Observation of Three-banded Courser Rhinoptilus cinctus chick hatching
Observer: Simon Stobbs
Location: Pafuri, northern Kruger National Park
Date: 16 and 17 November 2012
Whilst at Pafuri Camp in November last year I joined former head ranger Simon Stobbs, on a number of birding drives. One of the days was spent seeing how many species we could record in a 24-hour period, whilst the others were spent searching for some of the Pafuri ‘specials’. One of the target species was Three-banded Courser as it is a bird which reaches the southern end of its distribution at Pafuri (there have however been sightings further south in the Kruger Park over the last few years). As a result of its distribution, people often require it for their South Africa list.
On 16 November we set out on a morning game-drive. planning to spend some time in some of the mopane woodland habitats found at Pafuri in search of the Three-banded Courser. We had found a nesting Three-banded Courser in November 2011 so we were all rather hopeful.
Shortly after entering the first patch of mopane woodland, Allon, one of the guests, yelled that we had just driven past a Three-banded Courser right next to the road. Simon reversed the vehicle so we could get a good view, but parked some distance away as we did not want to frighten the bird which was sitting on a nest. This was interesting to note as two other Three-banded Courser nests at Pafuri have been found right next to the road, one of these being the nest seen in November 2011. In his book “Nests & Eggs of Southern African Birds”, Warwick Tarboton makes mention of the fact that Three-banded Coursers often nest on road verges. There could be something in this, or it could simply be due to the fact that it is a tricky bird to see and one typically tends to view it if only if it is close to the road. Simon captured the first image of the bird at 6:29 am.
We all trained are binoculars on the bird and after a while it briefly stood up. This allowed us to notice that the bird had a tiny chick beneath it. When the bird stood up a second time we all had a view of an egg on the ground. Here was a Three-banded Courser right next to the road with a recently hatched chick and an egg that was still to hatch! When the bird stood up for the third time, I saw that the chick inside the egg was busy hatching. Not wanting to miss this, we sat patiently and watched as events unfolded. After a few minutes, the bird stood up again and this time we had our first views of the newly-hatched Three-banded Courser as it lay in the scrape of a nest.
We now had a view of both chicks together
By this time, the non-incubating adult bird had appeared. The incubating bird proceeded to carry the pieces of egg shell away from the nest and the non-incubating bird began to eat them.
The bird that had been incubating the egg then returned to the two chicks. She immediately sat back down covering the newly-hatched chick beneath her wings. The chick that had hatched first now stood in front of the incubating bird
After a short while, it headed beneath the safety of the adult’s wing to join its recently hatched sibling. Simon took the picture of the adult bird with both chicks beneath it at 6:46 am which meant that all of this had happened in the space of 15 minutes.
We decided that we would head off as we did not want to place too much stress on the birds. We agreed that we would return the following morning to see what had transpired. We arrived at the site of the nest at 6:30 a.m., but there was no sign of any of the birds. We slowly drove back down the road and then spotted the Three-banded Coursers about 70 meters from where we had seen them the previous day. They were still in the Mopane woodland. We initially had views of two adult birds, but as we looked closer, we managed to spot the two chicks. One of them was lying beneath an adult bird and the other was huddled up next to a small branch. We watched them for a while and left them in peace when they both curled up beneath an adult bird.
All photographs courtesy of Simon Stobbs.