Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A challenge to birders - Ross's Turaco in Botswana

Ross's Turaco is a strikingly beautiful bird found primarily in riverine and other forests in south-central Africa, with the southernmost tip of its range just touching the northern extremity of Botswana. When naturalist/film-maker Tim Liversedge saw the first one in Botswana near Ikoga on the Okavango Panhandle in 1974, he knew that no-one would believe him, so he 'collected' the bird - it is now a museum specimen so there can be no doubt about the authenticity of this record!

Since 1974, informed birders have been keeping an eye out for this brilliant blue turaco along the Okavango Panhandle and the riverine forests along the Linyanti River, as it is likely to occur sporadically in these areas. There have been some claimed sightings, but none has been accepted by BirdLife Botswana's Records sub-committee, which adjudicates these reports. Recently, one of the top guides in northern Botswana, Victor Horatius, sent in an excited and exciting e-mail saying that he'd seen one in the Linyanti Concession near King's Pool Camp, but unfortunately he could not get a photograph of it . . .

Thus Ross's Turaco remains elusive in Botswana. This bird is undoubtedly seen more than once in 40 years, and in this day and age of high resolution digital cameras, it will only take one clear photo to confirm that the species is alive and well in northern Botswana. This is our challenge to birders - keep your cameras at the ready when visiting the northern part of the country!

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