LIFE IN LOCKDOWN | Day 32: Join the twitchers and get a bird guide app

Lockdown has brought an abundance of bird species to urban areas. If you can't tell a hadada from a hornbill, one of these apps will come in handy

27 April 2020 - 13:00 By Mila de Villiers
Southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas).
Southern yellow-billed hornbill (Tockus leucomelas).
Image: 123RF/Micha Klootwijk

“Its beak resembles that of a hornbill but, like, a hornbill-hoopoe-hybrid.”

“I caught a glimpse of the covert feathers. They were dappled.”

“No, it definitely wasn't a mynah. Its plumage was far too dull and legs too spindly.” 

“The eye rings were oxpecker-orange, the face heart-shaped like a barn owl's and rectrices canary-yellow.”

“The shape of the rostrum means it’s a seed eater, nè?”

“Its call? 'Ka-ka-kaaa-ka-ka-kakaka-kaa', interspersed with a high-pitched 'krrrrroooooooe'. That's all I heard before it flew away.”

Bird watching: a past-time one associates with day-long trips to vleis, spending hours in bird hides, larney binoculars, walking around with tattered copies of bird guides featuring checklists, and the lingering stench of superiority as one armchair-ornithologist turns to another with a smug “you spotted your first secretary bird yesterday? Oh, please - they're practically an eyesore in the Kruger”.

Yet ever since the advent of homo sapiens' enforced confinement to our abodes, the influx of birdlife returning to cities cannot be ignored, beguiling even the most stringent propagators of “I don't care for those feathered things. All they do is kak on my car and taunt my cat”.

Yes, lockdown has definitely brought the flocks down!

From dainty mossies to raucous hadadas; token speckled-pigeons to cacophonous go-away birds; the odd crow and always-welcome swallow: we're noticing an abundance of bird species in urban areas. 

Your average avians aside, city slickers are being treated to an array of birds we've probably never seen before, nor expected to encounter casually hopping around on our stoeps or cheerfully “krrroooee"'ing in our gardens.

Which leads to the queries/questions/comments we pester our bird-loving friends/parents/partners with. (See above.)

Fortunately for those of us less well-versed in the art of bird watching, the digital sphere has provided us with multimedia versions of two of the most respected and popular bird guides in the country.

Both Newman's Birds of Southern Africa and the Roberts Bird Guide can be purchased as apps for your perusal, enjoyment and enlightenment. 

Whatcha waiting for? Tap into your inner millennial and let the identification of anything which isn't a muisvoël begin!

• From gripping series to watch, to fun crafts to do with your children, we'll be adding a new activity to our 'Life in Lockdown' series every day. Keep an eye on timeslive.co.za for tomorrow's instalment.