Unique Names of the Kruger Birds: Part Two

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In the second of this two-part post we take a closer look at the fascinating birds of the Kruger with Ranger Andrew Nicholson…

Yellow-throated Long-claw

Ranger Andrew Nicholson has become fascinated with the various interesting Afrikaans names and behaviours of the birds in the Kruger. Here he continues on from last week; sharing the favourites which have caught his attention.The African Harrier Hawk, formerly known as a Gymnogene, is called a Kaalwangvalk - the “bare cheek falcon” bird. This comes about from the fact that the facial skin is a striking yellow colour in the adult birds. Juveniles have red facial skin, which only changes with time.The cute little bird known as a Chinspot Batis is called a Witliesbosbontrokkie in Afrikaans. Directly translated this means “white groin bush colourful short dress.” I think it took a lot of imagination to come up with this unique name for a pretty little bird.Gestreepte Nuwejaarsvoël (Striped New Year bird), is the Afrikaans name for the Levaillant’s Cuckoo. Despite a bit of research, I was unable to find a conclusive reason for the bird getting this name. The only obvious explanation to this is that the bird is very vocal around the New Year period.Sneeubal (Snowball) is given to the Black-backed Puffback. As the name suggests, this bird puffs the feathers on its back to attract and court with a nearby female. This can also be observed in his territorial display. It literally looks like a snowball flying though the air, hence the clever origin of the bird’s descriptive name.

Lilac-breasted Roller

The Lilac-breasted Roller, undoubtedly the most photographed bird in Southern Africa, is referred to as the Gewone Troupant (The normal wedding band). I understand this comes about from one of two similar myths. The first of which seems slightly more plausible in my mind. When men from various African tribes wanted to marry a woman they would have to go in search of an elusive tail feather from the beautifully coloured bird. Once he found one he would proudly present it to her when asking for her hand in marriage. Today an engagement ring is used as the more modern and somewhat Western alternative.The other story goes something along these lines; the man to be married would use sap from a Leadwood tree to catch the bird itself. He would roll the sap into a ball and place it onto a branch where the bird often perches. When the bird returned to sit on its perch, which was a great vantage point to find insects, it would get stuck. The man would then catch the bird and take a feather before releasing it. He would then wrap the feather around the finger of his wife-to-be and this would stain her finger. Either way, they are both pretty interesting beliefs, but there is no denying that it is one of the most beautiful birds on this planet.Lastly, here are a few other bird names which make me chuckle when their Afrikaans names are directly translated into English:1. Yellow-throated longclaw, Geelkeelkalkoentjie (Yellow throat small turkey),2. Southern Ground Hornbill, Bromvoel (Grumble/growl bird) – because of the interesting deep call they make, often heard when the birds are advertising territory early in the morning,3. Kori Bustard, Gompou (Gum peacock) – because of the habit within the species to eat the gum from Acacia trees.

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