Tuesday 13 December 2011

Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

Cover, Game Birds of Rhodesia & Nyasaland

THE Rhodesias and Nyasaland enjoy a variety and abundance of game birds especially in the drier areas of the interior and also in the low country to the east, where the rivers flow towards the Indian Ocean. In addition to the many "permanent inhabitants", there are migrants, such as the Harlequin Quail, a bird which visits from September to May in enormous numbers in favourable seasons.

Quite apart from the intrinsic interest of the sport itself, a shooting-trip in Central Africa is one of the best and most fascinating ways of seeing the country, its wild life and its native people at first hand. To those accustomed to crowded cities and "civilisation", there is no better or more enjoyable relaxation than to gather round the camp fire, after a long day in bush or on mountain, to drink a can or two of beer, to sample some of the game "in the pot", and to yarn about past experiences or future sport.

Chief among the permanent birds are those of the Francolin (or pheasant) family, of which there are many varieties. In general, these birds congregate near permanent water, in areas of cultivation or grassland, in the drier regions. It is in these regions that the best "bags" are secured during the shooting-season. Vast flocks of guinea fowl are also to be found in them, although these fowl are less selective than the Francolin and are to be seen frequently in all parts of the country.

All the game birds of Central Africa tend to be "runners" and, on open ground, are reluctant to take to the wing. On the other hand, with reasonable cover of grass or underbush they tend to sit tight and, under certain conditions, are difficult to flush. Thus, although dogs are not essential, they do much to increase the interest of a shoot, and they also reduce losses caused by the escape of pricked birds. As all the species are excellent fliers, the best sport, clearly, is provided by driven birds. In certain areas, beaters are sometimes used, but the nature of the country usually makes a beater-force impracticable.

Among the birds not illustrated here is the commonest of the "pheasants", Swainson's Francolin, which is generally brown with a bare red neck and black legs and which prefers cover round cultivated land. In sood seasons, coveys of up to eight or 10 may be encountered.

Another interesting variety is Shelley's Francolin, commonly known as the Redwing (a name also applied to a South African bird). Shelley's is a bird of the open grassland and is to be found in all three territories of Central Africa. In certain parts, such as Mashonaland, it is one of the principal game birds. Large and colourful, with a fast flight and a singularly confusing whirr when flushed, it has a most characteristic call and a musical whistle which sounds like "I'll drink yer beer". This call, repeated usually towards sundown, quickly pinpoints the position of coveys.

Acknowledgments: The pictures are reproductions from original specially-commissioned paintings of D. M. Reid Henry. The text has been compiled from notes provided by Reay H. N. Smithers, O.B.E., B.Sc., F.Z.S.

Photo 1, Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

Above: Among the handsomest of all the pheasant family of Central Africa is the Red-throated Francolin. Although to be found on the whole vast "plateau" area, it varies in colour pattern according to the camouflage required by particular localities.

The specimens illustrated are from the evergreen forests which clothe the mountains of the Eastern Districts of S. Rhodesia. In this highland country of streams and waterfalls they live amongst the tangle of creepers and rich vegetation.

Photo 2, Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

Above: Guineafowl are more adaptable than the Francolins and are therefore found in country which the latter avoid. The Helmeted Guineafowl (illustrated) is very common throughout the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. It is hardy and extremely wily and likes to run fast on open ground. Once on the wing, it is a strong flier but slow to rise from thick cover (and is then an easy target). The sexes are exactly alike. The fowl is a prolific breeder: in good seasons clutches of up to 18 eggs are known.

Photo 3, Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

Above: As can be seen, the richly beautiful Crowned Guineafowl is a close relative of the Helmeted variety. The characteristic blue-black curly crown and bright crimson eye, however, are not always easy to spot, because the bird hesitates to flaunt its beauty and lives in the densest bush, emerging only rarely from such haunts. The bird is reported to breed in colonies, but confirmation of this belief is required. It is sometimes known as the Crowned Guineafowl.

Photo 4, Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

Above: The Natal Francolin is found in river valleys in many parts of the Rhodesias, except on the highveld, but is not seen in Nyasaland. It hides in rocky country when disturbed. Apart from the brilliant beak and legs, its similarity to the English Partridge will be noted. Although the colloquial names "pheasant" and "partridge" are strictly appropriate only to the birds so named in the Northern Hemisphere, Ihey are widely used in the Rhodesias.

Photo 5, Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

Above: As the picture indicates, the Double-banded Sandgrouse lives in dry country. It congregates in enormous flocks to water just after sundown. It is a strong flier, gives excellent sport in the difficult half-light of the evening, and is the only species, of three sandgrouse, which is common to all parts of Central Africa.

Photo 6, Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

The Coqui Francolin (or Swempie) is the smallest of the "pheasants" or "partridges" and generally lives in grassland under a canopy of trees. It is a tight sitter but, when flushed, a fast and erratic flier. The birds are widely distributed, although they are seen only in pairs or small coveys.

Photo 7, Game Birds of Rhodesia and Nyasaland

The Red-billed Francolin is confined to the drier western areas of the Rhodesias, usually where there is water in the Kalahari-sand country of the interior. From the sportsman's point of view, it is thus one of the lesser-known species; the excitement of "bagging" one, therefore, is correspondingly increased.

End of Article

Extracted and recompiled, by Eddy Norris, from a publication which was made available to ORAFs by Lewis Walter a District Commissioner in Rhodesia. Thank you Lewis.

Original publication was published by the Rhodesia and Nyasaland Tourist Board. Printed in S. Rhodesia by Rhodesian Printers Ltd. Salisbury.

The recompilation was done for no or intended financial gain but rather to record the memories of Rhodesia.

Thanks to
Paul Norris for the ISP sponsorship.
Paul Mroz for the image hosting sponsorship.
Robb Ellis for his assistance.

Should you wish to contact Eddy Norris please mail me on orafs11@gmail.com


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