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Topic : Rare Birds

Article 2 bullet 05 December 2006

The rare Magpie Mannikin

by Hugh Chittenden

Magpie Mannikin Spermestes fringilloides (or Pied Mannikin as it used to be known as), is one of the rarest breeding species in South Africa, yet, strangely, it is not that uncommon in parts of the Anerley/Port Shepstone area of the KwaZulu-Natal south coast. Elsewhere in the country, records are few and far between, unlike Zimbabwe and central Mozambique where it is still regarded as an uncommon species.

Adult Magpie Mannikin

Why so rare ?

For years these birds have been associated with bamboo plants, or more accurately, their like of bamboo seed. But bamboo seeds very irregularly and the Anerley/Port Shepstone area is certainly not rich in bamboo plants, well no more so than any other urban area along the KwaZulu-Natal coast.

magpie Mannikin

These mannikins are most common on the south coast where there is an abundance of seed feeders in gardens and it is here that these birds may be found year-round, often in association with Bronze and Red-backed mannikins. There is as yet no answer to this intriguing question.

Indigenous habitats at Anerley

Anerley is a small coastal village with well wooded gardens (many of them), flanked by sugar cane fields in the west and the sea in the east. Patches of indigenous bush and grassland occur, but in no more abundance that any other village along the KwaZulu-Natal coastline. 

Sub Adult Magpie Mannikin

Mozambique flock sizes

As with other mannikins, this species flocks in the non-breeding season. During late August in 1995, I saw a flock in excess of 200 birds between the village of Vinduzi and Mt Gorongoza. Probably an exceptional sighting as the normal flock size there in the non-breeding season is in the region of 30 - 40 birds. Flock sizes during the non-breeding season in the Anerley area average about 5 - 10 birds.



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