Cape Town - Alien Birds

Alien Birds
Migrate to Cape Town

Nesting birds

Sacred Ibis roosting in a tree

Of late when one walks through our parks there are a number of birds that have arrived over the past few years that in times past were not seen in the Cape. The birds in question are the Sacred Ibis, the Hadeda Ibis, and the Egyptian geese.

I'll deal with them one at a time in this article.

Sacred Ibis

Sacred Ibis feeding

Sacred Ibis feeding

The Sacred Ibis is a wading bird and wherever water is found in our parks there you will find a couple of them. They breed in sub-Saharan Africa, Iraq and Egypt and can also be found in France, Italy and Spain. In times past the Egyptians mummified the birds as a symbol of their god Thoth.

The Sacred Ibis is a very adaptable bird and can supplement its menu by feeding on rubbish dumps. Although it does so occasionally it normally lives in marshy wetlands and feeds on fish, frogs and other water creatures as well as insects. When nesting a colony of birds will take over a tree and build stick nests.

The male gathers the materials for the nest while the female builds the nest. When the nest is ready the female lays two or three eggs which take about twenty one days to incubate. Once hatched the chicks grow quickly and are ready to leave the nest within a period of 14 to 21 days.

On the ground the chicks flock together in groups and are ready to leave the colony at the age of 35 to 48 days. When a Sacred Ibis is fully grown it is about 68 cm in length and has an all white body with some dark plumage on its rump. It's head and neck are bald and it has a thick curved bill which it uses to catch its food.

The Sacred Ibis is a silent bird, not like its relative the Hadeda Ibis.

Egyptian Geese.

Egyptian geese

Egyptian geese feeding

Over the past number of years Egyptian Geese which are native to Africa have become more numerous in the Western Cape. They are large birds and have a distinctive brown ring around their eyes and their necks. Their bills and legs are pinkish in colour while their plumage is brown on their backs and grey underneath.

Egyptian geese like water and they normally build their nests close to a dam or lake where they have easy access to the water. Although the geese can swim they tend to spend most of their time on land. The female is usually slightly smaller than the male and the only way to determine their sex is to listen to them as the male hisses and the female cackles. When breeding they build their nests on the ground and lay a clutch of between 5 and 10 creamy white eggs which take approximately 30 days to hatch. The eggs are incubated by the female only.

When the chicks hatch they are immediately taken to water where they can be protected by the parents. It takes approximately two months for the chicks to mature and then they are left to fend for themselves.

The Egyptian geese have different feeding habits to those of other birds. They normally feeds at night in pairs or family groups and eat grass, seeds, leaves and bulbs although I have often seen them feeding in the day.

Hadeda Ibis

Ha de dah

Ibis Hadeda

The Hadeda Ibis were first seen in the Cape in the late 1960's and soon spread to areas such as Somerset West and the Peninsula. They soon established themselves and by the early 1990s were breeding in the Cape. Since arriving there numbers have increased at a considerable rate and it is not uncommon to find them feeding in private gardens, parks and sportsfields.

They are large birds with big curved beaks and look much the same as the Sacred Ibis except that they are darker in colour with no white plumage. Hadeda's are noisy birds especially in flight and can be heard hah dee dahing at each other as they fly. Over the past few years the Hadeda Ibis has started migrating to the Western Cape and the Cape Peninsula from the Eastern Cape

The main reason for the migration is thought to be the growing numbers in the Eastern Cape and the abundance of alien trees in the Western Cape in which to nest. Ample food supplies found in the wheatfields and farmlands of the Western Cape have most probably led to the increase in numbers at the Cape. The Hadeda breeds between July and November and has the same breeding habits as its cousin the Sacred Ibis.

Residents of the Cape quite enjoy the Hadeda visiting their gardens. They land on the roof with a big thump, spy out the land and then glide down to the lawn to feed. Using their curved beaks to search for worms and bugs in the ground they also aerate the soil while removing pests at the same time.

There are a number of other birds which have also put in an appearance in the Western Cape and they are the pelican and the white necked crow to mention but a few.

Cape Town is a great place to visit and see birds in their natural habitats.

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Cape Town Alien birds