Did you know?
Paradise flycatchers occur throughout sub-Saharan Africa, and their ‘dialects’ seem to differ between regions.
You’re walking through a densely wooded area and suddenly a bright creature flits past you, like something out a fairy tale.
If its body is brilliant chestnut colour and its head a bluish-black, it’s probably a paradise flycatcher. If the tail is fantastically long and its eyes and beak ringed with cobalt blue, it’s a male paradise flycatcher in full breeding colours. The females are similar, but have shorter tails and are duller in colour.
These are woodland birds, common from the Western Cape right up through KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. Yet they never fail to make you feel as if you have gazed upon something surpassingly rare.
It is a delight to chance upon an active nest. Paradise flycatchers are monogamous and spend equal times on the nest. They will tolerate fairly close human presence, which can mean excellent pictures if you are discreet and quick.
The nest itself is an exquisitely crafted structure. Small, neat and barely larger than an egg-cup, it is made with grasses, bark and dry leaves, then covered with spider webs and lichen and lined with animal hair.
Even better is what leads up to the nesting process. The long-tailed males put on a memorable display to attract the females, sometimes courting several at a time.
First the male will fly across a clearing, bobbing in flight so that his tail undulates to best advantage. Then he settles on a branch and raises his crest, sweeping his tail back and forth and quivering his wingtips, opens his beak to show the brilliant yellow inside. To press home his advantage, he sometimes launches into a little jig. As a finale, he fans his tail, droops his wings and calls plaintively.
As their name hints, they eat insects, but they don’t limit themselves to flies. They hover and dart under leaves to catch beetles, butterflies, moths, flying termites, cicadas, ants and even spiders.
More in keeping with their sprite-like mien, they also eat berries.