Cover image by Johan van Rooyen – Near Witsand, Western Cape – BirdPix No. 113724 Karoo Korhaan
The Karoo Korhaan is relatively inconspicuous and is well camouflaged against the dry landscapes of its preferred habitat.
Overall colouration is sandy grey-brown. The underparts are uniform grey-brown. The mantle, scapulars and wing coverts are indistinctly mottled with diffuse grey, buff and black blotches.
The head and neck carry the most distinctive markings. There is a small black patch on the nape and a more prominent black patch on the throat. The face is plain grey-brown and unmarked. The bill is dark greyish with a pale pink base.
The sexes are similar but males are slightly larger and have more extensive black on the throat, extending onto the fore-neck.
Juveniles resemble the adults but have scattered whitish blotches on the body, head and neck. The undersides are paler with some indistinct darker barring.
The Karoo Korhaan varies from common to uncommon, depending on location. It is endemic to Southern Africa and is confined to western South Africa and Southern Namibia.
The Karoo Korhaan is not considered threatened. It is thought that this species has increased in abundance in the Karoo owing to livestock grazing practices, as it favours disturbed conditions. The South African population has been estimated at hundreds of thousands of individuals.
The Karoo Korhaan occurs in dwarf shrublands on the open plains of the semi-arid Karoo. It favours stony ground in flat to undulating terrain. Within this region it is most common throughout the Nama Karoo. It is also common in the Grassy Karoo ecotone between the grassland and Karoo biomes. It is less common in, and is absent from large areas of, the winter-rainfall Succulent Karoo. It has also colonised the planted pastures and cereal croplands along the southern coast of the Western Cape in the fynbos biome. This is the only region where it is found outside karroid vegetation.
Usually encountered in pairs, occasionally in groups of three to five birds, and very rarely solitarily. the Karoo Korhaan is easily overlooked due to its cryptic plumage. This is compensated for by its loud and frequent vocalizations, which are somewhat frog-like.
It is a sedentary resident. Karoo Korhaans are more conspicuous during the winter months due to increased activity and sparser vegetation at this time. Breeding birds become very secretive during the summer months.
Forages by walking and pecking on or close to the ground. Consumes a range of invertebrates (mainly insects and arachnids), small reptiles and a much vegetable matter (seeds, pods, fruits, flowers, leaves and bulbs).
Drinks in the mornings and evenings when water is available.
The Karoo Korhaan is monogamous, breeding in pairs. The occasional presence of extended family groups may indicate some cooperative breeding. They are territorial and groups defend their territories throughout the year. Territorial males actively fight by flapping their wings and kicking each other.
Breeding has been recorded from July to April but mostly takes place between October and March during the summer months.
A single egg is laid per clutch. No true nest is constructed and the egg is laid in a shallow scrape directly on the ground. The site is sometimes lined with a ring of stones or pebbles.
Incubation duties are performed entirely by the female, although the male remains nearby. Chicks are highly precocial and the female and chick join up with the male shortly after hatching.
This species text is adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.
The use of photographs by Alan Collett, Desire Darling, Johan Van Rooyen, Rick Nuttall and Tino Herselman is acknowledged.
Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).
Other common names: Vaalkorhaan (Afrikaans); Zwartkintrap (Dutch); Outarde de Vigors (French); Namatrappe (German); Abetarda do Karoo (Portuguese).
Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Karoo Korhaan (Eupodotis vigorsii). Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2023/03/07/karoo-korhaan-eupodotis-vigorsii/