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Grysbok Environmental Education Trail

A total of 128 bird species have been sighted in the reserve, of which many can be seen at the bird-hide that overlooks the dam along the trail. Eighteen of these species have been recorded breeding on campus. A complete bird list can be viewed at the bird-hide, and we would appreciate any additional sightings of species that you may make.

Listed below are some of the bird species that occur on the reserve:

Southern boubou (Laniarius ferrugineus)
  • Ranges in size from 21 to 23 cm long (including the tail)
  • It has a highly variable call, ranging from bell-like notes to buzzing notes
  • Two birds will often call antiphonally - i.e. each bird alternating with the other
  • They prefer to stick to dense scrub or overgrown areas of the trail - can become less wary around human habitation
  • Eat almost anything - from insects to fruit to fledgling birds.
Whitebreasted Cormorant (Phalacrocorax lucidus)
  • Often seen next to the pond at the main entrance to NMU
  • They seem to enjoy fishing for titbits in the shallow water
  • Will eat fish, frogs, crabs and water snails
  • Large birds, growing to about 90 cm (including tail)
  • Common residents in Port Elizabeth and can be seen throughout the year
  • Often the smaller Cape cormorant (Phalacrocorax capensis) can be seen sunning themselves alongside their whitebreasted cousins
Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis)
  • Relies on their excellent camouflage for protection - will not move unless approached quite closely
  • Have a high pitched piping call, and will emit growling alarm notes when distressed
  • Prefer open areas interspersed with bush clumps or trees - can also be found in the main car park in the evenings
  • Thick-knees are crepuscular (active at twilight) or nocturnal (hence the big eyes) - will also be active on cloudy days 
  • More vocal at night, on heavily cloudy days and just after rain
  • They eat mainly insects, crabs, snails, grass seeds, and sometimes even frogs
  • The nest is usually a shallow scrape on the ground - once the female sits down she virtually disappears from view
Laughing Dove(Streptopelia senegalensis)
  • Found throughout Africa
  • They become very tame near human habitation
  • Their call is a bubbling phrase of 6 to 8 notes, sounding like a gentle chuckle - do not call on landing like most doves of this genus
  • Eat mainly seeds, although they will take insects and snails
  • Females tend to take more animal food than the males, as they have to build up protein reserves in order to lay eggs
  • They breed at all times of year, except mid-summer
  • The nest is an untidy affair of twigs, and the clutch averages two eggs
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus)
  • Known as a Kolgans in Afrikaans - the "kol" refers to the dark spot in the centre of the chest
  • Their distribution covers most of sub-Saharan Africa, Egypt and the Middle East, and south-east Europe
  • Often found at the main pond, and also at the new pond
  • Spend most of their time loafing on the shoreline - they can be pests in grain farming areas when their numbers are very high
  • They are mainly herbivores, feeding on grain and other seeds, seedlings and aquatic rhizomes
Yellowbilled Egret (Egretta intermedia)
  • Often seen near the main pond, up to its knees in the water, quietly stalking fish and frogs 
  • These birds are shy and wary - will fly off when approached
  • They can be distinguished from Little Egrets by their black feet and yellow bill; and from Cattle Egrets by their yellow bill
  • Short period of breeding coloration - an orange to red bill, red upper legs and a bright green eye ring
Rednecked Spurfowl(Pternistes afer)
  • Often seen picking their way through the undergrowth on the trail
  • Best seen in the early morning
  • Tend to be very shy and run off into the bushes when they spot danger
  • Omnivores - will take seeds, shoots, roots, bulbs, snails and insects
  • They lay about 4 to 7 seven eggs, and can be seen leading their chicks about during late winter and early spring
  • Unlike the northern hemisphere, many birds in Southern Africa will prefer to breed during the wetter mild winters than during the harsh dry summers
Hadeda Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash)
  • Often seen and heard on the trail
  • Common all over campus - do a good job of aerating the lawns with their long probing beaks as they search for insects and worms in the soil 
  • They occur often in twos and threes near the start of the trail, but avoid the more bushy areas
Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
  • This is an immature Grey Heron - when it matures, it will display a black stripe above the eye, and a floppy black crest
  • It will also acquire a darker grey body colour, a whiter neck with black speckles down the front, black shoulders and a bright yellow bill and legs
  • Grey Herons are fairly uncommon - the more common species in South Africa is the Blackheaded Heron
  • Grey Herons spend most of their time near the water - will eat most animals associated with water (even small mammals and reptiles)
Fiscal Shrike (Lanius collaris)
  • This dapper little fellow is a common sight on the trail
  • Have the habit of spearing their prey on thorns, thus building up a tidy larder of dried snacks
  • Fiscal Shrikes have a mixed call of harsh churring and piping notes
  • Sit perched high on some conspicuous vantage point and pounce on insects and small rodents
  • Quite small (31 to 58 g) - yet will take quite large prey such as Laughing Doves, small Guinea Fowl chicks, snakes and lizards
Spotted Eagle Owl (Bubo africanus)
  • Quite large owls, measuring between 43 and 47 cm in length
  • Often seen perched on top of the buildings, and have the habit of sitting next to building spotlights at night
  • Believed that they watch the spotlight area to increase their hunting success - they also perch on street lights
  • Spotted Eagle Owls have a typical mellow hooting call
  • May have day roosts in nooks and crannies of building ledges - they prefer to roost on rock (or cement) rather than in trees
Crowned Lapwing (Vanellus coronatus)
  • Crowned Lapwings prefer the lawn areas of campus - but are sometimes seen on the trail
  • Common throughout southern and eastern Africa - have the status of common resident in South Africa
  • Often gregarious when not breeding
  • Like to eat insects and earthworms.
  • The young are precocious and will melt into the vegetation in response to an alarm call from the parents
  • Parents are valiant defenders of the nest and the young, dive-bombing and shrieking at intruders
  • Often neighbouring pairs will join in the attack on predators
Cape Robin-chat (Cossypha caffra)
  • This pretty little bird is a good mimic, and can imitate the calls of over 20 other birds
  • Generally common in South Africa, but is scarce in this area
  • It keeps mostly to dense undergrowth - is thus more often heard than seen on the trail 
  • Feeds on insects, spiders, worms, small frogs and fruit
  • Breeds during spring in the east Cape - the nest is built by the females, who lay a clutch of 2 to 3 eggs
Redwinged Starling (Onychognathus morio)
  • Very common on campus and are often seen on the trail
  • Tend to prefer the easy pickings of campus waste bins - can often be seen attacking apple cores and dragging potato chips out of their packets 
  • They will also take insects, lizards and aloe nectar
  • Form flocks of a few birds for most of the year and pair up when breeding
  • Have a sweet mellow whistled call which can be heard almost all the time on campus
Southern Double-collared Sunbird (Cinnyris chalybeus)
  • Reach a length of 11 to 13 cm
  • The brightly coloured male is shown here - females are brownish grey, and pairs of birds are often seen foraging together
  • Do not feed exclusively on nectar - will also eat insects and spiders, and the juice of overripe fruit
Cape Wagtail (Montacilla capensis)
  • Dainty little Wagtails are found all over southern Africa - the trail is no exception
  • Have a sharp tweeting call
  • They wag their tails when landing, and when standing still, especially if they are nervous (which seems to be all the time!)
  • Feed on insects, small crabs, little fish (up to 2 cm in length) and food scraps - they seem especially fond of cheese
  • Breed right through the year - can have up to four broods
Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus)
  • These are noisy and gregarious birds - will descend on one tree and nest in bustling flocks
  • Their call is a harsh swizzling, rasping sound - they enthusiastically give voice when they display
  • Both males and females will hang beneath their nests and raise a tremendous clamour during the breeding season
  • They weave their neat oval nests out of grass and reed leaves - the nest has an entrance tunnel of about 8 to 12 cm, which hangs down vertically and discourages snakes from stealing their eggs