the rains result in more breeding and bird activity.
Identifying the 400 resident birds and almost 50 migrating birds in the green season? If you are birding enough and in the right places it can be done. Or simply enjoying being out of town and getting some fresh air in one of Zambia’s most beautiful settings, the South Luangwa National Park, is just as good.
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