Birds by Name – B
The Blackcap Babbler, Turdoides reinwardtii, is a resident breeding bird in West Africa from Senegal to Cameroon and mostly frequents thick scrub and forest. Like most babblers, it is not migratory and with its short, rounded wings is not a particularly strong flier.
The Blackcap Babbler has a very distinctive white eye ring.
Insects are its main diet, although it will also eat fruit.
The Blackcap Babbler builds a cup-shaped nest in a tree, concealed in dense foliage, and normally lays two or three eggs.
Species: T. reinwardtii
The Barn Owl or Common Barn Owl, Tyto alba, is the most widely distributed species of owl and is found almost everywhere in the world except polar and desert regions, most of Indonesia and some Pacific islands.
Barn Owls are generally between 33 and 39 centimetres in length with a wingspan up to 95 centimetres. The back is grey or brown, the underparts vary from white to brown, sometimes with some dark speckling and the face is heart-shaped and white in most species.
They lay between four and eight eggs in a nest in a hollow tree, old building or crevice in a cliff. Diet consists mainly of small mammals, voles and shrews being a particular favourite, and these are caught through sound.
Most Barn Owls are nocturnal hunters, but not exclusively.
Species: T. alba
The Bearded Barbet, Lybius dubius, which is found all over the world in tropical climates and is a resident breeder in West Africa. It is a large bird at around 28 centimetres in length and quite conspicuous.
It is a bit on the plump side, has a short neck, large head and a shortish tail. The adult has a black crown, back, tail and breast band. The throat and belly are red and it has a odd-looking yellow eye patch. Its curious large bill is thick and yellow and it has a clump of whiskers at its base, hence its name. The sexes are very similar.
The main diet of the Bearded Barbet is fruit, but they do feed insects to their young.
The Bearded Barbet usually lays two white eggs. The nest is normally a hole in a tree.
Species: L. dubius
The Little Bee-eater, Merops pusillus, is a small bird in the bee-eater family Meropidae and is resident in much of sub-Saharan Africa. It grows to about 16 centimetres in length and is certainly a very colourful bird, looking almost like Zorro with its black eye mask.
It has green upper parts, a yellow throat, black gorget and a brown upper breast fading to a buffish colour on the belly. The wings are green and brown, and the beak, which is quite long and curved, is black. The sexes are pretty similar-
Bee-eaters predominantly eat insects, especially bees, wasps and hornets, as its name might suggest. They sit on a low branch and then nip out to catch the insects. Before eating its meal, a bee-eater removes the sting by repeatedly hitting the insect on a hard surface.
The nest is often a tunnel in a sandy bank and bee-eaters generally lay between 4 ando 6 spherical white eggs. Both the male and the female take care of the eggs.
Species: M. pusillus
The White-throated Bee-eater, Merops albicollis, is a member of the bee-eater family Meropidae and breeds in semi-desert along the southern edge of the Sahara desert in Africa. It is migratory, wintering in the equatorial rainforests from southern Senegal to Uganda.
The White-throated Bee-eater is predominantly green, with a white face and throat, a black crown, eye stripe and neckband. The underparts are pale green. The eyes are red and the beak, quite long and curved, is black.
The White-throated Bee-eater can reach a length of up to 21 centimetres, excluding two very elongated central tail feathers in adults, which can add an extra 12 centimetres. That makes these juveniles by my reckoning as the long tail feathers are absent.
These birds make their nests in relatively long tunnels, up to two metres in length, in sandy banks and lay up to 7 spherical white eggs.Both the male and the female look after the eggs.
Species: M. albicollis
The Black-winged Bishop, Euplectes hordeaceus, is a resident breeding species of weaver bird found in tropical Africa from Senegal to Sudan and south to Angola, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
In breeding plumage the male is quite similar to the Northern Red Bishop, as in this case, otherwise it is yellowy-brown in colour. Quite different. One of the main differences is the black face mask which, in the Northern Red Bishop, covers the whole of the top of the head.
It also has a number of other traits in common with the Northern Red Bishop, such as length (13 to 15 centimetres), nest (spherical nest in tall grass), number of eggs laid (two to four) and diet (seed, grain and the occasional insect).
Species: E. hordeaceus
Northern Red Bishop
The Northern Red Bishop or Orange Bishop, Euplectes franciscanus, is a weaver belonging to the family Ploceidae and grows to between 13 and 15 centimetres in length. From a distance it looks quite red, almost bright red, but close up it is certainly more orange in colour.
The Northern Red Bishop is a resident breeding species in Africa, between the Sahara Desert and the Equator, but has also been introduced to Puerto Rico, Martinique and Guadeloupe.
Males and females are fairly similar except the female is slightly smaller. Juveniles have pale fringes on their flight feathers.
The Northern Red Bishop builds quite a complex spherical nest in tall grass and generally las two to four eggs.
The staple diet of the Northern Red Bishop is seed, grain and the occasional insect.
Species: E. franciscanus
The Bittern, Botaurus stellaris, is part of the heron family, Ardeidae, and is a very shy and elusive bird. It is heavy bodied and, unlike the Grey Heron, has short legs and very long toes.
It is a patterned black and buff colour and blends in well in its only habitat, wet reed beds. It skulks about in the reeds, catching fish with a stabbing motion.
Bitterns grow to between 69 cm and 81 cm in length, have a 100 cm to 130 cm wingspan and weigh up to 1.94 kg.
The Common Blackbird, Turdus merula, is a species of true thrush, turdus meaning ‘thrush’ and merula meaning ‘blackbird’ in Latin.
The male is black with a yellow ring around the eyes and a yellow beak, the female is brown, which makes it very easy for a change to tell them apart.
The Common Blackbird is omnivorous, so eats a wide range of insects, earthworms, seeds and berries.
Species: T. merula
The Blackcap, Sylvia atricapilla, is a common and widespread sylviid warbler and breeds throughout temperate Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. Blackcaps in northern Europe tend to migrate to southern Europe or North Africa for the winter, those in southern Europe tend to stay put.
The Blackcap has a greyish body and, as the name suggests, a distinctive black cap. Having said that, the female has a brown cap, making the male and female easily distinguishable. Its closest living relative is the Garden Warbler.
Insects are its main diet although it will eat berries if there are not enough bugs around which makes it quite a hardy bird.
Species: S. atricapilla
The Black-crowned Tchagra, Tchagra senegala, is a fairly colourful medium-sized bushshrike and is found in the Arabian peninsular and most of Africa, generally in scrub, woodland and cultivated areas.
The Black-crowned Tchagra grows to between 19 and 22 centimetres in length. It has a black crown and eye stripes, its underparts are pale grey and the upperparts pale brown. The folded wings are chestnut and the tail is black with a white tip. It has a black bill.
The sexes are similar, but juveniles have a brown cap and a pale yellow bill. The Black-crowned Tchagra lays two or three heavily marked white eggs in a cup nest in a tree or bush. Insects are its main source of food.
Species: T. senegala
The Black Redstart, Phoenicurus ochruros, is usually between 13 and 14.5 centimetres in length and weighs in at between 12 and 20 grams.
The adult male is basically dark grey to black on the upper parts with a black breast and an orange-red lower rump and tail with the two central tail feathers dark red-brown. The belly and undertail are a blackish-grey.
The female is grey overall except for the orange-red lower rump and tail.
Species: P. ochruros
The Black-tailed Godwit, Limosa limosa, is a large, long-legged, long-billed (about 12cm) wading shorebird.
In summer they have a bright orangey chest, belly, neck and head, in winter they’re more greyish-brown. Female black-tailed godwits are bigger and heavier than the males and have a longer beak.
They measures around 42 centimetres from bill to tail with a wingspan of 70–82 centimetres. Males weigh around 280 grams and females around 340 grams.
Godwits dine mainly on invertebrates and the odd aquatic plant, although in the breeding season their diet may also include beetles, flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, caterpillars and molluscs with the occasional meal of fish eggs, frogspawn and tadpoles.
Species: L. limosa
The Blue Tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, is a small passerine bird in the tit family Paridae and is easily recognisable by its blue and yellow plumage.
The Blue Tit prefers insects, caterpillars and spiders for their diet, although outside the breeding season they also eat seeds and other vegetable-based foods.
The Blue Tit is usually about 12 centimetres in length, has a wingspan of around 18 centimetres and weighs in at about 11 grams.
The common Blue Tit has an azure blue crown with a dark blue line passing through the eye, encircling the white cheeks to the chin. The forehead and a bar on the wing are white. The nape, wings and tail are blue, the back is yellowish green and the under parts are mostly yellowy with a dark line down the abdomen. The bill is black and the legs bluish grey. Both sexes are pretty similar and juveniles are noticeably more yellow.
The yellowness of the belly is apparently indicative of the number of yellowy-green caterpillars eaten (due to high levels of carotene pigments).
Species: C. caeruleus
The adult has a plain greyish-green back, greenish rump and wings and whitish underparts. The bill is small and pointed and the legs are brown. As with most warblers, the sexes are identical.
It eats insects.
Species: P. bonelli
The Brant or Brent Goose, Branta bernicla, is a species of goose of the genus Branta and is about the same size as a (normal) Mallard.
It has a black head and neck and grey-brown back, and either a pale or dark belly depending on the race. Adults have a small white neck patch. The rump is and the tail is black and very short.
Brent Geese eat vegetation, particularly grasses.
Species: B. bernicla
The Bronze Mannikin, Lonchura cucullata, is a small passerine bird, around 10 centimetres in length, found in much of Africa south of the Sahara Desert in dry savanna habitats.
The Bronze Mannikin has brown upperparts, a dark purplish-black head, white underparts and dark markings on the flank. Its bill is shades of grey, light below and darker above. The sexes are pretty similar but juvenile birds have pale brown upperparts and a buff head and underparts.
The nest is made of grasses and built in trees.
Six to eight eggs is the norm for the Bronze Mannikin.
Species: L. cucullata
The Bullfinch, Common Bullfinch or Eurasian Bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, is a small passerine bird in the finch family Fringillidae.
The male Bullfinch has a bright pinkish-red breast and cheeks, grey back, black cap and tail, and bright white rump. The female has a greyish chest.
Woodlands and hedgerows are a good place to find Bullfinches. They eat buds of fruit trees, seeds and, during the breeding season, insects.
Species: P. pyrrhula
The Common Buzzard, Buteo buteo, is a medium to large bird of prey which nests on the fringes of woodlands and hunts in open terrain, usually for mammals.
The Buzzard grows to a length of between 40 cm and 58 cm, has a wingspan ranging from 109 cm to 136 cm and can weigh up to around 364 grams.
It has a broad, rounded wings and a short neck and tail. Birds are variable in colour from all dark brown to much paler variations but all have dark wingtips and a finely barred tail.
Species: B. buteo