Kruger Park’s Big 6
You know about the Big 5 ¬ lion, leopard, buffalo, elephant and rhino ¬ but do you know about the Big 6 ¬ the 6 big birds most highly prized by birders? They are the lappet-faced vulture, the martial eagle, the saddle-billed stork, the Kori bustard, the ground hornbill and Pel’s fishing owl.
I’ve just come back from the Kruger National Park, and was lucky enough to spot 5 of them, but then I know where to look. So here’s the lowdown for you.
- You’ll find the lappet-faced vulture on a kill - he’s usually the first to rip open the carcass with his strong beak and huge talons. He’s South Africa’s biggest vulture with an unmistakable red ugly face. You can also spot him perched on dead trees in company with other smaller vultures.
- The martial eagle, a handsome bird with a brown crown and white breast, is our biggest eagle. Look for him perched high on dead trees. (Most large raptors prefer dead trees for ease of movement.)
- The endangered saddle-billed stork - there are fewer than a 100 left in Kruger - are handsome white and black birds with a yellow ‘saddle’ on top of their long, red and black beaks. Look for them paddling in dams and rivers.
- You won’t miss the thigh-high kori bustard - one of the world’s heaviest flying birds - as it stalks regally through dry open savanna looking for frogs, rodents, snakes, insects and seeds.
- Pel’s fishing owl is one of the most sought-after ticks on any birder’s list. Look high up in dense riverine forest where large shady trees overhang water. At night you may be lucky enough to hear its screeching wail - it’s said to sound like a soul in torment.