Whenever most people think of a safari, a vision of elephants and giraffes crossing savannah grasslands or lions stalking plains game comes naturally to mind. For Africa is the home of the big game safari. It is also though home to some of the most diverse and abundant birdlife on our planet, from the tiny yet stunning plumage of the Malachite Kingfisher of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, through to the Goliath Heron of Zambia’s Kafue or South Luangwa National Parks. Wherever you travel to in Africa you’ll find interesting species. Here are three areas that we think stand out for keen birders.
Almost 600 bird species have been recorded in Botswana; from the desert landscapes of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve through to the waterways and woodlands of the Okavango Delta, the sheer diversity and density of birdlife is staggering.
The key to this diversity is the wide range of habitats available within Botswana which attract different species at different times of the year. Signature bird species for the key habitats are:
Okavango Delta – Slaty Egret, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Ruffous-Bellied Heron, Wattled Crane, Lesser Jacana and Brown Firefinch.
Riverine –Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Wood Owl, and Tropical Boubou
Kalahari – Montagu’s Harrier, Kori Bustard, Kalahari Scrub Robin, Secretary Bird and Namaqua Sandgrouse
Mopane and Acacia Woodland – White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike, African Golden Oriole, Arnott’s Chat and Crimson-breasted Shrike.
There are also a number of migrant birds that arrive from early September including Southern Carmine Bee-eaters.
Birding in the Kafue and South Luangwa National Parks of Zambia is excellent, given the varied habitats (in many ways not too dissimilar to Botswana) and especially so with the arrival of the migratory birds from September onwards.
Busanga Plains – Wattled Crane, Grey-Crowned Crane, Rosy-throated Longclaw and Fulleborn’s Longclaw
Miombo and Riverine Woodland – Chaplin’s Barbet, Bohm’s Bee-eater, Schalow’s Turacao, Bohm’s Fly-catcher and Racket-tailed Roller.
Mopane Woodland – Lillian’s Lovebird, Meves’s Starling, White-browed Sparrow-Weaver and Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah.
Open River and Sandbanks – African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher and White-crowned Plover
Namibia principally offers birdlife desert and semi-desert habitats, so birding here is not so much about the quantity but the quality with one endemic and twenty near-endemics, which tend to be the focus of birder visiting Namibia although the cold Benguela Current is rich in sea life and yields some interesting sightings.
Namib Desert – Dune Lark (endemic), Burchell’s Courser, Tractrac Chat and Ludwig’s Bustard
Escarpment – Rockrunner, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Bradfield’s Swift and Booted Eagle
Seashore, Tidal Lagoon and Ocean – Damara Tern, Bar-tailed Godwit, African Black Oystercatcher and Pomarine Jaeger.