Rubugari, SW Uganda. February 2016. One of my tasks while I’m here is to seek out Bakiga folklore and mythology related to birds. So far it’s surprised me to find relatively little; I would have thought that people who live so close to the land would have many tales to tell. There are a few: a noisy bird, the Hadada Ibis, is said to embody the soul of a baby trying to escape from an unlucky transformation. It cries a penetrating and mournful ‘Wa-aaaaaaa!’ as it flies. The presence of an African Pied Wagtail alongside you as you cultivate the fields is a happy sign, it ensures a good harvest to follow. The hollow-gulping call of a Blue-headed Coucal means rain is on the way. (Not infallible, it didn’t rain when we saw and heard my first one.)
I would have thought the sunbirds would carry more meaning. Sunbirds are glorious glittering show offs (the males anyway, I suppose the females are too busy toiling in the fields). Where the New World has hummingbirds, Africa has Sunbirds. As I type this a Bronze Sunbird is working over the flowers of a nearby Flame Tree. The Bronze Sunbird is actually one of the less showy ones being an iridescent bronzy-green (as you might expect) all over, it has a needlessly long tail and in common with all sunbirds a down-curved sickle bill. Just yesterday in the company of several enthusiastic members of a birding club we found two breathtakingly spectacular sunbirds: Regal Sunbird, splashed and daubed in red, orange, yellow, and iridescent blues, violets and greens, it had our group gasping. And not far away, a Purple- breasted Sunbird sat out in the open, another long- tailed creature but this one was dressed all over in purple, blue or violet depending on how the sun caught it.
Here is a gallery of selected sunbird shots. It’s visible only on the website, not if you’re reading this as an email.