Two more birds in hand

As Anthony stopped just inside the gate of Amboseli national park to scan the surroundings, Mother of Niece Tatu pointed out a bird on the ground. The cryptic colouring made it hard to spot if it stood still. I saw it next and pointed out the heap of dung next to it as a guide to The Family. It was our first clue that MONT was a natural birder. This looked like a courser, and we admired the beautiful bird with the two distinctive rings around the neck which give it its name. Later, when I’d identified it as a double-banded courser (Smutsornis africanus) I found that it was common and widespread in Eastern and Southern Africa. It seems that in South Africa it is considered as a little bit of a pest. Population control methods have been to identify its main food, the harvester termite, and to kill it with a specific pesticide. We didn’t see termite mounds in Amboseli, so I wonder whether the Kenya-Tanzania population feeds differently.

The white-bellied go-away-bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster or Criniferoides leucogaster) was a lifer for which we had no referents. The Family and I saw it from our grand tent in Amboseli, and wondered what it was. “Maybe a bulbul,” ventured The Family. It turns out to belong to a clade of birds called banana eaters (Musophagidae), which we have never seen in India. The long crest together with the white belly, and the long pointed tail with a white stripe across the inside make it easy to identify (once you have a field guide). It is widespread and common in East Africa, but we didn’t see it again.