Yes you read that correctly: we have Pennant-winged Nightjars in Southern Kruger, to be more precise very close to Numbi gate on the Nkambeni Concession.
Most birders will be familiar with this iconic, awe inspiring bird, the Pennant-winged Nightjar, Macrodipteryx vexillarius. The bird is an intra-African breeding migrant that moves down to South Africa from Central and West Africa. Birdwatchers take the annual trip up to Punda Maria rest camp in Kruger in November as this is possibly the best place in South Africa to see the bird.
Imagine the excitement when I woke to hear news that a male had been seen displaying with full pennants very close to Numbi gate on the Nkambeni Concession, some 2km west of Albasini road(S3). The bird was spotted by Alision Drake from Nkambeni Safari Camp while on a sunset drive. I have had a look into previous records and there are records of the birds been seen around Pretoriuskop Camp and around Shabeni granite Rock. I had to make a plan to see this bird as it’s been a bird that is always such a treat to see and view.
We managed to get a drive to go out on Friday the 17th of November 2018 to see this amazing bird. I felt like a kid in a candy shop due to the excitement. Good distractions on the drive included: Bushveld Pipit, Violet-backed Starling, Cardinal Woodpecker and a female Leopard slinking through the grass with the sun setting behind her. The stuff dreams are made of in my opinion!!
We positioned ourselves on the rock where the male was seen displaying, and after a nervous wait of about 20 minutes, the call came out, “Here it is! Look!” Boy oh boy we were treated to a spectacle with the bird flying overhead, landing on the rock just in front of us and displaying on the rock. This sighting ranks as one of my top bird sighting I have had in my career. To have this elegant, awe inspiring bird flying overhead and in front of you with its full, long pennants on show is an amazing, mind blowing experience that will live with me for a long time. I was so blown away by the sheer size of the bird and how amazing it is I eventually stopped taking photos of the bird and just enjoyed having the bird displaying for us. We had 2 different males displaying for females.
It’s amazing to know that these birds seem to be breeding and are comfortable in Southern Kruger as the habitat in the area is suitable, and just shows how important the Kruger National Park is at protecting habitats for our Birdlife and Wildlife. I am hoping that these birds hang around and that a trip to see these birds might become regular for us in November in Southern Kruger.
Written by: Marc Cronje (Nature Travel Guide)