Southern Africa is a haven for birdlife. Peace Parks and partners are involved in creating and protecting safe spaces for wildlife, and this, of course, includes birds, although they can come and go of their own accord! On a road trip from Mozambique’s capital, Maputo, to Limpopo National Park, the Peace Parks crew stops to check out some feathered friends. The fact that so many different birds are seen here is a great sign as it means they are attracted to the habitat which suggests there are plenty of insects and other food around.
Marabou storks are easy to identify because of their long legs (sometimes appearing white due to a build-up of excrement). Standing about 1.52m (5ft) tall with a wingspan about 3m (10.5ft) across, these are a bird to be reckoned with. In fact, they are carnivores, feeding through scavenging by flying high above the ground to spot their prey. Not fussy eaters, they will happily feast on live and dead prey including lizards, frogs, other birds and even young crocodiles or snakes. These are wily creatures that know how to keep well-fed, as they will also co-locate with large mammals to pick up insects that are thrown up as the larger animals walk through the bush. Unlike many other species, these are not currently endangered.
Unlike the rather drably dressed marabou stork, lilac-breasted rollers are
conspicuously colourful. They perch prominently in the open, checking for prey and predators alike. Like the marabou, they are another hardy species, listed as a species of Least Concern by the IUCN. Perhaps it is their acrobatic flying ability that helps them to thrive, or their penchant for insects. They have been spotted snatching an insect from the air and grasshoppers from the grass. In protected areas, these birds frequent road verges but more usually they try to avoid other human-influenced areas.
The importance of birds to an ecosystem is well documented. They connect habitats through their migrations and, in doing so, remind us of our own connection to the planet, the environment, wildlife and each other.