Habitat and Ecology
Habitat and Ecology
Behaviour This species is largely sedentary over much of its range1, although it may make seasonal nomadic or dispersive movements related to water availability1, 2, 5. It also undertakes annual post-breeding moult migrations to favoured waters2. The timing of the breeding season in this solitary nester varies geographically, with pairs in some regions nesting in the spring or at the end of the dry season1, whereas nesting in other areas, such as southern Africa, peaks in the middle of winter and does not necessarily correspond with local rainfall patterns6. Outside of the breeding season the species may occur in flocks consisting of hundreds or thousands of individuals (e.g. during moult), although it is most common in pairs or small groups2. It forages diurnally2, mostly in the morning and evening4. Habitat The species inhabits a wide range of freshwater wetlands in open country from sea level up to 4,000 m (Ethiopia)1, 3, including reservoirs, dams, pans, lakes, large ponds, rivers, marshes, sewage works, estuaries and offshore islands2 (although it is generally absent from coastal regions)5. It shows a preference for water-bodies with open shorelines and rich plant growth in close proximity to meadows, grassland and arable land for grazing1, generally avoiding densely forested areas1, 3. Diet Its diet consists predominantly of vegetable matter such as the seeds, leaves and stems of grasses and other terrestrial plants, crop shoots1, 2 (e.g. maize, wheat, oats, lucerne, groundnuts and barley)2, potato tubers1, algae and aquatic weeds2, as well as some animal matter (worms, locusts1 and termite alates2). Breeding site The nest is a shallow depression5 in plant matter1, 5 usually placed not far from water3. Nest sites are highly variable3 but include dense vegetation on the ground1, 2, 3, 5, reedy vegetation near water, the ground under bushes or trees2, burrows in embankments5, holes and cavities in trees1, cliff ledges and rural buildings, caves2, and the abandoned nests of other large bird species1, 2, 3 up to 60 m above the ground5.
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