Zimbali Coastal Resort, a home to many types of birds

Zimbali Coastal Resort, a home to many types of birds

KwaZulu-Natal’s North Coast is home to Zimbali Coastal Resort- an estate spanning over 350 hectares teeming with plant life, birds, animals and insects.

Any casual ornithologist, (that’s a bird-watcher to you and me) will know that Zimbali presents exciting possibilities-with over 260 species of bird there is ample opportunity to watch, observe, record and marvel within the safety and beauty of the resort.

Although many species of bird are an every day sighting, it makes them no less interesting. Admired for a peculiar behaviour, shrill calls or artistic markings, birds, depending on observer, inspire a sense of calm, thrill or a simple reminder of the eternal circle of life.

On the ground: Cape Wagtail

A cute little bird, with a delicate beak and dull plumage. Naturally found around freshwater and coastal lagoons, the Cape Wagtail has become a common garden visitor. Spending its time strutting and feeding the grass, these delicate birds mostly feast on insects, but have also been known to dine on aquatic creatures such as crabs, snails, tadpoles and even fish.

Although named for its quirky ‘wagging’ tail, this behavior can be indicative of a number of things, but nobody can agree on exactly what. It can be said that all species of Wagtail ‘wag’ their tails while feeding by helping to flush out insects. However, that’s not where it ends. One idea suggests the wag signals social status while another idea suggests that because this wagging is seen across sexes and ages, that is has nothing to do with social status at all.

Other explanations aren’t half as others and suggest that it indicates the bird’s level of alertness and vigilance to potential threats.

In the air: The Yellow-billed Kite

An interesting name, The Yellow-billed Kite, or Milvus aegyptius, has a name which suggests an obvious link to Egypt. These birds are often seen in the skies across Africa, but something tells me that Egyptian link has less to do with geography and more to do with with birds of prey as symbols of power and majesty in Ancient Egypt mythology.  Whether that is true or not, these birds certainly exude a serene beauty.

Seen cruising the late afternoon skies might fool you into thinking there’s nothing much going on, however this is much to the contrary. Sailing on the thermals, these birds opt to do so as a way of conserving energy and store explosive bursts of speed needed for hunting prey. As confident and skilled fliers, these birds are able to catch insects mid-air. Their v-shaped tail acts like a rudder and a blade all at once, allowing them to change direction, manouevre and slice through the air while chasing prey.

Some might say the Yellow-billed Kite is a bit of a lazy bird, opting to feed on termites and carrion, with not much active hunting to be observed. But opportunistic is a far better word to describe their hunting and eating habits, and Yellow-billed Kites have been known to snag snakes- something which certainly requires precision hunting skills. Being opportunistic does mean that they don’t have the most discerning palate or much regard for safety; Yellow-billed Kites have been seen swooping down to scoop up roadkill and even stealing food from other birds of prey. Despite their cool and calm demeanour, these birds are stealthy predators who are always on the look out for the net meal.

Most often seen flying up high, their call is not familiar to us terrestrial folk and if you do hear the call of a Yellow-billed Kite you’ll be surprised at how undistinctive it is. What is distinctive, though, is their appearance and size. With a bright yellow hooked beak and a white neck ring these birds stand 55cm tall and have an amazing wingspan between 160-180cm!

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