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African Finfoot

The Bird of the Month is the African Finfoot or Watertrapper, (Podica senegalensis). This is a very rare and vulnerable bird species.  The Afrikaans name for the African Finfoot is "Watertrapper".  


Colouring: Iris brown; bill bright red, darker on culmen; legs and feet orange-red, brown at back.
Identification: About the size and shape of a large cormorant; head greyish (more blue-grey in males), with a white stripe from behind the eye down the side of the neck; back dark brown, spotted white; bill, legs and feet bright red; large lobed toes, visible when out of water; long tail, held flat on water when swimming.
Voice: Sharp skwak like two blocks of wood knocked together; bull-like roaring alarm note; flute-like pay-pay; duck-like barking kwark; loud bill-snapping by females during display.

African Finfoot

Distribution: Southern and Eastern coastal regions, parts of Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Northern Province.
Habitat: Quiet reaches of streams, rivers, pans and lakes, fringed with dense trees and bush drooping into the water.
Habits: Usually solitary or in pairs; shy and retiring; when disturbed, splashes into the water and flutters, pattering along the surface; dives only when wounded or chased; swims low and easily, even in whitewater rapids; submerges body when alarmed, until only the head and neck are exposed. Flies strongly if pursued; hides in marginal vegetation. Sometimes comes out onto logs, rocks or the shoreline to preen; runs well on land, sometimes lifting one or both wings. Forages by working along the banks of streams, picking food off plants and the water surface; may forage on land; climbs into vegetation by clawed toes and wing digit. Roosts at night on branches overhanging the water. The female displays by raising alternate wings and snapping her bill.


Food: Insects, spiders, crabs, snails, frogs, small fish and snakes.
Breeding season: August to April (mainly September to March).
Clutch: One to two eggs, pale buffy green, streaked and blotched with brown, red and purple.
Incubation and fledging: Unrecorded.
Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.

Photographs are courtesy of Gavin Orbel, Eris Stockenstroom and Mercia Komen of the Rhenosterspruit Nature Conservancy/Oori; this series is a joint venture with Hartebeestfontein Conservancy (text)