Meet the birds in your backyard

Picture of Hedda InderthalFrom common garden pigeons to the most beautiful birds of prey – all have been sighted right here in Wynberg.  HEDDA INDERTHAL (left), scientist and WRRA exco member for conservation and environment, compiled this comprehensive guide to the birds of our suburb, based on sightings by residents.

We could not find pictures of all the birds. If you can contribute a picture, please email it to us.

Download a printable version of this article (pdf format)

Song- and Garden Birds

Barn Swallow/European Swallow (Hirundo rustica)

Small, deeply forked tail, rufous throat and forehead, glossy steel-blue above and white underneath, feeds by circling in large flocks and catching insects in flight, non-breeding Palearctic migrant, visits us between September and early May.

Cape Canary (Serinus canicollis)

Pic of Cape Canary

Endemic to South Africa. Small, yellow-greenish looking bird with triangular beak, usually in flocks, frequents shrublands, woodlands and grasslands, eats seeds, flowers, buds, fruit and insects.

Cape Bulbul (Pycnonotus nigricans)

Picture of Cape bulbul

Small to medium size, dark-brown above with yellow vent, white eye-ring,  endemic to South-Eastern RSA, usually in pairs, fruit, insects, nectar and seeds.

Cape Robin-Chat Cossypha caffra

Cape robin-chatSmall to medium size, likes thickets and forested areas, eats insects and fruit, monogamous, pairs stay together and stay in the same territory for life.

Cape Sparrow (Passer melanurus)

Picture of Cape sparrow

Small, thick triangular beak, black head with distinctive white C marking on males, females brownish, gregarious, eats seeds, insects, fruit, plant material and nectar.

Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens)

Picture of Cape White-eye

Little greenish yellow bird with white eye-ring, endemic to SA, in small parties, eats insects, fruit and nectar.

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Common chaffinch

Small, sparrow-size, introduced by Rhodes in 1898, now restricted to area from Newlands to Tokai, likes exotic plantations, parks and gardens, eats seeds and insects.

Common Fiscal/Fiscal Shrike (Lanius collaris)

Picture of common fiscal

Small but robust, black above with white “V” and white underneath, longish tail and hooked, hawk-like beak, females have chestnut patches on flanks that are not always visible when perching, lives in woodland, parks and gardens, preys on insects, small vertebrates like birds, reptiles and rodents, also food scraps and seed, called Butcher Bird because of predatory behaviour and impaling prey on thorns

Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Slightly shorter and smaller than the Red-winged Starling, glossy iridescent plumage with flecks, introduced from Europe to the Cape, in small flocks, eats insects, small animals and fruit.

Fork-Tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis)

Medium-size, all black with forked tail, red eyes, singly or in pairs, likes forest and woodland, catches insects in flight, also sometimes eats ticks, small birds and nectar.

Klaas’s Cuckoo (Chrysococcyx klaas)

Small to medium, all beautiful green above, white below, likes woodland habitats, eats mostly caterpillars and butterflies, brood parasite.

Olive Thrush (Turdus olivaceus)

Picture of olive thrush

Medium, about Starling-size, singly or in pairs, likes shrubby and treed areas and forages in undergrowth for insects, earthworms and fruit.

Pied Crow (Corvus albus)

Large black crow with white breast and neck band, adapted to wide range of habitats, including city centres, omnivorous , acrobatic flier, mobs and displaces birds of prey.

Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura)

Picture of Pin-tailed whydah

Small with black and white plumage and red bill, male with foot-long tail only in breeding season, woodland, grassland and gardens, eats mainly seeds, one male breeds with more than one female.

Red-faced Mousebird (Urocolinus indicus)

Picture of Red-faced mousebird

Small to medium, soft grey plumage, with red facial skin, moves in flocks and eats mostly fruit, also leaves, flowers and nectar, breeds cooperatively with both sexes incubating the eggs.

Red-winged Starling  (Onychognathus morio)

Shiny black with red wingbar, females have grey plumage on head and face, males shiny black like the rest of the body, juveniles look likes males, which is quite unusual for birds, indigenous to South Africa, in flocks or pairs, eats fruit, insects and some nectar, breeds monogamously with pairs remaining together for many years.

Southern Double-Collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus)

Small, endemic to South Africa, male iridescent green with narrow blue and red chest band, female grey-brown, eats nectar and insects.

Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis

Swee waxbillEndemic to South Africa, small, with distinctive markings, soft “swee-swee” call, enjoys edges of forests, plantations and gardens, eats grass seeds and Buddleja buds.

Doves and Pigeons

Cape Turtle Dove (Streptopelia capicola)

Similar in appearance to Red-eyed Dove, but smaller and without red eye, absent from forests preferring woodland, open savanna, farmlands, parks and gardens, eats seeds of grasses, cereals, shrubs and trees, also fruit, earthworms and some insects, characteristic call sounding like “work harder, work harder”.

Red-Eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata)

Picture of Red-eyed dove

Largest grey-looking dove in the region, same size as feral pigeon, but distinguished by uniform grey appearance, lack of iridescence and spots on plumage, and with red skin eye ring and black collar on back of the neck, eats seeds of grasses, shrubs, trees and grains, also small fruit, makes the commonly heard “KOO-KOO, ku-ku koo koo”.

Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)

Picture of laughing dove

Smallest dove, smaller than red-winged Starling, pinkish breast patch with black flecks, flapping wings make laughing sound, especially when taking off steeply, eats seeds from grasses, shrubs and trees, also fruit, rhizomes and bulbs.

Speckled Pigeon/Rock Pigeon (Columba guinea)

Pictures of speckled and feral pigeons

Speckled pigeons (above) and a feral pigeon (below)

Not to be confused with the exotic feral pigeon, slightly smaller but very similar in size, has characteristic red eye-ring, usually in flocks of 10 – 20 individuals, frequents mountainous areas, buildings, feeding in adjacent lands and fields on seeds and green shoots.

Birds of Prey

African Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides typus)

Picture of African harrier hawk

Large grey hawk with yellow legs and face, likes woodland habitats, eats eggs and nestlings of other birds, small mammals, reptiles, frogs and insects, has been observed to catch and eat doves in Wynberg (photo by Kate Cluer)

Black Sparrowhawk (Accipiter melanoleucus)

Picture of Black sparrowhawk

Similar in size to African-Harrier-Hawk, but lacking yellow face, black above and variably white and black below, secretive, inhabiting forests, woodlands and tree plantations, feeds on birds, especially pigeons and doves.

Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus)

Large brown and white barred owl, important predator of rodents!, wide range of habitats, nests in variety of sites, in trees and on buildings.

Ground- and Water Birds

African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus)

Similar in size to well-known Hadeda Ibis, white with black head, neck and tail, frequents margins of wetlands, dams, ponds and cultivated fields, eats invertebrates, insects, frogs, reptiles, fish and refuse, generally silent, lives in colonies.

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptica)

Common with widespread  movements, inland waters and fields, male only hisses while female honks, eats vegetable matter like grass, rhizomes and tubers.

Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)

Usually in pairs or small groups seen probing soil with long, curved beaks, grey with iridescent blue/green wings, eats large invertebrates, earthworms and insects.

Hartlaub’s Gull (Larus hartlaubii)

Endemic to Namibian and South African West and South coastal areas, colonial, eats fish, snails, invertebrates and scavenges on waste.

Helmeted Guinea Fowl  (Numida meleagris)

Widespread and common, but decreasing in numbers in some regions since the 80ies, eats insects, seeds, bulbs, tubers and fruit, concealed communal nest on the ground.

Redknobbed Coot (Fulica cristata)

Black, with white beak and two red little knobbles on the head, utilizes wide range of freshwater bodies, mainly eats plant material, but also insects and seeds, floating nest of vegetation.

Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)

Picture of Spotted thick-knee

Adorable cream and brown spotty ground bird with long yellow legs and beautiful big yellow eyes, nocturnal, open grassland, parks and gardens, eats insects (mozzies!) makes those mournful drawn-out cries at night, monogamous breeder, nests on the grounds and very camouflaged babies sometimes seen flat and motionless on the ground with parents – so please keep dogs away.

Yellow-Billed Egret (Egretta intermedia)

Entirely white plumage, yellow bill and legs, with black downwards from the knee, lives close to shallow water margins and flooded grassland, eats mostly fish, frogs and aquatic insects.

Visitors – let us know if you spot them in Wynberg!

African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis)

Picture of African finfoot

About 55 cm long cormorant with distinctive orange-red bill, usual range from coastal Eastern Cape and KZN to throughout Mpumalanga, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, secretive and easily overlooked, favours slow streams with overhanging vegetation, eats insects, crabs, snails, frogs and snails.

Cape Cormorant (Phalacrocorax neglectus)

Endemic to SA and NEAR THREATENED, all black with orange throat-patch below the beak, inshore marine habitats, lagoons and estuaries, eats fish and lives in colonies.

Cape Teal (Anas capensis)

Little duck with pink bill, usually in open saline and brackish wetlands, eats insects and tadpoles.

Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

Picture of common moorhen

Smaller than Red-knobbed Coot, solitary or in pairs, enjoys freshwater bodies with emergent vegetation, omnivorous.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)

Picture of grey heron

Stands over one meter tall, bill yellow when not breeding and dark above in juvenile, frequents estuaries, shallow rivers, lakes and marshes, active both in the day and at night, eats mainly fish, but also snails, worms and insects, small rodents and birds, usually nests in colonies in trees or reedbeds.

Lesser Flamingo (Phoenicopterus minor)

Likes eutrophic (nutrient-rich) shallow wetlands, eats microscopic algae and diatoms, lives in colonies and builds cone mud nest, NEAR THREATENED.

Read more: What the birdwatchers saw

Birds . . . and your pet

Picture of cat stalkin gbird

If you enjoy and want to protect the wildlife in your neighbourhood and you have cats, consider letting them wear a collar with a little bell, warning birds of their presence. You get some very soft comfy and nice-looking ones that have an emergency release so kitty can’t get choked if she gets caught on something. Also, don’t let your dog chase birds if you can avoid it, especially during the breeding season and when non-fledgling babies are around. Thank you for being considerate. Remember they were here first.


Hugh Chittenden, 2007: Roberts Bird Guide, John Voelcker Bird Book Fund


1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s