Jacksonville Zoo’s Cape Thick-knee

Dan and I have been off on a trip to the mountains of Tennessee and made some interesting stops along the way. Haven’t always had an internet connection to be able to post new articles. Put the blog on “auto-pilot” before we left. (PS – We just got home and I thought I released this 2 days ago.)

We stopped at the Jacksonville Zoo in Florida to do some birdwatching. Have lots of photos to go through, but thought I would share a video I took of the Cape Thick-knee, as they call it. One reason I enjoyed these birds is because of the size of their eyes to their heads.  They were so friendly and quite vocal. This is just one of the times they were “sounding off.”

Checked with Wikipedia to see what they say about the Thick-knee. It is actually the Double-striped Thick-knee (Burhinus bistriatus). They are related to the stone-curlews. They are in the Burhinidae Family which has ten species of Thick-knees and Stone-curlews. According to the Chicago Zoo, their Cape Thick-knee is the Double-striped and Wikipedia says it is the Striped Thick-knee. I am not sure if what we saw is the one or two striped bird, so we will call it the Cape.

It is a resident breeder in Central and South America from southern Mexico south to Colombia, Venezuela and northern Brazil. It also occurs on Hispaniola and some of the Venezuelan islands, and is a very rare vagrant to Trinidad, Curaçao and the USA.

This is a largely nocturnal and crepuscular species of arid grassland, savanna, and other dry, open habitats. The nest is a bare scrape into which two olive-brown eggs are laid and incubated by both adults for 25–27 days to hatching. The downy young are precocial and soon leave the nest.

The Double-striped Thick-knee is a medium-large wader with a strong black and yellow bill, large yellow eyes, which give it a reptilian appearance, and cryptic plumage. The scientific genus name refers to the prominent joints in the long greenish-grey legs, and bistriatus to the two stripes of the head pattern.

The adult is about 46–50 cm long and weighs about 780-785 g. It has finely streaked grey-brown upperparts, and a paler brown neck and breast merging into the white belly. The head has a strong white supercilium bordered above by a black stripe. Juveniles are similar to adults, but have slightly darker brown upperparts and a whitish nape.

Double-striped Thick-knee is striking in flight, with a white patch on the dark upperwing, and a white underwing with a black rear edge. However, it avoids flying, relying on crouching and camouflage for concealment. The song, given at night, is a loud kee-kee-kee.

There are four subspecies, differing in size and plumage tone, but individual variation makes identification of races difficult.

The Double-striped Thick-knee eats large insects and other small vertebrate and invertebrate prey. It is sometimes semi-domestcated because of its useful function in controlling insects, and has benefited from the clearing of woodlands to create pasture.

See also:

Burhinidae – Stone-curlews, Thick-knees

Spotted Thick-knee – Wikipedia

Double-striped Thick-knee – Wikipedia

Cape Thick-knee – Chicago’s Brookfield Zoo

Wordless Birds


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