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La de da Hadeda: Cool facts about South Africa’s favourite bird

Picture: Mikell Darling/Unsplash

Picture: Mikell Darling/Unsplash

Published Nov 26, 2021


It is as South African as boerewors and pap. Its call is as familiar and annoying as the hooting and tooting of minibus taxis during peak traffic.

This bird’s ability to wake people up on a Sunday morning is envied even by the most dedicated roosters in the country.

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Yes, it is our beloved Hadada Ibis or Bostrychia hagedash, for the fancy people.

According to our friends at World of Birds, the Hadada Ibis is a large, bulky, grey-brown species of Ibis with an iridescent green-purple gloss on the wings, “a bicoloured black-and-red bill and a white streak across the cheek under the eye.”

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Pairs and small flocks occur in a variety of habitats including open country, wetland areas, on the edge of forests but are also quite comfortable digging up someone’s garden in an urban setting.

“They forage on the ground, digging, probing soft soil, and picking up invertebrates with their long bills.

The frequently-heard call is one of the most characteristic sounds of Africa: a loud, raucous, trumpeting “ha-da-da” which gives the bird its name.”

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Res Altwegg, an Associate Professor of Statistics at the University of Cape Town said "they have colonised cities more and more."

Picture: SparklingGirl/Pixabay

The professor used his Swiss mountain-climbing experience to reach numerous nests as part of a hadeda research project in Cape Town.

"They realised that they can take advantage of urban habitats."

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Due to their eating habits, golf courses across the country actually welcome the noisy birds. They pluck out larvae of moth beetles which feed and destroy grassroots

The Hadada Ibis is part of the Threskiornithidae family, a group of 34 species of large wading birds.

Members of this quirky family include the African Sacred Ibis (once revered in Ancient Egypt), Black-headed Ibis, Red-naped Ibis, Northern Bald Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, and African Spoonbill.

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Wild Life Safari’s said that “Hadeda Ibises are a common species throughout southern African countries such as Sudan, Burundi, Senegal, Uganda, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cameroon, Gambia, Somalia, Kenya, Swaziland, Botswana, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa.

Unlike other ibis species that are highly dependent on water, Hadada Ibises do not depend too much on water.”

“The loud, raucous and distinctive “haa-haa-de-dah” call of the hadeda ibis can usually be heard when the birds are flying, when startled or when communicating. When roosting, their call is a single “haa” sound.”

Hadeda roosts in flocks on trees and produces loud calls at sunrise. Sensory pits along the tips of their bills enable them to locate worms and insects just beneath the surface of soft earth. These monogamous birds form strong bonds with a single partner with some pairings observed to last more than a year.

Breeding season begins just after the first winter rains in Southern Africa, usually around July. Strong nests are built on the same tree every year using twigs, grass and leaves with both parents taking turns to incubate up to four eggs at a time. After 28 days, these eggs will hatch and the chicks will eventually learn how to be as loud and annoying as their parents.

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