BirdPixing in Yzerfontein

On Sunday morning, 5 May 2019, the grid cell “Yzerfontein” had 15 BirdPix* records for 12 species. This called for an intervention! In the form of a morning’s expedition. (* BirdPix is a citizen science project building a photographic bird atlas of Africa, and the data will supplement that if the African Bird Atlas Project.)

Here are the thumbnails of these 15 records arranged as a collage! Most of them are from Dassen Island, which falls within this grid cell. So there was lots of scope to add species from the mainland!

To a 72-year old arriving in Yzerfontein in 2019, the most striking thing about the place is how much it has grown. The map on the left is the 1:50,000 map which we used when the Western Cape Wader Study Group did the surveys of wader populations along the coastline in the 1970s. The pencil lines mark the count sections used in the surveys. The village, then officially called Ysterfontein, is tiny. The longest length of the village is shorter than the length of the name on the map. The 2019 Google satellite image shows the massive expansion of the built-up area. It’s now a small town, with supermarkets. A shopping mall is on the way!

It’s not hard to understand the attraction. The view south towards Table Mountain is pretty stunning.

For some bird species, the development provides new opportunities. For example, …

… palm trees in the gardens provide breeding opportunities for Cape Weavers. With the natural coastal vegetation, there would be no weavers here. This colony is curated in PHOWN (PHOtos of Weaver Nests) at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=PHOWN-28432.

… the Common Starlings feature as the commonest species, ubiquitous within the built up area (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77396).

… and in these new towns, the place to search for House Sparrows (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77385), is around the food outlets: restaurants, petrol stations, supermarkets … the prime place to look is along the back walls … the other side of the wall is where the rubbish gets hidden out of sight. The remainder of the standard menu of suburban species, such as Red-eyed Doves, Laughing Doves, Cape Bulbuls, Cape Sparrows, Common Fiscals and Cape Wagtails, are encountered frequently.

At some stage in the future, this Grey-backed Cisticola (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77410) will lose its home to the development staked out by this steel peg.

But the town layout contains a fair amount of open space. This will preserve corridors of natural habitat, and many species of birds will persist in them.

Karoo Prinias (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77408) seem comfortable living in close proximity to people. And so do …

… White-backed Mousebirds (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77405) … which benefit from the shrubs in gardens which produce fruits and berries.

It seems likely that the duets of Bokmakieries (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77413) will remain part of the dawn chorus within the town of Yzerfontein.

In a coastal town in the Western Cape,  such as Yzerfontein, there is often a gathering place for Hartlaub’s Gulls (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77382). In Yzerfontein, the roof of NSRI Station 34 was the scene of action. It is worth searching through a flock like this for Grey-headed Gulls. A vaguely grey hood – there are at least two in the photo above – is not enough. Grey-headed Gulls have distinctly whitish eyes and the eyes of Hartlaub’s Gulls are dark brown, almost black. The careful scrutiny of the gulls revealed …

… a pink-headed Gull! This bird has a whitish eye (so a Grey-headed Gull), but has a pinkish wash in the places where it ought to have grey! So this photo (and two more) have been uploaded to the BOP section of the Virtual Museum (BOP = Birds with Odd Plumage) where they are curated in perpetuity (see http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BOP-552). There has been a bit of an outbreak of pink in BOP, especially among the Cattle Egrets (for example, and most spectacularly, at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BOP-523, and look at this Hartlaub’s Gull http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BOP-524).

 

Yzerfontein, superficially, is a peaceful coastal town. But dressed in black, and openly displaying their red dagger-shaped weapons, here are the Yzerfontein hooligans. This is just part of the flock of frustrated bachelors and spinsters; there were about 30 in total. These are adolescent and young adult African Black Oystercatchers (http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=BirdPix-77391). Their sole objective in life is to disrupt the lives of established breeding pairs along the coastline. The establishment of these flocks is evidence of an “over-production” of oystercatchers in recent decades. This, in turn, is a consequence of the invasion of their range of the Mediterranean mussel Mytilus galloprovincialis which grows faster and higher up the intertidal than the indigenous mussel which it has replaced. It is not much fun being an adult oystercatcher on the coastline these days. Either you are frustrated because you don’t have a mate or a territory. Or you spend your life keeping an eye on your mate, and warding off attacks by the hooligans.

I was alert to opportunities to contribute to other sections of the Virtual Museum. A lizard basking in the sun, or a snake squashed on the road, is a ReptileMAP opportunity. The dragonflies in the stream that passes under the road can be OdonataMAPped. A family of dassies sunning themselves on the rocks can go into MammalMAP. Butterflies are usually a big challenge; but this Common Dotted Border was very co-operative. The photo is not all it could be, but it is good enough for a positive identification (curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LepiMAP-682293).

At the end of a morning full of fun and interest, the number of BirdPix records increased from 15 to 67, and the number of species from 12 to 39. I created quite a few duplicates by including records of the same species both for the agricultural sector of the grid cell, and for the built-up area. The collage of thumbnails for the grid cell 3318AC Yzerfontein has improved from the one at the top of this blog to the one below, at the end!

You can get the map of the grid cell and the full list list of the BirdPix species (possibly updated) by going to http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=birdpix&locus=3318AC. You can create the collage below by clicking on “Records for 3318AC” and then clicking on “Display thumbnails only”.

[The collection of PHOWN records for the grid cell is pretty intriguing, with nests on telephone lines and satellite dishes! See http://vmus.adu.org.za/vm_locus_map.php?vm=phown&locus=3318AC, and click on “Records for 3318AC.]

LacewingMAP progress report

Fig 2. With 516 records, Hagenomyia tristis is the second most frequently recorded species in the LacewingMAP database. There are 154 photographic records. This photograph was taken by Bernardine Altenroxel near Mooketsi, Limpopo. This record is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-596

Mansell M, Underhill LG, and Navarro R. 2019. LacewingMAP – Progress report on the Atlas of African Neuroptera and Megaloptera, 2014 – 2019. Biodiversity Observations 10.10:1-21

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


LacewingMAP – Progress report on the Atlas of African Neuroptera and Megaloptera, 2014 – 2019

Mervyn Mansell

Department of Zoology and Entomology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002 South Africa

Les G Underhill

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; Biodiversity and Development Institute, 25 Old Farm Road, Rondebosch, 7700 South Africa

Rene Navarro

Animal Demography Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa; FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch, 7701 South Africa

Abstract

This report describes progress with the atlas of lacewings, defined as the orders Neuroptera and Megaloptera, up to 31 March 2019. The database of the project contained 15,781 records, in two components – 12,898 specimen records and 2,883 photographic records – submitted to the LacewingMAP section of the Virtual Museum, over a period of 4.5 years (September 2014 to March 2019). The average rate of submission of photographic records for LacewingMAP for the four calendar years 2015 to 2018 was 566 per year, three times faster than the rate at which the specimen database grew during the second half of the 20th century. 234 citizen scientists contributed photographic records to LacewingMAP. It seems that almost all of these people have primary interests in other taxa, and that the records submitted to LacewingMAP were a ‘by-catch’. Photographs of at least two new species were submitted by citizen scientists during 2018.


What are the lacewings, and why are they interesting?

We live in a world which is lacewing-blind. Most people would not be able to identify a flying insect as a lacewing, let alone distinguish between species (Figures 1 and 2). But almost everyone has encountered an artefact created by the larvae of lacewings. They recognize the distinctive funnel-shaped pits in sandy areas (Figure 3), and they have been told that there is a beast called an antlion lying in wait below to consume any insect that slips down the side of the funnel. But, few people grasp that the antlion is to the lacewing what the caterpillar is to the butterfly. They are blind to the existence, and value, of lacewings, the adults of the creatures that live in the sand.

Fig 1. With 518 records, Myrmeleon obscurus is the most frequently recorded species in the LacewingMAP database. There are 124 photographic records. This photograph was taken by Alan Manson in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. This record is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-9551
Fig 1. With 518 records, Myrmeleon obscurus is the most frequently recorded species in the LacewingMAP database. There are 124 photographic records. This photograph was taken by Alan Manson in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal. This record is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-9551
Fig 2. With 516 records, Hagenomyia tristis is the second most frequently recorded species in the LacewingMAP database. There are 154 photographic records. This photograph was taken by Bernardine Altenroxel near Mooketsi, Limpopo. This record is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-596
Fig 2. With 516 records, Hagenomyia tristis is the second most frequently recorded species in the LacewingMAP database. There are 154 photographic records. This photograph was taken by Bernardine Altenroxel near Mooketsi, Limpopo. This record is curated at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-596
Fig 3. The conical pit-trap constructed in sand or loose soil by larvae of some antlions. The larvae buries itself at the bottom. Ants and other small arthropods fall over the edge, slip to the bottom of the pit-trap and are unable to climb out because of the steepness of the slope and the looseness of the sand. They are pounced on by the ant-lion larva, which then sucks the body fluids out of its prey. The dry husk is tossed out of the pit, which is then repaired.
Fig 3. The conical pit-trap constructed in sand or loose soil by larvae of some antlions. The larvae buries itself at the bottom. Ants and other small arthropods fall over the edge, slip to the bottom of the pit-trap and are unable to climb out because of the steepness of the slope and the looseness of the sand. They are pounced on by the ant-lion larva, which then sucks the body fluids out of its prey. The dry husk is tossed out of the pit, which is then repaired.

13 of the 16 recognised families of Neuroptera occur in southern Africa, and both families of Megaloptera. This report focuses mainly on the Neuroptera, popularly known as lacewings. The Afrotropics (i.e. Africa south of the Sahara Desert) has an especially rich and varied fauna of lacewings and approximately 500 species occur in southern Africa alone, defined as the region south of the Kunene and Zambezi Rivers (Mansell 2002). Furthermore, about half of these are endemic to this area.

Neuroptera are excellent indicators of environmental and habitat transformation, and include key species for signifying areas and faunas that require priority protection. They are vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and pesticide contamination (Mansell 2002, Winterton et al. 2010).

The larvae of the lacewings are all specialised predators with unique, highly evolved mouthparts. As predators, lacewing larvae have the potential to have a major impact upon populations of other insects and small Arthropoda, and especially aphids. They have therefore, long been considered an attractive option as biological control agents in greenhouses, orchards and fields (New 1975, Mansell 2002). The recommendation is to augment species native to an area by means of mass rearing, and not to introduce new lacewing species (New 1985).

Only one of the families, the Myrmeleontidae, includes species whose larval stage consists of antlions that construct funnel-shaped pits in sand (Figure 3). The larvae of the other families take on a diverse variety of forms; they range from aquatic to semi-aquatic, and there are species with larvae which live freely in sand, under rock ledges, small caves, holes in trees, and as free-living ambush predators on vegetation. Some are parasites in spider nests, and inquilines in ant nests. Nothing is known about the larvae of some species (Mansell 2002, Winterton et al. 2010).

The Neuroptera are model subjects for scientific research because they have a wide diversity of lifestyles. Adults of several families are key pollinators of indigenous flora; especially the family Nemopteridae (the thread-wing and the spoon-and ribbon-wing lacewings) (Mansell 2002).

What is the objective of LacewingMAP?

Given that the lacewings are important, the long-term objective of the LacewingMAP project is to develop an atlas of the distributions of the Neuroptera and Megaloptera in Africa, focusing initially on southern Africa, then the Afrotropics, and ultimately the African continent. The project is loosely modelled on the “butterfly atlas” and the “reptile atlas” (Mecenero et al. 2013, Bates et al.2014). For both those projects, the foundational data were the historical specimen record data, supplemented by photographic data uploaded to the “Virtual Museum” by citizen scientists. The Virtual Museum is described by Mecenero et al. (2013) and Bates et al. (2014). The lacewing atlas uses the same strategy. Specimen records were (and continue to be) assembled by us, photographic records are collected by citizen scientists, and the combined database is curated by the Virtual Museum.

This report reviews progress up to March 2019. The first image of a lacewing was uploaded to the LacewingMAP section of the Virtual Museum on 19 September 2014. This report is based on the specimen database, plus photographic records assembled over four and a half years, up to 31 March 2018.

What is the volume of records in the LacewingMAP database?

The total number of records in the LacewingMAP database on 31 March 2019 was 15,781 (Table 1). They are split into two components in this database, seamlessly merged as a single entity. The largest component consists of 12,898 records, mainly based on museum specimens, assembled by us, and recorded in a Palpares Relational Database (Mansell & Kenyon 2002). This is supplemented by 2,883 photographic records, submitted to the LacewingMAP section of the Virtual Museum (http://vmus.adu.org.za) by citizen scientists (Table 1). Each photographic record uploaded to the Virtual Museum contains either one, two or three images of the live animal; each record is evaluated by us, and we allocate it to family, genus or species.

Table 1. Numbers of LacewingMAP records for African countries on 31 March 2019. The second column gives the number of photographic records uploaded by citizen scientists; the third total gives the total number of records in the database for each country.
Country LacewingMAP Total
Algeria 1
Angola 5 38
Benin 11
Botswana 100 391
Burkina-Faso 26
Burundi 2
Cameroon 33
Cape Verde Islands 11
Central African Republic 8
Chad 8
Comoros 13
Democratic Republic of Congo 3 708
Djibouti 8
Equatorial Guinea 20
Eritrea 6
Ethiopia 15
Gabon 25
Gambia 17
Ghana 1 20
Guinea 19
Ivory Coast 36
Kenya 23 205
Lesotho 1 10
Liberia 1 3
Madagascar 4 115
Malawi 170 342
Mali 49
Mauritania 10
Mauritius 3
Mozambique 43 144
Namibia 90 1,020
Niger 24
Nigeria 11 54
Reunion 4
Rwanda 3
Senegal 51
Seychelles 14
Sierra Leone 1 5
Socotra Island (Yemen) 4
Somalia 1 24
South Africa 2,225 10,917
St Helena 2
Sudan 8 20
Swaziland 87 197
Tanzania 13 119
Togo 11
Uganda 21
Zaire 4
Zambia 87 346
Zimbabwe 9 644
Total 2,883 15,781

The majority of the 2,883 photographic records, uploaded to the Virtual Museum were submitted from South Africa (2,225, 77%) (Table 1). A total of 658 records were submitted from 20 other African countries; six countries had more than 40 records: Malawi (170), Botswana (100), Namibia (90), Swaziland (87), Zambia (87) and Mozambique (43) (Table 1).

In the overall database, 10,917 records are from South Africa (Table 1). Countries with totals more than 500 records are Namibia (1,020), Democratic Republic of Congo (708) and Zimbabwe (644) (Table 1). 50% of Malawi’s 342 records are photographic, as are 44% of Swaziland’s 197 records, and 30% of Mozambique’s 144 (Table 1).

Within the nine provinces of South Africa, the largest contributions of photographic records have come from Northern Cape (484, 21.7% of total of 2,222 for South Africa), Limpopo (456, 20.5%) and KwaZulu-Natal (420, 18.5%) (Table 2). Within the database as a whole, Limpopo has the most records (2,606, 24.6% of 10,594 records for South Africa) and the Northern Cape has 1,688 (15.9%) (Table 2). Three of the photographic records and 323 of the total records from South Africa did not have “province” assigned (Tables 1 and 2).

Table 2. Numbers of LacewingMAP records for the provinces of South Africa on 31 March 2019. The second column gives the number of photographic records uploaded by citizen scientists; the third total gives the total number of records in the database for each province.
Province LacewingMAP Total
Eastern Cape 180 867
Free State 65 225
Gauteng 171 918
KwaZulu-Natal 420 1,390
Limpopo 456 2,606
Mpumalanga 161 1,110
North-West 38 622
Northern Cape 484 1,688
Western Cape 249 1,168
Total 2,222 10,594

The average rate of submission of photographic records for LacewingMAP for the four years 2015 to 2018 was 566 per year (Table 3). This rate can be compared with the annual collection rate for the specimen section of the database (Table 4). The photographic rate generated by citizen scientists is 64% above the “best” decade (the 1980s), 5.5 times more than the 20th century as a whole (102 per year), and three times more than the second half of the 20th century (176 per year) (Table 4).

Table 3. Annual totals (1 January to 31 December of each calendar year) of photographic submissions to the LacewingMAP section of the Virtual Museum. The row Pre-start refers to records of lacewings submitted to OdonataMAP. These were not deleted from the Virtual Museum database, and were re-allocated to LacewingMAP when the project started (see Figure 2). The total for 2019 is incomplete.
Year (Jan to Dec) Number of submissions
Pre-start 21
Sep to Dec 2014 299
2015 547
2016 502
2017 536
2018 678
Jan to Mar 2019 300
Total (31 Mar 2019) 2883
Table 4. Using the specimen database, the average number of records per year was calculated for each decade of the 20th century, and the 21st century to date.
Decade Records per year
1900-09 10.8
1910-19 29.1
1920-29 36.0
1930-39 48.6
1940-49 20.4
1950-59 63.3
1960-69 75.0
1970-79 151.3
1980-89 345.5
1990-99 244.1
2000-09 136.9
2010-18 61.3

The monthly pattern of submissions shows a minimum in the winter months from May to August, and a peak in the summer months from December to April (Figure 4). This plot confirms the general pattern of seasonality of conspicuous occurrence of lacewings.

Fig 4. The histogram shows the seasonal pattern of the submission of photographic records to the LacewingMAP section of the Virtual Museum. The height of the bar for each month is the medians of the number of records submitted in that month over the four years 2015 to 2018.
Fig 4. The histogram shows the seasonal pattern of the submission of photographic records to the LacewingMAP section of the Virtual Museum. The height of the bar for each month is the medians of the number of records submitted in that month over the four years 2015 to 2018.

Each record is georeferenced as accurately as feasible. For mapping purposes each record is allocated to a quarter degree grid cell. This 15-minute grid system has been widely used by biodiversity atlas projects in southern Africa (e.g. Mecenero et al. 2013, Bates et al. 2014). The 15-minute (quarter degree) grid generates 2025 quarter degree grid cells in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Of these, 835 grid cells (41.2%) have at least one species of lacewing recorded (Figure 5). 230 grid cells have a single species recorded in them. On the other hand, there are only two degree cells with no records at all, one in the Northern Cape and one in North West Province. At this stage, the patterns of species richness still reflect observer effort rather than the true distribution of species richness.

Fig 5. LacewingMAP species richness in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland per quarter degree grid cell, on 31 March 2019. The species richness is grouped into six classes, with the cutpoints chosen so that, as close as possible with integer arithmetic, 1/6th of the grid cells have the same colour. There is at least one species recorded in 835 of the 2,025 grid cells in the three countries (41.2%).
Fig 5. LacewingMAP species richness in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland per quarter degree grid cell, on 31 March 2019. The species richness is grouped into six classes, with the cutpoints chosen so that, as close as possible with integer arithmetic, 1/6th of the grid cells have the same colour. There is at least one species recorded in 835 of the 2,025 grid cells in the three countries (41.2%).

What species are in the LacewingMAP database?

The taxonomy upon which LacewingMAP is based contained 1,249 species in March 2019 (Table 5); this taxonomic spine, which is pivotal for the project, is updated from time to time, as necessary. This taxonomy is of Afrotropical species; 18 of these species are from the order Megaloptera (two families Corydalidae and Sialidae), and the remaining 1,231 species are Neuroptera, classified into 13 families (Table 5). By far, the largest family is the Myrmeleontidae, containing 461 species. 415 species of Neuroptera are currently known from South Africa (Mansell & Oswald 2018), and 834 from the remainder of the Afrotropical Region, i.e. species that do not occur in South Africa.

Table 5. The column headed ‘Sp. in tax.’ (Species in taxonomy) provides the number of species in each of the 15 families in the two orders (Megaloptera and Neuroptera). This is based on the taxonomy in use in LacewingMAP in March 2019. This taxonomic ‘spine’ is updated at intervals. The remaining columns provide the number of photographic records for each Family which were identified to Family (only), Genus (only) and Species level. For each family, the total number of photographic records is provided (Total), and also the number of species they represent (Sp. rec.).
Order Family Sp. in tax. Family Genus Species Total Sp. rec.
Megaloptera Corydalidae 14 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Megaloptera Sialidae 4 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Neuroptera Osmylidae 18 3.0 0.0 1 4 1
Neuroptera Nemopteridae 87 0.0 32.0 56 88 11
Neuroptera Mantispidae 100 49.0 7.0 6 62 2
Neuroptera Dilaridae 1 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Neuroptera Psychopsidae 10 0.0 2.0 42 44 4
Neuroptera Myrmeleontidae 462 51.0 393.0 1,441 1,885 88
Neuroptera Hemerobiidae 55 8.0 18.0 19 45 8
Neuroptera Coniopterygidae 100 1.0 0.0 0 1 0
Neuroptera Chrysopidae 200 217.0 127.0 184 528 25
Neuroptera Rhachiberothidae 11 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Neuroptera Berothidae 30 0.0 8.0 0 8 0
Neuroptera Ascalaphidae 146 26.0 26.0 136 188 25
Neuroptera Sisyridae 11 0.0 0.0 0 0 0
Totals 1,249 355.0 613.0 1,885 2,853 164
Percentages 12.4 21.5 66.1 100.0 NA

Of the 1,249 species in the taxonomy, the overall LacewingMAP database (specimens and photographs) contained records for 952 on 31 March 2019. 20 species had 148 or more records, of which 18 were members of the family Myrmeleontidae (Table 6). The two species with the most records were Myrmeleon obscurus (518) and Hagenomyia tristis (516) (Figures 1 and 2). The distribution maps for these two species within South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland (Figures 6 and 7) show distinctly different patterns: it seems probable that Myrmeleon obscurus occurs throughout South Africa (Figure 6), but that Hagenomyia tristis is confined to the eastern half of the country (Figure 7).

Table 6. The 20 species with the largest numbers of records in the LacewingMAP database (specimen and photographic records combined) on 31 March 2019. The first column provides the species codes used in the Virtual Museum database.
Species code Family Species Records
328640 Myrmeleontidae Myrmeleon obscurus 518
328240 Myrmeleontidae Hagenomyia tristis 516
327920 Myrmeleontidae Cueta trivirgata 456
329340 Myrmeleontidae Palpares caffer 395
327380 Myrmeleontidae Banyutus lethalis 360
327780 Myrmeleontidae Creoleon mortifer 350
328560 Myrmeleontidae Myrmeleon alcestris 272
327540 Myrmeleontidae Centroclisis brachygaster 252
328960 Myrmeleontidae Nesoleon boschimanus 249
328220 Myrmeleontidae Hagenomyia lethifer 243
329060 Myrmeleontidae Neuroleon chloranthe 235
328360 Myrmeleontidae Macroleon quinquemaculatus 230
328580 Myrmeleontidae Myrmeleon doralice 228
327900 Myrmeleontidae Cueta punctatissima 226
331520 Psychopsidae Silveira marshalli 182
329520 Myrmeleontidae Palpares sobrinus 174
321140 Ascalaphidae Proctarrelabis involvens 163
329560 Myrmeleontidae Palpares speciosus 163
328320 Myrmeleontidae Lachlathetes moestus 155
327740 Myrmeleontidae Creoleon diana 148
Fig 6. Distribution map for Myrmeleon obscurus (Figure 1) in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Fig 6. Distribution map for Myrmeleon obscurus (Figure 1) in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Fig 7. Distribution map for Hagenomyia tristis (Figure 2) in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
Fig 7. Distribution map for Hagenomyia tristis (Figure 2) in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.

All 12,898 records in the specimen database are identified to species. Species level identification from photographs is not always possible because many lacewings, and especially the species of “green lacewings” of the family Chrysopidae, can only be identified by dissection.

By 31 March 2019, we had undertaken identifications of 2,853 of the 2,883 photographic records submitted by citizen scientists. This provides a large sample of records from which we can attempt to quantify the extent of the identification issues. 1,885 of the 2,853 records (66.1%) were identified to species level, 613 (21.5%) to genus level only, and 355 (12.4%) to family level only (Table 5). Of those identified to family level only, 217 records (61%) were Chrysopidae (green lacewings), 50 records (14%) were Myrmeleontidae (antlions) and 49 records (14%) were Mantispidae (mantidflies) (Table 5).

Of the 613 records identified to genus level only (Table 5), 348 belonged to five genera: 105 in the genus Chrysoperla in the family Chrysopidae, and 83, 79, 67, and 55 in the genera Centroclisis, Cueta, Myrmeleon and Creoleon, respectively, of the family Myrmeleontidae (antlions). In summary, the green lacewings, i.e. the family Chrysopidae and especially the genus Chrysoperla within this family, and four genera within the family Myrmeleontidae (antlions) present the largest identification challenges from photographs.

In the photographic database, of the 22 species with more than 20 records (Table 7), 15 are also in Table 6, the top 20 species overall. There is one species in Table 7 for which more than half of all records are photographic: Dichochrysa tacta (recently renamed Pseudomallada tactus) has 43 photographic records and 41 specimen records. The distribution map (Figure 8) demonstrates how the photographic records are helping to “fill in” the range suggested by the specimen records.

Table 7. The 22 species with with more than 20 photographic records in the LacewingMAP database on 31 March 2019. The first column provides the species codes used in the Virtual Museum database.
Species code Family Species Records
328240 Myrmeleontidae Hagenomyia tristis 154
327380 Myrmeleontidae Banyutus lethalis 146
328640 Myrmeleontidae Myrmeleon obscurus 124
329340 Myrmeleontidae Palpares caffer 116
327780 Myrmeleontidae Creoleon mortifer 66
327920 Myrmeleontidae Cueta trivirgata 51
328360 Myrmeleontidae Macroleon quinquemaculatus 60
328220 Myrmeleontidae Hagenomyia lethifer 47
328320 Myrmeleontidae Lachlathetes moestus 43
323500 Chrysopidae Dichochrysa tacta 43
327900 Myrmeleontidae Cueta punctatissima 43
329520 Myrmeleontidae Palpares sobrinus 42
329560 Myrmeleontidae Palpares speciosus 38
322860 Chrysopidae Chrysemosa jeanneli 34
329060 Myrmeleontidae Neuroleon chloranthe 30
328560 Myrmeleontidae Myrmeleon alcestris 29
320900 Ascalaphidae Eremoides bicristatus 29
328580 Myrmeleontidae Myrmeleon doralice 26
329440 Myrmeleontidae Palpares inclemens 25
327880 Myrmeleontidae Cueta mysteriosa 23
328960 Myrmeleontidae Nesoleon boschimanus 23
320560 Ascalaphidae Ascalaphus bilineatus 21
Fig 8. Distribution map for Dichochrysa tacta, recently renamed Pseudomallada tactus, in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Orange squares denote grid cells having specimen records, and turquoise circles denote grid cells having photographic records.
Fig 8. Distribution map for Dichochrysa tacta, recently renamed Pseudomallada tactus, in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Orange squares denote grid cells having specimen records, and turquoise circles denote grid cells having photographic records.

The genus Dichochrysa (now Pseudomallada) is part of the family Chrysopidae, the green lacewings, for which identifications are generally difficult. However, along with the genus Italochrysa, most photographic records for both genera were identified to species (88% and 86%, respectively) (LacewingMAP database).

Who are the main contributors of photographic records to the LacewingMAP database?

By March 2019, 234 people had submitted records to LacewingMAP; 36 had submitted more than 20 records (Table 8). It is true to state that none of these 36 people have a primary interest in the lacewings (in the way that people have primary interests in a particular taxon, such as birds, butterflies, reptiles, dragonflies and damselflies, or even spiders or scorpions). 90 people had submitted a single record, and the median number of submissions per observer was three. The Virtual Museum had a total of 2,256 observers on 31 March 2019. Only eight of the 234 participants in LacewingMAP had submitted records only to this section of the Virtual Museum (seven had submitted one record, and one person had submitted 12, the only specialist LacewingMAPper). For 98.8% of the 2,256 Virtual Museum participants, submissions to LacewingMAP were less than 10% of their total numbers of records submitted. These observations suggest that photographic records are submitted to LacewingMAP opportunistically, as they are encountered. The lacewings are an extremely valuable by-catch.

Table 8. 36 citizen scientists had submitted 20 or more photographic records to LacewingMAP in the period September 2014 to March 2019.
Citizen scientist Records
Altha Liebenberg 235
Ryan Tippett 193
Gary Brown 161
Vaughan Jessnitz 130
Zenobia van Dyk 107
Alan Manson 102
Dewald du Plessis 90
Kate Braun 81
Pieter Cronje 76
Craig Peter 76
Bernardine Altenroxel 70
Christopher Willis 68
Len de Beer 67
James Harrison 53
Norman Barrett 51
John Wilkinson 46
Luke Kemp 45
Johan Heyns 44
Neil Thomson 39
Sonja Maartens 36
Corné Rautenbach 34
Marita Beneka 33
Les Underhill 32
Rob Dickinson 30
Ross Hawkins 30
Joseph Heymans 30
Fanie Rautenbach 30
Joubert Heymans 28
Quartus Grobler 27
Gert Myburgh 27
Michael Holden 26
Johnstone, Richard Alan 26
Hodgson, Andrew & Heather 24
Dawie de Swardt 23
Joan Young 22
Dave Kennedy 21

What are some of the interesting photographic records in LacewingMAP?

LacewingMAP has contributed many interesting and valuable locality records. It has added a vast number of new locality records and has contributed to our overall knowledge of the distribution of Afrotropical lacewings. Thus it is difficult to single out individual records.

Two records, both from 2018, are outstanding. They highlight the value of the contribution being made by citizen scientists.

LacewingMAP record 15379 is a specimen from Lüderitz Peninsula, southwestern Namibia, on 24 July 2018 (Figure 9). It belongs to the the genus Palmipenna. It is doubtless an undescribed species, remarkable for its early appearance (July) and its close proximity to the sea. This record was a total surprise. It is the farthest north that this genus has ever been recorded, and the second record of this genus from Namibia. Previous records of this genus were almost exclusively from the Western Cape, South Africa.

Fig 9. LacewingMAP record 15379, which is probably a new species in the genus Palmipenna, from the Lüderitz Peninsula, Namibia. It was submitted by Jessica Kemper, and further details are at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-15379
Fig 9. LacewingMAP record 15379, which is probably a new species in the genus Palmipenna, from the Lüderitz Peninsula, Namibia. It was submitted by Jessica Kemper, and further details are at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-15379

LacewingMAP record 10583 is a specimen of a new antlion (Myrmeleontidae), either in the genus Fadrina or the genus Centroclisis (Figure 10). It cannot be placed with certainty; it has characteristics of both, and also remarkable for its small size. Provisionally, it is placed in Fadrina because of the double costal series in the forewings. This lacewing was found in the Cederberg area on 22 January 2018. This photographic record alerts us to the existence of a previously unknown taxon. It also emphasizes the exceptional lacewing diversity of the Cederberg.

Fig 10. LacewingMAP record 10583, which is probably a new species in the genus Fadrina, from the Cederberg area, Western Cape. It was submitted by Zenobia van Dyk and further details are at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-10583
Fig 10. LacewingMAP record 10583, which is probably a new species in the genus Fadrina, from the Cederberg area, Western Cape. It was submitted by Zenobia van Dyk and further details are at http://vmus.adu.org.za/?vm=LacewingMAP-10583

What are the priorities for fieldwork for LacewingMAP?

The answer to this is simple. At this stage in the life-cycle of the LacewingMAP project every record, from anywhere in Africa, is valuable.

How do I participate in LacewingMAP?

In a nutshell, the protocol is simple. Take photographs of lacewings, and upload them to the LacewingMAP section of the Virtual Museum website. There is no need to identify the species in the photograph. This gets done by the expert panel for LacewingMAP.

The easiest way to take photographs of lacewings is to be aware that they are attracted to light at night, in exactly the same way that moths are, although usually in far smaller numbers. The entire spectrum of cameras are used to take photographs of lacewings; the most versatile for this type of photography are the new generation of “compact” cameras

Before you can upload into the Virtual Museum you need to register as a citizen scientist. The procedure for doing this is described here: (https://www.slideshare.net/Animal_Demography_Unit/how-to-register-as-a-citizen-scientist-with-the-animal-demography-unit)

Once you are registered, you log on to the website using your email address and password. A “Data upload” section now becomes visible. The critical information that needs to be uploaded into the database is date, place and a series of one to three photographs of a single species, usually different angles on the same individual. Guidance on the upload process is provided in this slide show: https://www.slideshare.net/Animal_Demography_Unit/how-to-submit-records-to-the-virtual-museums

We do our best to identify each record to species level. As described earlier, this is difficult to achieve for several of the lacewing families, and especially for the green lacewings. But this should not deter you from submitting photographs. As a beginner participant, the best strategy for a positive confirmed identification is to take lots of photos of a specimen, and to select the best one, two or three photographs for submission, preferably from different angles. It is helpful to try to get different parts of the specimen in sharp focus in the three pictures.

Acknowledgements

We thank all the contributors to the LacewingMAP project for their photographs, and all those who collected specimens over the years, upon which the original dataset is based. We gratefully acknowledge the South African Biodiversity Information Facility (SABIF), the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and especially the JRS Biodiversity Foundation, Seattle, USA, for supporting the databasing of Afrotropical lacewings, which underpins this project. Museum specimen records were (and continue to be) assembled by MM. The expert panel for LacewingMAP is lead by MM, who evaluates all photographic submissions and attempts to assign records to species level.

References

Bates MF, Branch WR, Bauer AM, Burger M, Marais J, Alexander GJ, de Villiers MS (eds) 2014. Atlas and Red List of the reptiles of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Suricata 1. Pretoria: South African National Biodiversity Institute.

Erasmus BFN, Kshatriya M, Mansell MW, Chown SL, Van Jaarsveld AS 2000. A modelling approach to antlion (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) distribution patterns. African Entomology 8: 157-168.

Freitag S, Mansell M 1997. The distribution and protection status of selected antlion species (Neuroptera: Myrmeleontidae) in South Africa. African Entomology 5: 205-216.

Mansell MW 2002. Monitoring lacewings (Insecta: Neuroptera) in southern Africa. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 48 (Suppl. 2): 165-173.

Mansell MW, Kenyon B 2002. The Palpares relational database: an integrated model for lacewing research. Acta Zoologica Academiae Scientiarum Hungaricae 48 (Suppl. 2): 185-195.

Mansell MW, Oswald JD 2018. Neuropterida of South Africa. Available online at http://lacewing.tamu.edu/Faunas/SouthAfrica.

Mecenero S, Ball JD, Edge DA, Hamer ML, Henning GA, Krüger M, Pringle EL, Terblanche RF, Williams MC (eds) 2013. Conservation assessment of butterflies of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland: Red List and atlas. Johannesburg: Saftronics and Cape Town: Animal Demography Unit.

New TR 1975. The biology of Chrysopidae and Hemerobiidae (Neuroptera), with reference to their usage as biocontrol agents: a review. Ecological Entomology 127: 115-140.

Winterton SL, Hardy NB, Wiegmann BM 2010. On wings of lace: phylogeny and Bayesian divergence time estimates of Neuropterida (Insecta) based on morphological and molecular data. Systematic Entomology 35: 349-378.

Ringing at Sonop farm, Paardeberg

photo

Paardeberg Inselberg is surrounded by vineyards and farms, but patches of fynbos, trees, farm dams, homestead gardens provide varied habitat and good diversity of birds. Ringing has been conducted at Bowwood farm and Fynbos Estate.

On 27 April 2019 Loutjie Steenberg, Taylyn Risi and I ringed on Sonop farm and caught 43 birds of 13 species. Three birds were recaptures from a previous ringing visit by Loutjie on 29 July 2018 – a Karoo Prinia, a Cape Weaver and a Southern Masked Weaver.

The Southern Masked Weaver shown was a recapture – it was moulting its head feathers into breeding plumage (the growing feathers with sheaths were black or yellow), rather early for a weaver in a rural area.

The species of the day was Neddicky, being the first time this species has been ringed anywhere on the Paardeberg.

Neddicky
Neddicky

 

This ringing session brings a total of 777 birds of 39 species ringed on the Paardeberg over 2018-19.

Species n
Cape Turtle Dove 1
Cape Bulbul 2
Cape Robin 6
Neddicky 2
Fiscal Flycatcher 2
Fiscal Shrike 1
Cape Weaver 8
Southern Masked Weaver 7
Yellow Bishop 4
Cape Canary 1
Bully Canary 1
Cape White-eye 5
Karoo Prinia 3
Total 43

Contributions of the Ibadan Bird Club

Re-launch of IBC, IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria, 13 February 2016 (Photo credit: Babajide Agboola)

Awoyemi AG and Bown D. 2019. Bird conservation in Africa – the contributions of the Ibadan Bird Club. Biodiversity Observations 10.9:1-12

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Bird conservation in Africa – the contributions of the Ibadan Bird Club

Adewale G Awoyemi

Forest Unit, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria; A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), University of Jos Biological Conservatory, Jos, Nigeria

Deni Bown

Forest Unit, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Ibadan, Nigeria

Summary

The Ibadan Bird Club has met 19 times at monthly intervals between February 2016 and August 2017, and 264 people (155 male and 109 female) have registered as members. During this period, the club has successfully built local capacity in bird conservation, and 111 bird species, distributed in 39 families, have been documented in an urban Important Bird Area, southwestern Nigeria. The findings of this citizen science initiative are essential for conservation purposes.

Introduction

Conservation efforts produce remarkable results when stakeholders (landowners, indigenes, visitors, organizations and authorities) are involved in activities (Awoyemi et al. 2018). The stakeholders can contribute through citizen science, which is the collection of ecological data by members of the general public and non-specialists as part of scientific projects (Dickinson et al. 2012). This has been successful worldwide, especially in Australia (Tulloch et al. 2013), Europe (Silvertown, 2009) and North America (Dickinson et al. 2012), where enthusiasts, volunteers and nature lovers contribute data via bird and nature clubs. In some parts of Africa, citizen scientists now contribute data to bird atlas projects, which aim to map the distribution of birds in the continent (Hulbert, 2016; Ivande et al. 2017). The African Bird Club has taken this initiative by funding the establishment of bird clubs in Africa, notably the Ibadan Bird Club (IBC) (Demey, 2015).

The IBC was started on 5 March 2014 by the Nigerian Conservation Foundation in partnership with the Department of Wildlife and Ecotourism Management, University of Ibadan, and the Forest Project at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), Ibadan, Nigeria (Demey, 2015). The aim was to build local capacity and enhance the conservation of birds in the Ibadan area. On 13 February 2016, the club was re-launched, so that it could be coordinated by the IITA Forest Unit as an activity of the A. G. Leventis-funded Ornithological Monitoring Project 2015-2017 (Figs. 1-3). The contributions of the club to bird conservation from then until August 2017 are presented here.

Re-launch of IBC, IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria, 13 February 2016 (Photo credit: Babajide Agboola)
Fig 1. Re-launch of IBC, IITA, Ibadan, Nigeria, 13 February 2016 (Photo credit: Babajide Agboola)
Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) drinking water by the lake during IBC re-launch, 13 February 2016 (Photo credit: Andreas Gisel).
Fig 2. Palm-nut Vulture (Gypohierax angolensis) drinking water by the lake during IBC re-launch, 13 February 2016 (Photo credit: Andreas Gisel).
Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) foraging in the IITA main reservoir during IBC re-launch, 13 February 2016 (Photo credit: Arvind Khebudkar)
Fig 3. Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) foraging in the IITA main reservoir during IBC re-launch, 13 February 2016 (Photo credit: Arvind Khebudkar)

Methods

Study area

The activities of the IBC since its re-launch have been carried out within the IITA campus, Ibadan (7° 29’ N, 3° 54’ E; Fig. 4). The approx. 1000 ha campus is located in the transition zone between savannah and rainforest, and experiences two distinct seasons: wet (April-September) and dry (October-March) (Neuenschwander et al. 2015). The campus has different kinds of habitats (forests, wetlands, farmlands and gardens) and supports over 270 species of birds, which are either Afro-tropical residents or migratory (Ezealor, 2001; Adeyanju et al. 2014). The approx. 360 ha forest reserve within the campus is dominated by native trees such as , , and (Manu et al. 2005). It also holds 67 bird species that are restricted to the Guinea-Congo Forest Biome, qualifying it as an Important Bird Area (IBA) (Ezealor, 2001). It is our understanding that this is the only IBA in Nigeria located in a major conurbation, justifying the need for capacity building at the local level. The campus also contains a large reservoir, several lakes and a number of fishponds which constitute important habitats for waterbirds while crops such as banana, cassava, cowpea, maize, plantain, rice and yam are cultivated in the research farm.

Map of the IITA campus, Ibadan, Nigeria, May 2016 (Image credit: GIS Unit, IITA)
Fig 4. Map of the IITA campus, Ibadan, Nigeria, May 2016 (Image credit: GIS Unit, IITA)

Data collection

The IBC has no badging but there is a unique structure that produces results. Typically an invitation, which contains a striking photo taken by a member, is sent at least 3 days before the new meeting date, which is fixed on the last Saturday of every month at 16h00 – 18h00. All levels of age, interest and experience are encouraged, and membership is free. Member attendance is noted and feedback is given in the form of short reports sent after each meeting while the members interact online via the club’s Facebook Group Page. Since the main focus of the club is capacity building, the coordinators (authors) normally stop at regular intervals to explain some aspects of avian ecology and the relevance of environmental education and citizen science to biodiversity conservation. The junior members of the club (IBC Juniors) are given high priority, and engaged in activities such as quizzes, debates, drawing contests, mist-netting and presentations in scientific workshops, in addition to birdwatching. In order to consolidate the knowledge gained during the meetings, club members are invited to workshops organised by the IITA Forest Unit Ornithological Monitoring Project on topics such as IBAs, Spring Alive and the World Migratory Bird Day.

Data were collected from February 2016 to August 2017 during meetings of the IBC. During this time, 19 meetings were held but data from 18 meetings (equally distributed between dry and wet seasons) were used in analysing our biological data as rain did not allow for a complete survey in June 2017 and the record was excluded. Therefore a total of 36 hours was spent during the meetings (survey). On arrival at the meeting venue, new members were normally introduced to the basics of birdwatching and use of equipment. Visits were then made to the three main habitats in the study area (farmland, forest and wetland), with each habitat receiving an equal number of visits (N=6). Line transects, measuring approx. 1.5 km were used to record all birds seen or heard during each walk (Bibby et al. 2000), though no fixed radius was set. There was no obvious change in vegetation during the data collection, therefore we did not measure vegetation variables but described the visited habitats as above. Consequently, we predicted that changes in bird encounter rate would be influenced mainly by habitat and season.

Data analyses

We calculated encounter rate as the number of species recorded per 2-hour survey (Guilherme, 2014), which was our response variable. We then graphically explored our dataset, and tested its normality using Shapiro-Wilk normality test: W = 0.654, p < 0.001. As this was not normally distributed even after transformation, we used Poisson Logistic Regression to test the difference in encounter rate between habitats and seasons in R statistical Software (R Development Core Team, 2013).

Furthermore, the species’ local abundance was estimated using this formula: (Ti/Tn) x 100; where Ti = number of transects along which a species was recorded, and Tn = the total number of transects surveyed (Asefu, 2015). We then classified species as common (observed on >75% of transects), frequent (observed on 50-74% of transects), uncommon (observed on 25-49% of transects) or rare (observed on <25% of transects) following Asefu (2015). We also assigned species to one of 3 major habitats (Redman et al. 2009; Borrow & Demey 2010): (1) aquatic species (wetlands, lakes and marshes); (2) forest species (closed forest); and (3) open habitat species (farmlands with scattered trees and grassland).

Results

Our sociological data reveal that 264 people have registered as members of the IBC since its re-launch. Among these were 155 male (59%), 109 female (41%) and 27 juniors under the age of 12 years (10%). The club has been consistent in its activities, and an average of 31 members attends the monthly meetings.

Biologically, 111 bird species belonging to 39 families were recorded during the survey; their relative frequency, status, biomes and habitat requirements are listed in Appendix 1. Among these were 21 species restricted to the Guinea-Congo Forests Biome, 1 species restricted to the Sudan-Guinea Savannah Biome, 7 Palaearctic migrants and 16 Intra-African migrants, while the rest were resident (Appendix 1). This diversity of birds may be attributed to the different kinds of habitats found within the study area, which allows birds to exploit them differently. For instance, all the 21 species restricted to the Guinea-Congo Forests Biome were recorded within the forest reserve, the yellow-billed shrike (restricted to the Sudan-Guinea Savannah Biome) was recorded only in farmlands, while the palaearctic and Intra-African migrants mainly utilized farmlands and wetlands. Poisson Logistic Regression shows that bird encounter rate significantly differs between habitats and seasons (Table 1; Fig. 5).

Parameters Estimate Error z p
Intercept 0.52325 0.09622 5.438 <0.001
Habitat (forest) -0.07696 0.13472 -0.571 0.568
Habitat (wetland) 0.46761 0.12348 3.787 <0.001
Season (wet) 0.45689 0.11568 3.949 <0.001
forest x wet -0.60378 0.19041 -3.171 <0.001
wetland x wet -0.51344 0.15644 -3.282 <0.001
Differences in encounter rate between habitats and seasons
Fig 5. Differences in encounter rate between habitats and seasons

Discussion

Effective conservation of biodiversity largely depends on the involvement of stakeholders. Our findings have revealed that their involvement increases the appreciation of the natural world. If well-engaged, they can also contribute data which are essential for formulating conservation strategies as presented here. The IBC has successfully raised awareness about bird conservation and engaged citizen scientists. The club has attracted the attention of indigenes, visitors/tourists, enthusiasts, professionals, researchers and students, who in turn disseminate the knowledge gained from the club to a wider audience such as colleagues, families and friends. In addition, the influence generated online via the Facebook Group Page is producing positive cascading effects. Worthy of note is the performance of the IBC Juniors whose age averages 9 years. Children learn quickly at tender ages, and we have maximized this opportunity to inculcate environmental and conservation values in them. It is anticipated that both the values and practical skills will provide a worthwhile basis for their contributions to society as citizens of the future.

Given the focus of this study, which is citizen science, our biological data undoubtedly under-estimate bird diversity in the study area (see Adeyanju et al. 2014). It is also important to note that we were more interested in the number of species encountered per habitat but the fact that more birds were encountered in a certain habitat does not imply it is richer. In addition, the survey was carried out towards late afternoon, implying that we have missed out on some birds at dawn. Nevertheless, the study has added to the goal of constant monitoring of birds and habitats, and local capacity has been built. In addition, our study has affirmed the ornithological significance of the study area by recording 21 out of the 67 bird species that qualify the IITA Forest Reserve as an IBA (Ezealor, 2001). The yellow-billed shrike , a species restricted to the Sudan-Guinea Savannah Biome was recorded during our expeditions. Although this is hardly surprising due to the location of the study area in the transition zone between the forest and savannah (Neuenschwander et al. 2015), this might also provide a clearer indication of savannah encroachment into the forest zone. By occurring in nearly all the habitat types, three species were the most commonly recorded throughout the survey: red-eyed dove (18/18), African pied hornbill (17/18) and pied crow (16/18).

Interestingly, more birds were encountered in the wet than dry season in all three habitats (Table 1; Fig. 5). On the one hand, this may be due to the influx of migratory birds at the end of the wet season in August and September as the study area serves as an important wintering ground for Palaearctic migrants. On the other hand, it may be due to the recruitment of new individuals as most Afro-tropical resident birds are known to breed during the wet season when food is plentiful (Elgood et al. 1994). As IITA is an agricultural research institute, mechanized farming is carried out within the campus. During two of our bird walks during the wet season, over 50 birds at a time were noted intensively foraging behind tractors as they ploughed in the research fields. This might account for the higher number of birds recorded in this habitat during the wet season. In addition, we also noted that heavy downpours caused some lakes to overflow their banks. While this may appear hazardous, receding water increases the concentration of prey available to birds foraging along water bodies (Cumming et al. 2012).

In conclusion, we have provided evidence that environmental education via bird clubs is vital for bird conservation. Our findings from the citizen science data presented here may be the first in Africa and, given the rate at which habitats are lost due to anthropogenic activities, environmental education and citizen science are particularly important now. Although the activities of the IBC were restricted to the IITA campus during this reporting period, plans are underway to replicate activities in other areas around Ibadan. We will also endeavour to get more birdwatching equipment and materials (binoculars, telescopes, cameras, bird song recorders and guidebooks) to better serve the average number of members we expect at monthly meetings.

Acknowledgements

Authors are grateful to the following people and organizations: all IBC members who supported the activities of the club; Chima Nwaogu and Sam Ivande advised on statistical analyses; Shiiwua Manu and Phil Hall commented on an earlier draft; the AG. Leventis Foundation funded the IBC as part of the Ornithological Monitoring Project, and IITA-Ibadan hosted the activities of the club. This is publication number 146 from the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI), Jos, Nigeria.

References

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Awoyemi AG, Bown D, Manu S, Ajayi A, Olasupo O, and Olubodun O. 2018. First breeding record of Ahanta Francolin Pternistis ahantensis for Nigeria. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 25(1):70-71.

Bibby CJ, Burgess ND, and Hill DA. 2000. Bird census techniques. London: Academic Press.

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Demey R. 2015. Volunteers for bird conservation. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 22(1):11.

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Appendix

Family English name Scientific name Relative frequency Status Biome Habitiat
Phalacrocoracidae
long-tailed cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus R R AQ
Ardeidae
purple heron Ardea purpurea U P AQ
squacco heron Ardeola ralloides U P AQ
intermediate egret Egretta intermedia U R AQ
little bittern Ixobrychus minutus R P AQ
black-headed heron Ardea melanocephala U R OH
grey heron Ardea cinerea R P AQ
cattle egret Bubulcus ibis U M OH
green-backed heron Butorides striata R R AQ
great egret Egretta alba R M AQ
little egret Egretta garzetta R M AQ
Threskiornithidae
hadeda ibis Bostrychia hagedash R R AQ
Anatidae
white-faced whistling duck Dendrocygna viduata F R AQ
Accipitridae
African harrier hawk Polyboroides typus R R FR
African cuckoo hawk Aviceda cuculoides R R OH
palm-nut vulture Gypohierax angolensis R R FR
African goshawk Accipiter tachiro R R OH
yellow-billed kite Milvus aegyptius F M OH
Falconidae
lanner falcon Falco biarmicus R R OH
grey kestrel Falco ardosiaceus R R OH
common kestrel Falco tinnunculus U R OH
Numididae
helmeted guineafowl Numida meleagris R R OH
Phasianidae
double-spurred francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus U R OH
Rallidae
African crake Crex egregia R M AQ
Allen’s gallinule Porphyrio alleni R M AQ
black crake Amaurornis flavirostra R R AQ
common moorhen Gallinula chloropus R R AQ
Jacanidae
African jacana Actophilornis africana F R AQ
Burhinidae
Senegal thicknee Burhinus senegalensis R R AQ
Charadriidae
white-headed lapwing Vanellus albiceps F R AQ
Forbes’s plover Charadrius forbesi R R AQ
spur-winged lapwing Vanellus spinosus F R AQ
Scolopacidae
wood sandpiper Tringa glareola R P AQ
common sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos R P AQ
Columbidae
red-eyed dove Streptopelia semitorquata C R OH
speckled pigeon Columba guinea U R OH
blue-spotted wood dove Turtur afer U R FR
African green pigeon Treron calvus R R FR
Musophagidae
western grey plantain-eater Crinifer piscator R R OH
green turaco Tauraco persa R R GCF FR
Cuculidae
black cuckoo Cuculus clamosus R M OH
black-throated coucal Centropus leucogaster R R GCF FR
blue-headed coucal Centropus monachus R R AQ
Diederik cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius R M OH
Klaas’s cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas R M OH
Senegal coucal Centropus senegalensis F R OH
yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus R R FR
Apodidae
African palm swift Cypsiurus parvus R R OH
little swift Apus affinis R R OH
mottled spinetail Telacanthura ussheri R R OH
Alcedinidae
woodland kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis F M OH
malachite kingfisher Alcedo cristata R R AQ
blue-breasted kingfisher Halcyon malimbica R R FR
Meropidae
white-throated bee-eater Merops albicollis R M OH
Coraciidae
broad-billed roller Eurystomus glaucurus R M OH
Bucerotidae
African pied hornbill Tockus fasciatus C R FR
African grey hornbill Tockus nasutus U M OH
Capitonidae
red-rumped tinkerbird Pogoniulus atroflavus R R GCF FR
Hirundinidae
lesser striped swallow Hirundo abyssinica R M OH
red-rumped swallow Hirundo daurica R M OH
Ethiopian swallow Hirundo aethiopica R R OH
Motacillidae
plain-backed pipit Anthus leucophrys R R OH
African pied wagtail Motacilla aguimp R R OH
yellow-throated longclaw Macronyx croceus U R OH
Pycnonotidae
common bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus F R OH
swamp palm bulbul Thescelocichla leucopleura R R GCF FR
simple leaflove Chlorocichla simplex R R GCF FR
little greenbul Andropadus virens R R FR
grey-headed bristlebill Bleda canicapillus R R GCF FR
yellow-whiskered greenbul Andropadus latirostris R R FR
western nicator Nicator chloris R R GCF FR
Turdidae
African thrush Turdus pelios F R OH
whinchat Saxicola rubetra R P OH
snowy-crowned robin chat Cossypha niveicapilla R R OH
Sylviidae
green crombec Sylvietta virens R R GCF FR
red-faced cisticola Cisticola erythrops U R OH
short-winged cisticola Cisticola brachypterus R R OH
tawny-flanked prinia Prinia subflava R R OH
African moustached warbler Melocichla mentalis R R OH
grey-backed camaroptera Camaroptera brachyura R R OH
olive green camaroptera Camaroptera chloronota R R GCF FR
green hylia Hylia prasina R R GCF FR
croaking cisticola Cisticola natalensis R R OH
yellow-browed camaroptera Camaroptera superciliaris R R GCF FR
Monarchidae
red-bellied paradise flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer R R GCF FR
blue-headed crested flycatcher Trochocercus nitens R R GCF FR
Nectarinidae
splendid sunbird Cinnyris coccinigastrus U R FR
collared sunbird Hedydipna colaris R R FR
green-headed sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis R R OH
blue-throated brown sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema R R GCF FR
olive sunbird Cyanomitra olivacea R R FR
olive-bellied sunbird Cinnyris chloropygius R R FR
Laniidae
yellow-billed shrike Corvinella corvina R R SGS OH
Malaconotidae
tropical boubou Laniarius aethiopicus R R FR
Oriolidae
black-winged oriole Oriolus nigripennis R R GCF FR
Dicuridae
fork-tailed drongo Dicrurus adsimilis U R OH
square-tailed drongo Dicrurus ludwigii R R OH
Corvidae
pied crow Corvus albus C R OH
Sturnidae
forest chestnut-winged starling Onychognathus fulgidus R R GCF FR
Passeridae
northern grey-headed sparrow Passer griseus R R OH
Ploceidae
red-headed quelea Quelea erythrops R M OH
Vieillot’s black weaver Ploceus nigerrimus R R GCF FR
village weaver Ploceus cucullatus R R OH
red-headed malimbe Malimbus rubricollis U R GCF FR
red-vented malimbe Malimbus scutatus R R GCF FR
yellow-mantled weaver Ploceus tricolor R R GCF FR
northern red bishop Euplectes franciscanus R R OH
Estrididae
bronze mannikin Spermestes cucullatus F R OH
grey-headed negrofinch Nigrita canicapillus R R GCF FR
orange-cheeked waxbill Estrilda melpoda R R OH
Viduidae
pin-tailed whydah Vidua macroura U R OH

Greedy southern pale chanting goshawk

Adult female, the tail of a lizard still sticking out of her beak. Safring ring number 723669, ringed north of Witvlei, Namibia (22 deg 24'S; 18 deg 30'E).

Franke-Bryson U. 2019. Greedy southern pale chanting goshawk Melierax canorus. Biodiversity Observations 10.8:1-7

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Greedy southern pale chanting goshawk Melierax canorus

Ursula Franke-Bryson

Tal 34, Munich, Germany

Summary

Southern pale chanting goshawks (Melierax canorus) never miss an opportunity for feeding on any creature living or dead. Here three birds are recorded with the beak or crop still full, and hunting techniques and diet are described.

Introduction

Southern pale chanting goshawk hunting skills encompass a great variety of techniques. They hunt alone or in groups. They mainly hunt smaller prey, but are capable of killing animals heavier than themselves. The local available biodiversity determines the composition of the diet, which is generally highly diverse. Among recorded prey items are mammals (mainly rodents), birds (a variety of species ranging from larks, swallows, weavers to the size of francolin, korhaan, sandgrouse, owls and guineafowl) (Malan and Crowe 1996). Predation records have included a stunned rock kestrel or sometimes chickens (Steyn 1982). Southern pale chanting goshawks have also been recorded predating reptiles, amphibians, and invertebrates (sunspiders, harvester termites, grasshoppers, beetles and other insects). Southern pale chanting goshawks also feed on carrion of any kind, from hares to owls (Stein 1982; Biggs et al. 1984; Malan and Crowe 1996; Allan 2005). In one incident they might have detected a carcass of an Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) by observing Cape crows (Corvus capensis) gathering nearby (Ryan et al. 2012).

Steyn (1982) reports lizards as the most common prey in Kenya, while a study in the Western Cape Province, South Africa, found that more than 90% of the diet consisted of three species of rodents: Karoo bush rat (Myotomys (Otomys) unisulcatus), Brants’ whistling rat (Parotomys brantsii) and four-striped grass mouse (Rhabdomys pumilio) (Malan and Crowe 1996). Malan (2017) found leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) hatchlings being preyed upon, but only in their first two weeks while their carapaces, the outer shells, were still soft. In the arid savannah near Usakos, Namibia, (22° 24’S; 15° 25’E), I once saw two juvenile southern pale chanting goshawks, in the presence of one adult, dropping down clumsily on three young bat-eared foxes (Otocyon megalotis) who made it in time to their distant underground den, while the adult fox was defensively snapping into the air towards the attacking birds. It is unclear whether this behaviour was curiosity, hunting instinct, honing the hunting skills of the juveniles, or a serious attempt at predation in the harsh environment.

Southern pale chanting goshawks perch high up to swoop down on prey and may pursue their prey swiftly on foot, if needed. They run so “blisteringly fast with these long legs” that “they easily can catch a sunspider” (Malan 2017). In strong wind, hunting may be restricted to the ground (pers. obs.). Although most prey are caught on the ground, birds can also be predated in flight, as Steyn (1982) observed during predation on a crowned plover (Vanellus coronatus) and a harlequin quail (Coturnix delegorguei).

Southern pale chanting goshawks are also known to take advantage of the hunting skills of other animals, and follow mammals (mainly honey badger, Melivora capensis, and slender mongoose, Galerella sanguinea), other birds, and possibly rock monitors (Varanus albigularis), who all could flush prey by their presence, by digging and exploring holes. Pale chanting goshawks have been sighted hoping for secondary prey from a Cape cobra (Naja nivea) (Siebert and Siebert 2003; Vanderwalt 2016), and kleptoparasitising a booted eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus) (in Malan 1998, p. 199) and a pipit from a kestrel (Steyn 1982).

Observation

We have caught two different southern pale chanting goshawk individuals, which had swallowed lizards directly before our observations – the tail of a lizard was still sticking out of the throat when each came swooping down to its next prey in the form of a mouse in a trap (Figures 1 and 2). Bird ringers might have experienced that a southern pale chanting goshawk will repeatedly try to take the bait whenever an attempt (or more) of catching the bird with a bal-chatri trap has failed. A bal-chatri is a cage containing a live rodent used to attract the attention of the raptor, and with nooses or fishline on top of the cage to entangle the raptor’s feet when landing and trying to catch the bait (de Beer 2001).

Adult female, the tail of a lizard still sticking out of her beak. Safring ring number 723669, ringed north of Witvlei, Namibia (22 deg 24'S; 18 deg 30'E).
Adult female, the tail of a lizard still sticking out of her beak. Safring ring number 723669, ringed north of Witvlei, Namibia (22 deg 24’S; 18 deg 30’E).
Adult male, the tail of a lizard still sticking out of his beak. Safring ring number K34924, ringed near Omitara, Namibia (22 deg 21'S; 17 deg 40'E).
Adult male, the tail of a lizard still sticking out of his beak. Safring ring number K34924, ringed near Omitara, Namibia (22 deg 21’S; 17 deg 40’E).

A further adult female was trapped and ringed coming straight from a fresh helmeted guineafowl (Numida meleagris) kill. All flesh had been consumed. The southern pale chanting goshawk came to the bal-chatri already with a huge crop (Figures 3 and 4). As the site was near a gravel road, it remains unclear whether the southern pale chanting goshawk had killed the guineafowl or whether it had been hit by a car.

A bulging crop which contains a helmeted guineafowl, Limpopo Province, South Africa. (Photo credit: Lyn Williams)
A bulging crop which contains a helmeted guineafowl, Limpopo Province, South Africa. (Photo credit: Lyn Williams)
The remains of the helmeted guineafowl. (Photo credit: Lyn Williams)
The remains of the helmeted guineafowl. (Photo credit: Lyn Williams)

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Susan Mvungi from the Niven Library, Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, University of Cape Town, for supporting me with access to literature, and to Dane Paijmans for revising the text.

References

Allan DG 2005. Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk. In: Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ, Ryan PG (eds). Roberts Birds of Southern Africa. 7th Ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. pp 509-511.

de Beer SJ, Lockwood GM, Raijmakers JHFA, Raijmakers JMH, Scott WA, Oschadleus HD, Underhill LG 2001. SAFRING bird ringing manual. 2nd Ed. Animal Demography Unit, Cape Town.

Biggs HC, Biggs R, Freyer E 1984. Observations on the Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus during a period of poor rainfall. Proceedings of the Second Symposium on African Predatory Birds 61-70. Natal Bird Club, Durban.

Ferguson-Lees J, Christie DA 2001. Raptors of the world. Christopher Helm, London. pp 512-513.

Kemp AC, Kirwan GM 2017. Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus. In: del Hoyo J, Elliott A, Sargatal J, Christie DA, de Juana E (eds). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. Available from http://www.hbw.com/node/53039 (Accessed on on 29.10.2017).

Malan G 1998. Solitary and social hunting in Pale Chanting Goshawk Melierax canorus families: why use both strategies? Journal of Raptor Research 32:195-201.

Malan G 2017. The singing Goshawk. Available from http://www.wildcard.co.za/the-singing-goshawk/ (Accessed on on 20.7.2018).

Malan G, Crowe TM 1996. The diet and conservation of monogamous and polyandrous Pale Chanting Goshawks in the Little Karoo, South Africa. South African Journal of Wildlife Research 26:1-10.

Ryan PG, Shaw JM, van der Merwe R, van der Merwe E 2012. Carrion attraction: goshawks and other birds captured on camera traps. Ornithological Observations 3:102-106. Available from http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=49 (Accessed on on 29.10.2017).

Siebert S, Siebert P 2003. Pale Chanting Goshawk following Cape Cobra. Promerops 254:19.

Steyn P 1982. Birds of prey of Southern Africa. Their identification and life histories. David Philip, Cape Town. pp 183-186.

Vanderwalt B 2016. Co-operative feeding. Biodiversity Observations 7.71:1. Available from http://bo.adu.org.za/content.php?id=264 (Accessed on 29.10.2017).

White-throated Swallows in Cape Town

Pair-of-adult-White-throated-Swallows

White-throated Swallows are common in Cape Town in the summer months, building their nests under the multiple bridges that cross canals and rivers. They migrate north in Africa for the wet winter.

Ringing of these swallows (both adults and nestlings) has been opportunistic most of the time, while ringing weavers in wetlands around Cape Town. Nevertheless, some interesting data has been obtained. Most chicks were ringed in October and November, matching the peak of October to December. Brood size varied from 2 to 4 (average 2.8) – this compares with published clutch size of 2-5 (mean 3.2), suggesting a small mortality of eggs laid to chicks fledged.

White-throated-Swallows-chicks-nearly-ready-to-fledge-and-ready-to-be-ringed
White-throated-Swallows-chicks-nearly-ready-to-fledge-and-ready-to-be-ringed

 

One adult White-throated Swallow was recaptured 3 years later and another 2 years later, and two others a few months later. All recaptures were in the same area, suggesting a high site fidelity in this species. None of the 33 chicks ringed has been recaptured to date.

Sites-where-White-throated-Swallows-chicks-have-been-ringed-in-Cape-Town-no.-of-chicks-shown
Sites-where-White-throated-Swallows-chicks-have-been-ringed-in-Cape-Town-no.-of-chicks-shown

 

The range and numbers of this species have increased in the Western Cape due to the widespread availability of impoundments and structures that can be used as nesting sites. The White-throated Swallow could be an interesting subject of more detailed studies.

Pair-of-adult-White-throated-Swallows
Pair-of-adult-White-throated-Swallows

Longevities of kingfishers

E16147 oldest known Malachite Kingfisher

Kingfishers are colourful and interesting, and it is a great pleasure to hold one in the hand (Figure 1). Catching them also provides valuable data, and here longevity data will be highlighted (data that can only reliably be obtained from ringing efforts).

Figure 1. Top (L to R): Pied Kingfisher, Half-collared Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, African Pygmy Kingfisher. Bottom (L to R): Woodland Kingfisher, Mangrove Kingfisher, Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Figure 1. Top (L to R): Pied Kingfisher, Half-collared Kingfisher, Malachite Kingfisher, African Pygmy Kingfisher. Bottom (L to R): Woodland Kingfisher, Mangrove Kingfisher, Grey-hooded Kingfisher, Brown-hooded Kingfisher

There are 10 species in southern Africa, and the greatest longevity record is nearly 9 years, for a Brown-hooded Kingfisher, followed closely by Woodland and Giant Kingfishers both at 8 years. The most ringed kingfisher species is the Malachite Kingfisher, followed by Brown-hooded Kingfisher and African Pygmy Kingfisher, all species with over 2400 individuals ringed. The other kingfishers have less than 900 ringed each, with the rarer Mangrove Kingfisher at only 12 ringed. No Mangrove Kingfishers have been recaptured nor found dead, so this kingfisher has no longevity record.

The longevity for the African Pygmy Kingfisher is not high, being close to 4 years. Partly this could be due to it being an intra-African migrant, and it is not retrapped often. The greatest distance moved for this species (based on ringing data) is 433 km, between Durban and East London. Kingfishers in Europe have reached an age of 21 years, which is substantially more than records for African kingfishers, possibly due to more ringing in Europe and greater efforts to recapture these birds. This shows that there is potential for much greater longevities in our kingfishers, especially as African birds usually reach higher ages than similar species in Europe.

One of the kingfishers with the most number of recaptures was bird E16147 (Figure 2), ringed as an adult along the Ottery River in Cape Town, and recaptured 11 times thereafter, and becoming the oldest known Malachite Kingfisher. Unfortunately the ringing site was abandoned after the site deteriorated (dumping of rubble, and other factors), else the longevity record may have been a few years more by now (if the same bird was still alive and being caught). This also highlights the threat  of habitat loss to kingfishers, and Malachite Kingfishers are sadly declining in southern Africa.

Figure 2. E16147 oldest known Malachite Kingfisher
Figure 2. E16147 oldest known Malachite Kingfisher

Table 1. Longevity records for the southern African kingfisher species

Species Longevity Ring no.
Malachite Kingfisher 6y 5m E16147
Brown-hooded Kingfisher 8y 11m E44060
African Pygmy Kingfisher 3y 11m Y00280
Woodland Kingfisher 8y 0m E34901
Pied Kingfisher 5y 11m 423533
Grey-hooded Kingfisher 5y 0m 4A39419
Giant Kingfisher 8y 0m PA04160
Half-collared Kingfisher 4y 1m E31580
Striped Kingfisher 3y 7m E07527
Mangrove Kingfisher n/a

 

Dwarf ravens prey on thick-knee

Figure 12: The ravens killed, dismembered, and ate the spotted thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho.

Wairasho PS. 2019. Dwarf ravens kill and eat a spotted thick-knee – previously undocumented behavior of the dwarf raven or Somali crow. Biodiversity Observations 10.7:1-8

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Dwarf ravens kill and eat a spotted thick-knee – previously undocumented behavior of the dwarf raven or Somali crow

Peter S. Wairasho

Nairobi, Kenya

The dwarf raven or Somali crow (Corvus edithae) is an endemic resident in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somali, Kenya and SE Sudan (Fry et al. 2000). In Kenya they are locally found mostly in the North from around Kapedo, Laisamis, Mado Gashi and Wajir areas. These birds belong to the family Corvidae. They are medium to large passerine birds. They are conspicuous, bold, inquisitive and highly adaptable. As a family they occupy a wide range of habitats including forest, woodland, grassland, tundra, desert and cliffs but more often around human habitation (Fry et al. 2000).

This species, in particular, inhabits deserts, semi-deserts, arid plains, dry savannas and open thorn bush from sea level to around 2000 m ASL (Fry et al. 2000). Their general behavior is not well documented but they are known to be solitary or to live in pairs and in flocks of up to 100 in the non-breeding season. They are usually fearless and aggressive.

Their food consists of small ground-dwelling animals, carrion, some plants, bird eggs, ticks and lice (Fry et al. 2000). They are largely considered to be scavengers. Thus, while at Turkana in May 2018 I was surprised to witness a small group of the species behave like raptors in pursuit of their prey. A group of three dwarf ravens landed about 50 m from where I was standing, and began rummaging through small dry bushes (Figures 1 and 2).

Figure 1: Dwarf ravens landed near a bush with spotted thick-knees in Turkana. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 1: Dwarf ravens landed near a bush with spotted thick-knees in Turkana. (c) PS Wairasho

 

Figure 2: The ravens entered the bush. (c) PS Wairasho.
Figure 2: The ravens entered the bush. (c) PS Wairasho.

I had not even taken much notice of two fully-grown spotted thick-knees (Burhinus capensis) nearby (Figure 3), thanks to their cryptic plumage which blended well with the surroundings: sun-bleached volcanic rocks spewed all over this vast arid region interspersed by short dry grass and bushes.

Figure 3: Spotted thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 3: Spotted thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho

Before long, I noticed something emerge fast from the short bushes, apparently disturbed by the ravens. It was a young spotted thick-knee (Figure 4), not fully grown but just as tall as the parents, who were close by.

Figure 4: Juvenile spotted thick-knee emerged from the grass. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 4: Juvenile spotted thick-knee emerged from the grass. (c) PS Wairasho

The ravens actively pursued the young thick-knee (Figure 5), caught it and relentlessly attacked it (Figures 6, 7, 8, 9).

Figure 5: Dwarf ravens pursued the juvenile thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 5: Dwarf ravens pursued the juvenile thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho

 

Figure 6: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 6: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho

 

Figure 7: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 7: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho

 

Figure 8: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho.
Figure 8: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho.

 

Figure 9: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 9: Dwarf ravens attacked the thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho

The attack was briefly interrupted when Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) landed nearby (Figure 10) and again when a white-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) landed nearby (Figure 11).

Figure 10: Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) landed near the ravens. (c) PS Wairasho
Figure 10: Egyptian vultures (Neophron percnopterus) landed near the ravens. (c) PS Wairasho

 

Figure 11: A white-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) landed near the ravens. (c) PS Wairasho.
Figure 11: A white-headed vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) landed near the ravens. (c) PS Wairasho.

The parents of the young thick-knee watched from a safe distance away and made no attempts to rescue the fledgling. Eventually the ravens killed the thick-knee before proceeding to dismember it and devour it (Figure 12).

Figure 12: The ravens killed, dismembered, and ate the spotted thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho.
Figure 12: The ravens killed, dismembered, and ate the spotted thick-knee. (c) PS Wairasho.

We could not find other records of Corvids actively hunting and killing live prey but it is likely desert dwelling corvids will often resort to catching live prey (of any taxa).

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Dr Peter Njoroge for his advice in the presentation of this record.

References

Fry CH, Keith S, and Urban EK (Eds). 2000. The Birds of Africa Vol. VI Academic Press, London.

Checklist of the Birds of Kenya, Fourth Edition, OS-c EANHS September 2009.

Mad buffalo

Figure 3. Buffalo thrashing the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

de Castro J, and de Castro M. 2019. Mad buffalo. Biodiversity Observations 10.6:1-9

Biodiversity Observations is an open access electronic journal published by the Animal Demography Unit at the University of Cape Town. This HTML version of this manuscript is hosted by the Biodiversity and Development Institute. Further details for this manuscript can be found at the journal page, and the manuscript page, along with the original PDF.


Mad buffalo

Julio de Castro

Harare, Zimbabwe

Mabel de Castro

Harare, Zimbabwe

We were on a game drive following the Shingwedzi River towards the Kanniedood Dam in the Kruger National Park on 5 October 2017. About four km after leaving the Shingwedzi Rest Camp we spotted a group of lions feeding on a greater kudu that appeared to have been killed earlier that morning (Figure 1). It was 08h30.

Figure 1. Four lionesses feeding on the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 1. Four lionesses feeding on the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

There were ten lions: two adult males, one young male, and seven adult females. They were feeding on the opposite bank of the river. Although the latter was open sand banks with scattered bushes, our visibility was rather limited by the dense vegetation on our side. After a while we managed to find a gap in the vegetation that enabled us to watch them.

At exactly 08h45 (we know the exact times because of the photo timestamps) four lionesses were feeding on the kill while the remaining members of the pride were nearby, either a few metres away or up on the river bank. We also noted that there were three adult buffalo about 50 metres towards the right of the lions. They were not grazing, just watching them.

Suddenly, one of the buffalo ran the distance that separated it from the lions at speed and charged the group, scattering them in all directions (Figure 2). Then the buffalo started to head-butt the greater kudu carcass.

Figure 2. First charge by most aggressive buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 2. First charge by most aggressive buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

The buffalo thrashed the carcass for a few seconds. During this time, the lions dispersed a short distance and then stopped and watched the buffalo (Figures 3 – 5).

Figure 3. Buffalo thrashing the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 3. Buffalo thrashing the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 4. Buffalo thrashing the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 4. Buffalo thrashing the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 5. Buffalo thrashing the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 5. Buffalo thrashing the kudu carcass. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

Then, the other two buffalo came and the trio stood at the site for a while before moving off to the other side of the carcass at a distance of about 30 metres (Figures 6 and 7).

Figure 6. Buffalo “controlling” the area once the lions left. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 6. Buffalo “controlling” the area once the lions left. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 7. Buffalo “controlling” the area once the lions left. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 7. Buffalo “controlling” the area once the lions left. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

Two minutes later the lions started to come back and resumed feeding, still being watched by the buffalo. Several lion came to feed and left, including the males. After thirty minutes, six lionesses were feeding at the kill (Figure 8) when a second buffalo charge took place (Figures 9 and 10).

Figure 8. Lions coming back after the buffalo moved off. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro
Figure 8. Lions coming back after the buffalo moved off. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro
Figure 9. Second charge by buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 9. Second charge by buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 10. Second charge by buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 10. Second charge by buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

This time the buffalo only displaced the lions and it did not interfere with the carcass (Figure 11).

Figure 11. Second charge by buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 11. Second charge by buffalo. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

After this second interaction the three buffalo turned their attention towards the lions that were now away from the carcass and proceeded to flush them out from the locations the lions chose as cover (Figure 12).

Figure 12. Buffalo pursuing lions from various places along the river. This is an example of the buffalo behaviour. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.
Figure 12. Buffalo pursuing lions from various places along the river. This is an example of the buffalo behaviour. (c) J de Castro and M de Castro.

After about one hour of this confrontation, one of the lionesses moved off and walked about 200m towards a pool in the river and, after drinking, took cover under some bushes.

By about 11h00 the standoff was over and the buffalo moved away leaving the lions undisturbed either singly or in small groups at various places along the river. When we returned before sunset, a group of lions was resting on the riverbed but the buffalo were no longer in the area. By the following morning there were no signs of the lions or the carcass but some buffalo were still in the area.

We believe that there are three issues of interest. The first is that at no time the lions attempted to face or retaliate against the buffalo despite the size of the pride. This is probably explained either by not being hungry (as they had fed on the grater kudu) and/or being aware that the strong buffalo were a dangerous prey.

The second issue is the clear and understandable adverse reaction of the buffalo against the lions that they perceive as a danger and did not wish to have in their territory.

The third issue relates to the buffalo behaviour towards the carcass. It is possible that, unable to retaliate against the lions, the buffalo’s anger was expressed against what they saw as associated with the predators. Of course we cannot rule out that some other reason sight- or smell-related, triggered this conduct.

Perhaps readers with more experience on animal behaviour would like to comment on this and put forward a better explanation?