As small as its name implies

Let’s Chirp with Tim Cockcroft

THERE have been a few occasions this year already when I have had a mild case of writer’s block, wondering what to write about for my next issue of “Let’s Chirp”.

While I am pondering, a special or rare bird for our area will suddenly pitch up. I’ll go to the site, take some photos, watch the bird in question and then voilà… I have my “bird of the week”. This week is one of those occasions, seeing that a pair of African pygmy geese appeared at a pan near Bushman’s River.

SURFACE SWIMMER: The African pygmy goose is not a diver like other ducks Picture: TIM COCKCROFT
SURFACE SWIMMER: The African pygmy goose is not a diver like other ducks Picture: TIM COCKCROFT

The African pygmy goose usually occurs from about northern KwaZulu-Natal and up into Zimbabwe, northern Botswana, North-eastern Namibia and into Africa. Its preferred habitat is freshwater pans, lakes and quiet waters, particularly where water lilies are abundant.

Although there are very few to no water lilies where “our” pair were seen, they seemed quite at home, going about their usual pygmy goose business. The male and female stay close together at all times, feeding on the algae on the surface of the water, instead of diving “bottoms up” like other ducks. The male is a pretty bird – beautifully coloured warm brown, with a white face and green cheeks and a bright yellow bill. The female has a duller face, speckled with grey and black.

As the name implies, these birds are really small. They are a fraction of the size of the yellow-billed duck and only marginally bigger than a little grebe. Although they spend most of their time in the water, they do nest in holes in trees, sometimes some distance from the water.

Well, that’s it for this week, folks. If these geese are still around, be sure to go and have a look at them. If you are reading this as a visitor to Port Alfred, I am available to guide you on a birding tour in and around our area. My number is 072-314-0069. Until next time, happy birding!


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