Help for a widower…?

At the end of the post “Toilet and Tortoises”[1] I expressed our disappointment with the setting and management of Camp Kwando and surrounding area. There was however an area by the jetty that yielded some interesting sightings and observations.

A large Common cluster fig tree (Ficus sycomorus) acted as a giant umbrella, providing good shade. Its fruits were intensively consumed by a number of birds among which we saw Grey go-away bird, Green pigeon, Black-collared barbet and a Squirrel among others. They offered some good photography that I present below, including a nice shot of a Brown-hooded kingfisher that was taking advantage of the insects attracted by the shade.

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Brown-hooded kingfisher.

In addition to the birds-fig tree interaction, we (rather my wife again!) spotted a male Paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis) sitting at a nest within easy photographic reach. I took advantage of the nest’s location and took several pictures at different times during the first day of our visit. During that time, while the male was absent, we noted that there was at least one egg.

0742hs 26-11-15 adult copy

Adult Paradise flycatcher male.

In the evening, as usual, I checked the pictures to select only the best ones to save space in the camera’s memory card. It was while doing this that I noted that all my pictures were of a male bird and, although I re-checked all pictures I confirmed that there was no female! The male bird had the lovely pale blue beak, cere and peri-orbital markings although these were not visible in some of the pictures. I then realized that there were two male birds sharing the task of sitting on the nest: one adult (bright colours) and a sub-adult (duller).

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The immature Paradise flycatcher sitting on the nest.

As soon as I could I checked the available literature to find out more about what we saw. I confirmed that “cooperative breeding” or when sub-adults assist adults incubating the eggs. This behaviour is quite common among several species of birds[2].

In the case of the Paradise flycatcher, it is believed that the female does most of the night sitting on the eggs and cooperative breeding although “possible” it was still unconfirmed and not been seen![3] Things were getting really interesting now and at that point we decided that the observations were worth reporting to a wider audience.

After some enquiries with bird experts we found an on-line journal in South Africa known as Ornithological Observations where we submitted a short paper that they agreed to publish on 23 February 2016. [4]

Although this could be taken as an isolated observation and a rather anecdotic one, it unequivocally shows the involvement of a second male, showing unequivocally that cooperative breeding in the African Paradise Flycatcher takes place as suspected. It is possible that the young male was from the previous year and assisting the adult male.

No female was observed during the time the observations were carried out. Weather it was alive or not would remain a mystery. However, it cannot be excluded that it could have been at the nest during periods when we were not there or taking care of the incubating during the night.




[2] Stacey, P. B. and Koenig, W. D. (1990). Cooperative Breeding in Birds: Long Term

Studies of Ecology and Behaviour. Cambridge University Press. p.636.

[3] Roberts VII Multimedia Birds of Southern Africa iPad Edition, 2012-2013.



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