The Rock Pratincole is a small dark pratincole with short wings. It is easily identified by its red, black-tipped beak, red legs, and white nuchal collar extending rearward from the eyes. In flight the white rump is diagnostic.
It is an uncommon intra-African summer migrant. Every year, it migrates south from central Africa to its breeding sites on the Zambezi and Chobe Rivers in August as the annual floods recede, exposing the rocks in the rapids and islands. It is believed that about 2,000 birds make the annual migration to the upper Zambezi breeding grounds, and around Lake Kariba, and about 12 breeding pairs will make the Kasane Rapids their breeding home each year. The Rock Pratincoles leave by December-January, however, as the the water levels start to rise, forcing the birds to return to the tropical regions of central Africa.
Rock Pratincoles are monogamous breeders and lay two eggs, which are incubated by both parents. The eggs hatch after 20 days, and the chicks will fledge after a further 20 to 30 days.
Each breeding pair will nest solitarily on an individual rock. On larger rock islands, up to 20 pairs may be found, with several meters separating nesting pairs. They definitely like their privacy. The nests are generally in a depression or crevice in the rock, and shade – or at least the option of shade – for a large portion of the day is important. Often, Rock Pratincoles will sit in the full sun all day, without seeking shade, making them a relatively easy subject to photograph.
Rock Pratincoles hunt for flying insects in the early morning and late afternoon over the river or surrounding vegetation.
As a passenger on the Zambezi Voyager, you will have access to your own tender boat and river guide, almost guaranteeing you sightings and unique photo opportunities.
By viewing these beautiful birds from the water we can get close enough to them to obtain very satisfactory images with lenses as short as 200mm.