Reedbucks are reddish brown and are 60 to 90 cm (24 to 35 in). There are three recognised species of reedbuck but only two occur in Uganda. Restricted to Kidepo is the mountain reedbuck (Redunca fulvorufula), a grey brown antelope with small crescent-shaped horns and rarely spotted. The very similar Bohor reedbuck (Redunca redunca) is more widespread, occurring in all four savanna national parks, Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls, Kidepo Valley and Lake Mburo National Parks. Both reedbuck species are usually seen in pairs in open country near water, with the mountain reedbuck occurring at higher altitudes.
Bohor Reedbuck (Redunca redunca)
The bohor reedbuck is a medium-sized antelope. This sturdily built antelope has a yellow to grayish-brown coat. Generally, the bohor reedbuck is yellower than other reedbucks. The large and diffuse sebaceous glands present on the coat make the coat greasy and give it a strong odor. Juveniles are darker than the adults as well as long-haired. The undersides are white in color. A few distinct markings can be observed—such as a dark stripe on the front of each foreleg; white markings under the tail; and a pale ring of hair around the eyes and along the lips, lower jaw, and upper throat.
However, redunca redunca lacks dark stripes on its forelegs. The males have thicker necks. Its large, oval-shaped ears distinguish it from other antelopes. There is a round bare spot below each ear. Apart from sebaceous glands, bohor reedbuck have a pair of inguinal glands and vestigial foot glands, and four nipples.
A bohor reedbuck can survive for at least ten years. The tracks of the bohor reedbuck are slightly smaller than those of the southern reedbuck.
Southern reedbuck (Redunca arundinum)
Redunca arundinum is the largest of the three reedbuck species. On average, males weigh about 68 kg and females weigh about 48 kg. Animals range in length from 134 to 167 cm. Color in southern reedbucks is extremely variable. They can have a light yellowish brown to a gray brown coat. They have a white underside and chin with light tan streaks on the sides of the head and white rings around the eyes. There are white and black markings on the forelegs. The tail is bushy with a fluffy, white underside.
Only males have horns, which emerge around the sixth month of life. The horns are strongly ridged, growing to be 30 to 45 cm in length, and form a “V”. As described by Nowak (1995), they jut from the head first pointing backwards gently, then curve upward and extend out at the tip. There is a bare glandular spot in both males and females below the ears.
Reedbucks are semi-gregarious. During the wet season, when food and water are abundant, reedbucks can be found in pairs, in small family groups (male, female, and young), or singly. During the winter months, when food and water become scarce, it is extremely rare to find a solitary reedbuck. In pairings, females initiate movements around territories. Though they are more social and may form temporary aggregations during the dry season, during the wet season territories are formed and defended.
When a male approaches females in another males’ territory, an upright posture is presented. Also a slow and deliberate approach leads to either immediate surrender or attack. If the other male does not back off, these physical confrontations can lead to head butting and a display of pushing and shoving with the horns. Eventually one of the males will jump away and the other will strut and display an upright posture, signifying its dominance.
Territories are not well defined and may overlap. Marking occurs by using inguinal glands to scent a landmark. Auditory and visual markings includes pronking, whistling, and displaying a proud posture. The last marking is called horning. This includes rubbing horns and head across vegetation, soil, and shrubs in the vicinity.
A loud whistle is sounded in cases of surprise, fear, and greeting. The whistle is made by expelling air out of the nostrils. During friendly whistling, the reedbucks head is erect, ears point forward, and the tail hangs freely. During a call of surprise or fear, the reedbuck either stands very still with ears and head erect, or plonks violently hoping to scare off the intruder which it normally cannot see. While jumping or plonking there is often a popping noise that is heard that seems to come from the inguinal region which releases and scent marker.