18 August, 2009

Argumentative Little Cuss!

Pintailed whydah
We have a little bird, 12 cm plus 22 cm tail! When he is not sitting in the karee surveying his territory for Other Birds, he is dive-bombing every bird in sight. First he clears the beach, where Jurg spreads the leftover bird seed. He has a harem, two wives so far, who enjoy dining in solitaryx2 splendour in a restaurant cleared of the rabble for their benefit.
The ladies are LBJs (little brown jobs). The resigned Other Bird, having given up on dinner, goes to perch in the tree. Along charges Mr Whydah, his long tail flourished like a little drum major twirling his baton, or a cheerleader with her pompoms. His wings in a blur going 19 to the dozen. And from his flaming red beak flows an unbroken stream of blue four letter words. Then the poor Other Bird hops to the next branch, and Little Cuss zooms right after him, bobbing up and down with rage, the imprecations never stopping. And so we are surrounded by a ring of disgruntled birds glaring across from the neighbours trees.

We feed the birds in a “bird cage” to give them a fighting chance to eat in peace from our cats. Little Cuss can’t get IN there, his tail gets in the way. This one is a sunbird - similar in behaviour to North America's humming-birds.
To really add the crowning insult to injury, having told the other birds, you can’t eat here, you can’t sit here, you can’t BE here! He makes like the cuckoo, whydahs kick out an egg, and leave the long suffering Other Birds to raise their chicks for them.
Facts from Birds of the South Western Cape by Joy Frandsen, 1982
What is a whydah? Named for Ouidah, a town in Benin, West Africa. An African weaver bird, whose males have black plumage and very long tail feathers. Oxford English Dictionary
In our Camps Bay garden we had wild protea bushes and sugarbirds feasting on their nectar. Male sugarbirds have exceptionally long tails, which are a tremendous burden when flying against the prevailing South Easter. Nature has decreed that both of our gardens need a bird with a very long tail. I remember friends visiting, deep in conversation, broken by – wow, did you see that BIRD?!
(Sorry for the quality of the picture. We will be getting a zoom lens for Jurg. Our Canon PowerShot A430 was chosen for its macro lens, so I can take photos of flowers. And the super macro so Jurg can take photos of bugs. But this picture – you want to see the red beak – you mean there is a bird over there somewhere? Grrrr!)

I am beginning to feel really sorry for the Other Birds. Hope his breeding season will soon be over. No, August to November, good grief!!! He is as relentless and persistent as a chivvying landlady. Finish up your breakfast Mr. Smith! You know Mr. Jones always comes down for quarter past. Don’t use ALL the hot water; you do know I have other guests waiting …
This is a Laughing Dove, 25 cm. Little Cuss – pin tailed whydah – is about twice the size of the dove’s head, if you ignore all his hoo-ha of tail. The doves get really pissed off and raise their wings in threat! And Lil Cuss soars up and comes screaming down like a German fighter pilot, misses the enemy by a whisker, well feather, they are birds after all. And again … And again … And again … And again … until even a much bigger bird like this one, retreats.
It is all sound and fury, but unceasing sound, and remorseless fury. How does he do it? Red Bull gives you wings! What is his secret? He does have to keep refuelling, each time he clears the buffet of trespassers.

Hadn’t seen the Cape wagtails for weeks. A pair used to come each evening. Have a long, leisurely bath, dry off in the evening sun, and work their way steadily all around the pond, collecting insects. Lil Cuss has decided they can have a very quick bath, since they aren’t interested in his seeds. I said, a QUICK bath! And then, they too must fly away.
And the weavers, and sparrows, and Red Bishops wait patiently in the wings, so they can nip in for a quick snack, when he is pursuing invaders over the border. He often sits in the pecan tree, which is even higher, from which he can defend not just our garden, but the whole neighbourhood! This is a masked weaver, stunned after crashing into the window. He did recover.

1 comment:

Photographs and Copyright

Photographs are from Diana Studer or Jurg Studer.
My Canon PowerShot A490

If I use your images or information, it will be clearly acknowledged with either a link to the website, or details of the book. If you use my images or words, I expect you to acknowledge them in turn.

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Midnight in Darkest Africa
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