Hamerkop pair go big with home-building

The pair of Rowallan Park hamerkops on their nest.
Picture: Cornel Volschenk

“MORE is better” is clearly the catchphrase for an unusual pair of visitors that have taken up residence in a Rowallan Park garden.

The pair of hamerkops arrived in Hanna Street in December and five months later they are still adding to their gigantic home – true to their reputation for having the biggest nests in Africa – which they have built in the fork of a coral tree.

Helouise Rumbles, who lives at 22 Hanna Street where the hamerkops have set up house, said yesterday the birds had become a familiar presence.

“They’re on the go from early in the morning moving around on the ground looking for bits to build their nest and flying back and forth. We see them taking up all kinds of things including old rags and once even a child’s slipper.

“I’ve only ever seen one at a time but presumably it’s a pair if they’re building a nest.”

The birds fly off later in the morning each day presumably west down to the nearby Baakens River.

The hamerkop, whose Latin species name is umbretta from its umbrella-like crest, feeds on frogs, platannas and other creatures in rivers and vleis.

Neighbour Adeline Volschenk, whose son Cornel took a photograph of the hamerkop pair on their nest four weeks ago, said the birds were very shy.

“I hear them in the morning calling like they’re a bit cross, maybe from collecting all those sticks, but when I sneak around the wall they normally fly off.

“I hadn’t seen them ever before but my husband loves nature and he knew what they were.”

According to the South African National Biodiversity Institute, the hamerkop’s calls range from a plaintive keep to a loud and discordant yip-pur r chorus and “a sharp querulous squawk”.

Bird expert Dr Paul Martin applauded the sighting.

“We have a couple of pairs of hamerkops around the metro but it’s not a common species

“So to have a pair of these birds breeding in your garden – that’s wonderful.”

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