Estuarine Birds

Waders and Waterfowl

Estuaries and wetlands attract a variety of birds. MAny are resident throughout the year but others are summer visitors, some of which as far as 28 000 km from their breeding grounds in north-central Siberia. Migratory waders fly at altitudes of about 3 000m and navigate during the day by following the coastline or other landmarks, or at night by using the stars or the orientation of the Earth’s magnetic field. If migratory birds are to survive, international cooperation is needed to protect their breeding grounds, their feeding grounds and the two to four refueling stops along their flyways.

Waders are forced to migrate from the Arctic to South Africa when the Arctic freezes over. The advantages of taking the long journey south is that southern hemisphere estuaries may be ten times more productive. The waders also don’t have to take the risk from bad weather and raptors. The birds can feast during the long summer days when the worms, crabs and prawns are at their peak.

Birds use their bills for feeding on worms, crabs, fish, prawns, frogs, insect and plant material. Some birds stalk and stab their prey. Whereas others use sensitive beaks that can detect the presence of prey even underwater or in the mud. Ducks trap plant material and insects in their flat beaks.

Most waders, waterfowls and plovers nest on the ground or among the reeds at the water's edge. Their eggs and chicks are camouflaged but are vulnerable to off road vehicles and radiation from dogs, mongooses, jackals and other birds. Praecocial chicks feed themselves within a day of hatching. Although the parents still need protect them. Egyptian geese might nest in high trees. Than it is amazing to watch their day-year-old chicks fall to the earth and waddle off for a swim.