The many faces of the red-billed quelea - Namibia Safari and Lodges - Gondwana Collection

COVID-19. Status quo in Namibia.

It is with regret that Gondwana Collection Namibia has learnt that the COVID-19 virus has reached Namibia. On 14 March 2020, President Hage Geingob confirmed the first two cases. On 17 March, the President declared a state of emergency.

On 24 March 2020, the additional measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak have been announced. They include a lockdown of the Khomas and Eronogo regions from 27 March until 16 April 2020. For regulations and guidelines please click here

Gondwana is fully aware of the current situation and continues to monitor the spread of the virus and the resulting changes to our industry. In view of the state of emergency and the additional measures ordered by the government, employees at Gondwana House in Windhoek will be working from home. Due to international and regional travel restrictions Gondwana has reduced its operations at the lodges as far as possible. Most employees have been sent home, at full pay. 

The Ministry of Health has made availability for a toll-free phone number within Namibia for queries with regards to COVID-19. The toll-free number is 800-100-100 or alternatively 911.

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Where the Namib Desert stretches languidly from the Atlantic Ocean and wild land extends into infinity, dreams become real. At this place where fantasy meets reality, you'll find the Gondwana Collection safely positioned.

Take our outstretched hand and let us introduce you to our extraordinary country, Namibia. From the massive chasms of the Fish River Canyon, the fossilised dunes of the Namib Desert and the red sands of the Kalahari Desert to the waterways of the Kavango and Zambezi, there are countless marvels to behold. Explore this awe-inspiring wilderness from the warmth of our lodges, created with conservation cognizance and ample character. And return to relax after an exciting day of discovery.

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The many faces of the red-billed quelea

Avatar of inke inke - 12. February 2018 - Environment

The varying faces of the red-billed quelea: (above left) male and female birds in winter; (above 2nd from left) a female with a yellow-orange bill during the breeding season; (above 3rd from left) a female with a pinkish bill. The remaining pictures show the many colour variations in males.

Dirk Heinrich

They often appear in huge flocks and descend on waterholes like a cloud. In their thousands they invade fields and destroy harvests – from Senegal across to Ethiopia and down to southern Africa, where vast swarms are on the move in search of food and for nesting. They are the largest population of a single bird species on the planet. Experts estimate their numbers at 1500 billion birds after a breeding season. We are talking about the red-billed quelea. 

Not only are their tremendous numbers extraordinary but also their many different faces. During winter males and females are equally inconspicuous: greyish brown with a crimson bill and white eyebrow stripes. In summer, however, the picture changes dramatically. While the females keep their greyish brown plumage and white eyebrow stripes, their bill turns yellow-orange. Males usually have a black facial mask which covers the forehead and cheeks and via the lores runs down to the throat. The head and collar are pink or cream and sometimes ochre-coloured or orange. In other males the mask is white or brownish-black. Or the head is cream-coloured and the throat is pink. Some have white cheeks with their rosy head and collar. The rest of the body is covered in brown, grey and white feathers while the wings are dark brown. The striking crimson bill does not change in male birds during the breeding season. 

Unusually large numbers of red-billed queleas changing into their breeding plumage can be seen in Windhoek at present. During the winter months (June and July) and until the first rains towards the end of last year residents observed enormous flocks of the birds heading for the Kleine Kuppe, Auasblick, Akademia and Olympia residential areas to spend the night in the leafy trees of numerous gardens. The noise of thousands of them loudly twittering and chirping caused a disturbance for quite a few Windhoekers until shortly after dark, when suddenly all fell quiet. The next morning the birds took off at first light, to return in the evening.  

In the middle of December last year red-billed queleas chose the Gondwana Collection’s Damara Mopane Lodge as their roosting site. Initially some guests complained about the chirping birds but now they mostly show understanding for the feathered visitors which are likely to disappear after the first good rainfalls in the area.

A red-billed quelea, which was ringed on a farm east of Rehoboth two years ago, was shot eight months later by a subsistence farmer in a pearl millet field near Oshakati in the north of the country (647 km as the crow flies). Quite a few years ago the ornithology team of what was then the SWA Scientific Society received a letter from a teacher in Malawi saying that he had found a red-billed quelea ringed near Dordabis. Last year red-billed queleas bred on farms north of Wilhelmstal. The breeding colony covered several hectares.

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