It may be a little difficult to believe but it is a fact that I have been debating hard for last three full days as to what bird figures out in my next blog post. For a change I have a great database to play with. We saw a total of 167 birds in the eight odd days of birdwatching in Uganda. Out of that 60 or 70 of them were kind enough to pose - with patience I mean - to give me a great picture. In other words - they gave me quality time ;-).
Then this bird - the Hamerkop - an odd bird bird by looks for us the Indians made the grade. It made the grade with three points, it was intriguing, it was found commonly and most importantly molecular studies have shown it as the closest relative to the Shoebill, the bird that I had posted in my last blogpost.
By reading this name - some may point out - oh the bloody bird has been spelled wrongly - well this bird actually is know by half a dozen names - like Hammerkop, Hammerkopf, Hammerhead, Hammerhead Stork, Umber bird, Tufted Umber or Anvilhead etc. However since my book on Birds of East Africa spelled it Hamerkop - I am sticking by it.
It is a medium sized wader bird and abundant in Uganda (will stick to it but wiki says it is abundant in Africa). We saw it almost every where we went and had a waterbody. This bird has a lot of interesting behaviour that are intriguing at the least. Like I believe that upto 10 birds join in for 'ceremonies' in which they run circles around each other calling loudly and raising crests and fluttering their wings. The strangest behaviour is yet to come - this bird is a compulsive nest builder and builds four to five nests every year - whether breeding or not. The nest is huge, sometimes over 1.5 m across. it compromises of upto 10,000 sticks and can support a man's weight. The outside is decorated with bright coloured objects. The base of the nest is made by a platform of sticks held together with mud - then walls are made followed by a domed roof. The entrance is mud plastered and leads through a tunnel upto 60 cm long to a nesting chamber large enough to accommodate the parents and the young. There are so many animals and birds that use the hamerkop nests - snakes, genets, weavers, owls among others. Owls may usually force the birds out. The hamerkops will give away the nests - and usually reoccupy after the owl has left after breeding. During our visits - in the hindsight I have seen two such nests, unfortunately did not photograph them.
Another very interesting ceremony that I was in which the birds do 'False Mounting'. I witnessed this three times and the entire group was present during one of this event - definitely. During this one bird stands on top of the other and appears to mount it, but they may not be mates and neither will they copulate. The fun part was that the bird below was not perturbed at all during all the three times I saw them doing this. I was wondering this behaviour - and only read about it after I came back and studying about the birds in greater detail.