Rhinopomastus cyanomelas (Common scimitarbill, Scimitar-billed wood-hoopoe) 

Swartbekkakelaar [Afrikaans]; Musokoto (also applied to Green wood-hoopoe [Kwangali]; Yokoywana (also applied to Green wood-hoopoe) [Tsonga]; Zuidafrikaanse boomhop [Dutch]; Irrisor namaquois [French]; Sichelhopf [German]; Bico-de-cimitarra [Portuguese]

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Rhinopomastus cyanomelas (Common scimitarbill, Scimitar-billed wood-hoopoe)  Rhinopomastus cyanomelas (Common scimitarbill, Scimitar-billed wood-hoopoe) 
Rhinopomastus cyanomelas (Common scimitarbill, Scimitar-billed wood-hoopoe) 

Common scimitarbill male with insect larvae, Mokala National Park, South Africa. [photo Duncan Robertson ].

Top right: Common scimitarbill female, Waterberg, Namibia. [photo Trevor Hardaker ]

Bottom right: Common scimitarbill male. [photo Callie de Wet ]

Rhinopomastus cyanomelas (Common scimitarbill, Scimitar-billed wood-hoopoe) 

Common scimitarbill female on the underside of a branch, South Africa. [photo Peet van Schalkwyk , see also scienceanimations.com]

The Common scimitarbill is a common bird in the top half of southern Africa, living in tropical or subtropical arid woodland, favouring miombo and Mopane trees. It feeds almost exclusively on insects, running up and down trees, probing the bark with its bill. It uses natural or barbet/woodpecker made holes in trees as nests. It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female, for 13-14 days. The chicks fledge at 21-24 days, after which they leave the nest. The fledglings first flight is usually 10-50 m long.

Distribution and habitat

Occurs from Kenya and Tanzania through eastern DRC, Angola, Zambia and Malawi to southern Africa. Within southern Africa it is common in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and northern South Africa. It generally prefers tropical and subtropical arid woodland, favouring miombo (Brachystegia) and Mopane (Colosphermum mopane) trees; it avoids closed canopy woodlands.

Distribution of Common scimitarbill in southern Africa, based on statistical smoothing of the records from first SA Bird Atlas Project ( Animal Demography unit, University of Cape Town; smoothing by Birgit Erni and Francesca Little). Colours range from dark blue (most common) through to yellow (least common). See here for the latest distribution from the SABAP2.  

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Greater honeyguide.

Food 

It feeds almost exclusively on invertebrates, running up and down tree trunks and branches, probing the bark with its bill while using its tail to stabilise itself (see images above).

Breeding

  • Nests in tree cavities, which can be either natural or old woodpecker or barbet nests. They are usually about 30cm deep, with a 4 cm wide entrance. It often competes with Ashy tits, Crested barbets, Acacia pied barbets and Greater Blue-eared Starling for nesting sites. It sometimes uses the same nest site repeatedly over multiple breeding seasons.
  • Egg-laying season is in all months except July-August in Namibia (peak November-March), from August-December in Zimbabwe (peak September-October) and from September-January in South Africa (peak October-November).
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated solely by the female for about 13-14 days.
  • The chicks fledge at 21-24 days old, usually in the morning. Their first flights are often just 10-50m long.

Threats

Not threatened, in fact common in southern Africa.

References

  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG (eds) 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town. 

 

 

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