Montecasino Bird Gardens in South Africa

July 17, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Situated in the midst of the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg, South Africa, Montecasino Bird Gardens is home to more than sixty species of birds, along with a variety of small mammals, amphibians and reptiles from around the world. With pathways winding through lush gardens and a huge walk-through aviary, visitors can enjoy a tropical paradise and get back to nature without leaving the city.

One of the highlights of a visit to this award winning attraction is the Flight of Fantasy show which take place weekdays at 11h00 and 15h00, with an extra show at 13h00 on weekends and public holidays. Staged at the beautifully crafted Tuscan amphitheater, trainers guide talented and colorful birds through a forty minute performance that is both educational and entertaining, with (quite literally) the biggest star of the show being Oliver, the Southern White Pelican.

Features of Montecasino Bird Gardens include the largest collection of South African Cycads in the world, with 37 different species and over 750 plants, the oldest of which is estimated to be older than 2,500 years. The Lorikeet aviary offers visitors the opportunity to feed these colorful birds their favorite treat of nectar, while Macaws and Cockatoos roam freely in the park’s Parrot Gallery. In addition to a variety of frogs, the Frog Room features scorpions and spiders. Reptiles at Montecasino include a six-meter Reticulated Python as well as all of Southern Africa’s most venomous snakes, including the Black Mamba and Puff Adder. Resident mammals include Lemurs, Meerkats, Sloths and Blue Duikers.

Among the latest arrivals at Montecasino Bird Gardens are Laughing Kookaburras and Blue-Wing Kookaburras, Caribbean Flamingoes, Green-Naped Pheasant Pigeons and Keel-Billed Toucans. One of Montecasino’s ambassadors for conservation is Moholoholo the Cape Vulture. Named for the rehabilitation center in Hoedspruit which nursed him back to health after being poisoned by farmers who were attempting to eradicate predatory jackals. Moholoholo was the only survivor of his eighteen member family. Through the dedication of the staff at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center, the bird was taught to walk and fly again and now helps to educate the public on the necessity of conservation.

Visit the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

January 31, 2012 by  
Filed under Features

Established in 2006, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary in South Africa cares for more than 180 birds representing 50 different raptor species. The sanctuary’s permanent residents have either been bred in captivity, or have sustained injuries which significantly limit their chances of survival in the wild. Located close enough to both Durban and Pietermaritzburg to allow easy access for a day trip, the sanctuary offers unique insight into South Africa’s amazing predatory birds which is both educational and entertaining.

The sanctuary’s permanent residents include vultures, eagles, falcons, kestrels, goshawks, sparrowhawks, buzzards, hawks, kites and owls. Many of the birds have been named, with a record of their rescue story available to visitors. Eagles are rightly viewed as the mightiest of the birds of prey and the sanctuary’s Eagle Alley allows visitors a close up look at some of these majestic birds. Other sections of the sanctuary are Hoot Hollow for the owls; Honeycomb Habitats housing diurnal raptors; and the Vulture Hide with its eight indigenous vulture species, all of which are considered to be threatened.

In addition to being a popular tourism attraction, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is dedicated to ongoing research, including breeding and rehabilitation projects, with a view to conserving the birds in their natural South African environment. The Raptor Rescue operation run by the sanctuary is kept separate from the public area and is not open to visitors. If rescued birds are to be rehabilitated and released into the wild again, it is in their best interests not to be exposed to too many people. In addition to being stressful for them, too much interaction with humans could make the birds tame, thereby hampering their chances of survival in the wild. For research purposes birds are ringed before being released into a suitable habitat, if possible where they were found.

One of the most exciting features of the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary is the flying display, and visitors should be sure to plan their day to include one of these demonstrations, bearing in mind that they are weather dependent. Flying display times are Monday to Friday at 10:30am, and at 10:30am and 3pm on weekends and public holidays. As a privately funded conservation initiative, the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary relies on entrance fees to continue their work. So, why not support this worthy cause, and enjoy an outing you are not likely to forget.

Young Penguins Fitted with Monitors

July 19, 2011 by  
Filed under News

The African Penguin, also referred to as the Jackass Penguin, might be a little awkward on land, but can definitely hold its own in the water as a very efficient hunter. Tourists who visit Cape Town, South Africa, and see the beauty of these birds do not realize that they are actually witnessing a very rare moment, as the population of these birds has decreased from approximately four million in the 1900s. The last census done by the Southern African Foundation of the Conservation of Coastal Birds in 2010 counted only sixty thousand. This alarming decrease has led to the creation of a new project to protect these valuable birds.

Humans, as the story usually goes, had a great influence in the reduction of numbers of African Penguins, as up until the 1960s the penguin eggs were being harvested for human consumption. Another factor was the harvesting of guano that was used as fertilizer, but is crucial for adult penguins, as they use the hardened guano to make nest burrows. To add to the penguins’ problems, oil spills and over harvesting of anchovies and other fish species that are a part of their diet has made their fight for survival even harder.

Scientists want to try and create artificial hatcheries to assist in the breeding of African Penguins for release, but to recreate the hatcheries efficiently, it is vital for them to have the correct information to understand the penguins better. In order to do this they have attached a transmitter, which is approximately the size of a matchbox, to baby penguins that are about ten weeks of age. The penguins are first placed in a pool so they can get used to swimming with the transmitter and then released into the ocean. One penguin has already been released, and a penguin named Richie is due for release. Scientists will be releasing approximately five penguins with transmitters.

Dr Richard Sherley, a key member of the scientific team from the University of Cape Town, commented that he hoped that the data collected would allow them to understand what influences breeding colonies in the choices they make and the early life of a penguin, as these questions have not been answered as yet. Lucy, which was the first penguin to be released, has already transmitted back data, which showed scientists that young penguins are able to swim approximately twenty-eight miles in one day. Sherley commented that because no-one really knows much about the early days and life of young penguins, it is crucial for them to collect this data to assist in their conservation projects. The transmitters will eventually fall off of the penguins, but it is hoped that by then enough information has been gathered to assist scientists in finding the ideal breeding site for a colony that can be protected and will be the site of the hatchery.

Stanford Strettons Bird Fair 2010

September 28, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The Stanford Strettons Bird Fair 2010 is an event that birding enthusiasts in South Africa should not miss out on. It is a weekend filled with magnificent activities and workshops, that not only highlight the breathtaking bird life of the region, but the wildlife and natural wonders of the Western Province. Self guided tours will be available for bird lovers to enjoy, as well as a fascinating talk by Naas Terblance called The Sound of Birds, gin tastings, photography competitions, boat trips and much more.

The Stanford Birding website has all relevant information available in regard to the bird fair and can be explore at http://www.stanfordbirding.co.za/.

Date: 1 – 3 October 2010
Venue: Various
City: Stanford, Cape Town
Country: South Africa

Birdlife Cheese and Wine 2010

July 14, 2010 by  
Filed under Events

The Birdlife SA association will be hosting the Birdlife Cheese and Wine 2010, to raise funds for bird conservation and birdlife awareness projects. Guest speakers such as David Chamberlain, Mark Anderson and Alan Knott-Craig will captivating audiences with their fascinating information on birds, photography and bird watching adventures that wait to be discovered. It is an opportunity to support the conservation efforts in South Africa and to be educated on the beautiful birds of the country.

For more information, visit the Birdlife SA website at http://www.birdlife.org.za/page/6090/fundraisers.

Date: 17 August 2010
Venue: Irene Country Lodge
City: Irene
Country: South Africa

Stanford Glendower Bird Fair 2009

September 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Events

The sixth annual Stanford Glendower Bird Fair will kick off with whiskey tasting from the sponsors, at Oak Grove Farm on the 1st of October 2009. Extraordinary prizes have been allocated for the photographic competition, with guided walks, boat trips, picnics and workshops being organized for the fair. Some of the guest speakers to look forward to include Odette Cutis, Dr. Anton Odendaal, Dave de Beer, Doug Newman and Naas Terblanche. Bonfires and cabaret entertainment have also been added to the line-up, ensuring that the Stanford Glendower Bird Fair is unforgettable.

For more information in regard to the fair and the scheduled activities, kindly log onto the follow site: www.stanfordbirding.co.za.

Date: 1 – 4 October 2009
Venue: Various
City: Overberg
Country: South Africa

The Albatross Task Force Project

February 25, 2009 by  
Filed under Features

South Africans are fast gaining recognition for taking initiative and trying new things. Most recently they have enjoyed a lot of success in efforts aimed at minimizing the number of endangered albatrosses killed in fishing nets annually. Conservationists are now looking at how the project can be expanded.

Albatrosses do not generally receive a lot of public attention, but they are certainly no less important than other birds. This large sea bird is currently facing a huge dilemma – as many as three quarters of albatross species are at the brink of extinction. The main cause for their demise is the fact that they are easily entangled in long fishing lines which are dropped into the water to catch fish such as tuna. The bird then swoops down on the baited lines to which it is attracted, quickly becomes entangled in the lines and it is then eventually pulled underwater where it drowns. It would seem to be such a simple problem to solve, but up until now conservationists have not have much success in helping to stem the number of fishing industry-related deaths.

Fortunately a South African initiative called the Albatross Task Force (ATF) project has now found a way to make the lines safer and so reduce the probability of the birds being drawn to them and becoming entangled. The project’s main preservation technique involves attaching brightly colored streamers to the back of the vessels. These streamers, known as tori lines, flap in the wind and scare the birds away, so helping them to avoid becoming entangled. The initiative also looks at educating fishermen so as to help them avoid catching albatrosses. They share specialist knowledge with the fishermen and also encourage them to fish at night when activity is low. Finding more effective ways to keep the lines down under the water is also encouraged. While changing entrenched attitudes takes time, new laws stipulating that no more than 25 birds may be caught during fishing trips is a very powerful motivator.

So far the Albatross Task Force project has been incredibly successful in helping these endangered birds to avoid premature deaths. The project was launched in 2006 and in 2008 the number of birds killed by fisheries in South Africa dropped by an incredible 85%. Expanding the project to encompass other countries is simply the next logical step, and the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds is very supportive of the move. Hopefully this creative and forward-thinking initiative will save yet another bird species from extinction.

Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica)

February 9, 2009 by  
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The Purple Gallinule (Porphyrula martinica) is a truly beautiful wader bird. Their brightly colored feathers makes it hard to take your eyes off them. They are 10.5 inches in length with a wingspan of 21 inches, and do not fly very well. This water bird is quite big with a very short tail and a short bill. The Purple Gallinule has purple-blue plumage over its neck, breast, head and its belly. They have red eyes, yellow legs and their bills are red with a yellow tip. The frontal shield, that is located just above the bill, is pale blue and the back and upper wings are covered in green and blue plumage. Both the males and females are similar in appearance.

They are generally located in the areas of the southeastern and northern United States, Argentina, Northern Mexico and the Gulf Coast. However, they have been sighted across Europe and in South Africa. During the breeding season they will migrate to the southeastern parts of the United States.

The Purple Gallinule is a marsh bird that feeds on spiders, water plants, frogs, grasshoppers, dragonflies, fruits, seeds and other insects. It therefore prefers to live in freshwater marshes that have lily pads and pickerelweed as vegetation. Being a wader, the Gallinule is able to distribute its weight evenly to enable them walk on lily pads.

Nests are constructed from leaves and tree stems, and are built in a thicket, sawgrass or on a tussock that floats on the water. The purple Gallinules female will lay approximately 6 to 9 eggs that are cream in color with brownish spots. Both parents will assist in the 18 days incubation period, and have a strange ritual regarding this. When it is time to change over the incubating duties, the one Gallinule will bring the bird presently incubating the eggs a leaf. The leaf will then be placed within the nest, before the shift is changed over. Both the male and female will assist in feeding the chicks once they have hatched. The young are able to walk on the lily pads almost immediately and can enjoy a lifespan of approximately 22 years.

Green Woodhoopoe Displays Remarkable Team Spirit

September 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Ongoing research into bird behavior continues to reveal fascinating facts about the multitude of feathered creatures that share our planet. Results from recent research indicates that when a rival flock has defeated them in a raucous show of superiority, Green Woodhoopoes display supportive behavior to their fellow flock-mates in a manner that researchers have likened to football fans commiserating with one another when the team they are supporting loses.

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Foraging Birds Keep Guard

April 21, 2008 by  
Filed under Features

Researchers have recently discovered that certain bird species make use of a sentry when searching for food. This remarkable finding gives us fascinating insight into the survival tactics used by certain bird species.

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