Tag Archives: Francolins

All kinds of backyard birds

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Backyard Birding.’ See more responses here. Also posted in response to Becky’s October Squares challenge theme of ‘Kind.’ See more responses here.

Almost all the birds I see in the backyard are fairly common, but no less interesting for that.

Dawn chorus

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Awakening.’ See more offerings here.

Around here, awakening is usually courtesy of the dawn chorus. That occurs when the birds themselves awaken and announce to the world that they made it through the night. Pretty much every bird species that lives within earshot takes part, but there are some standouts.

Roosters (above) are the traditional greeter of the new day and that’s true here, though it has to be noted that they’re equally likely to sound off at any time of the day or night. This neighborhood used to be rooster-free for several years. Then one wandered in from across the road and now there are several in the vicinity. One in particular keeps trying to make my yard part of its territory. I am resolved to prevent this.

Gray francolins (right) are smaller than roosters but might be even louder. Their call has a little wind up before soaring to full screech. It gets people’s attention at any time of day, but at 5:30 in the morning it’s more effective than mainlining caffeine.

The northern cardinal (below) is a smaller bird still but, from its typically high perch, its variety of powerfully-sung songs tend to ride over everything. But rest assured, the other birds contribute, from the red-billed leiothrix, to Japanese white-eyes, to an assortment of finches, they make sure that I’m up to greet the sunrise, whether I want to or not.

Erckel’s francolin

Erckel's Francolin

Erckel's Francolin closeThere are three kinds of francolin in Hawaii, the grey francolin, black francolin, and Erckel’s francolin. All are introduced game birds. Of the three, the Erckel’s francolin is the largest. It’s native to North Africa and was brought to Hawaii in 1957. It’s distinguished, not just by its size, but by its bold markings and chestnut crown.

This one was at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Bold gray francolin

Gray Francolin

Gray Francolin headGray francolins are a favorite bird of mine, not for their loud and raucous call, especially early in the morning, but for their goofy behavior.

They blend in very well in dry, grassy surroundings. I often encounter them when one or more loses it’s nerve and shoots out from cover, which leaves me as startled as the francolin. Sometimes they’ll fly out, but more frequently they take off running. When this happens alongside a fence the bird will run along, pausing occasionally to probe for an escape route, with me calling after it, ‘You can fly you know.’ If it doesn’t find a hole in the fence it will eventually take off, but it’s as if they’ve all been told they can only take off 20 times in their lifetime.

The gray francolin in these photos neither ran nor flew. It stood its ground quite boldly, making sure to keep a sharp eye on me as I edged past trying not to alarm it. When I’d done so it wandered off through the grass looking quite pleased that it hadn’t used one of its 20 airborne escapes.

Gray francolin

A gray francolin sits on a post on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The gray francolin is an introduced game bird. It’s one of those birds that, when disturbed, takes off running. Get too close though and it will take wing. This happens often when I’m out walking, since they blend into their surroundings so well. They take off in panic and my heart does the same.

On the other hand, it’s also possible to have an idea of the location of every francolin within a half mile or so. This is because they have a distinctive and piercing call, one that winds up for two or three rounds before launching into full volume. Sometimes these birds take up residence in the cane grass, not far from the house. When they do, it’s goodbye to sleeping in much beyond 6 a.m.