Birds, Bugs and Bushes

Written By: The Lowdown - Nov• 30•12

The Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis)

At this time of the year, in the gardens and woodlands, is heard a pleasant ringing bird call – ‘twee-wee-wee, twee-wee,wee’. Time and again it echoes in the shady shrubs and canopies. On hearing this call, one need only look in the direction of the sound and one will see a pleasant looking bird, bright red on the back, wings and tail, a black crested head with a bluish bill and eye ring and a grey breast that merges into a white lower belly.

The male has two extremely long central tail feathers that can measure up to 40 cm (15 inches); the female is smaller at 20 cm (7 inches). Some East African specimens are entirely white on the back, wings and tail.

Paradise flycatchers belong to a group of flycatchers, renowned for their body colours, eye-wattles, crests or the tails that can either be very short or very long. While some lie in ambush for insects, some feed by gleaning on branches and in foliage; still others catch insects on the wing. Africa and its neighbouring islands host some 49 species of flycatchers out of a world wide variety of 163 species. The majority of flycatchers are found in Asia and Australasia.

This pretty bird is an Intra-African migrant, flying south of the Equator in September and staying till March. It then flies back north again. It is found throughout Zambia, during its stay here. It inhabits riverine forests, woodlands and shaded gardens.

It breeds in October to December, building a neat cup shaped nest that is lined with cobwebs or lichens. The female lays 2 eggs; incubation is shared between both sexes. They usually construct the nest high above the ground; sometimes close to a source of water. A trusting bird, they will at times construct their nests very close to houses. They take turns to incubate the eggs, while one is away foraging, catching insects on the wing. The other sits quietly on the eggs. Having had its fill of insects, it will return to take its shift, enabling its partner to go forth and hunt. The male is adorned with these long tail feathers only during the breeding season; he can be seen now and again trailing them about as he flies, sometimes fast or in a leisurely manner.

Regardless of the males long trailing tail feathers, it is sometimes difficult to see him. He is the more vocal of the two, prior to her laying eggs; the female will often be close by, following her mate around as he calls to her and other flycatchers. In the shadowy trees and shrubs, one may from time to time have to employ the combined sense of hearing and seeing to spot the Paradise flycatcher. Often what gives it away is its call.

Enemies include small raptors, snakes, cats and humans. The biggest human threat is habitat destruction. The clearing of woodlands and forests deprives them of needed shelter and food.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.