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Ladies First

The Brown-throated Wattle-eye (Platysteira cyanea) is a delightful warbler-sized bird of closed-canopy forest. More often than not, its clear, descending whistle call – or grating alarm notes – are heard before the bird itself comes into view. These are terrific birds to watch as they are forever busy – moving up and down vines, launching out to snap up flying insects or gleaning the underside of leaves. Very often, they join mixed feeding flocks – a gang of unrelated insectivores that move through the forest together – flushing prey and eating as they go. They are also among the first on the scene when an owl needs to be mobbed.

The purpose of the fleshy lipstick-red eye-wattles is not known, but they probably have some role in courtship display. Unusual among birds, the species’ English name refers to a trait of the female rather than the male. Finally, some gender equality in bird nomenclature!

I watched this pair while exploring small forest patches on the Oloololo escarpment in western Kenya with Tyler Davis of Angama Mara.

Angama Mara, Maasai Mara, Kenya, February 2015

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