Brave little Spotted Thick-Knee defending its nest

January 4, 2019


The Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis) can reach up to 45.5 cm in height. Its long yellow legs have an expanded or thickened tibiotarsal, giving it it’s common name – Thick-knee.

The brown-and-white speckled plumage provides excellent camouflage, making it difficult to spot the bird in its habitat. During the day you will mostly find this bird squatting close to the ground hiding as they are nocturnal. It has a large head with large bright yellow eyes that assist it to see well at night. It has a stout beak used to catch insects, small mammals and lizards that it hunts exclusively on the ground.

The Thick-Knee nests on the ground. It creates a scrape in the dirt and lines it with, feathers, pebbles and twigs. The female typically lays two eggs with a two day interval between the two. The eggs are extremely well camouflaged and look just like stones. The eggs are marked with various shades of brown and grey dabs on a pale, stone coloured background. Both the males and females rear the chicks together. The birds are fearless and will aggressively defend the nest and adopt a characteristic defensive pose with wings spread and tail cocked (as above) and will even peck an intruder if given the opportunity. At the same time, they intimidate the threat with a distinct shrieking call. Thick-knees are also known to successfully fake injuries to lead predators away from their nests.

Text and Photographs: Raquel de Castro Maia