In search of the rarest bird in the world

Bags of ice to save the King Penguins 

A few weeks back my little grandson was watching David Attenborough’s Our Planet with his Mum.  Afterwards, for a good twenty minutes, she had to calm down a heart-broken sobbing little 5 year old.  She posted on the family What’s App group:

He’s so sad the ice is melting and all penguins are not going to have a place to breed. It was heart wrenching. His plan is for us all to go to Antarctica, take no bags and only pack lots and lots of ice to help everything stay cold. He wants god to stop the sun from being so bright, all the mean people that are destroying the world to die and he wants to open more zoos with penguin enclosures so the penguins have somewhere to go.

It’s a cliché to say here that the King Penguin in its natural habitat will become one of the rarest birds in the world.  But this was not the species I was referring to in writing this blog.  

The Search for the Nechisar Nightjar

Recently Vernon Head came to stay and while I knew he was connected to Birdlife South Africa, (he was Chairman at one stage) in chatting with him he just happened to let slip that he was also an author. When he mentioned the name of his first book The Search for the Rarest Bird in the World, I knew of it instantly although I have not read it …. yet!  In 1990 a group of Cambridge scientists went to the Nechisar Plains in Ethiopia on a wildlife expedition.  On a road they found the wing of an unidentified bird and took it back to England.  A new species was announced:  the Nechisar Nightjar, or Camprimulgus Solala, which means “only wing.”   And so 20 years later Vernon Head and 3 others went in search of this never-before-seen-bird. And for the rest you will have to read the book! 

Well-known birder and author, Vernon Head loved his stay at Liz at Lancaster Guesthouse

An annual first for a birder right here in Liz at Lancaster’s garden 

Vernon keeps an annual bird list and he was really chuffed to see the Rose-ringed Parakeets at our feeder in the garden as they were a first for his 2019 list.  I showed him a photograph of our blue visitor (really poor quality taken with my I Phone) and he confirmed it’s a rare colour morph.  So no … no nookies with a budgie.

Rare blue morph parakeet at Liz at Lancaster’s birdfeeder. Source:

True love got these lovebirds nowhere 

The idea of interbreeding got me thinking.  Several years ago I went on a bird walk with  Geoff Lockwood in Delta Park.  We saw a Rose-ringed Parakeet and a Rosy-faced Lovebird (also known as a Peach-faced Lovebird) who had teamed up as buddies and were always together.  Geoff then told us how, some time back, he had watched a Lovebird trying valiantly to build a nest for his beloved. But said Lovebird was clearly the result of interbreeding between a Fischer’s Lovebird and a Rosy-faced Lovebird.  Each of these bird genus’ have different methods of building their nests. The Rosy-faced Lovebirds very efficiently gather and store leaves, twigs and nest-building materials in their feathers and then fly off with the stash. (For more)  The Fischer’s Lovebird follows the more conventional method of a twig at a time in his beak and flies back to the new home in progress. This poor confused chap that Geoff watched, had inherited the Rosy-faced gene for loading  his building materials into his feathers, but sadly he’d inherited the body type of the Fischer’s Lovebird. So every time he had his load of building materials ready to go, he’d launch himself  proudly on his arduous flight, and the whole collection of twigs, bark and debris would fall to the ground. Needless to say that interbred strain did not survive more than one generation!   Both genus’ are escaped aviary birds but are now feral. 

Fischer’s Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) native to a small area of east-central Africa.
Rosy-faced Lovebird  (Agapornis roseicollis) found in Botswana, Nambia and northern South Africa

There is a sad end to the story of the Lovebird and Parakeet who were buddies. A few days after this birdwalk I saw the the little body of the dead Lovebird on a path in Delta Park and even when it was no longer there, for at least a week after I would see the Parakeet somewhere nearby in a tree.  

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