BirdLife South Africa recently announced that the Cape Rockjumper Chaetops frenatus is the Bird of the Year for 2021. We here at Nature Travel Birding can’t think of a more fitting candidate!
Totally restricted to the fragile fynbos biome of southwestern South Africa, the strikingly beautiful Cape Rockjumper is not only a South African endemic, but its genera and family (it has a sister species, the Drakensberg Rockjumper) are also endemic to the country.
The thrush-like or babbler-like, ground-dwelling Cape Rockjumper gets its name from its habit of hopping from boulder to boulder with incredible agility in its natural rock-strewn mountain fynbos habitat. The Latin frenatus refers to the “bridled” or black-and-white head pattern.
It forages on the ground, probing with its bill, eating mainly invertebrates (caterpillars, beetles, flies and worms), but also small lizards and amphibians. Usually there is pair in an area, but they can also occur in small family groups. Although fairly easy to spot when it sits on an exposed boulder, they can sometimes be rather secretive. The easiest way to locate it is by its piercing , piping pee-peepee-pee-pee-pee song.
The Cape Rockjumper breeds as a monogamous pair in a co-operative manner, sometimes with helpers. The nest is built by both sexes and consists of an untidy bowl of grasses, twigs, lichen, animal fur and seeds. It is usually placed on the ground at the base of a rock. Usually 2 eggs are laid and after 3 weeks the chicks hatch. They stay on the nest for a further 3 weeks and are helped along by adults for up to a month afterwards.
Currently the Cape Rockjumper is considered as Near Threatened on the IUCN RedList 2017, with the species’ main threats being habitat destruction, climate change, invasive vegetation species and diseases. Some authorities actually believe the species will soon be upgraded to the even more serious Vulnerable category.
In a media release, BirdLife said the following, “During 2021, BirdLife South Africa will create awareness about the Cape Rockjumper through the production of an informative poster, the development of learning resources for schools that are free to download from the BirdLife South Africa website (www.birdlife.org.za), articles in African Birdlife magazine, social media posts, presentations to interested groups, and the sale of merchandise.”
For your chance to see this unique and iconic South African species, join us on one of our expert-guided, small-group South African birding tours. For more information, hop on over to https://naturetravelbirding.com/birding-tours-south-africa/