Telling of Rain to Come?

The most numerous wild bird on the planet, Redbilled Quelea

There are times when nature flaunts her utter indifference to human survival….and these so-called “feathered locusts” are a good example. Quelea are uncanny accurate indicators of good rains to come as their migratory instincts means they find areas where it has rained, efficiently exploiting available food resources – often to the detriment of cereal crops.

Although thought to avoid arid areas, they are found all over Namibia - the attached video was filmed in Etosha National Park and shows the rolling-cloud phenomenon described below. Estimated at about 1,5 billion individual birds world-wide, these sparrow-like seed-eaters travel in flocks of up to 5 million birds. The wave-like pattern observed while feeding is the result of the birds at the back of the flock leap-frogging those in the front feeding to reach fresh areas to feed. Usually observed at dawn or dusk, it looks almost like a dark rolling cloud with a distinctive sound caused by their wing-beats and tweeting-warbling utterances. It’s quite mesmerising to watch.

They weave somewhat untidy nests in two days with their heavy cone-shaped bill. The nest looks like a ball of grass and colonies of up to 30 thousand nests have been observed in Namibia. The male displays immediately after completing the nest and they can nest several times a year when conditions are favourable

Preyed upon by birds of prey, snakes and even turtles who grab them while drinking. They are also subject to the antics of the wily cuckoo which lays its egg in weaver’s nests. Although various heinous methods are employed to wipe out whole colonies (as destroyers of crops), they remain the world’s most numerous wild bird.

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