Topic : Rare Birds
Article 51 02 July 2009
The temperate forest loving
The two ground-thrushes in southern Africa occupy completely different forest habitats. Orange Ground-Thrush Zoothera gurneyi is at home in the cooler mist-belt zone while Spotted Ground-Thrush Zoothera guttata inhabits warm lowland forest and much of the population is migratory, or partially migratory. Orange Ground-Thrush is near threatened, generally uncommon and one of those difficult to see birds along the drainage lines in mist-belt forest.
These photographs were taken at Nkandla Forest in KwaZulu-Natal where these secretive birds are found in the deep valleys bottoms and along streams, where, if you are extremely lucky, you may see them bathing. They forage in the leaf litter turning leaves over to find earthworms and terrestrial invertebrates.
Peak breeding is in the November to December period. In Nkandla forest, nests are invariably found close to the streams in understory trees, shrubs or vines 1m to 3m above the ground.
They build bulky cup shaped nests made predominantly of moss and lined with rootlets and a few leaves. These nests are living nests where the moss used to construct the nest continues to grow long after the nesting cycle is finished and in fact, the bundle of moss often grows to double the original nest size within about a year. Nests are sometimes strategically placed within or alongside surrounding stands of hanging moss in the under canopy saplings making them beautifully camouflaged and fairly difficult locate.
Normal clutch size for this species in Nkandla forest is 2. The beautiful dark blue eggs are spotted and speckled with various shades of purple and slate grey and contrast with the dark colour of the cup rootlets and surrounding green mosses and leaves. The chicks are fed a predominantly earthworm based diet (to a much lesser extent on other invertebrates) by both the male and female.