Africa is a paradise for birders, and there are numerous bird-watching safaris for amateurs and fanatics to choose from.
Almost 2,500 bird species and 111 bird families have been seen in Africa and its
islands, according to African Bird Club. Topping the list of seven African countries with the largest number of bird species is Democratic Republic of the Congo, with 1139. Here’s the other top African bird nations: Tanzania (1137 species); Kenya (1080 species); Angola (915 species); Nigeria (910 species); Cameroon (908 species); and Ethiopia (816 species).
There’s a jealousy factor surrounding these winged creatures for us humans. They get to see all of Africa’s beauty from any height they please. Here’s is a list of 10 birds that make Africa a bird-watching paradise.
The national bird of Botswana and Kenya, the lilac-breasted roller lacks sexual dimorphism, which means both sexes get to look this sumptuous. Entirely tree-perching, it is found in abundance below the Sahara. These birds are great parents too, known to fight off raptors and larger birds of prey in order to protect their nests. Their diet consists of insects and small lizards.
Sources: thefeaturedcreature.com, krugerpark.co.za, foxnews.com
Nocturnal like all the world’s owls, the spotted eagle owl is South Africa’s most famous hooting night bird. Actually one of the smallest eagle owl species, it likes to perch atop man-made posts such as electric poles or streetlamps, which has led to many owl electrocutions. While their eyes have adapted as a species for dark settings, they still can’t see all that great, so they rely on their keen auditory senses to hunt prey. Hearing a heightened version of rustling rodents with their sharp ears, they use their silent wing flapping to swoop down and pick up unsuspecting prey.
Source: nzg.ac.za, foxnews.com
The cliche of vultures circling patiently overhead, waiting for the person lost in the desert to croak, actually needs to be re-imagined. This species was listed as critically endangered in 2013. The Gyps Africanus is found from South Africa to Senegal, and east to Somalia. Habitat loss, hunting, diminished food sources, and poisoning contribute to this bird’s unfortunate decline.
Source: birdlife.org, foxnews.com
The Cape glossy starling is sometimes referred to as the “oil spill bird” on account of its unique gleam and blue-green, sometimes purple shiny coat. This bird from the Sturnidae family is found twitting around anywhere south of the Democratic Republic of Congo. At 25 centimeters, this is an atypically large version of the starling. The eyes might freak one out a little — big yellow-orange ones with accentuated black pupils. Don’t worry, they only dine on insects.
Sources: en.wikipedia.org, birdforum.net
It’s the flying banana! Take a look at the beak and you’ll know why (perhaps the “flying two bananas?”). Remember Zazu from “The Lion King?” He was a yellow-billed hornbill. Cackling loudly from the trees, hornbills come down to feed on insects, scorpions, lizards, or small rodents. They’re common resident of Southern African countries, accessible to birders and spotted often on safaris or bush adventures. Birders recognize them by a flash of yellow or sometime see a group socializing loudly from the treetops.
Sources: wildlifesouthafrica.com, sabisabi.com
Starting in Guinea, heading east towards Uganda, and south into the Democratic Republic of Congo, this parrot loves the steamy tropics. Unfortunately, it faces extinction. Both sexes are about the same color — light gray, with bright red bellies and undertails. Medium sized, 33 centimeters in height, they feed mostly on fruit and herbs, though sometimes eat insects. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has put out an extinction warning for these birds which are often captured and sold on the international market. Humans like them because they mimic human speech.
Here’s another parrot with a wide color palette. It’s like a rainbow-sherbert bird! This species is concentrated in North Central Tanzania, and is named because of its fiercely monogamous nature with a chosen life partner. Once again, humans screwed it up, capturing thousands of the endangered species in the 1970s. By the 1980s, Fischer was the most popular parrot on the market. Farmers consider them pests. Flocks of hundreds have been known to destroy crops. They are smaller than the grey parrot and not as much of a sociable gabber.
Sources: awf.org, birdchannel.com
The meropidae family of birds has 27 different species, and 20 of them are bee eaters. These adorable little gems are found across the continent and in Asia, Europe, and Australia. Africa’s own blue-breasted bee eater is rich in fuzzy yellows, greens and blues, has round wings, and is truly a connoisseur of bees and wasps, catching them always in mid-flight. To avoid stings, bee eaters repeatedly smack their quarry until its stingers and venom are extracted.
Sources: 10000birds.com, en.wikipedia.org, carolinabirds.org
A little unsightly, a little gawky, but one of nature’s more interesting creations, the marabou stork is found all over Africa, especially in wetland or aquatic areas, or places with lots of garbage south of the Sahara Desert. Standing 1.5 meters tall (almost five feet), they’re named after the soft white feathers all over their bodies. The red-pink pouches under their throats are integral for making mating sounds. They also pant loudly when it’s hot. If there’s a brush fire, you can be sure to see a marabou there, picking at the rodents fleeing in mass numbers. They are mostly scavengers, dining on dead carcasses and such (yum!).
Sources: krugerpark.co.za, animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu
This bird of prey soars above the savannas of sub-Saharan Africa like a boss, swooping down to feed on monkeys and other smallish-sized mammals. Weighing around eight pounds and with a wingspan that can approach six feet, it is a dominant winged creature that can hold court with lions.