My most recent bird crush, well, for quite some time now, has been the black headed heron Ardea melanocephala. Having been observing this birds nesting in colonies in a tree near where I reside, they have intrigued me as I did not know that they could nest right in the middle of a town just like pied crows, weavers, house sparrows and the lesser striped swallow. This will be the beginning of a series of upcoming blogs on town birds.
My first sight of this birds in my town made me curious as I was used to seeing them far from towns. At first, I did not notice that they were actually nesting just right before my eyes (so close yet so far). I could here there calls (a loud kowk) every night and during dusk and dawn especially when building their nests and swore they must be nearby. So I went on to do a search for them only to find that they were right under my nose. This led to a series of mind boggling questions. How long have this birds been nesting on this particular tree? (Croton megalocarpus otherwise known as Mukinduri by the locals.) Why this particular tree and not the eucalyptus right next to it? Why so much movement with twigs? Are the rains nearby? Knowing that birds mostly nest when the rains are near or pick twigs to better protect their nests during strong winds and heavy downpour which happens during the wet season. Where do they feed?
My first question was answered. According to an officer who guards a bank which is next to the tree, within the four years he has been posted there, he has always seen them nesting on the tree. He says he has them have ‘babies’ the ‘babies’ growing up to have more ‘babies’…and so is the cycle of life. He didn’t quite know the birds’ name and was very pleased to know that they were called the black headed heron (Yay to awareness). He was also very keen to point out how they have dropped waste on people’s heads and cars packed right under the tree. Most people won’t give attention to this birds or even note their existence unless they spoil your fresh made hair or clean suit or car. It was quite amazing for the officer to note them.
Before we had the rains, the herons used to work tirelessly looking for twigs to build and strengthen their nests. I could always see them with twigs on their beaks. Their flight pattern is quite amazing, especially how they land onto the tree. Planes can’t even come close to this spectacle. They always go round the tree before landing on their particular spot on the tree and with wings wide open and their feet stretched down, they land. When you see a ‘big’ bird land, it’s always a breath taking sight.
The black headed – heron’s food palate mainly consists of frogs, fish, large insects, small mammals and birds and small snakes. The town is somewhat in the middle of a valley and to the further left and right there is a small forest. The birds therefore seem to have a wide food range and will not be leaving their town settlement any time soon unless they loose a territorial fight with aggressive pied crows, sacred ibis or cattle egrets.
Birds are very important in the ecosystem otherwise referred to as ecological monitors in the biological world. The black headed heron therefore in our town, if one was to observe, can inform you when the rains are about to come. They also keep the population of frogs, snakes, and insects in check.
Avian species are very crucial and no matter the population size or their appearance in IUCN’s conservation status, they should all be protected.
More on the species here.
‘We have no right to exterminate the species that evolved without us. We have the responsibility to do everything we can to preserve their continued existence.’ – Sir David Attenborough