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Birding with Nico Myburgh
Cover, Village Life No 39

From Issue No 39

Birds from paradise


African Paradise FlycatcherTerpsiphone viridis

(Afrikaans: Paradysvlieëvanger)


The African Paradise Flycatcher is a summer visitor to the southwestern Cape, arriving in September and migrating back along the Eastern Cape, where some overwinter, to KwaZulu-Natal. Most birds of another subspecies, found in the northern provinces, migrate to tropical Africa in winter.

This bird inhabits forests, and trees growing along streams and rivers, and often visits gardens where there are trees. It eats insects, which it either catches in the air, on the ground or from water.

This is a very striking bird, with a brick-red back and a dark-blue head, and very long tail feathers on the male. The eye has a bright blue wattle around it; also along the edge of the beak.

The cup-shaped nest is beautifully constructed of fine plant material, usually starting with strips of bark that are bound together with spider-web, with the inside lined with grass or even horse-hair. The outside is often covered with lichens, and the nest may have a “tail” of spiderweb and leaves. It is so well camouflaged that it is almost impossible to see; the only give-away is when the male bird is incubating and its long tail can be spotted. A new nest is built each year, sometimes on top of the old one.

They are very aggressive and noisy when anyone approaches the nest. The birds will fly all around the intruder, uttering piercing, scratchy alarm calls. This is nevertheless the bird photographer’s dream bird, as all one has to do is sit down quickly and watch, and they will immediately fly onto the nest. One doesn’t have to use a hide at all – just stand still and the bird will take no further notice of you.

They come right into town and where there are gardens with a few trees, they may well breed. In a house in Onrus a pair made a nest in a pot plant in the lounge. The inhabitants left a window open for them at all times and in due course the chicks hatched. They had to put newspapers on the floor under the nest, but no other harm was done. The three chicks fledged and the nest is there to this day.

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The male African Paradise Flycatcher is characterized by its beautiful long tail

The male African Paradise Flycatcher is characterized by its beautiful long tail

A female African Paradise Flycatcher with two chicks.

A female African Paradise Flycatcher with two chicks. The neat nest involves some deft engineering, with the basic structure of bark strips tied to the supporting branch with spider-web.

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