Quelea bait balls

Pamushana | August 2017

Red-billed quelea (Quelea quelea) are the most abundant bird on earth, with the total post-breeding population sometimes peaking at an estimated 1½ billion individuals. Their breeding season finished in early May and only straggly remnants of nests remain in the 20 km long breeding colonies. Now millions of beaks are searching for seeds daily, and it is a spectacle to see them come and drink from the river at dusk. They fly in such dense flocks – like a bait ball – and swoop over the water to snatch a sip. The flock formation is instinctual behaviour and a defence mechanism, as lone individuals are more likely to be caught by a predator than an individual in a large group.

This male lion found the noise of the tiny birds all too much and pretend to be asleep – although every now and again his tail would belie his nonchalance with an annoyed flick.