The birds of the Zambezi River provide a feathered spectacular of sights and sounds, fantastic in its range and diversity. Here are some of the birds you can find on a cruise onboard the Raikane – if you are a particularly keen twitcher, be sure to book the our birdwatching cruise as the focus of this cruise is spotting all the wings you would like to see!
Grey Heron ( Ardea cinerea) Photo: Tony Marshal
Large herons are wading water birds. They are generally shy and solitary, but roost communally except for the Goliath Heron. They have long, straight pointed bills, long legs and broad wings. In flight, the neck is tucked into the shoulders. They feed by wading slowly or by standing motionless for long periods and their diet includes fish, crustaceans, amphibians and small reptiles. The call of these birds is a harsh squawk or croak. They nest on platforms of sticks, lined with reeds or grass, which they build in trees or reedbeds and occassionally on cliffs. They lay 2-5 pale blue eggs and the feeding of the young is by both parents.
Look out for the Grey Heron and the Goliath Heron – the biggest at 1.5m tall.
Small herons are wading water birds, which are usually seen in quiet backwaters and reedbeds. They are solitary and shy. They feed in the shallows on frogs, molluscs and insects by wading slowly or standing motionless for long periods. They too make a harsh croaking and squawking noise. They res on flimsy platforms of reeds, twigs or grasses near the water surface in reedbeds or thickets and 2 -4 pale blue eggs are laid.
Keep your eyes out for the beautiful Greenbacked Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron.
Greenbacked Heron (Butorides striatus) Photo: Andy Lowe
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) Source Unknown
The small egrets seen on the Zambezi River are all white birds, apart from the Black Egret. Their bills are long, slender and straight and they have broad wings, flying with the neck tucked into the shoulders. Their call is a series of harsh croaks. You will often see a cattle egret in the company of elephants, buffalo – or hippo – and it is known as a “tick” bird but it generally feeds on the insects that the animals disturb.
They feed singly, or flocks but roost communally in a colony. They build platforms of sticks in trees, bushes or in reed beds on or near the water. They lay 2 -4 eggs which a pale greenish-blue in colour.
You should definitely see a Cattle Egret and tick it off your bird list!
Information from Jan Teede (Mana Pools)