Birds out my office window

2009 July 1
by David J. Ringer

NAIROBI, KENYA — My colleague Tom and I have been putting old bread and fruit outside our office window to attract birds into easy viewing and photography range. Here are some of our regular visitors:

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I first started getting acquainted with Speckled Mousebirds (Colius striatus) in Cameroon two years ago. Mousebirds are distinctive birds endemic to Africa and are placed in their own order, Coliiformes, which is of uncertain affinity.

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Mousebirds are odd, awkward, but sociable birds. Here two birds attempt to feed on the same fruit. They scramble rodent-like through the branches, often hanging perpendicularly and precariously rather than perching upright.

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Mousebirds often feed on fallen fruit, but while on the ground, they sort of sprawl out like this instead of standing. Note the fine white speckling on this bird’s dark throat and the faint barring on its upper breast.

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This is a robin-chat, a colorful, thrush-like muscicapid. I think that Rüppell’s Robin-Chat (Cossypha semirufa) is the species commonly found in Nairobi, but I’m having some trouble with the ID and would appreciate input.

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Guides state simply that Rüppell’s Robin-Chats have “black” or “blackish” central tail feathers while the nearly identical White-browed Robin-Chat has paler brown central tail feathers. These are not black, but they aren’t pale brown either. It’s hard to make comparisons when I don’t know what the range of variations is. Help?

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Dark-capped Bulbuls, Pycnonotus tricolor, are abundant and noisy residents.

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Abyssinian (Mountain) Thrushes, Turdus abyssinicus, (a split from Olive Thrush) are the common Turdus thrush in some highland areas of East Africa. The birds here do not seem to show dark lores and pale throats like the ones in Ethiopia.

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Despite their exotic name, Abyssinian Thrushes look and behave a lot like American Robins and Common Blackbirds, their congeners which are common in North American and Europe respectively. Their vocalizations are similar too, at least similar enough that the affinity is clear.

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Weavers and their relatives are abundant in Africa. This is a male Baglafecht Weaver, Ploceus baglafecht, of the race reichenowi. Ploceus baglafecht is a a widespread and variable species. Compare this photo and the one below with the one I took in Ethiopia last month (the nominate P. b. baglafecht).

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And this is the female Baglafecht Weaver, identified by her extensively dark crown and face. So, here’s something that’s been bothering me. What in the world does “baglafecht” mean? Mad props to anyone who knows or can find the answer!

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Finally, here’s a male Red-billed Firefinch, Lagonosticta senegala. Unlike their relatives the mannikins, who hang out in little mobs, firefinches move quietly in pairs. They seem sweet-tempered — yes, I know that’s awfully anthropomorphic — and have tiny white spots on their breasts, like a field of stars.

Related posts:

  1. Birds of Addis Ababa
  2. Birding from the window
  3. Home birds
  4. Waiting outside the window
  5. A farewell
4 Responses
  1. July 3, 2009

    Exquisite birds! You’ve captured them well.

    I love the mousebird. Lazy eater… Very cute.

    Firefinch. What a great name. It looks rather appropriate, too.

  2. Olivia permalink
    January 15, 2011

    I’m in Cape Town, South Africa and just spotted a mouse bird. I used the Sasol Bird e-Guide to ID it but as I googled and came across your blog it was your description of the social behaviour and your lovely pics that made me sure that’s the bird. We’ve just moved to the Northern suburbs and have never seen them before. (the southern Suburbs have mostly water birds)

    I look forward to paging through your blog!

  3. Anita permalink
    October 26, 2014

    I was able to capture some lovely pictures of mousebirds lying on their belly (sort of) while holding on to the fruit they are eating. If you are interested I can post them to you.

    We live in the Eastern Cape of South Africa and can observe those lovely buggers on a daily basis just outside our Veranda, where we offer some fruit for the birds.

    Let me know if you want the pics.

    Warm regards
    Anita

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