Aside from the Sahara and Antarctica, doves are found all over the world. Kenya has more than a dozen species of doves. Doves have stout bodies, short necks and short, slender bills. Their colors are mostly dull in nature.
Doves feed on seeds, fruits, and plants.
Pigeons and doves are in the same family and are sometimes referred to interchangeably. As a rule, doves have longer tails than pigeons. “Dove” tends to be used for smaller species and “pigeon” for larger ones.
Both doves and pigeons are incredibly swift flyers. Most doves are thought to mate for life.
* Why feature doves?
It’s a bit of a circuitous route. Trees Week > W. Maathai, mother of trees > W. Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize laureate > Nobel Peace Prize > peace > peace symbols > doves
The dove is often associated with peace* – and peace is a natural extension of the successful tree planting programs promoted by Wangari Maathai in the fields of Kenya.
“Trees are living symbols of peace and hope.” Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace laureate
Update, April 14, 2020: I have subsequently learned that doves are not associated with peace in African folklore. Apparently, the lilac-breasted roller is thought to bring peace and happiness. Well, darn.
* Update, April 14, 2020: I have subsequently learned that doves are not associated with peace in African folklore. Apparently, the lilac-breasted roller is thought to bring peace and happiness. Well, darn.
Adult Secretary Birds have a featherless red-orange face and black coloring on the wings, thighs and elongated central tail feathers. They also have very long eyelashes. The Secretary Bird gets its name from its crest of long feathers that look like the quill pens office workers tucked behind their ears in the 1800s.
Secretary Birds walk up to 20km a day in search of vipers, cobras and other snakes. They are good fliers and nest and roost high up in acacia trees at night.
Researchers in Hampshire, England have been studying the kicks of a male bird called Madeleine. They’ve found that when a secretary bird kicks a snake in the head, the killer blow can transfer five times the bird’s own weight in a hundredth of a second. They say that studying extreme examples of animal movement could help design fast-moving robot limbs or prosthetics.
*Why feature the Secretary Bird?
I was drawn to the bird because it reminds me of how one of my aunt used to apply her make up.
The Saddle-Billed Stork is one of the more easily identifiable birds in Kenya. Instant identification is made possible by its brilliantly colored kneecaps and bill.
The beak is red with a black band going around the middle, and on the upper side is the yellow “saddle” that includes small wattles that hang below the underside of the beak at the base that look like stirrups.
It is the tallest stork in the world with an 8-1/2 ft wingspan.
The saddle-billed stork has a diet based on fish, crustaceans and amphibians. Because the storks will use their beaks to stir up the water to flush out the fish, this causes the water to become muddy as well as the fish so they often wash their fish before consuming them whole.
The saddle-billed stork is silent because it doesn’t have a syrinx (the vocal organ of birds). Baby chicks must make a hissing sound when wanting their parents’ attention, but in adulthood they are mute. The following video a very quiet view of the saddle-billed stork.
*Why feature the Saddle-Billed Stork?
Even for a novice birdwatcher, this bird should be fairly easy to identify.
Plus, you’ve got to love its built-in orange knee pads.
There are two species of oxpecker, the yellow-billed and the red-billed. The Yellow-billed Oxpecker (image 1) is the more common of the two in Kenya. Both species, also called tickbirds, have olive-brown or grey-brown bodies, wide bills, stiff tails and sharp claws. They cling to cattle and big-game animals to remove ticks, flies, and maggots from their hides. When alarmed, the birds hiss, alerting their hosts to possible danger. Though they rid animals of pests, oxpeckers also take blood from the sores, which may be slow to heal.
The oxpecker populations have been adversely impacted by relentless poisoning, but they live in such a wide range across Africa that they have not approached the classification of Vulnerable.
The Curious Case of the Giraffe and the Oxpecker
Oxpeckers are commonly seen riding along on large mammals while they search their hosts for ticks or open wounds. What’s not so common are the camera-trap images of giraffes at night with these birds using them as movable roosting spots. It is thought that this habit is an adaptation to save the birds time looking for the right animal the following day.
Night images of giraffes show that yellow-billed oxpeckers seem to prefer settling between the hind legs of the giraffe. This may be because it’s a warm spot in winter and keeps them safe from any nocturnal predators.
*Why feature the Oxpecker?
This week’s posts have a sort of Giraffe Week feel to them. Oxpeckers, having a rather important connection to giraffes, fit the theme.