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 Yabello, 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 becomes 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 parkland 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 uncommon in the Yabello 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 lay 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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