Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Red-billed Quelea Juvenile male

W&N Watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

Rooibekkwelea [Afrikaans] – (Quelea quelea)

Oh my! The Red-billed Queleas have moved into my garden (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)! When I feed in the mornings, they descend on the feeding tables by the dozens! They are very wary and skittish and the slightest movement will send them fleeing, taking off like one body and returning as one in waves of motion, absolutely fascinating to watch. But the rest of the garden birds have a problem getting to the food and every day there seems to be more and more of the Queleas.

At the moment the males are in their full breeding plumage, with their bright red bills and black face. The juvenile males stand out amongst the other birds like a beacon with their pre-adult little cream caps. Within 2-3 months of hatching, juvenile birds complete a post-juvenile moult to resemble non-breeding adults, but with cream head, whitish cheeks and buff edges to flight feathers and wing coverts, followed 1-2 months later by a pre-nuptial contour moult, when they begin to assume the adult breeding plumages.

Queleas are the most abundant wild birds on the planet, with an estimated population of 1.5 billion birds, occurring across much of sub-Saharan Africa, excluding the lowland forests of West Africa, arid areas of southern Namibia, south-western Botswana and the southern half of South Africa. It is most prolific in semi-arid habitats such as thornveld and cultivated land, but it may also occupy exceptionally wet or dry areas. Not threatened, it is so abundant and such a pest that millions of birds are culled annually using explosives at roost sites and aerial spraying, but even that doesn’t have any long term affect on its population.

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2 comments:

  1. Very interesting Maree! We also have them here!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Liz. Yes, they are beautiful AND bothersome! Smile!

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