In a testament to the avian wonders gracing our South African skies, BirdLife South Africa recently introduced the Bateleur (Terathopius ecaudatus) as the esteemed Bird of the Year for 2024.
Known as the Berghaan in Afrikaans, ingqungqulu in isiZulu, and ingqanga in isiXhosa, the Bateleur stands out with its striking plumage, a blend of black, white, and vibrant red-orange on the face and legs, unusual for a raptor. Its mesmerising flight patterns, characterised by a rocking, gliding motion, is another unique characteristic.
According to BirdLife South Africa, The name "Bateleur," coined by French explorer François Levaillant, aptly describes this bird's graceful, tightrope walker-like manoeuvres in the air. In isiZulu, it is referred to as ingqungqulu, resonating with the sounds of battle drums, reflecting its cultural significance.
Even its scientific name, Terathopius ecaudatus, celebrates the uniqueness of its facial features and distinctive short tail.
This charismatic bird finds its home in diverse landscapes, from the bushveld of the Kruger National Park to the arid Kalahari. However, despite its bold presence, the Bateleur faces several threats, pushing it closer to the brink.
Habitat transformation, dwindling prey populations and the constant threat of poisoning, particularly from scavenging, have led to a significant population decline, with fewer than 1000 mature individuals remaining.
BirdLife South Africa urges everyone to join in the celebration of the Bateleur and actively participate in its conservation. The organisation aims to raise awareness through educational materials, including posters, infographics, and learning resources for schools, available for free download from its website.
To fund these initiatives, BirdLife South Africa expresses gratitude to the Hans Hoheisen Charitable Trust, the Bird of the Year sponsor. Through their generous donations, the trust enables BirdLife South Africa to champion bird conservation, biodiversity protection, and initiatives that secure the future of species like the Bateleur.
Starting January 2024, supporters can contribute to conservation efforts by purchasing Bateleur-themed merchandise, including t-shirts, pin badges, socks, and fluffy toys, available through BirdLife South Africa's Shop for the Birds.