Decreasing margins in farming enterprises and other issues can lead to farming more intensively – and to farm in new areas. This places pressure on natural systems and the birds and other animals which inhabit these areas. The effect on biodiversity can be negative.

A large number of birds on a farm does not automatically indicate a healthy bird population. The visible birds might abound on that farm owing to a particular resource or crop. What about the bird species which do not fit into this category? There might be some which occurred naturally in the area whose numbers drop dramatically or completely.

 

Farms with variety are bird-friendly farms

Whatever type of farming is practiced, there are ways of reducing the impact on bird diversity. Careful planning of new lands or any other developments which will alter the natural habitat is important. A good principle is to maintain a mosaic of different land uses on a farm. Even if a large part of the area of the farm is utilised, a range of different land uses and an intact variety of different micro-habitats will ensure a greater variety of birds can benefit from the farm.

 

Farm well to reduce habitat change

Alternatives to the establishment of new lands should be sought, such as more efficient farming methods to obtain increased yields from the existing lands. In general, good farming methods promote the wellbeing of the natural resources and are desirable. Even a simple example such as overgrazing of veld and too frequent veld fires will lead to habitat changes, inevitably leading to a reduction in certain bird species.

 

Birds need corridors too

While birds can fly, many will not fly from one isolated patch of natural vegetation to another, whereas they would move along a natural corridor. Corridors of natural vegetation should be left between lands and between buildings to allow for movement of birds and other animals. Movement to water should also be encouraged by leaving corridors of natural vegetation leading to water sources. While considering bird movement, also look at commonly-used flight paths before erecting high fences, power lines, telephone lines, wind turbines and solar panels. Large birds, including many endangered birds, are often injured or killed when they collide with prominent structures. Where tall structures are erected, visibility aids should be used in areas of increased bird movement, such by marking power lines with flappers of other similar devices.

 

Use the right control methods right

Plagues, pests and weeds are a fact of farming, and must be controlled for efficient production. Control does not mean eradication, and control at a tolerable level should be considered. Natural, low impact methods should be employed wherever possible. Carefully chosen biological agents are the ideal. Birds may in fact constitute just such a biological management aid, such as the oxpeckers of the bushveld which pick and eat large amounts of ticks off cattle and other large animals in a year. Similarly owls can be used as a biological control method for rodents. Erecting owl boxes will help to attract owls to the property (see next heading).

Where the use of chemicals is necessary, careful research should be done to choose the product which will do the job with the least impact over the long term. Biodegradability, frequency of use, effects on other organisms, and accuracy of application are all important factors to consider in making a choice. Once the product is selected, the instructions of use should be followed closely, and all possible efforts must be made to avoid effects on other organisms, also known as non-target species. Insecticides are particularly dangerous, and suppliers and manufacturers should be quizzed regarding the above issues.

 

Farming and birds can mix

Just as one must know the life-cycles of the pests to combat them, so by getting to know the birds’ behaviour, feeding and nesting habits, one can design new developments and general farming practices to promote their wellbeing. As custodians of the earth and the biodiversity in it, this is our duty and not a luxury.

Source: Dr At Kruger, Dr Pete Irons, Denokeng Bird Bash, Seringveld Conservancy, Gauteng Conservancy Association

Find Bird-friendly burning and grazing best-practice for grasslands (in English, Afrikaans and Zulu) under “Publications” at www.birdlife.org.za.

Three beneficial birds

 

Owls

Farmers are encouraged to look after the welfare of owls, a natural predator of grain pests like mice. Owls (and bats) are an environmentally friendly way of controlling pests at minimal cost. An adult barn owl will take care of two rodents a night and a bat will eat over 50% of its body weight in insects in the same time.

The Problems:

  • Many owls are victims of secondary or accidental poisoning through build up of insecticides in the body of the owl and through the use of rat poisons. The poison in the rats body often ends up killing the owl. It is important to realise that any poison used in the garden or farmyard can affect beneficial animals, such as owls. There are poison blocks which do not result in secondary poisoning. Find information under “Wildlife conflict resolution/rodents” at http://wildlifepoisoningprevention.co.za (specifically here). Alternatively, contact the South African Pest Control Association (details in the “Wildlife on farms” chapter).
  • Chicks on the ground should be left where they are so that the parents can continue to look after them. Most owl chicks found on the ground have not been abandoned and the best thing to do in most cases is to leave the bird where it is.

Attracting Owls

  1. Keep the area as natural as possible.
  2. Avoid poisons of all kinds.
  3. Provide safe nesting boxes: this could improve their breeding success. The Barn Owl prefers a closed box with just a small opening for entry, while the Spotted Eagle-Owl prefers a more open box, from which it can scan its surroundings. Two simple models may be found in the book listed below (see source acknowledgement).

Find information at www.deltaenviro.org.za (the source of some of the information above). Role players like the EWT, EcoSolutions, CS Vet, Owl Rescue Centre, the Urban Raptor ProjectRadical Raptors and the African Bird of Prey Sanctuary can also help you. Find contact details under the “Role players” heading.

Source: A Beginner’s Guide to Owls. The booklet is available from the Delta Environmental Centre.

 

Red-billed Oxpecker

Find out about oxpecker-friendly dips on the market.

The red-billed Oxpecker can be one of the farmer’s greatest natural allies on game and cattle farms, making it very important to employ farming practices which offer the bird the best chance of survival by managing tick infestations with the correct products and management protocols.

Dipping against ticks almost eradicated the red-billed Oxpeckers in South Africa. Fortunately, the introduction of environmentally-compatible chemicals, pyrethroid and amidine acaricides brought new hope for oxpeckers. For more information on (i) how to phase in oxpecker-friendly dips, then lessen dip-dependence by phasing in the oxpecker, and (ii) to order the Oxpeckers, Ectoparasiticides and Farmers Manual please contact the Endangered Wildlife Trust (EWT) at 011 372 3600.

Find the “Oxpecker charts” option on www.saaha.co.za, website of the South African Animal Health Association.

 

Vultures

Vultures play a critical part in maintaining the ecological health of the planet. Their digestive systems mean that they can absorb cholera, rabies and prevent disease from spreading. Unfortunately they are one of the fastest declining groups of animals in the world. Members of the public are encouraged to report vulture fatalities to the EWT at 011 372 3600 or wep [at] ewt.org.za. The Vulture Conservation Programme of South Africa (see Vulpro under “Role players”) assists with vultures or other large birds which need help.

South African birds in trouble

In South Africa, birds that require particular attention include:

  • The Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus), the most severely threatened crane on the African continent and found on the country’s grasslands;
  • The Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum);
  • The Taita Falcon (Falco taita) , found on the Drakensberg escarpment in Mpumalanga and Limpopo;
  • The South African Blue Swallow population (Hirundo atrocaerulea) is locally classified as critically endangered;
  • The White-winged Flufftail (Sarothrura ayresi), regionally critically endangered and dependent on good quality available wetland habitat across its distribution;
  • The Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) and White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis) are critically endangered;
  • Southern banded snake eagle (Circaetus fasciolatus), found in northern KZN;
  • Ludwig’s Bustard (Neotis ludwigii) and Denham’s Bustard (Neotis denhami), threatened by collisions with transmission power-lines, and the Blue Korhaan (Eupodotis caerulescens) and White-bellied Korhaan (Eupodotis senegalensis), grassland dwellers, are in trouble;
  • The endemic Southern Bald Ibis (Geronticus calvus), found across  the grasslands of South Africa and dependent on good land use practices for its survival;
  • The Secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius);
  • Tristan albatross (Diomedea dabbenena), found on the West Coast is globally critically endangered;
  • Other coastal birds on the list are Leach’s storm petrel (Oceanodroma leucorhoa), Crozet shag (Phalacrocorax melanogenis) and the Damara tern (Sterna balaenarum).

Find pictures and the latest information at www.iucnredlist.org.

Local business environment

Avitourism, the travel for the purpose of bird watching, is reputed to be one of the fastest growing nature-based tourism activities worldwide. Some of the key findings of the study, done by the Department of Trade and Industry (the dti) to investigate the value and growth potential of avitourism, indicate that:

  • the total size of South Africa’s current Avitourism market range between 21 000 and 40 000 avitourists annually, of which between 13 000 and 24 000 are domestic avitourists;
  • avitourists generally offer higher than average trip spend, longer trip lengths and a greater tendency to visit multiple provinces than mainstream market segments; and
  • South Africa has attractive core birding assets compared to competitor destinations, particularly in areas of species diversity, endemism and rarity.

Find the Department of Trade and Industry study, Avitourism in South Africa (Niche Tourism Markets) on the Birdlife SA website, www.birdlife.org.za. The publication includes notes on opportunities in avitourism, how to start your own avitourism business, how to become a Community Bird Guide etc., and presents case studies of successful avitourism businesses.

Role players

Find the contact details of conservancies in the “Conservancies and farming” chapter.

African Bird of Prey Sanctuary

Tel: 031 785 4382

http://africanraptor.co.za/

 

African Raptor Network (ARN)

www.africanraptors.org

 

Previously the Avian Demography Unit, the ADU changed its name to Animal Demography Unit (ADU) to reflect its widening focus. Visit www.adu.uct.ac.za.

 

BirdLife South Africa

Tel: 011 789 1122

www.birdlife.org.za

 

The website is an essential source of information with details of national projects, contact details of bird clubs across the country, online bird guides etc.

 

Birdwatch Cape

Tel: 072 211 9863

www.birdwatch.co.za

 

The agent for a growing number of Southern African Bird and Natural History Tour Operators

 

CS Vet

Tel: 012 460 9385

www.csvet.co.za

 

Find the “Owl project” option on the website. Farmers participating in the project testify that they have success in attracting owls and getting rid of rats.

 

Delta Environmental Centre

Tel: 011 888 4831

www.deltaenviro.org.za

 

EcoSolutions

Jonathan Haw – 072 365 9777

www.ecosolutions.co.za

 

Amongst other things, EcoSolutions supply and install owl boxes in the Gauteng, North West and Western Cape provinces.

 

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife

Tel: 033 845 1999

www.kznwildlife.com

 

Endangered Wildlife Trust

Tel: 011 372 3600

 

Relevant Programmes include:

  • African Crane Conservation Programme: Kerryn Morrison
  • Birds Of Prey Programme (which include owls, Ground Hornbills, Secretary birds): Gareth Tate
  • Vultures for Africa: André Botha
  • Threatened Grassland Species Programme (includes the Sungazer, Botha’s Lark and the Yellow-breasted Pipit): Dr Ian Little

Read more at www.ewt.org.za.

 

Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre

Tel: 084 511 3000

www.moholoholo.co.za

 

Overberg Crane Group

Tel: 084 369 0969

www.bluecrane.org.za

 

Owl Rescue Centre

Tel: 082 719 5463

www.owlrescuecentre.org.za

 

Owl boxes

 

Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

Tel: 021 650 3290/1/7

www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za

 

Radical Raptors

Tel: 044 532 7537

http://radicalraptors.co.za

 

SAFRING – see Animal Demography Unit (ADU)

 

Southern African Birding

Tel/fax: 031 266 5948

www.sabirding.co.za

 

Urban Raptor Project

Tel: 082 3323 660/ 082 8542 560

www.urbanraptorproject.co.za

 

Vulpro

Kerri Wolter – 082 808 5113

www.vulpro.com

 

Wild Bird Trust

Tel: 072 858 5644

www.wildbirdtrust.com

 

Wildlife Poisoning Prevention

Tel: 082 802 6223

http://wildlifepoisoningprevention.co.za

Training and research

BirdLife South Africa

Tel: 011 789 1122

www.birdlife.org.za

 

Research is undertaken into, for example, into reports of any abnormal mortality amongst wild birds on farms, sightings and reports of Southern Bald Ibis and Cape Parrot.

 

Field Guides Association of Southern Africa (FGASA)

Tel: 011 886 8245

www.fgasa.co.za

 

FGASA represents individual Tourist Guides, Nature, Culture and Adventure guides, Trackers and organisations involved in offering professional guiding services to members of the public. Guiding standards are set and maintained within the guiding industry. Several FGASA-accredited companies offer birding courses e.g. Africa Nature Training, EcoTraining South Africa and Limpopo Field Guiding Academy.

 

Nelson Mandela University (NMU)

Centre for African Conservation Ecology (ACE)

Tel: 041 504 2308

http://ace.mandela.ac.za/

 

University of Cape Town

Animal Demography Unit

Tel: 021 650 2421

www.adu.uct.ac.za

 

Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

Tel: 021 650 3290/1/7

www.fitzpatrick.uct.ac.za

 

University of the Free State www.ufs.ac.za

 

  • Department Zoology and Entomology Tel: 051 401 2489
  • Department of Genetics Tel: 051 401 2595

 

Other universities relevant to this page include Rhodes University, University of the Witwatersrand, University of KwaZulu-Natal.

Websites and publications

Visit the websites listed earlier in this chapter, like www.birdlife.org.za.

  • Harrison, J. & Young, D. 2010. Farming for the future: farming sustainably with nature. Cape Town: Animal Demography Unit. The book includes attractive and useful notes on birds. Download it at http://www.adu.org.za/docs/farming_for_the_future_lr.pdf
  • Find “Bird-friendly burning and grazing best-practice for grasslands” at www.birdlife.org.za/publications/grassland-best-practice
  • African Birdlife, published by Birdlife SA every two months. Find details here.
  • Barnes, K. N. (Ed.). 2000. The Eskom red data book of birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa.
  • Die Voëlgids van Suider-Afrika (Ulrich Oberprieler, Burger Cillié) can be ordered at www.lapa.co.za. The English version is entitled The Bird Guide of Southern Africa. Order it at www.gameparkspublishing.co.za. Another book by Burger Cillié is Eagles of Africa (available in Afrikaans too, Arende van Afrika).
  • The Sasol bird books can can be ordered at www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za: (i) Sasol Birds of Southern Africa (ii) Sasol Voëls van Suider-Afrika (iii) Sasol Larger Illustrated Guide to Birds of Southern Africa IV, Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton, Peter Ryan (iv) Sasol Checklist of Birds in Southern Africa, Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton, Peter Ryan. Read more about the books at www.sasolbirds.co.za. Ian Sinclair has written several books on birds. Find these also under Struik Nature at www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za.
  • Also at www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za is 500 common bird calls in Southern Africa, a CD-guide combination by Doug Newman, and Newman’s Birds by Colour at www.penguinrandomhouse.co.za. Read about the available app at www.newmansbirdsapp.com.
  • Find information on the different Roberts Birds books at www.robertsbirds.co.za. These are also a multimedia app now. Titles include: (i) Roberts Birds VII (ii) Roberts Bird Guide (iii) Roberts Voëlgids (iv) Roberts Bird Guide Kruger National Park (v) Kruger National Park Bird Checklist.
  • Visit Roberts Online Birds of Southern Africa, www.robertsonline.co.za.
  • Southern African Birdfinder and Essential Birding, Western South Africa by Callan Cohen and Claire Spottiswoode. Linked to the latter book is the website, www.capebirdingroute.org.
  • Voëls van die bosveld SC Kidson, HL van Niekerk ISBN 978-1-875093-88-5. To order, visit www.kejafa.com or www.briza.co.za.
  • Remarkable Birds of South Africa by Dr Peter Milstein, published by Briza. Visit www.briza.co.za.
  • Adventures With Nature stocks several books on birds e.g. Sasol Birds, Newman’s Series and the Roberts Series. Call 011 954 4675 or visit http://awnbooks.co.za.
  • Peter Ginn and Geoff McIlleron’s two volume set The Ultimate Companion for Birding in Southern Africa can be ordered at www.birdbook.co.za.
  • Visit the Indicator Birding website, www.birding.co.za, for updates on birding courses, birding tours etc.
  • http://sabap2.adu.org.zaSouthern African Bird Atlas Project 2, “Mapping the distribution and abundance of birds in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland”
  • www.worldmigratorybirdday.orgWorld Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is a global initiative devoted to celebrating migratory birds and for promoting their conservation worldwide.
  • Southern Africa Birding, Birding Multimedia for Southern Africa – www.sabirding.co.za
  • The International Crane Foundationwww.savingcranes.org
  • www.sanccob.co.za, website of the Southern African Foundation for the Conservation of Coastal Birds
  • Find information on owls at www.owlpages.com
  • Find details of Ostrich Journal of African Ornithology at www.nisc.co.za.
  • Bird Watchers’ Digest www.birdwatchersdigest.com/bwdsite/

 

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