The Bird of the Month is the African Finfoot or Watertrapper, (Podica senegalensis). This is a very rare and vulnerable bird species. The Afrikaans name for the African Finfoot is "Watertrapper".
Colouring: Iris brown; bill bright red, darker on culmen; legs and feet orange-red, brown at back.
Identification: About the size and shape of a large cormorant; head greyish (more blue-grey in males), with a white stripe from behind the eye down the side of the neck; back dark brown, spotted white; bill, legs and feet bright red; large lobed toes, visible when out of water; long tail, held flat on water when swimming.
Voice: Sharp skwak like two blocks of wood knocked together; bull-like roaring alarm note; flute-like pay-pay; duck-like barking kwark; loud bill-snapping by females during display.
Distribution: Southern and Eastern coastal regions, parts of Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Northern Province.
Habitat: Quiet reaches of streams, rivers, pans and lakes, fringed with dense trees and bush drooping into the water.
Habits: Usually solitary or in pairs; shy and retiring; when disturbed, splashes into the water and flutters, pattering along the surface; dives only when wounded or chased; swims low and easily, even in whitewater rapids; submerges body when alarmed, until only the head and neck are exposed. Flies strongly if pursued; hides in marginal vegetation. Sometimes comes out onto logs, rocks or the shoreline to preen; runs well on land, sometimes lifting one or both wings. Forages by working along the banks of streams, picking food off plants and the water surface; may forage on land; climbs into vegetation by clawed toes and wing digit. Roosts at night on branches overhanging the water. The female displays by raising alternate wings and snapping her bill.
Food: Insects, spiders, crabs, snails, frogs, small fish and snakes.
Breeding season: August to April (mainly September to March).
Clutch: One to two eggs, pale buffy green, streaked and blotched with brown, red and purple.
Incubation and fledging: Unrecorded.
Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.
Photographs are courtesy of Eris Stockenstroom and Gavin Orbel, Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy. The photographs were taken in the RNC.
Photographs are courtesy of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy and this series is a joint venture.