For its size, approx 240,000 sq km, Uganda boasts more than any other country in Africa of her bird species. The current list has 1017 species and this figure constitutes more than 10% of the world’s species. Uganda has a great variety of habitats, including the Afro-Alpine, montane forest, savanna, low land forests, wetlands and dry and semi arid desert: with elevation between 600m – 5000m. All these habitats support their own unique bird communities.
Meaning “the place of little birds”, Lake Bunyonyi takes its name from the abundant birdlife that call it home. Over 200 species are found here, including: Pied kingfisher, Malachite kingfisher, Cinnamon-chested Bee eater, Bronzy sun bird, Pied wagtail, Grey shrike, Grey crowned crested crane, Hadada ibis, Swamp fly catcher, Black heron, Great cormorant, Fan-tailed widow bird, Streaky seed eater, Speckled mouse bird, Pin tailed whyder, Bronze manikin, Black-headed weaver and Golden-backed weaver.
In this post, we review the Black Heron, the Golden-backed weaver and the Cardinal Woodpecker.
Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca)
Photo: Francesco Veronesi
The Black Heron is a medium-sized (42.5–66 cm in height), black-plumaged heron with black bill, legs and yellow feet. In breeding plumage it grows long plumes on the crown and nape.
The Black Heron prefers shallow open waters, such as the edges of freshwater lakes and ponds. It may also be found in marshes, river edges, rice fields, and seasonally flooded grasslands. In coastal areas, it may be found feeding along tidal rivers and creeks, in alkaline lakes, and tidal flats.
The bird has an interesting hunting method called canopy feeding—it uses its wings like an umbrella, and uses the shade it creates to attract fish. This technique was well documented on episode 5 of the BBC’s The Life of Birds. Some have been observed feeding in solitary, while others feed in groups of up to 50 individuals, 200 being the highest number reported. The black heron feeds by day but especially prefers the time around sunset. It roosts communally at night, and coastal flocks roost at high tide. The primary food of the black heron are small fish, but it will also eat aquatic insects, crustaceans and amphibians.
The nest of the Black Heron is constructed of twigs placed over water in trees, bushes, and reed beds, forming a solid structure. The heron nests at the beginning of the rainy season, in single or mixed-species colonies that may number in the hundreds. The eggs are dark blue and the clutch is two to four eggs.
Golden-backed weaver (Ploceus jacksoni)
The Golden-backed Weaver is a common weaver in East Africa. The male in breeding plumage has a black head, and chestnut and yellow underparts. The Black-headed (or Yellow-backed) Weaver male is similar and overlaps in range, especially around Lake Victoria. The Golden-backed Weaver can be distinguished by its red eye and yellow back (the Black-headed has a brown eye and brown back with a yellow nape band). The female and non-breeding male Golden-backed Weaver are olive above and yellow below, with a reddish eye.
The Golden-backed Weaver is found in Uganda, SE Burundi, W Kenya, and in N, E and central Tanzania; it is rare in South Sudan. No subspecies are recognised. The Golden-backed Weaver has been introduced to the United Arab Emirates (since 1992), and Singapore (since at least 2011), probably due to escaped cage birds in each country. The Golden-backed Weaver inhabits mainly wetland areas like swamp, reeds, papyrus, and along rivers, but also moves into acacia scrub and woodland. It shows irregular irruptive movements in response to heavy rainfall. The diet of the Golden-backed Weaver consists of seeds, and probably insects.
The Golden-backed Weaver is polygynous and colonial, often nesting alongside other weavers. Its nest is oval, compact, woven of strips torn from grass or palm leaves, lined with grass tops and some feathers. There is no entrance tunnel. It is built over water in papyrus or reeds; also in acacia trees, ambatch bushes and in maize fields. The song at its colony includes a variety of harsh notes. 2-3 eggs are laid, which are blue, with purple-brown or dark red spots. There are several records of brood parasitism by the Diederik Cuckoo. The Swamp Flycatcher uses old nests of this weaver to nest in.