Just as the whistled alarm call of a puku antelope is impossible for a safari guide to ignore, there are some bird calls which are distinctive and immediately identifiable. Recently, I was watching for birds in an area of thick riverine forest when I heard the unmistakable call of an African Broadbill. This is a small insect-eating bird which lives throughout the forested areas of Southern Africa and is not particularly rare. But finding them is another story altogether.

They are most easily located by their call which is, in fact, a noise made by the vibration of air through their primary wing feathers. It is given during a short display flight where they lift off from a high branch, fly a circular route and return to the same spot! They also give a faint vocal squeaking noise which can be heard but is much harder to locate than the flight ‘call’.

After I tracked down the bird which I’d heard in the forest, I was really happy to get some photos. While I have seen this species many times, this is the first time I have taken good photos. At the bottom of the page is a short video showing the flight display!

Wildlife image from a photo safari with edward selfe.

My first view of the bird, high in the canopy, but with a fortuitous shaft of light illuminating it.

Wildlife image from a photo safari with edward selfe.

This image actually shows the spaces between the primary feathers where the air passes and creates the vibrating sound!