Zambezian Halophytics Habitat
The Makgadikgadi spiny agama (Agama hispida makarikarika) is endemic to the Makgadikgadi Pans complex within the Botswana element of the Zambezian halophytics ecoregion. This agama typically inhabits the edges of the pans but it is difficult to spot, since it buries itself in the sand during the heat of the day.
One of the largest saltpans in the world, the Makgadikgadi Pan complex in Botswana stretches out over 12,000 square kilometres. The ecoregion is classified within the Flooded Grasslands and Savanna biome. Surrounded by the semi-arid Kalahari savannas, the pans experience a harsh climate, hot with little rain, and are normally a vast, glaring expanse of salt-saturated clay. These pans are sustained by freshwater from the Nata River, and more infrequently, from input from the Okavango Alluvial Fan by way of the Boteti River. Saline- and drought-tolerant plant species generally line the pan perimeters, with grasslands further removed from the pans.
For most of the year the pans are depauperate in bird numbers, except for ostriches and species such as the Chestnut-banded sand-plover and Kittlitz’s plover (Charadrius pallidus, C. pecuarius). The sole hospitable area to birds during these times is the Nata Delta, which has a permanent water source and a small resident population of waterbirds including grebes (Podiceps spp.), cormorants (Phalacrocorax spp.), ducks and plovers (Charadrius spp.) with a few flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber, Phoeniconaias minor) and pelicans (Pelecanus spp.). The grasslands surrounding the pans support a moderate bird fauna with species such as ostriches, secretary birds (Sagittarius serpentarius), kori bustards (Ardeotis kori), korhaans (Eupodotis spp.), sandgrouse (Pterocles spp.) and francolin (Francolinus spp.) being common. The Hyphaene palms to the west of the pans are nesting sites for, among others, the greater kestrel (Falco rupicoloides) and the palm-nut vulture (Gypohierax angolensis). After good rains the pans are transformed into a vibrant paradise, attracting thousands of waterbirds, most of which come to breed on the pans. Wattled and southern crowned cranes (Grus carunculatus, Balearica regulorum), saddle-billed, marabou and open-billed storks (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Leptoptilos crumeniferus, Anastomus lamelligerus), African fish eagles (Haliaeeetus vocifer), black-necked grebes (Podiceps nigricollis), Caspian terns (Hydroprogne caspia), eastern white and pink-backed pelicans (Pelecanus onocrotalus, P. rufescens), geese and waders such as avocets (Recurvirostra avosetta), black-winged stilts (Himantopus himantopus), plovers, sandpipers and teals (Anas spp.) congregate around the pans. The most spectacular arrival are the greater and lesser flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber and Phoeniconaias minor) that flock to the pans in their thousands.
Most mammalian taxa within the ecoregion inhabit the grasslands surrounding the pans. These include Hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus), Gemsbok (Oryx gazella), Springbok (Antidorcas marsupialis), Steenbok (Raphicerus campestris), Greater kudu (Tragelaphus strepsiceros), Giraffe (Giraffa camelopardus), Burchells zebra (Equus burchelli), Blue wildebeest (Connocheatus taurinus), black-backed jackal (Canis mesomelas), Brown hyaena (Hyaena brunnea), Spotted hyaena (Crocuta crocuta), Lion (Panthera leo), Cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus), Painted hunting dog (Lycaon pictus) and even African bush elephant (Loxodonta africana) along the Boteti River. The Nxai Pan has a sizeable Springbok population and is one of the few places where Springbok and Impala cohabit. These two antelope are normally separated by habitat preference, but the Acacia savanna surrounding Nxai Pan provides the impala with a suitable habitat while the grass covered pan mimics the desert conditions preferred by Springbok.
- A. Campbell. 1990. The nature of Botswana: a guide to conservation and development. IUCN, Harare, Zimbabwe. ISBN: 2880329345
- C.MIchael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund. 2015. Zambezian halophytics. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and Environment. Washington DC
Habitat and Ecology
Life History and Behavior
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
The greater kestrel or white-eyed kestrel (Falco rupicoloides) is a bird of prey belonging to the falcon family Falconidae. It is one of the largest kestrels and is found in open country in southern and eastern Africa.
The plumage of the adult is mainly pale rufous, both above and below. The back, upperwing and flanks are barred with black. The breast has dark streaks and the head is streaked but has no malar stripe unlike the common and lesser kestrels. The rump and tail are grey with black bars; the tail has a white tip. In flight, the whitish underwing contrasts with the darker body. The iris of the eye is whitish, distinguishing the bird from any similar species. The bill is mainly blue-grey and the feet and cere are yellow. Juvenile birds have rufous instead of grey on the tail, streaked flanks and a dark eye.
The bird is 29–37 cm (11–15 in) long with a wingspan of 68–84 cm (27–33 in) The southern subspecies F. r. rupicoloides weighs about 181–334gr (.400–.736 lb). The form F. r. arthuri is smaller, weighing about 165–252gr (.364–.556 lb). The northern subspecies F. r. fieldi is also small and is paler than the others.
The species is usually silent but has a shrill, repeated call.
Habitat and range
It occurs in open, arid areas where it inhabits grassland, savannas and semi-desert. It is often associated with acacias. It prefers areas where the ground cover is lower than 50 cm. It is found from sea-level up to 2150 metres, particularly between 800 and 1800 metres.
It is fairly common and widespread in the southern parts of its range but is scarce and patchily distributed further north. The form F. r. rupicoloides breeds in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, parts of Angola and Zambia and in much of South Africa apart from the wetter regions of the south and east. F. r. arthuri is found in Kenya and northern Tanzania while F. r. fieldi occurs in Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Somalia and probably northern Kenya.
The total range covers about 3.5 million km2. The population is stable and is likely to be in the order of 100,000 to 200,000 pairs. Most birds are sedentary but some are nomadic or dispersive.
The greater kestrel usually hunts from an exposed perch such as a tree or rock. It also hovers like several other kestrels. It feeds mainly on invertebrates such as grasshoppers, termites, beetles and solifugids. It also takes lizards and sometimes small birds, mammals and snakes. It mainly catches prey on the ground. It is attracted to fires where it catches insects and other prey as they flee from the flames. Excess food may be cached underneath vegetation or stones.
The breeding season varies between different regions. In the south it lasts from July to April with a peak between September and December. Breeding takes place in all months in Kenya and Tanzania but is concentrated between April and July. The season lasts from April to August in Somalia.
Greater kestrels use the old nest of another bird for breeding, such as that of a Cape crow or pied crow. A typical site is between 2 and 20 metres above the ground in a tree or sometimes on a telegraph pole or pylon. Two to seven eggs are laid with three or four being most common. They are incubated for 22 to 23 days, mainly by the female. The young birds fledge after 30 to 34 days and remain dependent on their parents for at least 26 days longer.
- Ferguson-Lees, James & Christie, David A. (2001) Raptors of the World, Christopher Helm, London.
- Global Raptor Information Network (2007) Species account: White-eyed Kestrel Falco rupicoloides. Downloaded from http://www.globalraptors.org on 1 Aug. 2007.
- Sinclair, Ian & Ryan, Peter (2003) Birds of Africa south of the Sahara, Struik, Cape Town.
- Zimmerman, Dale A.; Turner, Donald A. & Pearson, David J. (1999) Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania, Christopher Helm, London.