I first got acquainted with the Cape Rockjumpers when they were announced by BirdLife South Africa as Bird of the Year 2021. Even though I’ve always been fond of birds, and even painted a number of species, my recent spark of enthusiasm in birding was still in its infancy, and the Rockjumper was a welcome introduction. When I became aware of these beautiful rufous little bounces of energy, I was immediately captured not only by their reddish-brown beauty, but also by their lively character. There is a certain curiosity and determination shining through their eyes. The striking colouration of their luscious plumage got me tingling to pick up my brush.
This strikingly recognisable species gained its status for the year as it is an ambassador of South Africa’s unique Fynbos kingdom. They are endemic to the cooler mountain fynbos region of South Africa. These ground-nesting birds are often seen running or jumping over the rocks to forage, and just as quickly completely disappear somewhere between the rocks. Birdwatchers travel from abroad to come see them along with other endemic species, making them an economic asset to the country.
They are quite vulnerable to heat stress, especially the juvenile birds, as they have an interesting physiological strategy of water-loss to stay cool. Consequently, they are sensitive to climate change. Their ground-nesting habits have them at increasing risk of predators. All these factors threaten their existence with habitat loss. The Cape Rockjumper has been classified as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
In the painting the male and female birds are portrayed in their natural environment. They are perched on sandstone rocks, nestled in between fynbos species. The male is in a way taking a stance, its chirp an urgent outcry to draw attention to their threatened position.
In an attempt to increase awareness of the Cape Rockjumper, and to promote their conservation, a percentage of sales of the artwork prints will be donated to BirdLife South Africa and their conservation efforts. A limited edition of 20 high quality, certified prints are now available and will directly contribute to the protection of this precious species.
A word of thanks to photographer Michael Buckham for the use of his photographic material in compiling this composition.
Cape Rockjumpers – The Outcry. 2021. Watercolour on Fabriano Artistico Extra White. 345 mm x 265 mm.
Bird of the year 2021. https://www.birdlife.org.za/bird-of-the-year-2021/ Accessed 8/02/2021.
Media releases. Bird of the year 2021. https://www.birdlife.org.za/media-and-resources/media-releases/Accessed 28/11/2020.