Roberts No 365
by Pompie Burger
South African writer Chris Barnard once wrote a story about a boy who tried to keep a crow in captivity. The boy’s frustration at seeing his pet so unhappy changed to satisfaction when the crow returned of its own free will after being set free. Even greater was the boy’s happiness when the bird became his friend rather than his prisoner.
Watching Rüppell’s Parrots flying between their favourite trees at high speed, it’s difficult to imagine how people can bring themselves to capture these active and noisy birds and deprive them of their freedom. By all accounts there is a lucrative market in Southern Africa, including Namibia, for Rüppell’s Parrots in the caged-bird trade, which might endanger their existence in the long run.
It took me quite a while to differentiate between Rüppell’s and Meyer’s Parrots. However, once you’ve taken a good look at both species, it’s not that difficult. The head and neck of a Rüppell’s Parrot are grey instead of brown and in flight it is easy to identify the bird by its blue (not green) rump. Moreover, Rüppell’s Parrots occur more in the dry western escarpment area compared to the Meyer’s version, which inhabits the greener north-eastern part of Namibia.
Rüppell’s are entertaining to watch, especially when calling to each other with shrill shrieks that increase in pitch and volume the longer they call. They move around in trees with ease, using both their strong bill and their impressive claws to climb and creep around looking for food. While having breakfast at Hobatere, one of them joined us at the breakfast table. However, he was more interested in his image reflected in the window pane than in his co-breakfast guests, or what was on the menu. In fact, these birds feed on fruit, seeds, flowers and insects, including the occasional spider. Their breeding takes place in a tree in a hole vacated by other species such as woodpeckers.
Rüppell’s Parrot is one of Namibia’s 14 near endemic birds.
This article appeared in the Feb/March ‘06 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.