Friday, 2 December 2011

African finfoot

Podica senegalensis

Photo by Ian Fulton (Internet Bird Collection)

Common name:
African finfoot (en); pés-de-barbatana (pt); grébifoulque d'Afrique (fr); avesol africano (es); binsenralle (de)

Order Gruiformes
Family Heliornithidae

This species is found across much of sub-Saharan Africa, from Senegal to western Ethiopia and south through D.R. Congo, Angola, Zimbabwe, central Mozambique and into north-eastern and southern South Africa.

The African finfoot is 45-65 cm long and weighs 600 g.

These birds are generally found in quiet wooded watercourses bordered by dense riparian vegetation, on the edges of pools, lakes and dams with well-vegetated banks, on the edges of dense papyrus beds far from shore, in mangrove swamps, creeks and in flooded forests.

African finfoots forage beneath overhanging vegetation along river shores, plucking prey from the vegetation and water surface. They mostly hunt invertebrates, including dragonflies, grasshoppers, crabs, snails, spiders, shrimps, millipedes, beetles and molluscs, but will also sometimes eat fish.

These monogamous, solitary nesters generally breed in the local rainy season at each part of their range. The nest is a messy, deep bowl of reeds, coarse grass, thin twigs and rush leaves, typically placed on a branch or branches above water, or in flood debris or reeds. There the female lays 1-3 eggs which she incubates alone for 3 weeks. The chicks are initially brooded by their parents, but leave the nest just a few days after hatching.

IUCN status - LC (Least Concern)
This species has an extremely large breeding range and a global population estimated at 47.000-1.200.000 individuals. The species is hunted and traded at traditional medicine markets, and habitat degradation caused by increased river siltation, reduced river flow due to commercial afforestation and pesticide contamination may have negative impacts on its population. Still, overall the African finfoot in not considered threatened at present.

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