Birds of Ethiopia
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Wing 325-380 mm
Because of its loud,
raucous "haa-haa-haa-haa" call, the Wattled Ibis is easily recognized
even from some distance away. A flock of these ibises rising or flying
overhead becomes especially noisy and obvious. In flight a white patch
shows on the upper surface of the ibis' wing, and at close range its
tliroat wattle is visible. These two diagnostic features distinguish the
Wattled Ibis from the closely related Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia
hagedavli), which also occurs in Ethiopia.
The Wattled Ibis occurs throughout the
Ethiopian plateau from about 1500 meters (5000 feet) to the highest
moorlands; it is most common along highland river courses with rocky,
cliff-like edges but is found also in open country and ill olive,
juniper, podocarpus, hagenia, St. Johin's wort and giant heath forests
and occasionally in eucalyptus stands. The ibis is gregarious, often
flocking in groups of 50 to 100; rarely is it found alone. Small flocks
of ibis can often be seen in Addis Ababa, flying between the old Palace
and Trinity Cathedral grounds and in the area surrounding the National
Palace. The birds normally roost on cliff-edges; in the early morning,
they fly and call noisily while following the river courses to their
feeding areas, which are usually in open country. With their long
downward-curved beaks they probe the ground, searching for insects and
other small invertebrates.
Little is known about the ibis's breeding
habits. The prenuptial behavior including establishment of pairs and
preparation of nesting sites as well as length of incubation and
brooding behavior are not known. The ibis nests in the little rains in
March-April, in the big rains ill July and occasionally in the dry
season in December. Its nest is made of sticks and lined with grass
stems, mosses and strips of bark. The Wattled Ibis normally lays two to
three dirty-white, rough-shelled eggs. The birds seem typically to nest
in colonies in bushes growing out from cliffs, but surprisingly few of
their nesting sites have been reported considering what a common and
obvious plateau bird it is. Occasionally the Wattled This nests singly
or in twos or threes on tops of trees or on ]edges of houses. The young,
covered in black feathers when still at the colony, are fed away from
the colonial site once they can fly. Little else about the life of this
species is known: it provides an excellent opportunity for study and
observation of an Ethiopian endemic.
Wing 325-376 mm
The Blue-winged Goose
inhabits plateau marshes, streams and damp grasslands from about 1800
meters (6000 feet) upward. Pairs or small parties of three to five of
these geese are common and easily seen at high elevations in small
stream valleys and in pools and marshes in the moorlands where giant
lobelia, alchemilla and tussock grass predominate and where they nest in
March, April, June and September. During the big rains of July, August
and September Blue-winged Geese flock in groups that may include 50 to
100 or more individuals which at this time probably undergo molt, losing
the flight feathers. In the big rains the flocks also move to lower
elevations of the plateau: for example, in one day in August 165
Individuals were counted at Gafersa Reservoir, some 20 kilometers west
of Addis Ababa.
The goose has a peculiar habit, whether
standing or walking, of resting its neck on its back. Indeed this
posture together with the comparatively dull body color and bluish
wing-patches are useful marks for identifying the species. Another
characteristic habit of the goose can be observed during pair formation
when the male struts around the female, his head bent over his back, and
his bill pointed skywards or even behind him, exposing his blue wing
patch and uttering a rapidly repeated soft, barely audible whistle, a "wnee-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu".
Parties of this goose, like other geese, station sentinels at the
periphery of the flock. An alarmed goose produces a soft "whew-whu-whu-wliu"
and, when forced into flight, a rather nasal bark, a "penk, penk-penk",
uttered at take-off but not in flight.
Studies of captive Blue-winged Geese
suggest that they are largely active at night, which perhaps explain why
so little is known about the species. This goose lays four to seven
cream-colored eggs; the nestling is largely black with various
silvery-white markings above, silvery-white below; the immature is
similar to but duller than the adult. In total numbers the Blue-winged
Goose seems to be one of the least numerous of any species of goose in
the world. In Africa it is unique: its closest living relative lives in
Wing 180-190 mm
Harwood's Francolin has
been reported from only three localities along about 160 kilometers of
valleys and gorges within the upper Blue Nile system extending to the
east and north of the Addis Ababa-Debre Marcos-Dejen bridge; this
francolin is a very poorly known Ethiopian endemic. It was first
recorded for science in 1898 at Ahiyafej, then again in 1927 at Bichana,
and in 1930 at Kalo Ford along the banks of the Blue Nile "below Zemie".
No other record of this species has been published although recent
reports suggest that it is more widely distributed than previously
Majoir R.E. Cheesman, who obtained the
1927 and the 1930 the specimens, observed that the local people around
Bichana knew the species "and considered it the best table bird of the
Francolin family". In fact, the Bichana specimen was presented to him by
the leader of the area to be eaten; Cheesman thought the live animal was
not from Bichana but was captured alive in the lower altitudes of the
Blue Nile Valley and brought to him.
Very little can be said about the biology
of this francolin. The male can be recognized by a distinctive U-shaped
pattern on the black and white feathers of the breast; the female is
unknown to science. Its preferred surroundings are unknown; its nest,
eggs, time of nesting, food, call and general behavior are undescribed.
Since the local people at least in the late 1920's and 1930's were
familiar with the Harwood's Francolin, it seems reasonable to assume
that it may have been more common than thought at that time and may
still be so today. Two species very closely related to the Harwood's
Francolin occur in Central and Southern Africa. The two, the
Hildebrandt's Francolin (Francolinus hildebrandti) and the Natal
Francolin (F. natalensis), are especially fond of dense bush along
stream beds and rocky bills covered with long grass or bush. It again
seems very reasonable to assume that the Harwood's Francolin lives in
similar habitat in the Blue Nile Valley system.
Wing 125-135 mm
The Rouget's Rail is
common on the western and southeastern highlands, but its presence is
not so obvious as that of some other endemics. Once one is able to
recognize the bird's calls, one well appreciates how common this rail
is. It has two calls which are useful in identification: one, a piercing
alarm note, a "dideet" or "a di-dii", and the other, a display call, "wreeeee-creeuw-wreeeee-creeliw".
This Rail mainly lives at higher elevations of up to 4,100 meters
(13,500 feet) where it inhabits small pockets of grass tussock and wet
hollows with plenty, of cover; it is a characteristic bird of the
moorlands of Ethiopia.
Like other rails and crakes, the Rouget's
Rail skulks through and around the grass tussocks, probably searching
for aquatic insects, crustaceans, small snails and seeds. This endemic,
slightly larger than many of its rails-like relatives, is tame compared
with most rails, and at times simply stands in all open area where it is
easily observed. Normally, however, one gets only a fleeting glimpse of
the bird as its moves quickly through the tall grass, characteristically
flitting its tail upward and showing the white undertail coverts. The
flashes of white - on and off, so to speak - are indeed obvious and
often draw the attention of the observer to the bird for the first time.
Both male and female have similar
russet-colored plumages, tile immature is slightly lighter in color.
This rail sometimes lives in family parties of three to ten. It seems
not to be so nocturnal in activity as once thought. Rouget's Rail nests
from April through October; the nest is a shallow cup of grass placed in
tussock grass. In one clutch a rail lays as many as eight eggs,
brownish-cream colored with reddish-brown splashes and lilac-grey
undermarkings. The nestling is yellow-brown with black along the sides
of the face, its neck is russet, its crown, bill and legs are black.
Wing 234-240 mm
The Spot-breasted Plover is an endemic
usually found above 3050 meters (10,000 feet) in marshy grasslands and
moorlands with giant health, giant lobelia, alchemilla and tussock grass
in both the western and southeastern highlands. Widely distributed and
locally common, the plover usually is seen in pairs or in small parties,
or, in the non-breeding season, in small flocks of up to 30-40
individuals. Its behavior has been compared with that of the Lapwing (Vanellus
vanellus) of Europe: it is a relatively tame, noisy bird with a swerving
flight; on the ground it makes short runs and sudden stops. When
calling, it produces a "kree-kree-kre-krep-kreep-kreep", a "kueeeep-kueep"
and the cry "pewit-pewit". It is distinguished from other plovers by
having fleshy wattles in front of the eyes and by the breast spotted
Hardly anything is known about this
plover. For example, the nest and eggs have only recently been
described: the nest, a shallow scrape within a patch of grass and moss
in the giant lobelia moorlands with small lakes, contained four eggs
that were brownish-blue to smoke-grey and heavily marked with black. The
plover is known to breed in April in the Bale Mountains and in August in
Shoa Region. Other aspects of its life history are unrecorded. Although
locally common, it is one of the least studied plovers in the world.
Wing 212-234 mm
Pigeon - unmistakable with its uniform greyish color, white collar patch
and, in flight, white on the wings is the dominant pigeon on the plateau
above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). It mainly inhabits rugged areas of the
western and southeastern highlands, especially cliffs and escarpments,
but it is also a common feature of many plateau villages and towns where
it lives in association with churches and other large buildings. It also
frequents bridges on the highways and roads of the plateau.
A regular occurrence on the plateau in
the morning is the movement of White-collared Pigeons from their
roosting sites on the cliffs to grain fields where they feed;
occasionally a flock of several hundred individuals may visit these
fields. In the Bale Mountains the pigeons roost at the higher elevations
of up to 3,800 (12,500 feet) in flocks and in meters the morning fly to
lower elevations to feed. In the Semien Mountains they roost usually on
the lower levels of the cliffs at about 2100 meters (7,000 feet) and
every morning slowly spiral up to the tops of the cliffs at 3,200-4,400
meters (10,500-14,500 feet) before moving inland to feed. In late
afternoon they either remain inland and roost in trees, or they return
to the cliffs where they hurtle themselves over the edge and, passing
within a few meters of the cliff-face, fly at very high speeds to their
roosting sites hundreds of feet below.
This pigeon nests most months of the year
(January-June and August-November) on ledges of cliffs, bridges and
houses. Its nest is like most pigeons' nests, made largely of grass
stalks and small sticks. It lays two creamy white and glossy eggs. The
male and female, who may be at the nest at the same time, are alike in
appearance. Despite this pigeon's abundance and its occurrence in large
areas of the plateau, including cities like Addis Ababa little else is
known about its life history.
Wing 160-188 mm
Parrot occurs in Ethiopia from approximately 600 to 3,350 meters
(2,000-1 1,000 feet) in the western and southeastern highlands, the Rift
Valley and the western lowlands in forests and woodlands varying from
St. John's wort and hagenia to olive, podocarpus and juniper to fig and
acacia. It is an uncommon but regular visitor on the Armed Force
Hospital grounds near the old airport in Addis Ababa. One's attention is
usually first attracted to the presence of this species by its loud
squeaky calls and unmusical shrill whistles. Typically one then sees the
greenish parrots with yellowish heads in a small flock of three to eight
individuals, high up in a tree where they are probably feeding. Their
food is thought to be fruit, including baobab if available, sorghum,
maize and seeds. Although this parrot is frequent to locally common and
widely distributed in the country, little is known of its habits: the
time of nesting is not known: the nest and eggs are undescribed. In
fact, this parrot is so poorly known that practically any information an
observer discovers about it will be new to science.
Wing 95-110 mm
Lovebird is the common, small green parrot of the Ethiopian plateau. It
is widely distributed from about 1,500-3,200m. (5,000-10,500 feet) in
the western and southeastern highlands and in the Rift Valley in forests
and woodlands of hagenia, juniper, podocarpus, olive, acacia, candelabra
euphorbia, combretum and fig. It commonly visits gardens, especially
with seeding trees in Addis Ababa. The lovebird flies in noisy flocks
which number usually five to ten individuals although as many as 50 to
80 individuals may be present. It flies swiftly and makes sharp turns at
high speeds; it moves its wings in quick, short flaps, the black under
the wings being obvious then. Both sexes have a large bright red bill;
the male has a red forehead, the female and immature do not.
Although the behavior of captive
Black-winged Lovebirds has been documented in detail, no study of this
species has been done under natural conditions. In captivity the
lovebird is a sociable creature: a pair regularly stands as close
together as possible. The two birds at times bounce their heads and
necks up and down and move around in small circles: they may do this
several times before they stop and press their bodies together again.
The lovebird walks; it does not hop. Under natural conditions it has
been observed to feed on juniper berries, figs and seeds. At night the
birds sleep in holes in trees. It has a shrill twittering call and, in
flight, a sharp whistle.
Amazingly, only one record of the nest
and eggs of the lovebird has been documented: around 1900 one egg was
obtained in April from a hole in a tree; the size and color of the eggs,
details of the nest and the kind of tree were not recorded. Recent
observations on pairing behavior and activities associated with nesting
indicate that this species is a solitary nester, doing so probably from
March through November.
PRINCE RUSPOLI'S TURACO
Wing 180-184 mm
Prince Ruspoli's Turaco
is known in the literature from two areas in southern Ethiopia in
juniper forests with dense evergreen undergrowth: one is at Arero and
the other 80 kilometers north of Neghelli: both localities are 1800
meters (6000 feet) in elevation.
This Turaco was first introduced to
science when Prince Ruspoli collected it in either 1892 or 1893. Since
Prince Ruspoli, an Italian explorer, was killed in an "encounter with an
elephant" in the Lake Abaya area and unfortunately did not leave any
notes about his travels, the locality and date of collection of the
first specimen of this turaco remain unknown.
His Collection was studied by T.
Salvadori in 1896 who named the new turaco in honor of Prince Ruspoli.
In subsequent years several other explorers searched for the turaco;
none were successful until the early 1940's when several specimens were
obtained in the Arero forest. After these specimens were obtained, the
turaco was not reported again until very recently, in the last five
years, when several have been seen and four collected at the locality
north of Neghelli. This turaco is considered to be an endangered species
and is included in the "Red Book" of endangered animals of the world.
However, recent sightings in juniper forests and especially in dry water
courses which include figs, the rubiaceous tree, Adina, and
undergrowth of acacia and Teclea shrubs, suggest that the species
may be more common than thought.
There are no breeding records nor any
recorded observations on the nesting activities of Prince Ruspoli's
Turaco, its nest and eggs are unknown. It has been reported to feed on
fruits of Tecle and Aditicl. Its call has been described as a low
"chirr-clia" and short "te".
Wing 79-84 mm
The little-known Banded
Barbet is very widely distributed throughout Ethiopia between 300 and
2400 meters (1000-8000 feet). Although the numbers and abundance of this
species have not been determined, it seems to vary from being uncommon
in the north west and cast to locally common elsewhere in the country,
living singly or in pairs in trees near water.
It has been reported to eat insects
(beetles) and the fruit of fig trees. The barbet has been described also
to hawk insects like a flycatcher and to hang from a branch up side down
like a tit. Its call notes are metallic and it produces also a
"gr-gr-grgrgr..." in rising tempo. The barbet has been reported to nest
in a hole in a branch of a tree or in a tree or in a stump: the time of
nesting and the eggs have not been described.
Wing 89-99 mm
Woodpecker, is a very uncommon, not often seen endemic of the Ethiopian
highlands from about 1,500 to 2,400 meters (5,000-8,000 feet), although
it has been seen up to approximately 3,200 meters (10,500 feet).
It lives in western and southeastern
highlands in forests, woodlands and savannas and seems to be more
uncommon in the northern than in the southern parts of the country. It
has been reported to haunt especially candelabra euphorbias, junipers
and figs. The male Golden-backed Woodpecker has a green unbarred back
and bright red crown, nape, rump and upper tall coverts. The crown and
nape of the female are ash brown, not bright red.
The woodpecker has been reported to breed
from February-May and possibly in December. No information, however, is
available on its nest, nesting habits, numbers or food. Very little is
known about this species.
Wing 100-105 mm
Swallow was first introduced to science in 1942 when C. W. Bensoii
reported it in southern Ethiopia from Yabelo to Mega in short grass
savana with small acacia thorn bush.
This endemic, related to the Pied-winged
Swallow (Hirundo leucosom a) of western Africa and the Pearl-breasted
Swallow (H. diniidiata) of southern Africa, is common but restricted to
an area of about 4850 square kilometers (3000 square miles) between 1200
and 1350 meters (4000-4500 feet). This restriction has baffled
scientists because there is no obvious explanation, particularly no
natural barriers or boundaries which mark off the area, for such a
limited distribution. In recent years there have been reports of the
swallow in the Addis Ababa area. Studies of this species in the future
may show that its distribution is not so limited as thought.
The species is unique among swallows in
having the greater part of the tail white; the white is very conspicuous
in flight. The White-tailed Swallow is thought to be a sedentary
species, remaining mainly in its home range. It is not associated with
human habitation. C. W. Benson suggested that this swallow may build its
nest in January and February in holes in the tail chimney-shaped ant
hills common in the area. The nest, however, has not been discovered.
Wing 83-95 mm
Long-claw - very similar in both appearance and behavior to the
Yellow-throated Long-claw (Macronyx croceus) of other parts of
Africa - is a common grassland bird of the western and south eastern
highlands except in the extreme north where it does not occur.
Like other long-claws, this Ethiopian
endemic inhabits grasslands and has plumage markings similar to those of
meadowlarks of North and South America (passerine birds that are not
related to long-claws). The Abyssinian Long-claw occurs largely between
1,200 and 3,050 meters (4,000-10,000 feet) but occasionally reaches the
grassland moorlands up to 4100 meters (13,500 feet); it is most common
between 1,800 and 2,750 meters (6,000-9,000 feet).
Living singly or in pairs, this long-claw
is usually seen sitting on a lump of dirt, a rock, a small bush or a
fence. Its black necklace and saffron throat and neck are especially
obvious when it sits. Considered to be "tame and friendly", when
breeding, it nests in February, June, July and August. Its nest is a
cup-like structure raised slightly above the ground and lined with
various grass fibers. The eggs, two or three in number, are glossy, pale
greenish-white and flecked with dull brown. It makes "a clear trilling
little song from a perch or on tile wine, and a piping call note".
Wing 106-122 mm
Cliff-Chat is a bird which is locally frequent to common in the
highlands of most of Ethiopia where it lives in gorges, on cliffs, on
scrubby mountain-sides and in open country among rocks and grasslands;
it is uncommon in the north in Eritrea.
The Chat occurs usually above 2000 meters
(6500 feet) and rarely below 1500 meters (5000 feet). Its preferred
habitat in the country varies. For example, in Eritrea the White- winged
Cliff-Chat lives on rocks and in mountain gorges from 1800 to 2400
meters (6000-8000 feet). In the south in Sidamo it occurs slightly lower
between 1500 and 1800 meters (5000-6000 feet) in hilly downland rather
than rocky country.
Mainly black and chestnut in color, both
sexes of this chat can be readily distinguished when flying by the white
patch on the wings (basal part of primaries). The male Cliff-Chat
(Myrmecocicha cinnamomeiventris), similar in appearance to the
White-winged Cliff-Chat, has a white shoulder patch but not the white
wing patch: in flight the wings of this species are glossy blue-black.
The female White-winged Cliff-Chat is not so strongly colored as the
male; her plumage, especially underneath, is more brownish in color. The
young bird is brownish-black, spotted above and below with dark buff,
like its parents, it too has the distinguishing white wing patch.
The White-winged Cliff-Chat nests during
the rains in June, July and August. Its nest is a compact structure of
grass stems and mosses usually placed in a crevice of a rock. The chat
is occasionally associated with human settlements where it has been
known to nest in holes in stone walls. Its eggs are usually three in
number, glossy, white or greenish-white, and speckled with fine pale
rust color. Its food is undocumented: immatures, however, have been seen
in Addis Ababa in the rains feeding on recently emerged termites. It has
a "modulated flute-like song".
Wing 85-94 mm
The Ruppell's Chat is
uncommon to locally frequent in the western highlands of Shoa, Gojjam,
Gonder, Wollo, Tigre and Eritrea regions. It has not been recorded in
the southeastern highlands nor in the southern portion of the western
highlands. This chat, living singly, in paris or In small parties,
inhabits edges and sides of cliffs and gorges and associated bare rock
above 1800 meters (6000 feet); it shows a distinct preference for high
elevations of the plateau around waterfalls and wet rocks on the tops of
precipitous ravines and cliffs.
The Ruppell's Chat is a wholly black bird
except for a white patch on the inner surface of the wing (inner webs of
the primaries and innermost secondaries) which contrasts sharply with
the black when the bird flies. When sitting, the Chat has the habit of
flitting its tail high over its back. Its time of nesting has not been
definitely recorded although in December a pair was once seen building a
nest in a crack on a cliff-face in Eritrea. Details of the nest have not
been recorded nor have the eggs. The Ruppell's Chat is one of the
poorest known of all Ethiopian endemics.
Wing 83-91 mm
The Abyssinian Catbird
- one of the finest, if not the finest singer of all the birds of Africa
- is frequent to common in the western and southern highlands between
1800 and 3500 meters (600-11,500 feet) in giant heath, St. John's wort,
highland bamboo, juniper, podocarpus and olive forests. It lives singly,
in pairs or in parties up to eight often in thickets and vines that
fringe these forests.
It is found as far north as the Semien
Mountains, it does not occur in Eritrea. The catbird is a resident
garden bird of plateau cities; for example, it is a regular inhabitant
in Addis Ababa in gardens with large trees, for instance, embassies,
hotels and many private compounds.
One usually first notices the catbird
when it sings. The birds, which appear to be territorial, are intense
singers in the rains when a male and a female often duet persistently.
The male, stretching his neck skyward and holding his wings out at the
bend, vigorously produces a long clear ringing song: the female answers
with a churring or purring note. Because the little-known catbird lives
in dense parts of thickets, it is sometimes difficult to see.
Distinguishing features are its general greyish, color, dirty, white
forehead and chestnut belly and undertail coverts.
This endemic is known to feed on juniper
berries, but other items in its diet are not known. It certainly nests
in May and July; it probably nests from February through July. The nest
is a small, frail, thin, cup-like structure of plant stems placed
loosely in a tangle of vines; one was discovered five meters up in a St.
John's wort tree. The eggs, two in number, are pale flesh-colored and
uniformly covered with fine flesh marks and a few dark chestnut spots.
The classification of the catbird is not
well understood: it may be a flycatcher or a babbler. Recent evidence,
based on plumage characters, indicates that the Abyssinian Catbird is a
babbler whose nearest relative may be the Bush Blackcap, also called
Blackcap Babbler (Lioptilus nigricapillus), found in the thickets
and forests of eastern South Africa.
WHITE-BACKED BLACK TIT
Wing 71-81 mm
The Whlte-backed Black
Tit, wholly black with a whitish mantle, is found in woodlands, thickets
and forests in the western and southeastern highlands from 1800-3500
meters (6000-11,500 feet).
It is locally frequent to occasionally
common except in Eritrea, where it is uncommon. One usually notices
first its typical tit-like call, it is seen in small parties or in
pairs, in trees or bushes especially along small stream valleys in the
wooded areas high up on the plateau. Its habits have not been recorded.
It may nest in January; its nest and eggs are not described. It is
indeed little known.
Wing 64-70 mm
Seed-eater is known from a few isolated areas in acacia-grass savanna in
southern and southeastern Ethiopia. It is a species of questionable
taxonomic status since it may be a hybrid between the Yellow-rumped
Seed-eater (S. atrogularis) and the White-bellied Canary (S.
dorostritus). It has a grey back and is similar in size to the
Yellow-rumped Seed-eater but has streaks on the back and a long tail
like the White-bellied Canary. Further evidence for considering the
Yellow-throated Seed-eater a hybrid is that it is known only from
localities where both the Yellow-rumped Seed-eater and the White-bellied
Canary would be expected to occur as well.
The habits of the Yellow-throated
Seed-eater are unknown. Its nest and eggs are undescribed. Most
ornithological references maintain that, until the Yellow-throated
Seed-eater is better known, it should be considered a separate species.
It is on this basis that the bird is included here and therefore is
considered to be another species found only in Ethiopia.
Wing 74-80 mm
The Black-headed Siskin
is common to locally abundant in tile western and southeastern highlands
from 1800-4100 meters (6000-13,500 feet). Almost always in flocks, this
little-known finch inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, alchemilla,
tussock grass and giant heath, highland grasslands and the open areas of
montane forests, especially St. John's wort and hagenia. Flocks are
regularly seen alongside the road to Gaferssa Reservoir west of Addis
The male Black-headed Siskin is the only
yellow finch with a black head in the highlands of Ethiopia. The female
is similar but her head and neck are dull olive green with some black
present oil the top and sides of head, chin and throat.
It breeds in the higher levels of the
plateau in bushes and low trees in May, June, September, October and
November. Its nest is a well-made, compact, deep cup-like structure
fitted with moss, lichens, stems and small roots. Its eggs, two or three
in number, are bluish-white with a few brown spots.
Wing 151-165 mm
Starling is frequent to locally abundant in the western and southeastern
highlands, being most common in the north. Widely distributed in the
country, it usually lives in association with cliffs and gorges near
waterfalls. It also inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, alchemilla,
tussock grass and giant heath and highland grasslands: it rarely travels
below 1800 meters (6000 feet).
Its square tail and white bill
distinguish the White-billed Starling from other red-wing/chestnut-wing
starlings. It feeds on the fruits of juniper and fig trees often in
groups of five to 40 non-breeding birds. It nests in June in Eritrea in
crannies high up on sheer cliffs, sometimes in association with the
These starlings also inhabit
buildings where they occasionally nest: for example, one pair was seen
nesting is October under the eaves of a church at Ankober. Details of
the nest and the eggs of this species have not been described, however.
Its call is "loud and monotonous". Other details of its life history are
unknown. Mackworth-Praed and Grant - authors of several books on birds
of Africa --- have compared this starling's habits with those of the
Bristle-crowned Starling (Onychognathus
BLACK HEADED FOREST ORIOLE
Wing 128-145 mm
numbers, time of nesting and life history of the Black-headed Forest
Oriole are not clearly understood because of the difficulty of
distinguishing it from the Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus).
The two are separable by the color of parts of wings feathers, features
that are not easy to see in the field.
The outer margins of the flight feathers
(primaries) and the outer secondaries of the Forest Oriole are grey; the
inner secondaries, mainly olivaceous-yellow, are edged in grey on the
The outer margins of the primaries and
outer secondaries of the Black-headed Oriole are white; the inner
secondaries, mainly black, are edged in pale yellow on the outer webs.
In the field the two species are partially separable by habitats, the
haunts of each differing somewhat. The Black-headed Forest Oriole
inhabits evergreen forest (olive, podocarpus) and juniper woods of the
highlands; it is absent in lowland dry acacia thorn scrub country. The
Black-headed Oriole lives in the lowland dry acacia thorn scrub country
and the juniper woods of the highlands; it does not inhabit the highland
The Black-headed Forest Oriole occurs in
the western and southeastern highlands, the Rift Valley and southern
Ethiopia from about 1200-3200 meters (4000-10,500 feet). It is frequent
in the north, common to abundant in the south. It breeds in August and
possibly July. It has three calls: a rich and loud "li", a harsh
"skaa-skaa" and three or four liquid whistling notes slurred together.
The nest, eggs and other aspect of its life history have not been
Wing 137-150 mm
- reported to science for the first time in 1938 - is a frequent to
common bird in a restricted area of about 2400 square kilometers (1500
sq. miles) around Yabelo, Mega and Arero in southern Ethiopia.
This species' distribution to the north
and south is limited probably by elevation and consequent change in
habitat: in the north the land be- comes higher and mountainous, in the
south, lower and more open. The areas to the east and west of its
present distribution are of similar elevation and include park-land
acacia country of the type that it is found in ; yet the bush-crow does
not occur in either area. This phenomenon has fascinated scientists ever
since the species was discovered.
The bush-crow looks somewhat like a
starling. Even its nest, is starling-like. It also associates with
starlings, like the White-crowned Starling (Spreo albicapillus);
mixed parties of the two are not uncomrnon in the Yabelo-area. Yet the
curved bill, the bristles which extend well over the nostrils and the
bare area around the eyes suggest that the bush-crow is not a starling
but a member of the crow family, probably related to choughs
The bush-crow travels in parties of
about six or so from June to February. In February and March it builds
its nest some five to six meters from the ground on top of an acacia.
The nest is a globular structure composed of thorn-twigs 30 or more
centimeters (1 foot) long. The untidy nest, about 60 centimeters (2
feet) in diameter, has an inside chambers 30 centimeters in diameter,
whose floor is lined with dung and dry grass. The entrance to the
chamber is from the top and is protected by a vertical tubular tunnel
some 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. The general appearance of the nest
is of a vertical cylinder tapering towards the top with the entrance
tunnel at the summit. The bush-crow is not a colonial nester; three
individuals of unknown sex, however, have been seen to frequent one
nest. It lays eggs, up to six in number, that are smooth, glossy and
cream-colored with blotches of pale lilac. The only reported call of the
bush-crow is a high pitched "chek". With both starling-like and
crow-like affinities, this is a fascinating species to study.
Wing 427-472 mm
The Thick-billed Raven,
closely related to the White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis) of
East and South Africa, is a bird which is common to abundant from about
1200 to at least 4100 meters (4000 .13,500
feet). It visits many habitats including alpine screes, Cliffs and
gorges, giant lobelia-chemilla-tussock grass-glant heath moorlands,
highland grasslands, giant lieath, St. John's wort, bamboo, juniper,
podocarpus, olive and lowland subtropical humid forests.
It is especially abundant at higher
elevations where it is obvious and sometimes bold around camps, villages
and cities including Addis Ababa.
It is a frequent and persistent visitor
to camps of travelers, where it scavenges for scraps including those in
ashes of camp fires. This raven accompanies Lammergeiers (Gypaettus
barbatus) when they drop bones and will steal from them if given a
chance. Ravens sometimes also kill small rodents out on the open
moorlands and grasslands and, by holding the huge arched bill
up-side-down scatter dung to obtain insects. They feed on grain where
"whole corners of the field (have) been cleared by them."
The Thick-billed Raven is easily
recognized by the large curved, white-tipped bill and the white nape at
the top of the neck. In flight, its neck extends forward, giving the
raven a somewhat hornbill-like appearance. They are excellent fliers and
soarers, often performing in formation along sheer cliff-faces. Two
birds may give magnificent aerial displays, occasionally clenching feet
and descending together for some 200 meters or so.
They nest in December, January and
February on rocks and high up in trees. Details of the nest are unknown,
as are the eggs. Although they usually live in pairs and are
territorial, they sometimes congregate in parties of four to ten
individuals. During courtship, the male feeds the female. He finds a
morsel of food, then flies with it to a branch where he sits and calls
his partner. She comes to him and flutters her wings, after which he
feeds her. During this ceremony, the two birds produce hoarse gurgling
and choking noises. Their typical call note, however, is a throaty
"phlurk-phlurk" which has been described also as harsh and guttural or
as a croak, which sounds as if the bird had "lost its voice" and was
suffering from a "sore throat".
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