Forest birds in a Guinea Savanna: a tale of two forest birds
Birds are one of the most ubiquitous animals. Their ability to fly allows them to be found in all habitats of the world. However, different habitats present different resources and conditions thus, not all birds can be found in every habitat. Different species which are differently adapted to these conditions occupy the most suitable habitats for them and so, "what is good for the goose may not be good for the gander". The Yellowbill (Ceuthmochares aereus) for example is typically a forest-loving bird with its range in Nigeria extending from the rainforest zone to the guinea savanna zone.
Yellowbill (Ceuthmochares aereus) caught in a mist net during a mist-netting session in the Amurum Forest Reserve, Laminga, Jos-East, Plateau State, Nigeria
On 10th October 2006, a group of scientists from the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute (APLORI) reportedly trapped the Yellowbill during a mist-netting session in the Amurum Forest Reserve, Laminga, Jos-East L.G.A. of Plateau State, Nigeria. Its forest counterpart, the Little Greenbul was also trapped on 9th February 2007, 10th March 2007 and 21st March 2011. Amurum Forest Reserve is composed of gallery forests amongst wooded-savannah and rocky outcrops. According to some researchers at APLORI, who have been monitoring birds within the Reserve since 2001, calls of the species have often been heard from the thickets of the gallery forests within the Reserve. The Yellowbill (also known as Blue Malkoha) feeds primarily on insects within thickets in forest edges and disturbed habitats.
The presence of the gallery forest could probably be a reason the Yellowbill and the Little Greenbul are present in the Amurum Forest Reserve. Both birds have previously been recorded at the Kurra Falls forest and Kagoro-Nindam forest, which are about 62 km and 98 km from the Amurum Forest Reserve. Though both forests are disturbed habitats, researchers also believe that rain migrations and post-breeding dispersal of young birds alongside increasing anthropogenic pressures can cause bird movements.
Little Greenbul (Eurillas virens) caught in a mist net during a mist-netting session in the Amurum Forest Reserve, Laminga, Jos-East, Plateau State, Nigeria
Dr. Taiwo Omotoriogun of the Department of Biological Sciences at the Elizade University, Ilara-Mokin, Nigeria believes that the Reserve could be a destination for Yellowbills and Little Greenbuls since the Reserve is a historical range for both species, and birds have the tendency to occupy former ranges. Though the species may eventually suffer from periodic extinction and recolonization, both birds continue to be a beautiful sight to nature.
The Yellowbill stands out, not just because of the beautiful plumage, but also because of its beautiful call. Perhaps, if you pay close attention, you may have these beautiful birds behind your home. You can watch the Yellowbill within the Amurum Forest Reserve as captured on camera by Joseph Afrifa, a nature photographer on 20th May, 2020. This recent sighting further highlights the importance of APLORI’s management of the Amurum Forest Reserve as it continues to ensure that the Reserve remains a safe abode for diverse bird species.
When you visit the Amurum Forest Reserve, be careful not to miss out on the calls of these species within the gallery forests. If you look hard enough, you may find the Yellowbill and Little Greenbul skulking within the gallery forests.
The report was written by Iniunam A. Iniunam and edited by Sam Ivande