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Guest Post: Monotonous Lark - The Marathon Croaker

Updated: Nov 14, 2019

Hello all

We're absolutely delighted to have, for the first time, a guest writer contributing a blog post on KrugerExplorer!

Respected ornithologist Duncan McKenzie has kindly written this piece on the monotonous lark - a species of bird that is more interesting than its name suggests! - as well as some great shots from his recent visit to Kruger National Park.

We're hoping it will be the first of many guest contributors to the KrugerExplorer blog and so please do contact us if you would be interested in writing something and have a great idea for a theme.

Many thanks for reading and to Duncan for his kind contribution!

Danny & Charlotte



Duncan McKenzie

On a recent trip through central and northern Kruger we were regularly entertained by the comical Monotonous Larks that appeared to be calling from every second bush.

A male monotonous lark 'singing' with white throat extended.

These nomadic LBJs ("little brown jobs") are seasonal visitors to the Lowveld, arriving after the rains have produced a thick, lush layer of grass, breeding, and then vanishing for months or even years again.

Unlike many other birds, they have tiny breeding territories (up to two birds per hectare) so from one location it is possible to hear five or six birds calling at once. Males typically sing (if you can call it that!) from a perch, their white throats extending with each call and a short crest raised. They also frequently fly up to about ten metres high and float down to a perch with their wings held in a V-shape, all the while singing (again, not really musical!)

Their call can be likened to the short calls of distant frogs, a sort of bubbling croak. Repeated often. Like, every few seconds. All day. All night. Every day. Until the poor female relents and they raise a clutch together.

The oft-repeated call can be likened to “the-syrup-is-sweet” or, perhaps more aptly, “just-shut-up-and-eat”! They feed mostly on small invertebrates and seeds and build their nest in a domed grass cup on the ground level.

A juvenile monotonous lark showing the swollen yellow gape typical of recently fledged birds. You can see how close Duncan got to it from the reflection of his truck in its eye!

About the Author

Duncan McKenzie has been obsessed with all aspects of biodiversity, and birds in particular, since a young age. He started off working in various conservation projects in Zululand but swiftly moved across to specialist bird guiding and later to ecological consulting.

Duncan is also a keen photographer, and is a past recipient of BirdLife South Africa’s prestigious Owl Award. He resides in the Lowveld city of Mbombela, South Africa, and is the Mpumalanga Regional Co-ordinator for the Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2.

He has also recently co-authored Birds of Mbombela, a book which is helping to raise funds for the Birdlife Lowveld Birding Club.


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Natalie Broome
Natalie Broome
Jun 02, 2019

Thanks for sharing Duncan - great photos and really interesting to learn about this nomadic bird.

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