Conservation & environment

Mysteries of a Mysterious Bird

29 September 2015

The Holy-grail of forest birds must be, most definitely in my eyes, the Narina Trogon. As with most forest birds they are incredibly elusive, this entertains some mysteries to such birds. Over the past few very dry weeks in Mahale, the thinning forest has allowed for some good sightings in and around camp.

A French Explorer and Ornithologist by the name Francois Le Vaillant gave this Trogon its name after spending many years traveling around South Africa from the late 1700's. From where he derived the name 'Narina' is somewhat of a mystery to historians. During his time in South Africa, he made use of a very skilled Khoikhoi tracker by the name of Klaas, they became very close friends over the years. In Khoikhoi the word for flower is 'Narina' and maybe Klaas gave such a description to influence the name.

What is known for sure is that Le Vaillant named the Klaas's Cuckoo, another bird that frequents Greystoke, after his Khoikhoi friend. But for the Trogon there is speculation of a Khoikhoi mistress of Le Vaillant, her name being 'Narina'. Whether he named this bird after her is not well recorded, given the timeframe, but it is a belief of many. This would make the Klaas's Cuckoo and Narina Trogon the only two birds named after indigenous people of Africa.

This dazzling bird has evaded my lens for many years. Its habit of showing its green back to any threat camouflages it in the canopy. It will often perch without moving for extended periods, patiently waiting for a passing insect to feed on.

Finally one lucky morning I managed to snap the above photograph, it may not portray the crimson front but illustrates how it hides itself using its canopy colouration. It is an image I have longed to capture and once again I owe a dream come true to magical Mahale.

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