Even though we were informed this would happen, we were still overwhelmed by the stunning variety of bird life we saw during our safari. Everywhere we turned, bursts of color dotted the bushes and hulking silhouettes topped the trees. Tiny colorful species, hunting raptors, duck-like birds, long-legged water birds…the variety was endless.
I have a reasonable zoom lens on my camera for capturing large wildlife with decent clarity. It is not, however, a high-end zoom ideal for bird photography. So, the pictures in this blog post will not be as sharp as I would like. However, for the most part, I found the fuzzy versions to be better than nothing as they still illustrate the extraordiary bird life that was present throughout our trip. And these are just a small, though somewhat representative subset, of the many birds we saw.
Immediately upon entering our first park, Tarangire, we spotted a bright orange and blue bird by the parking lot. I grabbed my camera and we starting stalking this bird - I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to get a picture of this cool looking bird! Little did I know this would not be our last sighting.
The Splendid and Hildebrandt’s Starlings are pretty much the pigeons of the Serengeti. Flocks of these birds can be seen in all three parks we visited, and they tend to congregate at picnic sights, scrounging for crumbs. Even if they weren’t rare, I still loved their gorgeous feathers!
Colorful feathers are not rare out here either. Like on the Yellow-Collared Lovebird.
Or the Little Bee-Eater.
And you can’t discuss colored birds without mentioning the pink swarms of flamingos. There are so many congregated in the lake at the center of Ngorongoro Crater, the water looks pink from afar.
My favorite was the Lilac-Breasted Roller. I wish I had a clearer picture of the gorgeous bird!
There are also no shortage of birds with bizarre shapes and proportions, like this Von Der Decken’s Hornbill.
Or the African Hoopoe.
Or the ridiculous groups of Guinea Fowl. The tiny head, little legs, and huge body just scream “I’m easy prey and tasty to eat!”
Just outside Tarangire, on the outskirts of Lake Manyara National Park, we passed the favorite breeding grounds for the Yellow-Billed Stork. It was nesting season, and the trees were so dense with birds and nests, the foliage and ground beneath were completely white with bird droppings! The squawking was certainly not subtle either. It was cool to see all the nests and birds, like the juveniles below, but I’m glad I don’t live under their breeding trees…
One of the birds I was really looking forward to seeing (other than the Secretary Bird and the Ostrich discussed in our “Favorites” post) was the Crowned Crane, and I got my wish in both the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater.
Their plumage is so beautiful, but their “crowned” heads are really what makes them special.
Not all the birds we saw were striking in color, size, or shape, like this as-yet unidentified bird.
And once you start to recognize the large number of predator birds around these areas, you understand why being understated and easily camouflaged could have its advantages. Speckling the high branches and tree tops are the silhouettes of hawks, eagles, falcons, and vultures, waiting for an opportunity to snag their next meal. Like this Black-Chested Snake Eagle.
Or this Fish Eagle.
Or this stunning Tawny Eagle, who let our truck drive right up to the branch on which he was grooming himself without flying away.
And of course, closely following any successful predator are the vultures. We frequently spotted their classic hunched posture and naked necks in trees and bushes throughout the safari. And one morning we found a large group of them dining, and arguing, over a nearly-clean buffalo carcass. One of the larger birds kept trying to intimidate the others and keep them from crowding up the best dining spots.
And finally, one cautionary tale of bustard-boasting. This is a Kori Bustard, and we found him one morning in Ngorongoro Crater, proudly prancing around and showing off his recent snake kill.
All of sudden, he started to puff out his neck feathers, as bustards are known to do.
It didn’t take long for us to see why he was trying to look all big and tough, as a Tawny Eagle came swooping into the scene.
The poor bustard was completely out-matched, and did not stand a chance against this strong, sharp-taloned thief. He dropped his snake and retreated, only able to look on as the eagle devoured his hard earned meal.
And such is life on the African savannah. When you are successful enough to catch yourself a meal…eat it quickly before someone else comes by, for there is always something larger, stronger, faster, or smarter just around the corner.