Leonard Ncube in Victoria Falls
A RARE bird species is making waves in Victoria Falls with scores of tourists flocking to the resort town to have a glimpse of it.
On Saturday, British Airways and South African Airways, both from Johannesburg, were full when they landed at the Victoria Falls International Airport while a chartered flight was expected as bird watchers flew in to see the pied wheatear and take pictures.
The first group of a dozen tourists arrived in the resort town on Friday after the migratory bird was spotted at the Victoria Falls International Airport on Thursday. Some arrived by road from Botswana after pictures of the bird went viral on social media. The bird, with a dark brown back, black tail, light brown chest and whitish lower part, has been switching positions on the roof of the facility and car park where scores of visitors with big cameras spent the day waiting to take pictures once it emerges.
Mr Charles Brightman of Victoria Falls, who had not returned a Business Chronicle call yesterday after promising to do so, reportedly spotted the bird first and immediately took pictures which he shared on social media.
Birding experts said it is the fourth time the bird species has been seen in Africa after being spotted twice in Botswana in 1984 and in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa, some years ago.
Mr Niall Perrins from Bustard Birding in Johannesburg is one of the people who immediately flew into the country.
“We saw pictures after Mr Gavin Hunt sent them to Trevor in Cape Town and we immediately flew in to see it. This is a rare bird species in southern Africa and this is obviously an exciting moment for bird watchers.
“This type of bird is found in Eastern Europe and Asia and I think this one missed its way and did what’s called reverse migration when others migrated back northwards,” said Mr Perrins.
He said the bird could survive and retrace its route since birds have ‘a campus in their brains.’ Another bird watcher from Victoria Falls, who has been organising accommodation for those arriving in Victoria Falls, Mr Daryl Tiran, said this was an important occasion for those involved in birding. He said the bird was spotted on the day South African bird watchers were celebrating Flufftail Festival in Johannesburg, a festival of bird watching.
Zimbabwe Tourism Authority chief operating officer Mr Givemore Chidzidzi, who was in Victoria Falls on Saturday, said:
“Zimbabwe is endowed with so many resources that we sometimes take for granted of which some of them have potential to attract tourists. Bird watching is a specialised niche market and this is good for us as a country to have people flying in to watch birds. What we have noticed is the power of social media and e-platforms which we should embrace as an industry to appeal to potential tourists out there,” he said.
The pied wheatear is a small migratory songbird with the male and female having very different plumage to one another. In spring, the male has a distinctive white breast and crown, a black face and black wings. In contrast, the female pied wheatear is much duller, with greyish-brown plumage and a white lower breast.
When migrating, experts said, the birds move individually and partner each other during breeding time.