The Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalebeus is a small sunbird in the family Nectariniidae. The male and female look different from one another. The male has a pale grey belly and relatively narrow red breast band. The female is overall grey-brown. The only similar species it overlaps with in geographic range is the Greater Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris afer. It differs from the Southern Double-collared Sunbird by being about 20% larger, with a longer, heavier bill, a much broader red breast band in the male, and a slower song.
The female might not be as flashy in her colouration, but still just as elegant. She has brown upperparts and yellowish-grey underparts. Juveniles resemble the females. It can be tricky to tell the difference between female Southern Double-collared Sunbirds and other female sunbird species. In general, Southern Double-collared Sunbird females are greyer below than female Orange-breasted Sunbirds, and darker below than female Dusky Sunbirds.
This beautiful little sunbird gives a characteristic short two-note “cher-cher” call and a rapid high-pitched song of up-and-down notes. Take a listen in the video below:
It prefers fynbos, Karoo shrubland, as well as woodland, Afromontane forests, gardens, and even Eucalyptus plantations.
Southern Double-collared Sunbirds are endemic to southern Africa, occurring from the far south of Namibia to South Africa. The core of their distribution is centred around the Western Cape extending east and north to KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo Province.
The Southern Double-collared Sunbird is usually seen singly or in small groups. Its flight is fast and direct on its short wings. It feeds mainly on nectar from flowers, but also eats fruit, and, especially when feeding young, insects and spiders.
The nest is built solely by the female in about 25-30 days. The nest has an an oval-shaped structure with a side entrance, built of grass, strands of old man’s beard Galium tomentosum, rootlets, and twigs. All of this is then strongly secured with spider web. There are exceptions though, as some nests (especially in forests) can be constructed entirely out of old-man’s-beard Usnea barbata.
Egg-laying season is almost year-round, peaking from July to September. Southern Double-collared Sunbirds lay 1-3 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-16 days. The chicks are fed by both adults, and they leave the nest after about 15-19 days. The parents feed the chicks until they are about 42-46 days old, at which point the young become fully independent.
Species Text from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997
Location: New Holme Guest Farm (Karoo Gariep NR), Northern Cape – between Hanover and Colesburg [coords for turn-off]
For: trainees and ringers
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in attending
There is great potential for a wide variety of birds, including some Karoo specials. Some of the sites and birds that could be caught for ringing are listed (with species ringed to date in the table below).
There is a patch of reeds near the research station, hosting warblers and breeding Southern Masked Weavers and some Southern Red Bishops in summer. These birds roost in the reeds when not breeding.
In autumn berry bushes attract fruit eaters like Red-eyed Bulbuls, White-backed Mousebirds, Wattled Starlings and others.
Extensive gardens with lawns and large trees host Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Robin-chat, Karoo Thrush and others. Seeds on the lawn attract large numbers of Cape Sparrows, with some doves, weavers, queleas, bishops, and Red-headed Finches.
At the farm house Greater Striped Swallow, Rock Martin and possibly White-rumped Swifts breed under the roof eaves, so high nets can be used here.
In the karoo veldt we can try to catch specials like Spike-heeled Lark and other larks, prinias, Rufous-eared Warbler, chats and wheatears.
There are some surrounding farms where we will be able to ring as well.
Previous ringing totals
Previous ringing: 10-12 November 2019 and from 16 March to 21 April 2022.
Species summary for 2019 and 2022 ringing at New Holme (ringed and recaptured):
During late-April and May, Curlew Sandpipers, and lots of other migrant waders, will be migrating through Ukraine. They will be joined by many passerine migrants, such as the warblers. There will also be some of the migrant raptors, such as Steppe Buzzard and the big eagles (such as Lesser Spotted Eagle), and the small falcons (such as Lesser Kestrel). They will be on their way to breeding grounds in the Russian tundra, the taiga and the steppes.
But this blog focuses on the Curlew Sandpiper. This is because the information for this wader is readily available (as you will see below), and because it has all been neatly assembled into one monograph, in International Wader Studies, a publication of the International Wader Study Group.
Most Curlew Sandpipers breed in a relatively small area in northern Asia, the tundra zone of northern Siberia. They don’t spend long on their breeding grounds. They arrive near the beginning of the thaw, in June and they leave at the end of July/beginning of August, when cold and snow return.
Once on the breeding grounds, there is quite a lot of variability in the start of egg-laying due to inter-year fluctuations in the timing of the thaw. The incubation period is 20 days, and the fledging period is an incredibly short 15 days. So the period from laying eggs to independent young is little more than a month. Males play no role in incubation and chick-rearing, so they leave on southwards migration around the end of June. Females leave as soon as their chicks have fledged. These immature birds head south a week or two later, without parental guidance! This ordering of migration is observed at bird ringing stations on the migration route: males first, then females, and finally the juveniles.
Curlew Sandpipers migrate to a vast area of Africa and Australasia during the non-breeding season:
After the breeding season, arrival on migration at the southern end of Africa starts near the end of September, and numbers at wetlands build up in October-November. The average weight of a Curlew Sandpiper at the non-breeding site at Langebaan Lagoon in the West Coast National Park, South Africa, from arrival until February is 57g. After this they gradually increase in weight. When they depart on migration, the weigh 80–90g. Most of this additional mass is fat, fuel for migration. But this is not enough fuel for the entire journey to the tundra. Far from enough!
The mean departure date on northwards migration from Langebaan Lagoon is estimated to be 24 April. The mean arrival date on the breeding grounds in Siberia is estimated to be 10 June. That is 42 days. Mean flight speed is 65km/hour. The distance from Langebaan Lagoon to the breeding grounds on the tundra of the Taimyr Peninsula is about 13,000km. At 65km/hour, flying 24 hours per day, a Curlew Sandpiper can cover 1,560km/day. Finally, 13,000/1,560 = 8 days to fly the distance. The remaining 42–8=34 days is used for refuelling. This can only be done at high-quality wetlands where food is abundant. According to flight-range formulae obtained during experiments in which birds flew in wind tunnels, a Curlew Sandpiper needs 132g of fuel to travel from Langebaan Lagoon to the breeding grounds. 99g must be obtained on the journey during the 34 non-fly days: 99/34=2.7g per day. This is well within their capabilities, so it is a believable number. (This information is sourced from this paper).
Not all Curlew Sandpipers migrating from their non-breeding grounds in Africa to the breeding areas in Siberia follow the same route. But the total number of really good wetlands for refuelling is small.
One of the best is the Sivash, in the western edge of the Sea of Azov, which in turn is in the northeastern part of the Black Sea, in the disputed territory of the Crimean Peninsula:
Researchers at the Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Station estimate that around 66,000 Curlew Sandpipers refuel in the Sivash on northwards migration (and 160,000 on autumn migration). Most refueling sites for Curlew Sandpipers (and other waders on migration) are tidal. This results in extensive areas of mud and sand becoming available at every low tide for feeding. But the Black Sea is too small to have any tides at all, and this applies also to the Sea of Azov, and especially the Sivash.
So how come the Sivash a great refueling site? The answer is the wind. It is a complex area of shallow lagoons. As the wind blows in one direction, it pushes water along with it, and this results in some mudflats being exposed for a while. Then it blows in a different direction, and another set of mudflats are exposed. The refueling waders continuously redistribute themselves opportunistically to use the best areas under any one set of wind conditions.
In studies which started in 1974, it is known that northward passage of Curlew Sandpipers through the Sivash starts in mid-April. Peak migration is in the period 11-20 May, and it tapers off by the end of the month.
So in the next few weeks, Curlew Sandpipers, and many other birds, probably counted in millions, are going to migrate through the battle zones of the eastern half of Ukraine. It will be migration in a time of war. We simply have no idea of whether the habitats they will use have been impacted by military activity.
The Ukrainians based at the Azov-Black Sea Ornithological Station have done extensive bird ringing (see the map above for the main ringing sites). They have retrapped Curlew Sandpipers from other countries, and theirs have been retrapped elsewhere. This information is summarized in this map:
From the Ukrainian perspective, their Curlew Sandpipers are linked with a remarkable number of countries: Norway, Finland, Poland, Swede, Germany, UK, France, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Bulgaria, Russia, Greece, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Benin, Mali, Sudan, Chad, Namibia and South Africa – that is 22 countries that have shared individual Curlew Sandpipers with the Ukraine via bird rings. In reality, there are many more.
The media coverage of armed conflict and war rightly tends to focus on the humanitarian impacts. But it is important to grasp that war also has impacts on biodiversity. The land over which the war is fought is frequently degraded (think defoliants, bomb craters, soil compaction and chemical contamination from weapons such as tanks), so that important habitats are damaged and species loss accelerated. Conservation initiatives fall by the wayside. Research, and especially the type of research that provided the data used in this blog, stops. In some parts of the world, war leads to increases in wildlife poaching and human encroachment on protected areas. Sadly, the impacts of war on biodiversity are so widespread (and so poorly understood) that a subdiscipline of ecology known as “warfare ecology” has come into existence (see Machlis, G.E. & Hanson, T. 2008. Warfare ecology. BioScience 58: 729–736).
Recommended citation format: Underhill LG 2022. Migration in a time of war: through the battle zone. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available Online at http://thebdi.org/2022/04/07/migration-in-a-time-of-war-through-the-battle-zone/
View the above photo record (by Jean-Paul Brouard) in FrogMAPhere.
Find the Power’s Long Reed Frog in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.
POWER’S LONG REED FROG – Hyperolius poweri
This species inhabits the Savanna and Grassland biomes. In South Africa it occurs at or near sea level in Coastal Bushveld-Grassland. It breeds in shallow coastal pans, vleis and inundated grassland with dense, emergent and/or littoral vegetation – in particular, the sedges Eleocharis limosa and Cyperus papyrus (Poynton 1964; Lambiris 1989a; Passmore and Carruthers 1995; pers. obs.). In Malawi it has been found in dense, emergent vegetation associated with marshes, ponds and streams in open and wooded country, and on the edge of forest, from the lakeshore at an altitude of 475 m, up to 2286 m on the Nyika Plateau (Stewart 1967; A. Turner pers. obs.). In Zimbabwe it has been found breeding in pans and flooded grassland (A. Turner pers. comm.).
Very little is known about the behavioural ecology of this species during the non-breeding season. Breeding takes place in the wet season (Stewart 1967). During the day, adults sit in exposed positions on emergent vegetation, parallel to the stem or leaf blade, but dive into the water when disturbed. In the afternoon, and at night, males call from elevated positions, near the tops of sedges and reeds, and frequently engage in territorial disputes (Wager 1965; Stewart 1967; Razetti and Msuya 2002; A. Turner pers. comm.).
Females deposit 60–292 eggs, in groups of 2–20, on submerged leaves or roots. Tadpoles leave the egg capsule about five days later (Wager 1965).
Predators include various birds, snakes, terrapins, spiders and other frogs, while prey consists mainly of flying insects (pers. obs.).
Status and Conservation
A major threat to H. acuticeps is habitat loss through the drainage of wetlands for agricultural and urban development. In several areas in KwaZulu-Natal, Eucalyptus plantations have lowered the water table to such a degree that many coastal pans have completely disappeared; as a result, the species’ range has been considerably diminished during the past c.15 years. With the exception of populations within nature reserves, the species is now encountered only rarely; in the past, it was much more common and widespread.
This species occurs in several established provincial reserves and protected areas and does not appear to require any further conservation action. However, because of recent declines, it is recommended that protected populations be monitored.
H.poweri occurs in a narrow band down the east coast. It ranges from southern Mozambique and down the length of the KwaZulu-Natal coast, extending marginally into the Eastern Cape.
More common names: Sharp-nosed Reed Frog, Long Reed Freog (Alternative English Names); Power se Skerpneusrietpadda (Afrikaans)
Recommended citation format for this species text:
Bishop PJ, Tippett RM. Power’s Long Reed Frog Hyperolius poweri. BDI, Cape Town. Available online at http://thebdi.org/2022/04/04/powers-long-reed-frog-hyperolius-poweri/
Recommended citation format:
This species text has been updated and expanded from the text in the 2004 frog atlas. The reference to the text and the book are as follows:
Bishop PJ 2004 Hyperolius acuticeps Sharp-nosed Reed Frog. In Minter LR et al 2004.
Minter LR, Burger M, Harrison JA, Braack HH, Bishop PJ, Kloepfer D (eds) 2004. Atlas and Red Data Book of the Frogs of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, and Avian Demography Unit, Cape Town.