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Natal Spurfowl (formerly Natal Francolin)

I was in the Workshop the other day chatting to Nelson when he suddenly said to me “Oh, I forgot to show you something yesterday, come and have a look” - all with a dead straight face. 

As we walked and weaved in between the 230 vehicles to reach the far end, he explained that this was a peculiar challenge he faced which he was pleased he could resolve. We approached an old Land Cruiser when he carefully leaned forward and looked over the passenger side door, and smiled like a president. Without saying a word he motioned with his head and pointed with his eyes for me to have a look.

I made a mental note that it was not 01 April so was confident not to make eye contact with a Mozambican spitting cobra or an overly protective mother wild cat, but still proceeded with caution. Lying in the foot-well was a female Natal Spurfowl (Francolinus natalensis) on a clutch of eggs.

Now a dead give-away that there was human intervention with this nesting site was the pale blue off-cut of cloth so commonly used in workshops to check engine oils and wipe grimy hands. It was void of all natural nesting material, but then to choose a land cruiser as a preferred nesting site prompted me to ask Nelson how all of this had come about.

Nelson explained that this parking bay was allocated to another bungalow, but the Members were visiting the Reserve so he had to prepare the vehicle. This is how he made the discovery of the nesting hen. So he waited for her to leave her nest, then carefully removed the eggs, sent the vehicle to the wash bay and then parked the Land Cruiser in this parking bay. I enquired about the blue cloth and was informed that Nelson had decided to lay the redistributed eggs on this cloth. I enquired from Nelson whether he had tried to match vehicles and the reply was that the parking bay usually housed a Land Rover, but he decided to use the Land Cruiser as the owners of the Cruiser don’t visit very often. Now he was nervous that Murphy’s Law might prevail and these Members may spring a surprise visit. He didn’t know if the hen would adjust to a third vehicle, and which vehicle would he use. I offered that I’m sure the hen was very appreciative of the upgrade from a Land Rover to a Land Cruiser?! She’s still sitting on the eggs…..

The Natal Spurfowl (formerly Natal Francolin) is from the Phasianidae family and this species occurs in South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Swaziland. Throughout its range it is abundant. Its Afrikaans name is Natalse fisant. It can be found in different habitats such as savanna, coastal forest and woodland.

Natal Spurfowls eat fruits, bulbs, seeds, roots and insects. Most food foraging takes place early morning and late afternoon. You may observe them scratching through piles of animal dung to find whole seeds.

Its usual nesting site is a shallow indent on the ground, lined with grass and some feathers, hidden in small thickets. The hen produces between 4-8 creamy coloured eggs which take approximately 21 days to hatch. She is solitary during this time. Breeding occurs all year round.

Both sexes have similar plumage. The Natal Spurfowl is one of two Spurfowl that does not have bare skin around the eyes and throat. Males have longer spurs on their legs and on average weigh about 100 grams more than females.

 

by John Llewellyn.