Black Heron – Egretta ardesiaca

Black heron in flight (image: wikipedia)

Cunning heron fools its prey by blocking out the sun

Common to the southern Sahara and Central East Africa, the black heron uses a crafty means of luring fish towards its waiting mouth – creating a canopy with its jet-black wings to give the false impression of shaded safety.  Under the intense sunlight of central Africa, the shade created by the heron’s canopy feeding technique allows the heron to avoid surface glare, and so see fish disturbed by kicking the lake floor.

The heron’s distinctive hunting technique is achieved by the bird arching its wings forward over its neck and head and seeming to glide across the surface of the water like an umbrella or unruly wig!  The heron’s hunting technique means it prefers the shallow waters of lake margins, marshes and ditches, preying mostly on small fish, crustaceans and amphibians.

A highly sociable bird, the black heron roosts communally at night in flocks of up to 200 birds, with especially large flocks numbering into the thousands.

 

Canopy feeding technique (image: copyright John van der Woude, http://home.tiscali.nl/jvanderw/)

 

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Marbled teal – Marmaronetta angustirostris

Ducks in deserts: Marbled teal Marmaronetta angustirostris

Ducks in deserts: Marbled teal Marmaronetta angustirostris

Ducks in the desert?!

To find a species where you least expect to is always a cause for celebration.  To see 1000 marbled teals on one small lake in Tunisian sub-Sahara is an incredible “never to forget” moment for everybody interested in biodiversity and birds!

The marbled teal is widespread from Morocco and Spain east to westernmost China and adapted to temporary, unpredictable, Mediterranean-type wetlands. The marbled teal breeds only in very few areas in fairly dry, steppe-like and shallow ponds with well vegetated shorelines. Due to wetland destruction, desertification and hunting marbled teal suffers a rapid population decline. An European action plan was published in 1996 and is currently being updated. The species is regularly monitored and it is an important indicator when it comes to the designation of protected areas especially in Spain, North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East. 

In Europe it is known only from southernmost Spain, the Caucasus and few pairs in Sicily. While climate models suspect, that this species might expand its range to the north and colonize wetlands in Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, its populations are still declining.

The marbled teal (image: wikipedia)

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