THE RARE VANGAS OF THE NHAMACOA 

Many lovely birds have made their home in the Nhamacoa.  In August, at the beginning of our summer each year, I sometimes see the green, red-breasted Narina Trogon sitting on a branch in the big old mango tree right in front of the window of my computer room.  Birds seem to like this tree and over the years I’ve been able to see the beautiful African golden oriole, the dark-backed forest weaver, the wattle-eyed flycatcher and the paradise flycatcher all at the same time from my window.Our resident pair of Vangas (Bias Musicus) on the other hand, prefer the tallest of trees and almost every day pay a visit to a eucalyptus tree behind our outdoor kitchen or to our kapok trees next to the sitting room window.

We’re lucky to have these birds living with us as I understand they are rare in Southern Africa.

I first noticed the Vangas back in 2005, so if these are the same pair, they are at least 10 years old. The male Vanga is black and white and makes sharp whistling notes while the female Vanga is white and a rich russet colour, with a black head and makes a churring sound.  They both have yellow eyes and short, yellow legs, heavy bills and prominent rictal bristles.

Every year they produce two female Vangas and after flying around with their young offspring for a month or so around our house, they all disappear for a while.  When the Vangas reappear, they are without the young females, leaving us to ponder on the mystery of where they have taken them.  Another mystery is why they always produce female Vangas and never males.
The male Vanga is quite an aggressive and protective little bird.  Once, when O’D was filming the Vangas, he saw the male fly straight at a young hawk that was sitting on a branch just minding its own business.  The hawk got such a fright, it fell off the branch!  And then there was the time there was the bird-fight between the male Vanga and the Emerald green cuckoo, a fight which not surprisingly the male Vanga won.

Some years ago I read that birds that lived in miombo forests such as the indigenous forests of Mozambique are unable to adapt when their habitat disappears and as a result, die out.  How sad that forests in Mozambique are vanishing at such an alarming rate and no one is doing anything to stop this.  After all, once a forest is gone, it is gone  –  along with all the marvelous  and beautiful birds and other wildlife that it supported.

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