Setting traps for birds

Setting traps for birds is done by luring them by a food bait into a trap which will grab them as they try to eat. Birds can even be killed by the trap. This is the explanation given by Mr. Mkhize of B section, Umlazi.


1 The person consulted
2 Who plays this game?
3 What equipment is used to play this game?
4 When is this game played?
5 Trapping by a noose-trap
6 Setting a fall trap/poised stone
7 Trapping with bird-lime
8 Trapping guinea-fowls
9 Custom associated with this game
10 Source

The person consulted
The researcher spoke to Mr. E A Mkhize who gave different ways of trapping birds which will be discussed hereunder. Mr. Mkhize said that a termite was one of the items used as bait for bird-traps. Boys would dig up the ant-hill. From this ant-hill they will get the termite’s eggs which are white-like substances. These were spread over the trap. If they have use the poised stone (fall-trap), these eggs will be placed beneath the stone. When birds arrived, they are lured into the fall trap trying to eat the termite’s eggs.
Mr. E A Mkhize said that a sinew is a strong string used in the bird-traps. Sometimes the strong fibre of the tail was used. This is found in a horse’s or a cow’s tail and used by boys to make a string for bird-traps.

Who plays this game?
This game is played by boys starting from 6 years upwards.

What equipment is used to play this game?
Boys gathered bird-lime, food eaten by birds, thin strings, snare, bird-trap, and loose grains as the people of Qwabe dialect will say.

When is this game played?
This game is played during the day throughout the year.

Trapping by a noose-trap
A noose trap refers to sticks stuck in the ground very close to each other making it difficult for a bird to escape. These sticks are placed in a circle shape. Explanation about this game was given by Mr. Mkhize who lives at Umlazi B section but was born at eMachunwini, uMsinga.

The noose trap was set in the forest where there is undergrowth. The sticks formed a kraal-shape with a gate of some sort. The sticks were placed very close to each other so that the bird will find it difficult to escape. There was only one gate/opening to the trap so that there will only be one entrance and exit point. Inside the sticks boys would place birds’ favourite food such as grains and termites. At the opening, a strong stick was placed. A string would be tied to this stick so that if a bird comes the string will tie it to the trap until the boys arrive.

Setting a fall trap/poised stone
A stone was used propped up by a stick and a grain tied to it with a string. As the bird tries to eat the grain the stone will fall onto it and it will be trapped in that way. Mr. Mkhize gave an explanation of all the methods of the bird-trapping games.

When the boys use a fall trap, a flat medium-sized stone was used. A hard stick was used to prop up the stone. A string with a hook was tied to the stick supporting the stone. It is the stone that is called a fall trap. Beneath the stone the boys will sprinkle bird food such as termites or grains. There is a certain bird, the long-tailed Namaqua dove which when coming across a fall trap would inspect it carefully and then fly off. People said that this bird was probably saying to itself as it inspected the trap “Who has ever seen a stone supported by a stick” then it would fly off. As a result people have coined a proverb saying “Itshe limi ngothi Nkombose kababa” (A stone is supported by a stick my brother – literally).This means that a person must watch out because danger is looming, so he must not find himself in trouble.

Trapping with bird-lime
Bird-lime is a sticky fluid found in certain types of trees. Boys would chip off the barks of the tree to get the bird-lime. Mr. Mkhize of Umlazi gave this explanation.

Mr. T Ngema claims that the bird-lime is produced by scrubby mimosa trees. To extract the bird-lime the boys had to chop the tree, strip he bark and very sticky liquid will come out. It is this sticky liquid which is called bird-lime and used to trap birds. The boys will pour bird lime over the area where birds usually eat so that their feet will be stuck as they try to eat thus unable to fly off and the boys will find them stuck to the bird-lime. Body would even sprinkle birds’ favourite food such as termites, wheat grain, maize or mealie meal over the bird-lime in order to attract birds and therefore trap them.

Trapping guinea-fowls
Guinea-fowls are large birds almost the size of chicken. These birds are beautifully coloured in grey with black spots. Mr. T Ngema gave an explanation about guinea-fowls.

Guinea-fowls have a particular spot they like the most to eat from. Around homesteads this spot will be where sorghum is kept. These birds eat grains which remain after threshing corn. Boys used very strong sticks, sharpened these and would stick them firmly in the ground. They would then tie a strong string around these. On this string a maize grain, which is hollow inside in order to make a hole, was tied. This was done so that when the guinea-fowl tried to eat this grain, it will not be able to swallow it and will struggle until it dies.

Custom associated with this game
Trapping birds is customary among Africans because even the old man used to go out and trap birds when ritual for a deceased male was to be performed.

From a Masters dissertation by Victoria Mkhize for the School of IsiZulu, University of KwaZulu-Natal. Supervised by Professors P.J. Zungu and V. Prabhakaran.

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