10 December 2014

Holiday With Birds

I married a teacher (I am not looking for sympathy, just stating a fact). In the first few years of her teaching career she would come home and tell me all about her day. Many a time she would tell me of the difficulties like the more or less non existent discipline of children at times. Sometimes it would be colleagues that had criticised harshly or unnecessarily. Only half listening my standard response would be: “Well, who must I go and beat up?” She would then become angry with me. Here I was thinking that I am the “knight in shining armour” and she gets angry? It took me a while to realise that she did not want anybody beaten up, she just wanted someone to listen to her.

This kind of difference between male and female has led to a man called John Gray writing a book called “Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus”. Mars is the planet named after the Roman God of war (who can I beat up?) and Venus was named after the Roman goddess of love and beauty. The book sold over 50 million copies and was on the best seller lists for 121 weeks. It also led to many by-products like seperate clothing lines, different fragrances, even different kinds of holidays. Maybe this is the reason why I am a birder and my wife not.

These differences between male and female are not limited to the world of human beings. It is to be found in all of nature and this of course includes the world of birds. In many cases the difference is to be found in plumage colouration; males more often than not have the more colourful plumage with some notable exceptions like the Greater Painted Snipe. In other cases there are just about no difference other than the female (and here I know I must tread very carefully) being bigger than the male. Some of these differences are just about impossible to determine out in the field.

I was just made aware of this once again on our year end birding outing to Komdomo. (By the way, this is a wonderful venue for a bird outing as it is not too difficult to achieve a list of 80+ species in a morning’s birding; we got 94). It is also currently the time of male and female (breeding season) and this often leads to one seeing representatives of both sexes together. This allows comparisons to determine which is which (male or female). Here are some of them that are more obvious than others and some that are not so obvious. The not so obvious comes first.

Source: Wessel Rossouw

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