Town Birds…A Continuation

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Town Birds…A Continuation

Cinnamon chested bee-eater and red winged starling
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“Animals and birds evolve more quickly in urban environments than in remote habitats.”

Have you come across this outright true article; Cities should be studied as evolutionary hotspots, says biologist? The article highlights how urbanization is resulting in evolution and adaptation of wild animal species in global cities.

Nyika Silika has a series highlighting town birds as seen in these articles: the Black-headed Heron, The Marabou Stork, Crows, most common town birds and more. This can be a clue that birds, as well as other creatures, have adapted well to our urban atmosphere. The list of town birds keeps growing as I discover more bird species living in the urban jungle.

  • Red-Winged Starling (Onychognathus morio)

My senses are always on high alert of any unfamiliar bird calls/songs or calls I have not heard in a while. When this happens, I tend to activate search mode on. What I see on one particular morning intrigues me. A dark bird is feeding on small ripe orange fruits of the Ficus benjamina tree. It is not alone though. About 10-13 of them are busy having breakfast as they strike up a conversation.

I might be the only person curious at this sightings right in the middle of Nairobi, especially, on a Monday morning when everyone is rushing to get to his or her place of work. If we could just stop to look at the beauty found in our towns, other than the people and the buildings, we could learn a lot from the tenacious and graceful practices of the environment. The will to survive and adapt despite life’s obstacles.

The Red-Winged Starling was originally a bird of cliff and rocky areas of Ethiopia through Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi to southern Africa. It has now established a common relationship with humans, unbeknown to many, nesting on buildings and other man-made structures.

The Red-winged Starling is very conspicuous because of its size, dark plumage, and rufous-red flight wings. It also has distinctive calls.  The common call is a plaintive, drawn-out “spreeu”. The contact call is two notes of “twee-twoo”. The alarm call is a harsh “tchorr”. During the nesdefensece when it attacks intruders, it gives a low “kwok-kwok”. More on its song and call.

Red Winged Starling A town Bird

Red Winged Starling: Image source Pinterest

More information: Oiseaux Birds

  • Cinnamon Chested Bee-eater (Merops oreobates)

Colorful and elegant, even on flight, it’s a bird worth observing. Its swift behavior to grasp a flying bee (its main food palate as is in its name) in the air is enough to strike the curious mind.

The Cinnamon-chested sunbird occupies Subtropical/Tropical Dry Forests, Subtropical/Tropical Moist Montane forests, Grassland, plantations, Rural Gardens and urban areas.

Sighting the cinnamon-chested bee-eater in a town indicates the presence of bees (although this is not a fact). This is a good sign because bees are disappearing globally at a fast rate due to pesticides, parasites, and disease and habitat loss. Bees are very important pollinators and without them on our planet, the human race will be in perils, as food production will reduce.

Other than bees, cinnamon-chested bee-eaters also have other insects in their food palate such as moths, butterflies, beetles among other flying insects.

Cinnamon-chested Bee-eaters are sexually dimorphic (the male and the female are similar in plumage). The head, upperparts and tail are bright green, the chin and throat are yellow and outlined in black, with a white extension to the side, while the breast is cinnamon-brown, darkening towards the belly. This bird is often confused with the slightly similar little bee-eater by its larger size and darker coloring. The difference in the two is mostly in size and the absence of the white extension on the head in the little bee-eater.

Cinnamon chested bee-eater

Cinnamon-Chested bee-eater Image Credit: Birds of the World

Next time you are in an urban area, especially within Nairobi, be on the lookout for the Red-winged Starling (when Ficus benjamina is fruiting) and the Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater.

Happy Birding.

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Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui
Vicki Wangui is a believer in all things beautiful. A believer in spreading information in regards to environmental awareness. A believer in sharing all that is good in Kenya's natural world. A believer in speaking truth with no boundaries. Do you have a story, photo, experience or message you need to share? Send your work to vicki@nyikasilika.org or vickiwangui26@gmail.com.

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