Colouring: Iris, lores and bill yellow; legs and feet olive brown; white with pinkish buff plumes on crown, back and breast when breeding; bill stout; neck shortish.
Voice: Harsh croaks of 1-2 syllables, rik-rak, kraa; deep staccato thonk; various chattering calls.
Habitat: Grasslands, pastures, semi-arid steppe, open savanna, usually with large game mammals or domestic stock; also cultivated fields.
Distribution: Most of southern Africa and Namibia, except the Kalahari basin.
Habits: Highly gregarious. Feeds on insects disturbed by grazing mammals in grasslands; may perch on mammals’ backs; also follows ploughs to pick up soil invertebrates. Sometimes fishes in shallow water. In evenings, large flocks gather around shorelines of dams and pans to drink before roosting. Flies in V-formation to and from roosts; roosts in great numbers in trees or reedbeds. May fly low in high wind.
Food: Mainly grasshoppers, caterpillars and earthworms; many other kinds of insects, spiders, scorpions, frogs, lizards, nestling birds, ticks.
Breeding season: Mainly August to February.
Incubation and fledging: Incubation: 22-26 days by both sexes. Nestling: Leaves nest at 20 days, flies at about 30 days, independent at 45 days; fed by both parents. Clutch: 2-4 pale blue or greenish blue eggs.
Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.
Kenneth Newman: Newman’s Birds by Colour. 2000.