Roberts No 564
by Pompie Burger
The babblers are definitely one of my favourite groups of birds. They are extremely vocal, so much so that you’ll have no problem locating them when they’re in the vicinity.
I often wondered what gregarious meant, and being a bird watcher, realised I had to find out because the word is used so often in birding circles. I’d originally thought it meant very rowdy, and the Bare-cheeked Babblers answered to my concept of the word pretty well. Then I looked in my dictionary and saw that it meant ‘living in groups or societies’. Reading on, I found what I was looking for, namely that it also meant ‘liking the company of others’, which is absolutely spot on for the babblers.
This is especially true for Bare-cheeked Babblers, because they tend to be in small groups, feeding on the ground or sitting in a tree cuddling, preening and titillating each other. The babbling is apparently to keep in contact with each other, but I’ve often wondered whether it’s not just to make as much noise as possible.
The Bare-cheeked Babbler is one of Namibia’s 14 near-endemic birds. It occurs in the same area as 10 other ‘inland’ endemics, namely along the escarpment in the central and north-western part of the country, with mopane woodland being the Bare-cheeked Babblers’ preference. Places where you are almost guaranteed to see them are at the Halali Rest Camp in Etosha, west of Etosha at Hobatere Lodge and from here further north into southern Angola, where they are quite common.
I thought their English name rather appropriate but am not so sure about their Afrikaans name Katlagter, meaning laughing cats. I’ve definitely never heard a cat laugh!
This article appeared in the Feb/March ‘07 edition of Travel News Namibia.
Based in Windhoek, Pompie Burger is an orthopaedic surgeon whose part-time passion is photography, in particular wildlife, and specifically birds. This regularly takes him to the most remote corners of the country, resulting in riveting images and articles.
Pompie is the author and photographer of the coffee table book Birds of Namibia, which was published in 2008. The book contains articles and photographs which attest to the insight and knowledge of an accomplished observer.
Read more of his articles in our Birding Section.