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Indicator Birding

New Raptor for Southern Africa !!

Red-necked Buzzard - Buffalo Reserve, Namibia 28 July 2014 During July 2014, an Indicator Birding tour group, led by Etienne Marais discovered and photographed the first ever Red-necked Buzzard for the Southern African region. The bird is a new record for Namibia.

On 28 July the tour group, based at Mahango Safari Lodge, visited the Buffalo Reserve - situated onthe eastern bank of the Kavango River, near Divundu in Namibia's Caprivi Strip. (now referred to as the Zambezi Region). In the northern part of the reserve, near the official gate at GPS approx: S18.11389 E21.67517, the group encountered a very unusual raptor, in tall mixed woodland.

It was initially observed flying away, and due to the lazy, languid flight action, it was thought to be an African Cuckoo-Hawk. Fortunately the raptor was not unduly shy and we had two more opportunities to observe the bird.and take a range of photographs.

Red-necked Buzzard - Buffalo Reserve, Namibia 28 July 2014On further examination, the bird was clearly a stocky, thickset raptor, with powerful bill and strong shouldered look typical of a buteo. The tail was relatively short compared to the wing length and the flight feathers and scapulars appeared broad, suggesting a broad buteo-type wing shape. The tail was rufous with a dark sub-terminal bar and narrow white terminal tail tip. Iris pale yellow, cere yellowish. Legs shortish, tarsus unfeathered, dull yellow in colour and with powerful feet with typical buteo like thick toes. Underparts white with uneven and dispersed dark brown blotches and tear-drop markings - most heavily concentrated on the side of the breast. The Upperparts were greyish-brown with pale feather edging and darker flight feathers. Nape, hindrcrown and neck-sides rufous - extending onto upper breast where a little more blotchy and diffuse. Rufous tones also visible on ear coverts and forecrown. Front part of cheek, lores and throat whitish.

Due to shape and physical structure the bird was identified as a Buteo. The combination of rufous plumage on the neck and particularly hindneck, rufous tail with broad, dark sub-terminal bar and juvenile feather edging and well-defined dark markings on the underparts, particularly on the sides of the breast; all pointed to Red-necked Buzzard as opposed to any of the other possible Buteo species that occur in Africa. The identification of this bird relied on input from Raptor experts with a much wider experience than Southern Africa and it was initially Rob Davies of the African Raptor DataBank (ARDB) who first suggested Red-necked Buzzard. The images were subsequently circulated to a number of people and the identification was confirmed by a number of experts with experience of this species from West Africa and Angola.

What are the chances of re-locating the bird. Thusfar several have tried without success ! It is certainly worth keeping ones eyes open for this species, which may even have been overlooked in the region before. We will certainly be keeping our eyes peeled when we visit again at the end of October.

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