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Waterbirds

Updated: 16 July 2015
(Published: 6 July 2015)

 

 

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Waterbirds are a natural benefit on any wildlife production unit because they do not have to be lured to open water spaces but will find them when flying over an area. Consequently they will appear overnight and become established there if the habitat is suitable. Many waterbirds are migratory and leave in the cool dry season for Europe and Asia over traditional routes that stretch for thousands of kilometres in order to breed. They return by again using specific routes, with the Nile River Valley and Rift Valley lakes being some of them. Other waterbirds are residents in South Africa and do not migrate at all.

Ideal habitat for waterbirds varies, but it usually consists of natural waterholes with shores that form a mosaic of densely vegetated and open areas. The shore should slope easily to the water, and the latter should contain shallow feeding areas as well as deep ones to allow waterbirds to escape from predators. A solid or floating island with sloping sides and some cover and which is situated in the middle of the deep water will form an ideal nesting and resting ground, although some waterbirds, like the African shellduck, nests in burrows near the water’s edge. Dense reeds also give waterbirds cover when resting or escaping from predators. The three basic habitat requirements are therefore food, cover and water. The quality of the water is, however, vital as boreholes that contain water that is contaminated with heavy metals can be a breeding and survival threat. The cover consists of nesting, resting and hiding places. Some waterbirds also require suitable perches such as dead trees in or on the edge of the water body from which they can hunt, or where they can eat or dry their feathers in the sun. Floating islands, or logs can also be put into artificial waterholes to make them more acceptable for smaller waterbirds.

 


Reference:

Viljoen, P J and J du P Bothma 2010. Game birds. In J du P Bothma and J G du Toit (eds). Game ranch management, fifth edition. Pretoria: Van Schaik, pp. 330 – 346.

 

article by Prof J du P Bothma

 

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