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  • Red - Billed Queleas - Kruger National Park
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    Red - Billed Queleas - Kruger National Park
    Orpen, Tamboti tented camp, Talamati and the Maroela Caravan Park in the Kruger Park are compelling birding spots. The Red – billed quelea, in addition to many other species of birds often occur in this area, one of the reasons being that the nearby Timbavati River watercourse is a dependable food source. During midday these birds will rest in the shade and drink on average at least twice a day. Red – billed queleas nest mostly in Acacia trees which are prolific in this mixed thorn and Marula woodland habitat.

    Talamati is a small bushveld camp in the mixed woodlands of the N’waswitsontso .The camp is on the edge of the N’waswitsontso wetlands, which ensures there is usually good all-year-round birding.

    Considered an invasive species and also known as the red-billed weaver or red-billed dioch, the red-billed quelea is the world’s most abundant wild bird species, with an estimated adult breeding population of 1.5 billion pairs. Some estimates of the overall population have been as large as 10 billion. The entire population is found in sub-Saharan Africa and is generally absent from deeply forested regions and the southern reaches of South Africa.

    Unsurprisingly, there are more Red-billed Queleas in Kruger than any other species, with an estimated 33.5 million birds moving seasonally in and around the Park. They account for over 50% of the avian biomass in Kruger, moving in flocks of up to a million birds that nest en masse in acacia trees with between 50 and 3 000 nests per tree.
    Feeding habits

    Watching Red-billed queleas feed is like watching the Mexican Wave at a football crowd. The birds descend in their thousands onto the ground, with the flock taking on a roller feeding movement in which the birds at the back continually hop over the ones in front to get to the food. The Red-billed quelea is mostly a seed-eater but does eat insects, including butterflies, ants, beetles and termites. After the chicks hatch, they are nourished for some days with caterpillars and protein-rich insects. After this time parents change to feeding the nestlings mainly seeds. The young birds fledge and become independent enough to leave their parents after approximately two weeks in the nest.
    Red – Billed queleas as a food source

    Quelea are the avian equivalent of the impala – everything feeds on them. Nesting colonies are a favourite target not only for raptors but a wide variety of birds such as the Marabou Stork, Cattle Egret, Green-backed Heron and most of the hornbills. Whole colonies of Red-billed queleas can be devastated by predator attacks on adults, nestlings and eggs. Research at four Red-billed quelea colonies in the Park showed predation rates of 13%, 14%, 35% and 60%, according to Roberts VII. Additionally, snakes, lizards and several types of mammals are regular predators and some human populations also eat red-billed queleas. During their breeding season the Hadza of Northern Tanzania quelea eat quelea chicks by the thousands.
    Breeding habits

    During the breeding stage, the adult male is distinguished by his more colourful plumage and red bill. Breeding plumage in male queleas is unusually variable: comprising a facial mask which ranges from black to white in colour, and breast and crown plumage which varies from yellowish to bright red. For the rest of the year both males and fledged non-breeding birds have plumage that resembles that of the adult female, which is overall a cryptic beige and cream coloration. The female’s bill is yellow during breeding, and red during the non-breeding season.

    Red- billed queleas are monogamous at each breeding attempt, but also itinerant breeding in which individuals may nest at up to three different locations within a season, thus likely that serial polygamy occurs. Their breeding season is from December to April in South Africa.

    Nest sites are placed approximately 2m above ground level and mostly in Acacia thorn trees.

    They typically lay 3-5 eggs that are pale green or blueish in colour. Chicks hatch after 10-12 days and are fed by both the male and female adults. The chicks are fed by regurgitation – even when feeding on insects.
  • Selous Game Reserve
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    Selous Game Reserve
    Far from the madding crowd and at the three times the size of the Kruger National Park and double the size of the Senegeti National Park, Selous Game Reserve in Tanzania maintains its title as Africa’s largest reserve. It is a fitting tribute then that it is also one of Tanzania’s three World Heritage Sites. The Game Reserve reached its present size and shape in the 1940′s, when the colonial government moved the remaining tribes out of the area to combat a sleeping sickness epidemic. It was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982.

    Selous is named in honour of the Englishman Frederick Courtney Selous. During 1871 Selous lived and hunted in the area for approximately four decades and during that time he gained a reputation as the most accomplished hunter of his age. He was also known for writing, most notably he was the author of “A Hunter’s Wanderings in Africa”. Selous assisted Cecil John Rhodes in his campaign to annes present-day Zimbabwe to the British Empire and he also achieved brief notoriety in 1899 for speaking out against England’s war on the Boer Republics of South Africa.

    As Captain of the Royal Fusiliers at the age of 60 and with detailed knowledge of the African bush, Selous led the chase after the German guerilla army that presided in Southern Tanzania. On New Year’s Day in 1917, Selous was shot dead by a sniper close to the banks of the Beho Beho River where he remains buried today, near Beho Neho Safari Camp. Five Years after his death, the British colonists incorporated a number of existing game reserves south of the river to extend the plains of the aptly named, Selous.

    Fauna and Flora:

    An area of 45,000km2 of unspoiled African wilderness, the Selous game reserve boasts a variety of biomes – grassy plains, open woodland, mountains and forests – all classified by their climate and dominant vegetation type, and representing large communities of plants and animals in distinct regions.

    The reserve is split into two different regions by Tanzania’s largest river, the Rufiji. The northern Selous covers only around 5% of the reserves total area. No hunting is allowed here; this area is dedicated exclusively to photographic safari’s and accommodation in exclusive camps and lodges. Hunting blocks of approximately 1,000km2 each make up the Souther section of the Selous reserve.

    Large numbers of sought after game, predators, crocodiles and hippos are resident within this massive reserve. Buffalo numbers are estimated at 120,000 – 150,000. with lion numbers estimated to be around 4000 individuals. Historically, Selous was also home to Tanzania’s largest elephant population, but sadly, due to increased poaching incidents over the years, the number of elephants have reduced dramatically.

    The birdlife here is prolific with more than 440 species of birds being recorded in the Selous. Pink-backed pelicans, African Skimmers and giant Kingfishers, carmine and white fronted bee-eater colonies just to name a few. In the Borassus Palms, pairs of Fish Eagle, Palm Nut Vulture, Ibises and Palm Swifts nest. A myriad of water birds are discovered in their thousand’s – various small waders, egrets and herons as well as the famous Pel’s Fishing Owl.

    Access to the Selous Game Reserve:

    Selous is a six to seven hour drive towards the Southern part of Tanzania, south of Dar es Salaam and is served by light aircraft from Dar es Salaam and Ruaha daily, both of these flights being under an hour in duration. Park fees and Conservation fees are normally included in the price of one’s safari and are estimated at around USD75 per person per day.

    One may chose to take a road trip from Dar es Salaam that involves taking a normal circuit route which would include a trip through the Mikumi National Park and entering the Matambwe Gate. It is such an exhilarating experience, even more so in the mornings, to take the road from Morogoro as it gives visitors the chance to enjoy the drive through the Morogoro town and the opportunity to view the town with the “Ulugulu Mountains” as the scenic backdrop. As one heads out of Morogoro town, you will have the chance to witness how the rural peopl live and work within the villages. Experience a traditional market day in rural Tanzania. Another option is to take the access road from Dar es Salaam past the Tanzanian countryside filled with scenes of tall palms and lush grassland in the hilly areas and enter into Selous that way.


    Tanzania offers numerous options for specialist safaris and activites, whether you wish to drive, walk, ride, fish, fly camp, ride in a hot-air balloon, dive, kite surf or go trekking after chimpanzees.

    Accomodation in the Selous:

    For nature enthusiast seeking an intimate environment and warm hospitality, the Selous offers a wide variety of accommodation types ranging from enchanting and intimate safari camps to tented camps and luxury lodges.

    Seasons in the Selous:

    Wildlife viewing in the Selous Game Reserve is best from late June to October. It is dry season and wildlife is easier to spot since animals gather at water resources and vegetation is thinner. Many lodges close from March through May.

    Quick facts:
    Best time to go: June to October
    High Season: June to Cotober (The tourists area around the Rufuji River gets quite crowded)
    Low Season: March, April and May (Many lodges are closed)
    Best Weather: June to October (Little to no rainfall)
    Worst Weather: March and April (Peak of wet Season)

    From June to October:

    Spotting animals is easier, as they congregate around waterholes and rivers and there is less vegetation. It rains very little and most days are sunny. There is less risk of contracting malaria, since there are not as many mosquitos. Humidity is lowered and the heat isn’t overpowering.

    October to May:

    Scenery is beautiful and green. Crowds are less in the low Season months (March, April, May). This period is peak bird watching time, since migratory birds are present. Roads however, become muddy and are hard to travel on.


    Be aware that malaria is a health concern in Tanzania. You should protect yourself by wearing clothing with long sleeves in the dawn and evening hours. Also, wear a mosquito deterrent that contains at least 20% DEET and take anti-malaria medicine. Several vaccination are recommended as well. Please check with your local GP for precautions against Malaria.
SATSA No. 207

Hartley’s Safaris is registered with Southern Africa Tourism Association Registration number 207.


Hartley’s Safaris
South Africa (Pty) Ltd
Reg no: 2001/006019/07
United Kingdom
Copyright © 2016 Hartley's Safaris SA

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T/A Hartleys Safaris
Registered in England No. 2348880
Copyright © 2016 Hartley's Safaris UK

SATSA No. 207

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Our ATOL number is ATOL 3958. Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website.

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