In early January 2013 John Fincham found Red-billed Queleas with nests while atlassing on a farm north of Malmesbury, Western Cape, South Africa. This quelea is a pest species of small grain crops, like wheat, and the quelea is expanding its range into the Western Cape. There has been one confirmed breeding event near Worcester in 2009 (see here), although there are probably many small breeding colonies in the Western Cape that have not been detected.
To investigate the recent event further, John Fincham, Barry and Sue Schultz and myself spent 18-19 January on Vyevlei dairy farm to ring quelea and observe the nests. Two 18m nets were placed in the reeds on Saturday late afternoon and Sunday morning. We were surprised at the relatively large number of African Reed Warblers caught.
Numbers of birds ringed in 2 sessions:
| Lesser Swamp Warbler
| African Reed Warbler
| Cape Robin Chat
| Cape Sparrow
| Cape Weaver
| Southern Masked Weaver
| Red-billed Quelea
| Southern Red Bishop
The quelea were roosting in the reeds of a river running past the dairy operations where the quelea could feed on the cattle feed. 87 quelea were ringed but there may have been 100-200 present. Interestingly, most quelea were adult males, although some females and immature birds were ringed. There were at least 100 nests in the reeds, but all were non-breeding nests and no females had brood patches. Thus there was no active breeding, but breeding could possibly start in the next few weeks.
If you find quelea breeding in the Western Cape, please report this to the ADU.
Thanks to Johan de Wet for allowing us to camp and ring on his farm!