Namibia is purported to have some of the most beautiful postage stamps in the world. But what’s more fascinating are the stories behind the artful images they depict—plant and animal life, traditional cultures, history and landmark events. Many people are unfamiliar with Namibia—until they visit on our motorcycle safaris and fall in love with it.
This month we honour the Black Eagle and the Dune Lark.
Four large eagle species call Africa home, each specializing in a different ecosystem. The Black Eagle, known officially as Verreaux’s eagle, inhabits mountains, hills, cliffs, and broken rocky areas throughout southern and eastern Africa. Females are larger than males, weighing an average of 4.5 kg, with a wing span of two metres. They’re monogamous and territorial, with pairs forming life-long partnerships.
While their preferred prey is the rock hyrax or dassie, hares, rabbits, small antelopes and medium to large birds are fair game. Like its relatives, the Black Eagle’s nest is a large stick platform lined with green leaves, usually built on a sheer cliff face inaccessible to baboons.
A peculiar natural phenomenon happens at chick hatching time. Generally two eggs hatch, about 2-3 days apart. In what’s been dubbed the Cain and Abel struggle, the first chick attacks and kills the second. The hypothesis is one fit young eagle has a better chance of survival and procreation than two less fit siblings. The second is thus a spare in case the first egg is infertile.
The eagle leaves the nest 95 days after hatching and is chased from the territory 30 days later.
Black Eagle populations have diminished due to habitat degradation and land use changes. Although it’s listed as Near Threatened, its population has remained stable because of its remote mountainous habitat.
In contrast to the large eagle, the Dune Lark is a small desert dweller, and Namibia’s only truly endemic bird species.. It doesn’t drink water, getting what nourishment it needs from seeds and insects, requiring at least 20-30 percent of its diet as invertebrates to survive.
Its highly specialized adaptation to the desert has resulted in unique behaviors—like the hotter the temperature gets, the longer are the bird’s strides.
During the heat of the day, they rest in cool clumps of grass several centimetres above the ground to catch any cooling breezes. This adaptation reduces their heat exposure by up to 17° C and minimizes their water loss to evaporation.
Domed nests, built at the base of a plant with a southeast entrance which creates the best shade and cooling effect for the female and her young.
Source: Stamps and Stories, Vol. 1, 50 Stories on Namibia’s Postal Stamps, Gondwana Collection Namibia, & NamPost, 2012.