27 June 2013 by Lethabo-Thabo Royds and Andrea Weiss

Beautiful birds of South Africa

South Africa has more than 800 species of birds, making it a fantastic destination for birdwatchers. From the coast to inland, bird lovers will never be short of beautiful sightings.

A mousebird, identified by its long tail, and a bulbul feed together on a flowering aloe. Photo courtesy of Martin Heigan, aka Martin_Heigan

The Love South Africa group on Flickr is constantly updated with fantastic images taken all over the country. Why not share your pictures too?

Each week we select images from this group to share on our blog. This week we celebrate some of the beautiful birds found in South Africa.

South Africa's national bird is the blue crane (below). These impressive birds have a wingspan of up to 2m (6.5 feet) and can often be spotted in the wheat fields of the Overberg in the Western Cape. This photo was taken at the La Grange Bird Park in Boksburg, Gauteng.

Photo courtesy of Sean Sequeira Photo courtesy of Sean Sequeira

Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa, is also home to the Rietvlei Nature Reserve where this cattle egret was photographed close to a white rhino. These egrets often follow large herbivores around because they disturb the insects in the grass that they feed on.

Photo courtesy of Derek Keats Photo courtesy of Derek Keats

One of South Africa's most striking birds of prey is the bateleur eagle, which takes seven to eight years to reach full maturity. Bateleurs characteristically rock their bodies from side to side while flying, behaviour that earned them their name, which is derived from the French for 'tight-rope walker'. This female bateleur was photographed in the Skukuza Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga.

Photo courtesy of Nick Dean, aka Nick Dean1 Photo courtesy of Nick Dean, aka Nick Dean1

The grey go-away bird gets its name from its distinctive warning call that sounds like it is saying 'go away' while raising its crest in alarm. When you walk in the bush these birds will often be the first to give you away. Their diet includes flower petals, fruit, insects, buds, nectar and leaves. This one was photographed in Mpumalanga.

Photo courtesy of Richard Stead, aka Rivertay07 Photo courtesy of Richard Stead, aka Rivertay07

We love this picture of a pied kingfisher because it shows the lovely plumage that distinguishes this bird from other kingfishers. Kingfishers not only eat fish but are also known to prey on crabs and aquatic insects like dragonflies. Look out for them around rivers throughout the country. 

Photo courtesy of Sheldrickfalls Photo courtesy of Sheldrickfalls

The secretary bird, which is endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, prefers open grasslands and are commonly seen in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Northern Cape. There are several theories about their name. One is that the feathers on their heads are reminiscent of the quills that 19th century clerks put in their wigs. Another is that the name is derived from the Arabic phrase 'saqr-et-tair', which means 'hunting bird'. A secretary bird features in the South African Coat of Arms. 

Photo courtesy of James Price, aka hilong2 Photo courtesy of James Price, aka hilong2

Back at the coast, we find a colony of African penguins at Stoney Point near Betty's Bay in the Western Cape These penguins make a distinctive braying sound like donkeys, which earned them their alternative name of 'jackass' penguins. They are under threat due to a decrease in the fish stock they need to feed their young.

Photo courtesy of Matt MacGillivray, aka qmnonic Photo courtesy of Matt MacGillivray, aka qmnonic

The lesser flamingo, found in sub-Saharan Africa, is the smallest of all the flamingo species in the world. The carotenoid, found in the blue-green algae that they feed on, is what gives them their pink colour. These birds were photographed on a lake near Kommetjie, an outlying suburb of Cape Town in the Western Cape.

Photo courtesy of Chris Preen Photo courtesy of Chris Preen

Ending in Knysna in the Western Cape, we find the Knysna turaco (previously called the Knysna lourie). These birds feed on insects, fruit and earthworms, and their distinctive colouring ensures that they are perfectly camouflaged in the indigenous forest where they live. 

Photo courtesy of _Carole_ Photo courtesy of _Carole_

Category: Wildlife

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