Birds and beliefs in Zululand

Intsingizi (Southern Ground-Hornbill)
Intsingizi is the bird that is hardly seen flying around and when it is seen, certain beliefs will start flowing in the minds of people.

The Zulu communities strongly believe that intsingizi is a bird that has the power to bring down rain. When it appears the people of the community will expect heavy rains.

Zulu hunters respected this bird and they would never kill it because it could rain non-stop. Especially if it was killed and thrown into the river. This instruction was also given to young hunters.

The feathers of the intsingizi were respected and it was believed that if one throws it into the river it could rain for a week or more. It is a bird that hardly sits on green trees but instead it prefers dry trees.

Uthekwane (Hamerkop)
This is a bird that is famous for living next to the water (river). It would make its nest on a tree that is right next to the water. It is famous for using the water in the river of dam as it mirror.

A famous Zulu song that relates to this bird says:
“Nanguya uthekwane ezibuka emfuleni, ezitshela ukuthi muhle kanti cha, woniwa yileli qhuzu elisemva kwakhe.”
(There is Hamerkop looking at herself on the river believing that she is beautiful but no, she is not, it is the bump behind her head that spoils her beauty).

The extraordinary power that this bird possesses is the power to burn. It believed that if one abuses or even destroys a hamerkop nest, their home will burn down within one day. This has occurred many times and as a result uthekwane is highly respected by Zulu hunters and fishermen.

Isikhova (The Owl)
This is a very notorious bird within the Zulu community it is closely associated to witchcraft. It is a bird that only appears at night and there is no Zulu individual who will be happy to have this bird sitting on his or her roof or within their property.

When this bird is sitting within one’s premises at night it is believed that it is sent by somebody to perform witchcraft. When it is within somebody’s premises it would a make noise. When the owl makes this noise family members are advised not to go out of the house and try to stop it.

The Zulus will refer to this bird as ‘inyoni yabathakathi‘ (the bird that belongs to those who perform witchcraft).

Written by Ntokozo Tshapa

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