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Africa Geographic Travel

A large leadwood tree near Nandzana waterhole in South Africa’s Kruger National Park contains a much sought-after nest cavity that has been used by a range of species over the years. Here, I witnessed a titanic battle between a squirrel and a parrot. Written and photographed by Andre Botha

Lilac-breasted rollers, pearl-spotted owlets, yellow-billed hornbills, glossy starlings and tree squirrels have been recorded using this cavity for nesting or roosting. Sought-after real estate!

Squirrel, parrot, South Africa, Kruger National Park
First engagement with the squirrel ©Andre Botha
Brown-headed parrot, South Africa, Kruger National Park
Mrs Parrot looks on ©Andre Botha

One winter morning, I witnessed a tussle between one of the current occupants of the nest, a pair of brown-headed parrots, and a tree squirrel that dared to venture too close to the nest.

Brown-headed parrot, squirrel, South Africa, Kruger National Park
Throwing a piece of bark at the squirrel ©Andre Botha
Brown-headed parrot, squirrel, South Africa, Kruger National Park
Verbally abusing the squirrel ©Andre Botha

The parrot pursued the squirrel several times and physically attacked it by biting it at least six times in about 20 minutes.

Brown-headed parrot, squirrel, South Africa, Kruger National Park
“Attack … Ouch!” ©Andre Botha
Brown-headed parrot, squirrel, South Africa, Kruger National Park
“That’ll teach you! Now stay away!” ©Andre Botha

The squirrel eventually retaliated and fought back, twice charging at the parrot and trying to bite it.

Find out about the Greater Kruger for your next African safari – find a ready-made safari or ask us to build one just for you.

Brown-headed parrot, squirrel, South Africa, Kruger National Park
Squirrel fights back ©Andre Botha
Brown-headed parrot, squirrel, South Africa, Kruger National Park
Parrot wins in the end ©Andre Botha

Fortunately, the parrot was too quick and evaded serious damage, whereas the squirrel’s tail looked quite the worse for wear. It eventually scuttled down the tree and out of sight.

Brown-headed parrot, South Africa, Kruger National Park
Victory bow ©Andre Botha

The parrot stretched its wings in victory and went to the nest to share the news that all was safe before heading into the mopane-veld to forage.

I was spellbound to witness this little battle before heading back to work. Always something worthwhile out there…

Brown-headed parrot, South Africa, Kruger National Park
Cavity nests are worth protecting ©Andre Botha

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Africa Geographic Travel
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