On our recent trip to Sydney and back I commented several times on the casual nature of the crows along the road. So many times we saw them eating road-kill, either on the road itself, or very close to the edge of the paved area. As we approached – generally driving at 100-110kph – the birds would casually wander off the carriageway and just a few steps out of harm’s way. Rarely did they fly off. Occasionally they might give a hop or two to avoid being hit; this usually meant they had left their escape just a second or two too long. Then after our vehicle had passed, they quickly resumed their feast.
I presume that they had learned over their lifetime that vehicles caused them no harm provided they moved out of the way in time. Being quite intelligent animals they probably learned this survival technique from others. It just looked quite comical to me to see them so casually wandering out of danger.
I should actually correct myself here: most of the birds we saw were actually Australian Ravens, not crows at all. This is the largest corvid found in Australia. Crows are found further north than where we were travelling. Nearer to home we often see the same behaviour exhibited by the local species, the Little Raven. This behaviour is quite common on the South Eastern Freeway from Adelaide to my home town of Murray Bridge.
Over recent days I have written about some of the birds I saw on a visit to the Portuguese Bridge area (near Debre Libanos) which is about 110km north of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. There is some controversy over the old bridge (shown above). Local guides claim it was built by the Portuguese about 400 years ago. Other authorities claim that it was built more recently.
We were visiting the area last December. Geologically it is a very interesting place. We had wonderful views over the valley and down into the Blue Nile Gorge about 1000 metres below us. I’ve included no bird photos today – only scenery shots of this amazing place.
I saw a good number of birds and if you look through recent posts here you will see photos of some of them. Instead of bird photos I have compiled an annotated list of some of the birds seen:
- Pied Crow – numerous
- Fan-tailed Raven – 3 flying overhead
- Lammergeier – 1 soaring on thermals overhead
- Yellow-billed Kites – numerous – about 20 – 30 swooping low over people eating lunch. One took food from my fingers!
- Dusky Turtledove – about 5 seen
- Speckled Pigeon – only 1 seen
- Tacazza Sunbird – 2
- Rock Martin – about 10 swooping around the cliff edges
- Blue-breasted Bee-eater – 2 seen swooping for insects and then sitting on a branch
- Augur Buzzard – one seen only briefly, flying overhead
I saw and heard a number of other species but either didn’t get good views of them or no views at all. One of the more frustrating sightings was that of the Rock Martins swooping around the cliff edges. They came quite close – close enough for good identification – but none settled down to perch so I could get a photo. On the wing they were too swift to focus on. [Sigh]
So – you’ll have to be content with some lovely scenery shots instead. But stay tuned for more photos taken elsewhere in the coming days.
On my visit to Ethiopia late last year I saw many crows and ravens, especially the very common Pied Crow. The species I feature today, the Fan-tailed Raven, I saw only on one occasion. We had driven north about 100km from Addis Ababa to Portuguese Bridge. I managed to get a few good photos and added several species to my list.
The Fan-tailed Raven certainly has a very descriptive name, and to see them soaring on thermals overhead the fanned out tail helps considerably in the identification process. You can see this in the photo below.
This species is widespread throughout north eastern Africa and in parts of the Sahara. It feeds on insects and other invertebrates, food scraps, fruit, carrion and even grain.
One of the bird species I recorded on only a few occasions during my two week stay in Ethiopia last December was the Thick-billed Raven. Only once did I manage to get a few photos of this species, shown here today on this post. They were very easily distinguished from the locally common Pied Crows by being almost completely black except for a white patch on the nape. They are considerably bigger than the Pied Crow too. Their thick bill is hard to miss and is diagnostic.
Along with the Common Raven, they are the largest in the corvid family of birds (click here for a definition). They are found only in the Horn of Africa (Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia). Their diet is quite varied, and being omnivorous they will eat insects, beetles, carrion, meat scraps and a range of human foods.
During our visit to Ethiopia last December the common corvid I observed everywhere was the Pied Crow (Corvis albus) shown in today’s photos. In the grounds of the school where my daughter was teaching they were very common, sometimes numbering 30 – 50 in the gardens, on the oval or flying noisily overhead. They were not slow at picking through food scraps left by the students and were very tame, often allowing me to approach to within a metre or two.
Pied Crows are found in a range of habitats from urban, farming, grasslands and woodlands as well as along lakes and rivers. It is found throughout Ethiopia as well as Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and in parts of neighbouring countries. In fact, it is found in most areas south of the Sahara throughout southern Africa, making it the most widespread of any crow or raven in Africa.
For my Australian readers, the Pied Crow is about the same size as the Little Raven and Little Crow, but smaller than the Australian Raven. Its call is just as mournful but harsher and throatier than our Little Raven.