African Finfoot by Eric Stockenstroom

African Finfoot

The African Finfoot or Watertrapper, (Podica senegalensis) is a very rare and vulnerable bird species.  The Afrikaans name for the African Finfoot is “Watertrapper”.


The iris is brown.  The bill bright red, darker on culmen.  The legs are distinctive, and legs and feet are coloured bright red, brown at back. The head is blue-grey in males, and grey in females.


The African Finfoot is about the size and shape of a large cormorant.  The Finfoot has a white stripe from behind the eye down the side of the neck and has large lobed toes.  When in the water, the long tail is held flat on the water and it sits “low” in the water.


Sharp skwak like two blocks of wood knocked together; bull-like roaring alarm note; flute-like pay-pay; duck-like barking kwark; loud bill-snapping by females during display.


Southern and Eastern coastal regions, parts of Natal, Mpumalanga, Gauteng and the Northern Province.


Quiet reaches of streams, rivers, especially where these have a fringe of dense trees, and bush which sweeps or hands into the water.


Finfoot are usually solitary or found in pairs and are quite shy and retiring.  When disturbed, the bird splashes into the water and flutters, pattering along the surface.  It will dive when wounded or chased, but when alarmed will submerge its body, leaving only the head and neck exposed.

The Finfoot flies strongly if pursued, and hides in vegetation and sometimes comes out onto logs, rocks or the shoreline to preen.  It runs swiftly on land, sometimes lifting one or both wings.

Finfoot forage by working along the banks of streams, picking food off plants and the water surface,  It may even forage on on land and climb into vegetation using its clawed toes and wing digit.

At night it roosts on branches overhanging the water. The female displays by raising alternate wings and snapping her bill.


The diet of the African Finfoot includes Insects, spiders, crabs, snails, frogs, small fish and snakes.


African Finfoot generally breeds between September to March, but may start in August, and continue into April. They produce a clutch of one or two eggs only.  The eggs are pale buffy green, streaked and blotched with brown, red and purple.


Gordon Lindsay Maclean: Roberts’ Birds of Southern Africa, Sixth Edition. 1993.

Photographed in the Reserve by Eric Stockenstroom and Gavin Orbel.