I am green with envy.
I am looking at photographs and video material of an African Finfoot. It is splashing around, feeding, sunning, climbing…everything a Finfoot does daily; only this time, ‘we’ managed to get the most complete documented visual evidence possible on this rather shy and elusive bird.
Kaingo’s river frontage affords us arguably the best aquatic bird viewing in the Waterberg. The river and its ecosystems are very well preserved. Food abounds and that creates the perfect living conditions for birds of different feathers.
African Jacana, Green-backed Herons, those little jewels, the Malachite Kingfisher, and Fish Eagles entertain our guests no end…and then there is the Finfoot.
I must admit that I have a love-hate relationship with this bird. Sure, it is rare to uncommon throughout its distribution, but whenever I take up a rod and reel in search of a hungry large-mouth bass or two, I seem to have the most amazing sightings of them. They float around, feeding on their normal diet of insects, bugs, and fish (and will gobble up the occasional snake) and really give me an amazing view into their daily lives!
Whenever I have birders aboard…
They disappear. Into thin white smoke.
Now look; I realise that birds are not as forthcoming as their mammalian friends (leopards excluded) but really?
Back to the material:
Here we have an African Finfoot, swimming away with its lobed feet (it does not have the webbed feet of a duck or a goose).
And these are its feet! Bright red and remarkably interesting. By the way, the lobes and foot structure does help this bird to climb into and onto riverside vegetation. This helps to safeguard it from predation. Another fascinating behavior to avoid detection is to submerge its body, leaving only the head and neck above water.
The Finfoot in question clearly has decided that humans are indeed friends!
Breeding season is from August to April, so right now may be a good time to come a have a look for them. Finfoots are monogamous and territorial. The little ones will not spend much time with mom and dad, swimming away only a few days after hatching. The female, will lay up to three eggs in a rather chaotic stick-and-debris nest, usually a few centimetres over the water.
Dad, well let just say that he is not really involved.
The African Finfoot prefers its water clean and healthy. Elsewhere within its distribution, they have come under increasing pressure from habitat destruction and pesticides washing into their environment. With the pristine condition of the Mokolo River and Kaingo’s ethos of conservation first, we will stay host to these fascinating birds for a long time to come.
So, what are you waiting for? The Finfoot? Book a little weekend away from the rat race today and we will have a look for this elusive one. No guarantees, but I feel confident that we will find them!