|The Ostrich, March, 1944, pages 57-61
7. GAME BIRDS IN BAROTSELAND.
By GERVAS CLAY.
Anyone who lives in Barotseland may count on getting good shooting anywhere. If he lives for long in one place. he will get to know the times and seasons in which he may expect to find the different game birds. If he is wise, he will preserve a few pairs of Bare-throated Francolin near his house, not only so that he can enjoy the morning and evening calling, but so that their annual progeny, spreading out when they grow up, may give him annual sport further afield.
A great deal of pleasure may also be obtained in planning the best ways of shooting the Green Pigeon, Snipe, Geese, Duck and Sandgrouse during the seasons when they are " in."
The whole area is free of tsetse fly and a dog — any dog — will add greatly to one's pleasure and to one's sport.
Below are given some notes on the common game birds with a list of others which occur, but which I have not personally met with. In addition, an enthusiastic shot will from time to time shoot Cormorants and Brown Parrots, both of which give very sporting shooting on occasions, and both of which need reducing in numbers, for the Cormorant takes a heavy toll of fish, and the great flocks of Brown Parrots do tremendous damage to the natives' millet crops.
The following notes are based on six years in Barotse-land, during which every district except Kalabo was visited, though most of my time was spent at Mankoya.
Nyroca erythropthalma. (Wied.). South African Pochard.
Not uncommon throughout. Often found on small deep pools beside swampy rivers, where they are reluctant to fly when disturbed, and continue to dive rather than fly. On broader stretches of water fly high and fast when disturbed.
Anas undulata undulata. (Dub.). Yellow-billed Duck.
Found along the smaller streams in pairs and small parties. I never saw this duck on the Barotse flood-plains.
Anas sparsa leucostigma. (Rupp.). African Black Duck.
Seen only once on the Luena river in the Mankoya district, but I have also heard of it on the Nyambi stream in the same district. Where seen, a small party of four, the Luena was almost the only running stream in the district at that time of year. May be mistaken for the Yellow-bill by the layman, as it is about the same size and colouring, but may be distinguished by its grey bill and yellow legs, where the Yellow-bill has black legs and yellow bill. The speculum appears green or purple in different lights.
Anas punctata. (Burch.). Hottentot Teal.
Also only seen once, on a shallow pool surrounded by low rushes near the source of the Nyambi stream, Mankoya. There were two birds and they flew round and round low down until shot, making no attempt to leave the vicinity and resembling in size the young of Yellow-bill.
Anas erythrorhyncha. (Gmel.) . Red-bill.
A very common and ubiquitous duck in Barotseland. Just after the first rains it appears as if by magic on all the pools and pans throughout the country. Is sometimes flushed from mere puddles close to anthills, several hundred yards from streams.
Dendrocygna viduata. (L.). White-faced Duck.
Easily the most numerous duck in the Province. In the Barotse flood-plains, flights may be seen of this duck at any time of day in almost any direction during the period of the flood. Elsewhere, although common, less often seen than the Red-bill, although the flights are always larger.
Dendrocygna fulva. (Gmel.) . Fulvous Tree-duck.
Also not uncommon in flights along the Zambezi, particularly at Sesheke when the flood is up. Flies slower and straighter than either the Red-bill or the White-faced Duck.
Nettapus auritus. (Bodd.). Pygmy Goose.
Very common and always in association with water-lilies. I have never seen it on really deep water. On the Machili River, Sesheke, where during a few weeks it was regularly driven to guns up and down the river, it soon stopped its usual habit of squattering along just above the water, following the course of the river, and began to fly high and very fast and straight. As it then cut off all bends in the river, it gave magnificent sport to guns standing below the bank of the river where bends began.
Sarkidiornis melanonotus. (Pennant.). Knob-billed Goose.
Common throughout, but at Mankoya where the rivers and streams are small, appeared only for a few weeks at the beginning of December in numbers, though thereafter the odd goose might be found singly. Always seemed to arrive a week or two after the common ducks. In the mopani forests of the Sesheke district, where it used to breed, it was found in association with the Spur-wing and was very common. Every evening skeins could be seen coming out of the mopani and flying down to the Zambezi.
Plectropterus gambensis gambensis. (L.). Spur-winged Goose
Very common. As noted above, found in association with Knob-billed in the mopani forests of Sesheke, where in the evening both geese could be seen perched on dead trees, though each species kept to itself. Although so common, I never saw in Barotseland the constant flight of skein after skein of Spur-wing that I have seen south of Lake Bangweulu.
Francolinus coqui coqui. (Smith). Coqui Francolin.
Quite common. In my experience, can always be found in the lopped bush surrounding aerodromes and landing grounds. Often found in light bush far away from any water.
Francolinus levaillanti subsp. Barotse Redwing.
This sub-species was shot on the Boma at Mankoya, and 2 skins were sent to Dr. Austin Roberts. From the fact that the head and body markings were not joined across the back of the neck, as in the Nyasa Red-wing, Dr. Roberts was of the opinion that this may be a new sub-species, though more specimens are required. This francolin is found in small coveys on the edge of plains where there is a little scattered scrub, and seems to stick close to one spot, as where once found it may be put up again near the same spot.
Francolinus adspersus. (Waterh.). Red-billed Francolin.
This is the francolin of the Zambezi flood-plains, both opposite Mongu and as far south as Sesheke. When the floods come up, the francolin congregate on the islands of higher ground where there are a few trees, and give very good sport as they may be driven like pheasants, and large bags are annually obtained.
Pternistis cranchii intercedens. (Rchw.).Congo Vermiculated Red-throated Francolin.
This is the common Pternistis of Barotseland, though Swainson's may also occur. It is very common and particularly associated with anthills. On the Machili river there are very great numbers of Bare-throated Francolins in old gardens.
Numida mitrata mitrata. (Pall.).Madagascar Helmet Guinea-fowl.
Ubiquitous and common. In some areas, as for example on the Dongwe river, Mankoya, huge aggregations may be seen. There seem to be two kinds, of which one is noisy and the other completely silent. In certain areas one can be quite certain that guineafowl will make no noise at all when disturbed, while in other places they seem to call almost constantly.
Neotis cafra jacksoni. (Bannerm.). Jackson's Bustard.
I believe it was this species which I saw on two occasions, once in light scrub between large plains in central Mankoya, and again in considerable numbers in similar scrub, but much sandier soil, on the Mankoya-Mongu border in December, 1935. These birds were very much larger bustards than the Black-bellied, but not as large as the Kori, which I have seen in Kenya. In my experience they were not at all common.
Eupodotis senegalensis canicollis. White-bellied Korhaan.
Several parties of these korhaan were seen on large plains near the western borders of Mankoya, which is certainly their westerly limit. Whether this is the comparatively common korhaan of central Barotseland is not yet known. With the aid of a posse of natives one hen bird was driven within range and shot, and the skin was provisionally classified by Dr. Austin Roberts, who asked for more specimens, which I was unable to obtain. The bird had not previously been recorded south of Ugogo in Tanganyika. I found them very wary and difficult to approach. They were always well out in large plains and ran first, and then took to flight and scattered when pressed. In flight they made a loud chuckling squawk. My note on the dead bird is " white belly, speckled sandy buff above and wings. Primaries black."
Lissotis melanogaster melanogaster. (Rupp.).Black-bellied Bustard.
Not at all uncommon in Mankoya and probably elsewhere. Found on plains, in light bush and old gardens. Not particularly wary and easily shot. Usually singly or in pairs, but sometimes at the beginning of the rains two pairs were found, as if freshly arrived, in a small area.
Capella media. (Lath.). Double Snipe.
Found in all suitable localities from late November to early January, when it is on passage. I have never been able to find evidence of a return journey through the same area. It arrives after the Ethiopian Snipe (q.v.) and in very much larger numbers. The actual migration seems to cover a period of only about two weeks in its intense form, when wonderful shooting can be had in some places.
Capella nigripennis. (Bp.). Ethiopian Snipe.
Some are undoubtedly resident, and I have heard them drumming at Sesheke in May. After the first rains have made other places suitable, it seems to move to them before the arrival of the Double Snipe and always in smaller numbers. On any well-known snipe bog in Barotse, the Ethiopian will be shot for several days or even weeks before the arrival of the Double ; then they are shot in equal numbers and then the numbers of Double are greater than Ethiopian until the latter becomes a rarity.
Rostratula benghalensis. (L.). Painted Snipe.
Much rarer than the other two and never in my experience found in numbers. Seems to prefer the proximity of running or deep water, and I have shot it beside large streams in most unsnipelike places. As a sporting bird hardly worth an ounce of shot.
Eremialector bicinctus multicolor. (Hart.).Transvaal Double-banded Sandgrouse.
Shot and identified at Sesheke, where it is not uncommon near the Zambezi. I have also seen numbers of grouse on one of the islands in the Zambezi in the Senanga district, a few near the Luena in western Mankoya, and a pair on the aerodrome at Mongu. They drink so late in the evening that shooting can only be done against the afterglow. By day they are wary, and once disturbed seldom allow a second approach within shooting distance. Their pigeon-like appearance and chuckling call when in flight are very distinctive.
Streptopelia semitorquata semitorquata. (Rupp.). Red-eyed Dove.
The only dove in the country worth shooting. It has an evening flight-line to water, and when this is once discovered some sport can be had. These doves do great destruction in the native grain gardens.
Vinago calva chobiensis. (Bp.). Chobe Green Pigeon.
This is probably the common species in Barotseland. I caught fledgelings able to fly only a short distance on October 22nd, 1939, in the Mankoya district. The adult birds give wonderful sport when driven from the great fig trees, in which they feed when the figs are ripe. When driven to a waiting gun they often swoop down almost to one's feet and then swerve up again over one's head. Where there are many fig trees within a short distance some great sport may be obtained, and skill is needed to drive the birds in such a way as to give the most sporting shots.
The above are the only game birds I have personally identified in, Barotseland. There are a few quail, but I have never seen them in numbers great enough to make it worth shooting them. Other game birds which definitely occur but are uncommon or seldom seen, are :—
Alopochen aegyptiacus. (L.). Egyptian Goose.
Guttera edouardi edouardi. (Hard.).South African Crested Guineafowl.
Choriotis kori. (Burch.). Kori or Gompou.
Afrotis afra etoschae. (Grote.). White-quilled Black Korhaan.
Other possible or likely occurrences are :—
Thalassornis leuconotus leuconotus. (Eyton). White-backed Duck.
Anas capensis. (Gmel.). Cape Pigeon.
Pternistis swainsonii. (Smith). Swainson's Francolin.
Pternistis afer humboldti. (Ptrs.).Humboldt's Red-necked Francolin.
Francolinus squamatus schuetti. (Cab.).Angola Scaly Francolin.