The Bokmakierie, as opposed to his secretive cousins in the bush-shrike clan, calls from an elevated perch, giving the impression that they are plentiful. The far carrying call, which can be clearly heard all around the Tygerberg Hills, sounds similar to “Kokkewiet”, its alternative Afrikaans name. The male initiates the duet with his mate so as to announce territorial claims and to reinforce the pair-bond. The split-second timing is impressive in a vocal display known as antiphony.
When seen from behind, the dab plumage on its back is a strong contrast to the bright yellow chest and broad black breast band. Immature birds do not display the breast band and can easily confuse the novice birder. Young birds have to practise their call and at the end of the breeding season one may hear off-key notes.
Bokmakieries eat a variety of invertebrates such as spiders, beetles, caterpillars and grasshoppers. These prey items are supplemented by larger creatures such as lizards, chameleons and frogs.
The duets are heard frequently at the onset of the breeding season. Once the eggs are laid only one bird will be heard while the other is brooding. The nest is placed 1 to 4 meters up in a leafy tree where it is well concealed. It is a large cup-shaped structure made from grass and forbs and lined with finer material.
The eggs, which number between two and five, are pale blue with brown speckling that forms a band around the blunt end. Both sexes take turns incubating the clutch, which hatches after about 16 days. The chicks remain in the nest for about 18 days and are still fed by the parents for a few weeks.
Tygerberg Nature Reserve conserves one of Cape Town’s most threatened types of vegetation, namely Swartland Shale Renosterveld. Some bird species are habitat specialist and are mainly restricted certain vegetation types. It is here on the Tygerberg that we can find the Karoo Scrub-Robin, which is endemic to the drier western regions of southern Africa. As the name implies, this bird is associated with arid areas and scrub vegetation as found in the Karoo, Strandveld and Renosterveld. Their habitat preferences discourage them from adopting lush suburban gardens as done by their cousins, the Cape Robin-Chats.
Camouflage plays an important role in this specie’s largely ground-dwelling life and the drab brown plumage tends to make one overlook this bird. However, what it lacks in appearance, it makes up in personality. Although quite wary at first, it becomes bold and inquisitive. If disturbed within its territory it will perch on the top of a bush and loudly scold the intruder. Its Afrikaans name “Slangverklikker” (snake detector) was bestowed upon it because of its habit of raising the alarm.
This Scrub-Robin can be identified by its uniform brown colour, pale throat and whitish eyebrow. When it flies away and lands, the white tips to the tail feathers are very conspicuous.
Pairs are territorial and build a cup-shaped nest at the base of a shrub or up to a meter high in a dense bush. Usually 2 to 4 eggs are laid, which hatch after 14 days. A diet of insects is fed to the chicks that will leave the nest after a further 14 days.