ETHIOPIA'S ENDEMIC BIRDS

INTRODUCTION

Of the 835 species of birds known to occur in Ethiopia, 23 are found exclusively within the country's boundaries. Most of these 23 endemic birds are widely distributed, chiefly on the western and southeastern highland plateau. . . .

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WATTLED IBIS

(Bostrychia carunculata)
Wing 325-380 mm

Because of its loud, raucous "haa-haa-haa-haa" call, the Wattled Ibis is easily recognized even from some distance away. A flock of these ibises rising or flying overhead becomes especially noisy and obvious. In flight a white patch shows on the upper surface of the ibis' wing, and at close range its tliroat wattle is visible. These two diagnostic features distinguish the Wattled Ibis from the closely related Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedavli), which also occurs in Ethiopia.

The Wattled Ibis occurs throughout the Ethiopian plateau from about 1500 meters (5000 feet) to the highest moorlands; it is most common along highland river courses with rocky, cliff-like edges but is found also in open country and ill olive, juniper, podocarpus, hagenia, St. Johin's wort and giant heath forests and occasionally in eucalyptus stands. The ibis is gregarious, often flocking in groups of 50 to 100; rarely is it found alone. Small flocks of ibis can often be seen in Addis Ababa, flying between the old Palace and Trinity Cathedral grounds and in the area surrounding the National Palace. The birds normally roost on cliff-edges; in the early morning, they fly and call noisily while following the river courses to their feeding areas, which are usually in open country. With their long downward-curved beaks they probe the ground, searching for insects and other small invertebrates.

Little is known about the ibis's breeding habits. The prenuptial behavior including establishment of pairs and preparation of nesting sites as well as length of incubation and brooding behavior are not known. The ibis nests in the little rains in March-April, in the big rains ill July and occasionally in the dry season in December. Its nest is made of sticks and lined with grass stems, mosses and strips of bark. The Wattled Ibis normally lays two to three dirty-white, rough-shelled eggs. The birds seem typically to nest in colonies in bushes growing out from cliffs, but surprisingly few of their nesting sites have been reported considering what a common and obvious plateau bird it is. Occasionally the Wattled This nests singly or in twos or threes on tops of trees or on ]edges of houses. The young, covered in black feathers when still at the colony, are fed away from the colonial site once they can fly. Little else about the life of this species is known: it provides an excellent opportunity for study and observation of an Ethiopian endemic.

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BLUE-WINGED GOOSE

(Cyanochen cyanoptera)
Wing 325-376 mm

The Blue-winged Goose inhabits plateau marshes, streams and damp grasslands from about 1800 meters (6000 feet) upward. Pairs or small parties of three to five of these geese are common and easily seen at high elevations in small stream valleys and in pools and marshes in the moorlands where giant lobelia, alchemilla and tussock grass predominate and where they nest in March, April, June and September. During the big rains of July, August and September Blue-winged Geese flock in groups that may include 50 to 100 or more individuals which at this time probably undergo molt, losing the flight feathers. In the big rains the flocks also move to lower elevations of the plateau: for example, in one day in August 165 Individuals were counted at Gafersa Reservoir, some 20 kilometers west of Addis Ababa.

The goose has a peculiar habit, whether standing or walking, of resting its neck on its back. Indeed this posture together with the comparatively dull body color and bluish wing-patches are useful marks for identifying the species. Another characteristic habit of the goose can be observed during pair formation when the male struts around the female, his head bent over his back, and his bill pointed skywards or even behind him, exposing his blue wing patch and uttering a rapidly repeated soft, barely audible whistle, a "wnee-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu". Parties of this goose, like other geese, station sentinels at the periphery of the flock. An alarmed goose produces a soft "whew-whu-whu-wliu" and, when forced into flight, a rather nasal bark, a "penk, penk-penk", uttered at take-off but not in flight.

Studies of captive Blue-winged Geese suggest that they are largely active at night, which perhaps explain why so little is known about the species. This goose lays four to seven cream-colored eggs; the nestling is largely black with various silvery-white markings above, silvery-white below; the immature is similar to but duller than the adult. In total numbers the Blue-winged Goose seems to be one of the least numerous of any species of goose in the world. In Africa it is unique: its closest living relative lives in South America.

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HARWOOD'S FRANCOLIN

(Francolinus harwoodi)
Wing 180-190 m

Harwood's Francolin has been reported from only three localities along about 160 kilometers of valleys and gorges within the upper Blue Nile system extending to the east and north of the Addis Ababa-Debre Marcos-Dejen bridge; this francolin is a very poorly known Ethiopian endemic. It was first recorded for science in 1898 at Ahiyafej, then again in 1927 at Bichana, and in 1930 at Kalo Ford along the banks of the Blue Nile "below Zemie". No other record of this species has been published although recent reports suggest that it is more widely distributed than previously thought.

Majoir R.E. Cheesman, who obtained the 1927 and the 1930 the specimens, observed that the local people around Bichana knew the species "and considered it the best table bird of the Francolin family". In fact, the Bichana specimen was presented to him by the leader of the area to be eaten; Cheesman thought the live animal was not from Bichana but was captured alive in the lower altitudes of the Blue Nile Valley and brought to him.

Very little can be said about the biology of this francolin. The male can be recognized by a distinctive U-shaped pattern on the black and white feathers of the breast; the female is unknown to science. Its preferred surroundings are unknown; its nest, eggs, time of nesting, food, call and general behavior are undescribed. Since the local people at least in the late 1920's and 1930's were familiar with the Harwood's Francolin, it seems reasonable to assume that it may have been more common than thought at that time and may still be so today. Two species very closely related to the Harwood's Francolin occur in Central and Southern Africa. The two, the Hildebrandt's Francolin (Francolinus hildebrandti) and the Natal Francolin (F. natalensis), are especially fond of dense bush along stream beds and rocky bills covered with long grass or bush. It again seems very reasonable to assume that the Harwood's Francolin lives in similar habitat in the Blue Nile Valley system.

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ROUGET'S RAIL

(Ralbus rougetii)
Wing 125-135 mm

The Rouget's Rail is common on the westerin and southeastern highlands, but its presence is not so obvious as that of some other endemics. Once one is able to recognize the bird's calls, one well appreciates how common this rail is. It has two calls which are useful in identification: one, a piercing alarm note, a "dideet" or "a di-dii", and the other, a display call, "wreeeee-creeuw-wreeeee-creeliw". This Rail mainly lives at higher elevations of up to 4,100 meters (13,500 feet) where it inhabits small pockets of grass tussock and wet hollows with plenty, of cover; it is a characteristic bird of the moorlands of Ethiopia.

Like other rails and crakes, the Rouget's Rail skulks through and around the grass tussocks, probably searching for aquatic insects, crustaceans, small snails and seeds. This endemic, slightly larger than many of its rails-like relatives, is tame compared with most rails, and at times simply stands in all open area where it is easily observed. Normally, however, one gets only a fleeting glimpse of the bird as its moves quickly through the tall grass, characteristically flitting its tail upward and showing the white undertail coverts. The flashes of white - on and off, so to speak - are indeed obvious and often draw the attention of the observer to the bird for the first time.

Both male and female have similar russet-colored plumages, tile immature is slightly lighter in color. This rail sometimes lives in family parties of three to ten. It seems not to be so nocturnal in activity as once thought. Rouget's Rail nests from April through October; the nest is a shallow cup of grass placed in tussock grass. In one clutch a rail lays as many as eight eggs, brownish-cream colored with reddish-brown splashes and lilac-grey undermarkings. The nestling is yellow-brown with black along the sides of the face, its neck is russet, its crown, bill and legs are black.

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SPOT-BREASTED PLOVER

(Vanellus melanocephalus)
Wing 234-240 mm

The Spot-breasted Plover is an endemic usually found above 3050 meters (10,000 feet) in marshy grasslands and moorlands with giant health, giant lobelia, alchemilla and tussock grass in both the western and southeastern highlands. Widely distributed and locally common, the plover usually is seen in pairs or in small parties, or, in the non-breeding season, in small flocks of up to 30-40 individuals. Its behavior has been compared with that of the Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) of Europe: it is a relatively tame, noisy bird with a swerving flight; on the ground it makes short runs and sudden stops. When calling, it produces a "kree-kree-kre-krep-kreep-kreep", a "kueeeep-kueep" and the cry "pewit-pewit". It is distinguished from other plovers by having fleshy wattles in front of the eyes and by the breast spotted with black.

Hardly anything is known about this plover. For example, the nest and eggs have only recently been described: the nest, a shallow scrape within a patch of grass and moss in the giant lobelia moorlands with small lakes, contained four eggs that were brownish-blue to smoke-grey and heavily marked with black. The plover is known to breed in April in the Bale Mountains and in August in Shoa Region. Other aspects of its life history are unrecorded. Although locally common, it is one of the least studied plovers in the world.

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WHITE-COLLARED PIGEON

(Columba albitorques)
Wing 212-234 mm

The White-collared Pigeon - unmistakable with its uniform greyish color, white collar patch and, in flight, white on the wings is the dominant pigeon on the plateau above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). It mainly inhabits rugged areas of the western and southeastern highlands, especially cliffs and escarpments, but it is also a common feature of many plateau villages and towns where it lives in association with churches and other large buildings. It also frequents bridges on the highways and roads of the plateau.

A regular occurrence on the plateau in the morning is the movement of White-collared Pigeons from their roosting sites on the cliffs to grain fields where they feed; occasionally a flock of several hundred individuals may visit these fields. In the Bale Mountains the pigeons roost at the higher elevations of up to 3,800 (12,500 feet) in flocks and in meters the morning fly to lower elevations to feed. In the Semien Mountains they roost usually on the lower levels of the cliffs at about 2100 meters (7,000 feet) and every morning slowly spiral up to the tops of the cliffs at 3,200-4,400 meters (10,500-14,500 feet) before moving inland to feed. In late afternoon they either remain inland and roost in trees, or they return to the cliffs where they hurtle themselves over the edge and, passing within a few meters of the cliff-face, fly at very high speeds to their roosting sites hundreds of feet below.

This pigeon nests most months of the year (January-June and August-November) on ledges of cliffs, bridges and houses. Its nest is like most pigeons' nests, made largely of grass stalks and small sticks. It lays two creamy white and glossy eggs. The male and female, who may be at the nest at the same time, are alike in appearance. Despite this pigeon's abundance and its occurrence in large areas of the plateau, including cities like Addis Ababa little else is known about its life history.

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YELLOW-FRONTED PARROT

 (Poicephalus flavifrons)
Wing 160-188 mm

The Yellow-fronted Parrot occurs in Etliiopia from approximately 600 to 3,350 meters (2,000-1 1,000 feet) in the western and southeastern highlands, the Rift Valley and the western lowlands in forests and woodlands varying from St. John's wort and hagenia to olive, podocarpus and juniper to fig and acacia. It is an uncommon but regular visitor on the Armed Force Hospital grounds near the old airport in Addis Ababa. One's attention is usually first attracted to the presence of this species by its loud squeaky calls and unmusical shrill whistles. Typically one then sees the greenish parrots with yellowish heads in a small flock of three to eight individuals, high up in a tree where they are probably feeding. Their food is thought to be fruit, including baobab if available, sorghum, maize and seeds. Although this parrot is frequent to locally common and widely distributed in the country, little is known of its habits: the time of nesting is not known: the nest and eggs are undescribed. In fact, this parrot is so poorly known that practically any information an observer discovers about it will be new to science.

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BLACK-WINGED LOVEBIRD

(Agapornis taranta)
Wing 95-110 mm

The Black-winged Lovebird is the common, small green parrot of the Ethiopian plateau. It is widely distributed from about 1,500-3,200m. (5,000-10,500 feet) in the western and southeastern highlands and in the Rift Valley in forests and woodlands of hagenia, juniper, podocarpus, olive, acacia, candelabra euphorbia, combretum and fig. It commonly visits gardens, especially with seeding trees in Addis Ababa. The lovebird flies in noisy flocks which number usually five to ten individuals although as many as 50 to 80 individuals may be present. It flies swiftly and makes sharp turns at high speeds; it moves its wings in quick, short flaps, the black under the wings being obvious then. Both sexes have a large bright red bill; the male has a red forehead, the female and immature do not.

Although the behavior of captive Black-winged Lovebirds has been documented in detail, no study of this species has been done under natural conditions. In captivity the lovebird is a sociable creature: a pair regularly stands as close together as possible. The two birds at times bounce their heads and necks up and down and move around in small circles: they may do this several times before they stop and press their bodies together again. The lovebird walks; it does not hop. Under natural conditions it has been observed to feed on juniper berries, figs and seeds. At night the birds sleep in holes in trees. It has a shrill twittering call and, in flight, a sharp whistle.

Amazingly, only one record of the nest and eggs of the lovebird has been documented: around 1900 one egg was obtained in April from a hole in a tree; the size and color of the eggs, details of the nest and the kind of tree were not recorded. Recent observations on pairing behavior and activities associated with nesting indicate that this species is a solitary nester, doing so probably from March through November.

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PRINCE RUSPOLI'S TURACO

(Turaco ruspolii)
Wing 180-184 mm

Prince Ruspoli's Turaco is known in the literature from two areas in southern Ethiopia in juniper forests with dense evergreen undergrowth: one is at Arero and the other 80 kilometers north of Neghelli: both localities are 1800 meters (6000 feet) in elevation.

This Turaco was first introduced to science when Prince Ruspoli collected it in either 1892 or 1893. Since Prince Ruspoli, an Italian explorer, was killed in an "encounter with an elephant" in the Lake Abaya area and unfortunately did not leave any notes about his travels, the locality and date of collection of the first specimen of this turaco remain unknown.

His Collection was studied by T. Salvadori in 1896 who named the new turaco in honor of Prince Ruspoli. In subsequent years several other explorers searched for the turaco; none were successful until the early 1940's when several specimens were obtained in the Arero forest. After these specimens were obtained, the turaco was not reported again until very recently, in the last five years, when several have been seen and four collected at the locality north of Neghelli. This turaco is considered to be an endangered species and is included in the "Red Book" of endangered animals of the world. However, recent sightings in juniper forests and especially in dry water courses which include figs, the rubiaceous tree, Adina, and undergrowth of acacia and Teclea shrubs, suggest that the species may be more common than thought.

There are no breeding records nor any recorded observations on the nesting activities of Prince Ruspoli's Turaco, its nest and eggs are unknown. It has been reported to feed on fruits of Tecle and Aditicl. Its call has been described as a low "chirr-clia" and short "te".

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BANDED BARBET

(Lybius undatus)
Wing 79-84 mm

The little-known Banded Barbet is very widely distributed throughout Ethiopia between 300 and 2400 meters (1000-8000 feet). Although the numbers and abundance of this species have not been determined, it seems to vary from being uncommon in the north west and cast to locally common elsewhere in the country, living singly or in pairs in trees near water.

It has been reported to eat insects (beetles) and the fruit of fig trees. The barbet has been described also to hawk insects like a flycatcher and to hang from a branch up side down like a tit. Its call notes are metallic and it produces also a "gr-gr-grgrgr..." in rising tempo. The barbet has been reported to nest in a hole in a branch of a tree or in a tree or in a stump: the time of nesting and the eggs have not been described.

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GOLDEN-BACKED WOODPECKER

(Dendropicos abyssinicus)
Wing 89-99 mm

The Golden-backed Woodpecker, is a very uncommon, not often seen endemic of the Ethiopian highlands from about 1,500 to 2,400 meters (5,000-8,000 feet), although it has been seen up to approximately 3,200 meters (10,500 feet).

It lives in western and southeastern highlands in forests, woodlands and savannas and seems to be more uncommon in the northern than in the southern parts of the country. It has been reported to haunt especially candelabra euphorbias, junipers and figs. The male Golden-backed Woodpecker has a green unbarred back and bright red crown, nape, rump and upper tall coverts. The crown and nape of the female are ash brown, not bright red.

The woodpecker has been reported to breed from February-May and possibly in December. No information, however, is available on its nest, nesting habits, numbers or food. Very little is known about this species.

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WHITE-TAILED SWALLOW

(Hirundo megaensis)
Wing 100-105 mm

The White-tailed Swallow was first introduced to science in 1942 when C. W. Bensoii reported it in southern Ethiopia from Yabelo to Mega in short grass savana with small acacia thorn bush.

This endemic, related to the Pied-winged Swallow (Hirundo leucosom a) of western Africa and the Pearl-breasted Swallow (H. diniidiata) of southern Africa, is common but restricted to an area of about 4850 square kilometers (3000 square miles) between 1200 and 1350 meters (4000-4500 feet). This restriction has baffled scientists because there is no obvious explanation, particularly no natural barriers or boundaries which mark off the area, for such a limited distribution. In recent years there have been reports of the swallow in the Addis Ababa area. Studies of this species in the future may show that its distribution is not so limited as thought.

The species is unique among swallows in having the greater part of the tail white; the white is very conspicuous in flight. The White-tailed Swallow is thought to be a sedentary species, remaining mainly in its home range. It is not associated with human habitation. C. W. Benson suggested that this swallow may build its nest in January and February in holes in the tail chimney-shaped ant hills common in the area. The nest, however, has not been discovered.

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ABYSSINIAN LONG-CLAW

(Macronyx flavicollis)
Wing 83-95 mm

The Abyssinian Long-claw - very similar in both appearance and behavior to the Yellow-throated Long-claw (Macronyx croceus) of other parts of Africa - is a common grassland bird of the western and south eastern highlands except in the extreme north where it does not occur.

Like other long-claws, this Ethiopian endemic inhabits grasslands and has plumage markings similar to those of meadowlarks of North and South America (passerine birds that are not related to long-claws). The Abyssinian Long-claw occurs largely between 1,200 and 3,050 meters (4,000-10,000 feet) but occasionally reaches the grassland moorlands up to 4100 meters (13,500 feet); it is most common between 1,800 and 2,750 meters (6,000-9,000 feet).

Living singly or in pairs, this long-claw is usually seen sitting on a lump of dirt, a rock, a small bush or a fence. Its black necklace and saffron throat and neck are especially obvious when it sits. Considered to be "tame and friendly", when breeding, it nests in February, June, July and August. Its nest is a cup-like structure raised slightly above the ground and lined with various grass fibers. The eggs, two or three in number, are glossy, pale greenish-white and flecked with dull brown. It makes "a clear trilling little song from a perch or on tile wine, and a piping call note".

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WHITE-WINGED CLIFF-CHAT

(Myrmecocichla semirufa)
Wing 106-122 mm

The White-winged Cliff-Chat is a bird which is locally frequent to common in the highlands of most of Ethiopia where it lives in gorges, on cliffs, on scrubby mountain-sides and in open country among rocks and grasslands; it is uncommon in the north in Eritrea.

The Chat occurs usually above 2000 meters (6500 feet) and rarely below 1500 meters (5000 feet). Its preferred habitat in the country varies. For example, in Eritrea the White- winged Cliff-Chat lives on rocks and in mountain gorges from 1800 to 2400 meters (6000-8000 feet). In the south in Sidamo it occurs slightly lower between 1500 and 1800 meters (5000-6000 feet) in hilly downland rather than rocky country.

Mainly black and chestnut in color, both sexes of this chat can be readily distinguished when flying by the white patch on the wings (basal part of primaries). The male Cliff-Chat (Myrmecocicha cinnamomeiventris), similar in appearance to the White-winged Cliff-Chat, has a white shoulder patch but not the white wing patch: in flight the wings of this species are glossy blue-black. The female White-winged Cliff-Chat is not so strongly colored as the male; her plumage, especially underneath, is more brownish in color. The young bird is brownish-black, spotted above and below with dark buff, like its parents, it too has the distinguishing white wing patch.

The White-winged Cliff-Chat nests during the rains in June, July and August. Its nest is a compact structure of grass stems and mosses usually placed in a crevice of a rock. The chat is occasionally associated with human settlements where it has been known to nest in holes in stone walls. Its eggs are usually three in number, glossy, white or greenish-white, and speckled with fine pale rust color. Its food is undocumented: immatures, however, have been seen in Addis Ababa in the rains feeding on recently emerged termites. It has a "modulated flute-like song".

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RUPPELL'S CHAT

(Myrmecocichla melaena)
Wing 85-94 mm

The Ruppell's Chat is uncommon to locally frequent in the western highlands of Shoa, Gojjam, Gonder, Wollo, Tigre and Eritrea regions. It has not been recorded in the southeastern highlands nor in the southern portion of the western highlands. This chat, living singly, in paris or In small parties, inhabits edges and sides of cliffs and gorges and associated bare rock above 1800 meters (6000 feet); it shows a distinct preference for high elevations of the plateau around waterfalls and wet rocks on the tops of precipitous ravines and cliffs.

The Ruppell's Chat is a wholly black bird except for a white patch on the inner surface of the wing (inner webs of the primaries and innermost secondaries) which contrasts sharply with the black when the bird flies. When sitting, the Chat has the habit of flitting its tail high over its back. Its time of nesting has not been definitely recorded although in December a pair was once seen building a nest in a crack on a cliff-face in Eritrea. Details of the nest have not been recorded nor have the eggs. The Ruppell's Chat is one of the poorest known of all Ethiopian endemics.

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ABYSSINIAN CATBIRD

(Parophasma galinieri)
Wing 83-91 mm

The Abyssinian Catbird - one of the finest, if not the finest singer of all the birds of Africa - is frequent to common in the western and southern highlands between 1800 and 3500 meters (600-11,500 feet) in giant heath, St. John's wort, highland bamboo, juniper, podocarpus and olive forests. It lives singly, in pairs or in parties up to eight often in thickets and vines that fringe these forests.

It is found as far north as the Semien Mountains, it does not occur in Eritrea. The catbird is a resident garden bird of plateau cities; for example, it is a regular inhabitant in Addis Ababa in gardens with large trees, for instance, embassies, hotels and many private compounds.

One usually first notices the catbird when it sings. The birds, which appear to be territorial, are intense singers in the rains when a male and a female often duet persistently. The male, stretching his neck skyward and holding his wings out at the bend, vigorously produces a long clear ringing song: the female answers with a churring or purring note. Because the little-known catbird lives in dense parts of thickets, it is sometimes difficult to see. Distinguishing features are its general greyish, color, dirty, white forehead and chestnut belly and undertail coverts.

This endemic is known to feed on juniper berries, but other items in its diet are not known. It certainly nests in May and July; it probably nests from February through July. The nest is a small, frail, thin, cup-like structure of plant stems placed loosely in a tangle of vines; one was discovered five meters up in a St. John's wort tree. The eggs, two in number, are pale flesh-colored and uniformly covered with fine flesh marks and a few dark chestnut spots.

The classification of the catbird is not well understood: it may be a flycatcher or a babbler. Recent evidence, based on plumage characters, indicates that the Abyssinian Catbird is a babbler whose nearest relative may be the Bush Blackcap, also called Blackcap Babbler (Lioptilus nigricapillus), found in the thickets and forests of eastern South Africa.

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WHITE-BACKED BLACK TIT

(Parus leuconotus)
Wing 71-81 mm

The Whlte-backed Black Tit, wholly black with a whitish mantle, is found in woodlands, thickets and forests in the western and southeastern highlands from 1800-3500 meters (6000-11,500 feet).

It is locally frequent to occasionally common except in Eritrea, where it is uncommon. One usually notices first its typical tit-like call, it is seen in small parties or in pairs, in trees or bushes especially along small stream valleys in the wooded areas high up on the plateau. Its habits have not been recorded. It may nest in January; its nest and eggs are not described. It is indeed little known.

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YELLOW-THROATED SEED-EATER

(Serinus flavigula)
Wing 64-70 mm

The Yellow-throated Seed-eater is known from a few isolated areas in acacia-grass savanna in southern and southeastern Ethiopia. It is a species of questionable taxonomic status since it may be a hybrid between the Yellow-rumped Seed-eater (S. atrogularis) and the White-bellied Canary (S. dorostritus). It has a grey back and is similar in size to the Yellow-rumped Seed-eater but has streaks on the back and a long tail like the White-bellied Canary. Further evidence for considering the Yellow-throated Seed-eater a hybrid is that it is known only from localities where both the Yellow-rumped Seed-eater and the White-bellied Canary would be expected to occur as well.

The habits of the Yellow-throated Seed-eater are unknown. Its nest and eggs are undescribed. Most ornithological references maintain that, until the Yellow-throated Seed-eater is better known, it should be considered a separate species. It is on this basis that the bird is included here and therefore is considered to be another species found only in Ethiopia.

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BLACK-HEADED SISKIN

(Serinus nigriceps)
Wing 74-80 mm

The Black-headed Siskin is common to locally abundant in tile western and southeastern highlands from 1800-4100 meters (6000-13,500 feet). Almost always in flocks, this little-known finch inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, alchemilla, tussock grass and giant heath, highland grasslands and the open areas of montane forests, especially St. John's wort and hagenia. Flocks are regularly seen alongside the road to Gaferssa Reservoir west of Addis Ababa.

The male Black-headed Siskin is the only yellow finch with a black head in the highlands of Ethiopia. The female is similar but her head and neck are dull olive green with some black present oil the top and sides of head, chin and throat.

It breeds in the higher levels of the plateau in bushes and low trees in May, June, September, October and November. Its nest is a well-made, compact, deep cup-like structure fitted with moss, lichens, stems and small roots. Its eggs, two or three in number, are bluish-white with a few brown spots.

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WHITE-BILLED STARLING

(Onychognathus albirostris)
Wing 151-165 mm

The White-billed Starling is frequent to locally abundant in the western and southeastern highlands, being most common in the north. Widely distributed in the country, it usually lives in association with cliffs and gorges near waterfalls. It also inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, alchemilla, tussock grass and giant heath and highland grasslands: it rarely travels below 1800 meters (6000 feet).

Its square tail and white bill distinguish the White-billed Starling from other red-wing/chestnut-wing starlings. It feeds on the fruits of juniper and fig trees often in groups of five to 40 non-breeding birds. It nests in June in Eritrea in crannies high up on sheer cliffs, sometimes in association with the White-collared Pigeon.

These starlings also inhabit buildings where they occasionally nest: for example, one pair was seen nesting is October under the eaves of a church at Ankober. Details of the nest and the eggs of this species have not been described, however. Its call is "loud and monotonous". Other details of its life history are unknown. Mackworth-Praed and Grant - authors of several books on birds of Africa --- have compared this starling's habits with those of the Bristle-crowned Starling (Onychognathus salvadorii).

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BLACK HEADED FOREST ORIOLE

(Oriolus monacha)
Wing 128-145 mm

The distribution, numbers, time of nesting and life history of the Black-headed Forest Oriole are not clearly understood because of the difficulty of distinguishing it from the Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus). The two are separable by the color of parts of wings feathers, features that are not easy to see in the field.

The outer margins of the flight feathers (primaries) and the outer secondaries of the Forest Oriole are grey; the inner secondaries, mainly olivaceous-yellow, are edged in grey on the inner webs.

The outer margins of the primaries and outer secondaries of the Black-headed Oriole are white; the inner secondaries, mainly black, are edged in pale yellow on the outer webs. In the field the two species are partially separable by habitats, the haunts of each differing somewhat. The Black-headed Forest Oriole inhabits evergreen forest (olive, podocarpus) and juniper woods of the highlands; it is absent in lowland dry acacia thorn scrub country. The Black-headed Oriole lives in the lowland dry acacia thorn scrub country and the juniper woods of the highlands; it does not inhabit the highland evergreen forest.

The Black-headed Forest Oriole occurs in the western and southeastern highlands, the Rift Valley and southern Ethiopia from about 1200-3200 meters (4000-10,500 feet). It is frequent in the north, common to abundant in the south. It breeds in August and possibly July. It has three calls: a rich and loud "li", a harsh "skaa-skaa" and three or four liquid whistling notes slurred together. The nest, eggs and other aspect of its life history have not been described.

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STRESEMANN'S BUSH-CROW

(Zavattariornis stresemanni)
Wing 137-150 mm

Stresemann's Bush-Crow - reported to science for the first time in 1938 - is a frequent to common bird in a restricted area of about 2400 square kilometers (1500 sq. miles) around Yabelo, Mega and Arero in southern Ethiopia.

This species' distribution to the north and south is limited probably by elevation and consequent change in habitat: in the north the land be- comes higher and mountainous, in the south, lower and more open. The areas to the east and west of its present distribution are of similar elevation and include park-land acacia country of the type that it is found in ; yet the bush-crow does not occur in either area. This phenomenon has fascinated scientists ever since the species was discovered.

The bush-crow looks somewhat like a starling. Even its nest, is starling-like. It also associates with starlings, like the White-crowned Starling (Spreo albicapillus); mixed parties of the two are not uncomrnon in the Yabelo-area. Yet the curved bill, the bristles which extend well over the nostrils and the bare area around the eyes suggest that the bush-crow is not a starling but a member of the crow family, probably related to choughs (Pyrrhocorax sp.).

The bush-crow travels in parties of about six or so from June to February. In February and March it builds its nest some five to six meters from the ground on top of an acacia. The nest is a globular structure composed of thorn-twigs 30 or more centimeters (1 foot) long. The untidy nest, about 60 centimeters (2 feet) in diameter, has an inside chambers 30 centimeters in diameter, whose floor is lined with dung and dry grass. The entrance to the chamber is from the top and is protected by a vertical tubular tunnel some 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. The general appearance of the nest is of a vertical cylinder tapering towards the top with the entrance tunnel at the summit. The bush-crow is not a colonial nester; three individuals of unknown sex, however, have been seen to frequent one nest. It lays eggs, up to six in number, that are smooth, glossy and cream-colored with blotches of pale lilac. The only reported call of the bush-crow is a high pitched "chek". With both starling-like and crow-like affinities, this is a fascinating species to study.

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THICK-BILLED RAVEN

(Corvus crassirostris)
Wing 427-472 mm

The Thick-billed Raven, closely related to the White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis) of East and South Africa, is a bird which is common to abundant from about 1200 to at least 4100 meters (4000 .13,500 feet). It visits many habitats including alpine screes, Cliffs and gorges, giant lobelia-chemilla-tussock grass-glant heath moorlands, highland grasslands, giant lieath, St. John's wort, bamboo, juniper, podocarpus, olive and lowland subtropical humid forests.

It is especially abundant at higher elevations where it is obvious and sometimes bold around camps, villages and cities including Addis Ababa.

It is a frequent and persistent visitor to camps of travelers, where it scavenges for scraps including those in ashes of camp fires. This raven accompanies Lammergeiers (Gypaettus barbatus) when they drop bones and will steal from them if given a chance. Ravens sometimes also kill small rodents out on the open moorlands and grasslands and, by holding the huge arched bill up-side-down scatter dung to obtain insects. They feed on grain where "whole corners of the field (have) been cleared by them."

The Thick-billed Raven is easily recognized by the large curved, white-tipped bill and the white nape at the top of the neck. In flight, its neck extends forward, giving the raven a somewhat hornbill-like appearance. They are excellent fliers and soarers, often performing in formation along sheer cliff-faces. Two birds may give magnificent aerial displays, occasionally clenching feet and descending together for some 200 meters or so.

They nest in December, January and February on rocks and high up in trees. Details of the nest are unknown, as are the eggs. Although they usually live in pairs and are territorial, they sometimes congregate in parties of four to ten individuals. During courtship, the male feeds the female. He finds a morsel of food, then flies with it to a branch where he sits and calls his partner. She comes to him and flutters her wings, after which he feeds her. During this ceremony, the two birds produce hoarse gurgling and choking noises. Their typical call note, however, is a throaty "phlurk-phlurk" which has been described also as harsh and guttural or as a croak, which sounds as if the bird had "lost its voice" and was suffering from a "sore throat".

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SOME OF THE ENDEMIC MAMMALS of ETHIOPIA

Walia Ibex

(Capra W'alie)

Amharic: Walia

The habitat of the Walia 1bex is the High Semyen, Ethiopia's dramatic high mountain terrain. In the earth's long history of violent geographical change, the most recent volcanic upheavals took place in eastern Africa, followed by torrential rains which created the thousand gushing waterfalls which in turn eroded away the newly formed mountain massif, creating the great gorges and gulleys which are so typical of the region. South west of Axum the land descends gradually southwards toward the Takazze river. At the lip of the gorge at about 1,400 metres (4,600 ft.) one can look across the chasm to a similar plateau beyond. On top of this plateau, adorned with steep turrets and bastions rising in three distinct steps, is perched the north wall of the Semyen.

The mountain massif is a broad plateau, cut off on the north and west by this enormous single crag over 60 kms. (40 miles) long and 1,000-1,500 metres (3000-5000 ft.) high. To the south the table]and slopes gently down to 2,200 metres (7,000 ft.) divided by deep gorges 1,000 metres deep and taking two days to cross. Time has not yet been sufficient to soften the contours of the crags and buttresses of hardened basalt. As far as the eye can see looking north from the escarpment, the fused volcanic cores stand starkly defying the elements. Overhead stretches the vast dome of a sky of the deepest blue, which spreads downwards as clear as sapphire to the mauve of the horizon.

In this scenic splendour, lives the Walia Ibex; here and nowhere else in the world. Forced by Man to retreat, and to retreat again, it has been driven in its extremity to inhabit the most inaccessible (except to a bird or a Walia), cliffs of the Semyen escarpment. The Walia once existed in significant numbers probably several thousands in the highland massif, feeding on the cliff faces and coming up to roam the plateau at rutting time. Large herds wandered unmolested on these chilly heights.

Even up to 50 years ago there were well over a thousand. With the Italian agression in Ethiopia, the species started its dramatic decline to the brink of extinction. Guerrillas fighting the Italians and living off the country found the Walia a convenient source of meat. Later, the local people again took i up arms against the Walia, killing perhaps five in order to reclaim the meat from one. Most of them, whose wounded bodies spin and crash from the narrow ledges where they feed, into the abysses a thousand ieet or more below, are never recovered. Rarely, a rope descent will bring to the surface the meat and parts of the skin, but the trophy, the splendid horns desired by locals to make drinking mugs, and by sportsmen to decorate their sitting rooms, are usually lost forever.

First recorded in 1835 by Ruppell, and first properly observed by Powell Cotton at the beginning of the century (l900), the Walia at that time was a mythical beast and little was known of its numbers and status. The inaccessibility of its habitat combined with various historical events such as the Italian occupation and World War II, which made visits to the region out of the question for longish periods, has prevented the keepiug of a continous record since then. So until Leslie Brown made his preliminary study in the early sixties, little was known of its behaviour or habits.

A remnant of the early incursion of Palearctic fauna into the tropics, the nearest relative of the Walia is the Nubian Ibex (C. nubiana). There is a gap of several hundred miles of lowlands between the southern- most limit of the Nubian and the highland habitat of the Walia. The Walia differs in being 1arger and more massive, with dark brown as opposed to pale brown fur. The horns of the males are more massive but not quite so long, and have the knobs or ridges on the anterior surface reduced. The Walia has a bony process on the forehead. The anatomical differences together with the differences in habitat have lent weight to the argument that the Walia is a distinct species.

The terrain which the Walia inhabits is from 2,300- 4,000 metres (7,500-13,500 ft.) but chiefly above 2,500 and below 3,000 (8,000-9,500ft.). The tiny remnant population which remains is now con- fined to a range of about twenty miles of the highest and steepest bays and buttresscs of the northern escarpment. They are already extinct in all other parts of their range which once stretched from Byeda along the escarpment to Geech and Adis Gey.

The narrow vertical range which they tend to occupy today would seem to be the result of persistent hunting. They have become extremely wary and shy and chosen to be not get-atable from top or bottom. With protection maybe they will once again emerge on to the plateau.

Mountain sheep and goats have feet that are special- ly adapted for living in mountainous terrain. Their hooves have sharp edges and the undersides are concave, enabling them to adhere somewhat like suction cups. To watch even the youngest and smallest of the Walia kids gambolling about on slanted rocky ledges in a cliff face of terrifying steepness, a 500 metre drop only inches away, makes one catch one's breath with anxiety. They never fall.

The males and the females both have horns, but the males' are more massive. Curving back in a graceful arc to the withers they sometimes attain a length of over 110 cms. The females are smaller in body and lighter in colour with shorter thinner horns. They live in small parties of two to half a dozen and the big old males often live solitary except during the mating season. Because of the rarity of the animal, it is not often possible to observe a large male and one feels privileged to do so. The magnificent horns and striking colouration make it an unforgettable sight.

They are sturdily built animals standing about a metre high at the shoulder and weighing up to 120 kgs. Their beautiful chocolate to chestnut brown coats shade to greyish brown round the muzzle, paler grey around the eyes, lower flanks, legs and rump, and pale grey or white on the belly and inside of the legs. There is a black stripe down the outside of the legs and a white garter on each fetlock broken in the hind legs by a black streak into the cleft of the hoof. Mature males sport an elegant black beard. The tail is short with a brushlike tuft of black hairs.

You can usually observe them when come out on to the rocky ledges to sun themselves in the morning and evening. Little herds of females and young are not uncommon, or even single females with a kid at foot. Sometimes you will see a yearling group of young males which can be distinguished by their paler greyer colour and the thickness of their small short horns. They eat grass and herbs, but prefer to to browse rather than graze, standing up on their hind legs like domestic goats to reach the tender shoots of giant heath. There is no shortage of food, as inside the forest of heath there is abundant forage of herbs and sweet soft grasses. They tend not to drink although water is plentiful; it is assumed that they get sufficient moisture from the green stuff on which they feed. They usually lie up in caves or thickets during the day, although this is not an in- fallible rule and I have observed them at lunchtime - a group of youngsters playing in the sun.

The Walia's story is not yet ended. In 1963 it was classified by the IUCN as in danger of extinction. In that year the total number remaining alive was estimated at less than 200, probably 150. Indiscriminate hunting and destruction of habitat by local people had combined to drive the few remaining animals on to the vertical cliff sides for survival- (Only four adult males have been taken since 1956 by legitimate shooting). Fortunately before the end came the Ethiopian Government recognized the danger and, in 1965, drew up plans to establish a national park to protect both the habitat and its fauna, and the park was gazetted the same year. It was found that numbers had remained steady for two years, indicating that with protection they might increase fairly rapidly. Guards were appointed from Geech to Mietgogo to curb local poaching and illegal cultivation and burning of habitat. In the past fifteen years, numbers have increased steadily, as the females are still ready and willing to breed in the caves in the cliff face.

At the present time, not less than 10% of the cliff surface is composed of broad ]edges or green gullies in which Walia can feed. Brown estimates that this amount of land space can support a population of two or three thousand. The Walia has no natural enemies apart possibly from the occasional bird of prey, and thus with complete protection from Man they could be expected to recover their numbers and to double the present population in ten years.

At present it is still difficult to properly enforce the protection laws, and the local people cannot be expected to know that this animal exists only here. Nor could they realize that it could be anticipated to generate a far larger income if allowed to live and breed, than its dead parts will ever earn. It can only be hoped that the precipitous terrain in which the last survivors live will enable a nucleus herd to survive until such time as visitors from all over the world will be able to come and observe this rare creature in the magnificence of its mountain habitat.

Menelik's Bushbuck

(Tragelaphus seriptus meneliki)

Amharic: Dukula.

Belonging to the same family as the Mountain Nyala, the Kudu, the Bongo and the Eland, the bushbuck shares with them the family characteristic of shy and elusive behaviour. Over forty races of bushbuck have been identified, which vary considerably both from the point of view of colouration and from the type of habitat they frequent. Most of them are forest- living animals inhabiting dense bush, usually near water, though this is not an essential, as some of them have been known to go without drinking for long periods when necessary.

Of the two Ethiopian races, meneliki and powelli, the latter is the more common and somewhat smaller. But Menelik's is also fairly widespread and can be seen in much of Ethiopia's highland forest up to the treeline at 4,000 metres (13,000 ft.) They are com mon, for example, in the cedar forests of Menagesha and parts of the Entoto range, even ir, eucalyptus groves as long as there is still some ground cover. No accurate estimate has been made of their total population because of their nocturnal and furtive habits. Like the Mountain Nyala, they are easier to observe in the Bale Mountains National Park where they are fully protected and therefore a little less shy. Powelli inhabits the lower lying country, so between them they cover almost all types of habitat, from highland forest to savanna woodland - with the exception of open country.

In Bale, as you climb up through the hagenia forest with its flowering trees, and enter the zone of Giant Heath and St. John's Wort, sunlight dapples the ground beneath your feet, lichens hang softly from every twig and bright dark green mosses clothe the branches. Suddenly a glimpse of bright chestnut draws your attention to the female bushbuck, and usually not far away is the shining dark, almost black, male. Bushbucks are often solitary, but in Bale anyway, Menelik's is almost always seen in pairs or small family parties of female and young. They are extremely beautiful little animals, with a coat longer than that of other bushbucks, perhaps because of living in the lower temperatures of high altitudes. The horns, which are carried only by the male, have a spiral twist and a well-defined longitudinal ridge or keel on the front or back surfaces, and transverse rings. The record horn length is 34.93 cms.

They stand 80-90 cms. (35 inches) at the shoulder and slightly higher at the rump, running along in a hunched up manner between the bushes and shrubs. They have large broad ears and when they stop to regard an intruder the ears with their tufts of white are conspicuous. A spinal crest of longish white or black hairs runs down the centre of the back. A white spot on the cheek, and on the female sometimes a blackish collar on the lower neck, faint white spots on the haunches, and limbs with a contrasting dark and light pattern. The tail is bushy and long, reaching to just above the hocks, white underneath and black- tipped.

Most bushbuck tend to spend the heat of the day lying up in dense bush where there is no hope of spotting them. The highland forest where Menelik's bushbuck lives, is relatively cool and you can see them (if you are in luck) at any time of day. It is more usual however, to spot them from about four o'clock onwards, or in the early morning. They have a loud barking alarm call, sometimes repeated, which can be heard from some distance away, and also a series of grunts. Very few Menelik's have been collected by sportsmen. The multiplication of numbers in the park could lead to its greater accessibilty to authorised huntsmen, and produce an income for conservation.

Mountain Nyala

(Tragelaphus buxtoni)

Amharic: Dega Agazain

The Mountain Nyala was the last of the great African antelopes to become known to science, and still today very little is known about its habits or the full extent of its range. It was first collected by Major Ivor Buxton in 1908 and at that time seemed to be fairly widespread throughout the Arsi and Bale regions. Large numbers of them lived at very high altitudes, between ten and thirteen thousand feet, in the mountain forests where it was cold and wet much of the time, until the pressure of the human population destroyed vast tracts of their forest habitat. In Arsi the population is now reduced to a remnant.

Fortunately in Bale, despite a certain amount of burning of the heath, great tracts of mountain giant heath forest and hagenia were left unspoiled and the Nyala were never seriously threatened with extin- ction. They were so much hunted that they became even more wary and shy than is their nature and one rarely caught more than a glimpse of them as they melted away into the bush. The creation of the Bale Mountains National Park has considerably altered this picture. Here, where they are fully protected, they are beginning to be much more confident, and one can see them readily, especially in the mornings and evenings when they come down in to the hagenia forest on the lower slopes to graze. They are breeding prolifically and comparatively large groups of females and young can be seen.

Nyala are a magnificent sight, particularly the old bulls with their fine spiralled horns. Females do not carry horns and they have rather long necks and large ears, which are very conspicuous. The body colour of an old male is dark grey, with a line of long hair along the back forming a straggly mane which continues' along the spine as a brown and white crest. Young calves are bright rufous and can be mistaken for bushbuck if the mother is not seen. Females are redder that the males, although they tend to become greyer with age. They move in parties or small herds of about five to ten females, and although the really old bulls are solitary and not often seen, young adult males carrying quite impressive spreads of horns, can sometimes be seen with or near the herds of females and young, and males are sometimes seen in small groups of two or three individuals.

There are white markings on the legs and two white spots on the face, a white chevron between the eyes. Nyala are similar to Greater Kudu but can be distinguished by the single spiral horns and the absence of clear white stripes on the body. Those of the Nyala are only faintly visible, and with a few faint spots on the flanks. It can however, be thought of as a high altitude race of the kudu.

lt stands 135 cms. (53 inches) at the shoulder and weighs some 200-250 kgs. (440-550 1bs). An old bull reaches 300 kgs.(660 Ibs). It has two white patches on the underside of the neck; the upper very wide and the lower one crescent-shaped. The back and upper flanks have about four white ill-defined stripes and a few white spots on the thighs. The tail does not reach to the hocks, it is bushy with a white underside and black tip.

During the hottest part of the day, Mountain Nyala lie up in some shady place generally in the giant heath zone. They often choose a place where anyone approaching gives them warning by stepping on dried bracken or twigs and they then disappear in an almost miraculous way - not to be seen again. The best way to observe them is to select an inconspicuous spot and sit quietly until about four in the afternoon when they leave the giant heath and come down among the wider-spaced kosso trees.

The Nyala is not an endangered species - there is a population of four to five thousand animals in the Bale region and they are breeding strongly. In fact, it may well be necessary to cull some of them by controlled hunting in order to prevent them destroying their own habitat by overbrowsing and breaking tracks through the undergrowth of the forest cover. Licensed hunting also brings in revenue to the Wildlife Conservation Organization. Old bulls with trophy heads (horns over 88 cms. (35 inches) are fairly rare) are a true sporting challenge to the hunter.

The Bale Park protects and preserves a representative section of forest and mountain unique in Africa and of spectacular beauty, as well as Ethiopia's finest antelope.

Swayne's Hartebeest

(Alceluphus buselaphus swaynei)

Amharic: Korkay

The common African hartebeest has fifteen races of which two are already extinct and Swayne's is seriously endangered.

In 1891-2, Brigadier-General Swayne, who discovered the animals, was the first European to visit the area well south of the Golis range of Somaliland and about 200 kms. (125 miles) from the coast. The plains were described as "covered with hartebeest, 300-400 to a herd and a dozen or so herds in sight at any time"- Herds of a thousand individuals were observed. Within fifteen years the tens of thousands in Haud and Ogo that Swayne had seen had dwindled to such an extent that he estimated only about 880 remained. This rapid decline was due to the rinderpest, which swept Africa during the last century. The Somalis "went out daily and pulled down the sick animals with their bare hands in order to take the hides". Military campaigns followed in which the armed forces were permitted to kill as much game as they wanted. Arms flowed in and in the unsettled conditions which prevailed hunters very efficiently, and in a very short time, had almost succeeded in wiping out the remnants of the Oryx and Hartebeest herds in the area.

Hartebeest are almost grotesquely long-faced and have high withers and sloping hindquarters. The horns, carried by both sexes, are doubly curved and mounted on a pedicle. Some authors still consider that according to the shape of the horns, which is supposed to be the most important diagnostic character, each race of hartebeest should enjoy full specific rank. However, the presence of hybrid forms has led zoologists to regard them as a sub-species, and it is now generally accepted to classify them as geographic representatives of the same species.

Three types of horns can be distinguished in the buselaphus group:

U-shaped as in the now-extinct North African buba hartebeest, and in the western hartebeest from Gambela, Nigeria and Cameroon; V-shaped as in the Lelwel Hartebeest (A. buselaphus lelwel), Jackson's Hartebeest (A.b. jacksoni), and the South African cape hartebeest (A.b. caama), (all of which have very long heads and a uniform red-brown colour). The third type of horn is shaped like inverted brackets as in Coke's Hartebeest (A.b. cokii), in the pale tawny A.b. tora from Sudan and Ethiopia, and Swayne's Hartebeest, previous]y found in both Somalia and Ethiopia, but now restricted only to Ethiopia.

Swayne's is the eastern race of tora to whom it is closely related, both species being smaller than the uthers, but is distinguished from it by its considerably darker body colour. It is a deep red chocolate brown or chestnut with a fawn or cinnamon coloured rump, tail and lower half of legs. The tail tuft is black. Its face and upper parts of its body have dark blackish markings: a black stripe from the shoulder to the knee, a black smudge on the flanks, and black markings on the outside of the hind limbs are typical, but on the darkest individuals these black markings do not show clearly in the field. Adult specimens sometimes have a silvery appearance as the hairs are tipped with white. The horns are fully expanded and shaped like those of the tora; and curve out- wards and slightly downwards from the top of the head and then sweep upwards at the tips, and are usually, but not always, hooked backwards and they may or may not turn inwards.

Swayne's Hartebeest lives in open country, light bush, sometimes in tall savanna woodland. These are social animals and are normally seen in herds of 4-15, up to thirty. Each herd is under the leader- ship of the master bull which leads the females with their young. The territory is defended by the male. You may often see them grazing peacefully, with the bull on slightly higher ground acting as sentinel for his herd.

The small surviving population is now restricted to the grass and thorn scrub plains of southern Danakil and the Rift Valley lakes region, on the Alledeghi plains east of Awash and from Awash valley to the southern lakes. The Nechisar National Park has been established for their protection. Located on the shores of lakes Abaya and Chamo, the park is accessible from Arba Minch. The best known herd is about 100 head which inhabits an area of 400 sq. kms. near the shore of lake Chamo. However, the largest known population is on the heavily settled plain of Senkela in the Shashemane area. Here there are probably about 500 now in excellent condition but less likely to survive because of pressure on habitat. This hartebeest is listed by the IUCN among the species in the world in "imminent danger of extinction" and is completely protected by law in Ethiopia (1972 Wildlife Conservation). Pressure on its habitat by human beings was the main cause of its decline, and it is to hoped that with the creation of the national park and rigorous enforcement of the protection law, this beautifully coloured antelope will start to recover its numbers.

Gelada Baboon

(Theropithecus gelada)

Amharic: Gelada

The Semyen highland massif is considered to be the finest scenery in all Africa and it is for this reason, and the fact that the area is the home of the Walia Ibex, the Semien Fox and the Gelada Baboon that it has now been gazetted as a national park.

The Gelada is not in fact peculiar to the Semyen as is the exclusive Walia Ibex, but they are more numerous here than in their other habitats Some live at Debre Sina not far from Addis Ababa and others at Debre Libanos on the way to the Blue Nile; there are also small populations in the Mulu and Bole Valley gorges. But in the Semyen there may be as many as 20,000, and troops of 400 together may be seen. They do not molest humans and, more surprisingly, the local people do not molest them. Thus they are very tame and will allow humans to approach quite close to the troop before moving nearer to the cliff edge.

The Gelada was discovered in 1835 by the explorer Ruppell, who nan;ed it by the local name used by the inhabitants of Gonder region where he first observed it. They are not difficult to study as they are very tame, however, little interest was shown in them until recently, when Patsy and Robin Dunbar made an exhaustive study of their social behaviour. The social behaviour of the apes and monkeys is evidence of a very high degree of intelligence and studies of their rudimentary social structures are proving of considerable value in analysing the origins of human social behaviour.

Geladas live along the edges and steep slopes of precipices. They never move far from the rim and thus their distribution is linear along the escarpment. At night they climb down the steep cliff faces to caves where they roost on ledges, often huddled close together for warmth as Semyen nights are frosty and bitterly cold. Babies cling tight to their mothers even in sleep. In the morning in the warm sun they climb up again to the top of the cliff and spread out to feed. Geladas are mainly vegetarian, living on herbs, grasses and roots, but they also eat insects and locusts. They never eat meat, or hunt or kill even small birds or mammals. As a result of this restricted diet they are obliged to spend a very high percentage of their lives foraging and browsing in order to obtain sufficient nutrients to survive. This may explain why they are so extremely peaceable by nature, with very little squabbling even amongst themselves. They have no natural enemies (except of course, Man, who takes a fair toll with his rifle. The great mane of the adult male is used for traditional headresses by highland warriors).

Apart from feeding, "grooming" is their other main pastime. This entails simply picking through each other's fur. This is not only a friendly and peaceful occupation, but it serves also to establish bonds between various members of a 'harem' and to cement the accepted relationships in the hierachy, between male and female, older and younger members.

The long narrow plateaus of the Semyen slope up- wards from the south until they end in the dizzying precipices of the northern escarpment. This is the haunt of the Walia, and the Gelada do not frequent these vertical cliffs, but the rims of the stupendous gorges and ravines which bisect the plateau. The troops tend to graze the higher moorlands, amongst everlastings, giant lobelias and alchemilla-tussock grass. Never far from the rim, which is their refuge when danger threatens, they disappear over the edge on to the grassy slopes and ledges of the gorge sides. Their grazing ranks are so arranged that the males are always farthest from the edge and thus it is "women and children first" when they have occasion to flee to safety.

They are comparatively large and impressive, the males being about 75 cms. (30 inches) tall without tail and twice the size of the females. Their sad up- turned faces are marked with large ridges running from below the outer side of the eyes to the nose. The face is dark grey with wrinkles and very long whiskers, forming falciform tufts of light coloured hairs projecting upwards and backwards on the sides of the head. Their nickname, "bleeding heart baboon" stems from the bare red skin areas on the chest, which are actual]y two triangles, and another crescent-shaped on the throat. Both sexes have these bare places. In the female the fleshy "beads" which surround the bare patch swell up and turn from whitish to bright red to indicate estrous condition. In the males the patches are always red and do not change colour. The old males have a cape of very long hair which hangs down (to the ground when they are sitting) and tufted tails which have earned them another name - lion monkey. The female's mane is much less impressive than the male's. Both sexes are a light to dark brown, the fur cape shading from one colour to another as it moves in the mountain breezes. They are found at more than 4,500 metres (14,600 ft.) and have even been seen at the top of Ras Dashan at 4,620 metres (15,160 ft.) where tbere is nothing fox them to eat, so they must just go up to look at the view.

Their handsome appearance and the beauty of their habitat is one thing, but perhaps the most fascinating aspect of these creatures is their social structure which is the most complex in the animal kingdom after that of man. You see them grouped into herds of up to 400 or so individuals, each of which is made up in turn of "harems", which are groups of from two to eight females and young ones with one dominant male and often one hanger-on called a "follower", who ingratiates himself with the juvenile females, with a view to enticing them away in due course and forming his own harem. Harem owning males do not attempt to steal each others' wives.

Young males get together in groups from the age when they finally leave their mothers until they are mature enough to become a follower. These various social groups all move and feed together, only occasionally leaving the herd if food supplies demand it. They travel about three miles a day while feeding, and sleep on ledges on the cliff face wherever they happen to be when night falls.

The harem is a very close family unit. Ninety-five percent of the social interactions of adults are with other members of the same harem. Only juveniles and babies cross the invisible boundaries to play with others of their own age. Unlike the Hamadryas baboon, where the harem is kept together by male agression, the Gelada harem is run more or less by solidarity between the females. It is they who decide in which direction they will feed, it is they who instantly rally together if their male should threaten any one of them because she strayed too near another male! Only one of the females has a strong relation- ship with the male at any given time. But they all groom each other as well as him and thus establish a jealousy-free harmonious relationship with each other.

For a young male to acquire a harem of his own is quite a long and difficult process. He starts off when he is about two leaving his mother's harem in favour of play groups of other juveniles. By the age of three he starts playing around with the younger members of the all-male groups, and at four he things of nothing else but joining one (which is not always easy as the groups are very tight and do not readily welcome new members). Having succeeded he settles down to life as a bachelor sub-adult in his group. When he is about five or six, he begins to show an interest in the harems again. He doesn't want to anger the adult male of any harem so he confines his activities to following along, occasionally grooming with the male but mainly amusing himself with the young females - the ones too young to cause jealous feelings in the old male. Should the old male die or become weak, the young one will take his place, but it is more common for the youngster just to gradually withdraw taking with him several of the young females. This is not a sudden break - the one group just spends progressively more time on its own. The male then sets about getting a few more females from other harems - young females belonging to a harem with no follower may join him before their father takes an interest in them.

Over the years each male has a succession of followers who take away his daughters to form the nucleus of their own harems; a system which prevents in- breeding. Sometimes a younger male may persist in paying court to the wives of an older, and generally harrass him. The few fights which occur are usually the outcome of such behaviour. The old one finally, after trying to retain his females' loyalty and affection, may give up the struggle. If so, he does not retire from the harem - he just adopts the follower role and spends his retirement grooming and playing with the juveniles.

The relationships of the Geladas are very delicately balanced. To communicate their intentions they have need of a fairly subtle range of signals. They have therefore acquired a great diversity of social behaviour patterns and vocalizations. Greater in fact than any other non-human primate. For examp]e, where the olive baboon has fifteen contact calls, and the colobus six, the gelada makes twenty-seven distinct noises. To hear him speak, is as it were to listen to a foreign language being spoken. The expressions on the face are in fact signals with a distinct meaning: the raising of the eyebrows reveals two red triangles above the eyes - a warning signal; the rolling back of the upper lip in a ghastly smile, a flash of red gums and white teeth, signifies (as perhaps does the human smile) appeasement, and thus avoids possible conflict.

So far, the gelada is not on the endangered species list, and now that he lives protected in at least one of his habitats, one can hope that he never will be. How- ever, the occasional random slaughter "for fun" of these beautiful, gentle and intelligent creatures should be curbed for obvious reasons.

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