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birding safaris in africa | africa birding tours and holidays

Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays

Africa is a fantastic continent for a bird watching holiday, with the wide range of habitats offering such a diverse bird population. The range is vast, with montane and lowland forests, wetlands, savannahs, deserts and coastlines on both the Atlantic and Indian Ocean. With a range of African and country-specific endemics, as well as the many migrant birds which come to ‘winter’ in the southern hemisphere, bird-watching in Africa is packed full of variety.

Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays

Africa is rich in birding opportunities, for beginners and professionals alike. The Albetine or Western Rift for example, that extends from Lake Albert south to lakes Tanganyika and Kivu is rich with endemic birds, while Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda & Ethiopia contain a high percentage of all the endemic species that occur in Africa.

Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays

Bird watching in Kenya

Kenya is rightfully described as “All of Africa in One Country” and it is exactly that – it is a fact that Kenya enjoys some of the world’s greatest environmental spectacles, resulting in an unparalleled number of species of both birds and mammals.

From the world’s biggest bird, the Ostrich, to spectacular flamingos that congregate in their thousands at some lakes in the Great Rift Valley, often camouflaging them in pink, Kenya holds some remarkable birding sights that you have to see to believe. With eleven per cent of the world’s species – some 1089 different varieties, Kenya’s birding is still one of the best in the world.  It is not unusual for birding trips to record over 500 different species on a short trip, or to record more than 120 at a particular site on any single day!

The variety of birds in Kenya is made possible by its favorable climate, diverse habitats and geographical features that also provide a suitable ‘stop-over’ for the many thousands of migratory birds. Even without venturing outside of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, where more than 500 bird species have been recorded (more than in any other capital city and more than some countries) can be a rewarding experience.

Bird watching is good all year round in Kenya. The rainy seasons of April-May and November-December coincide with the migration of birds from Europe and Asia, and many of the ‘big-day’ totals have been recorded at that time. Migrants make up about ten per cent of Kenya’s total birdlife, while spectacular birds of the bush such as guineafowl, go-away birds, rollers, starlings and weavers to mention but a few are present all year round.

To see some of Kenya’s rarest endemic and unfortunately endangered birds, the bird enthusiast needs to seek out forests or highland grasslands tucked away amid various settlement and agricultural schemes. The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest near Malindi tops the list, with six seriously threatened bird species: the Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, Spotted Ground Thrush, East Coast Akalat, Amani Sunbird and Clarke’s Weaver.

Some other areas including forest “islands”  such as those in the Taita Hills, near Voi, are home to the beautiful but critically endangered Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis, as well as the endangered Taita White-eye.

Sharpe’s Longclaw and Aberdare Cisticola, endemic and endangered, occur in the highland grasslands near the Aberdare Mountains. In western Kenya, the Kakamega Forest is a relict patch of Guineo-Congolian rainforest in Kenya, and among the many rainforest species found there are some spectacular turacos and hornbills, also the tiny, endangered Turner’s Eremomela. Elsewhere, the scarce and threatened Papyrus Yellow Warbler can be found in papyrus swamps along the shores of Lake Victoria, alongside the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Canary, all papyrus endemics.

Kenya is a prime destination for a birdwatching holiday, with its unparalleled range of hotels and lodges to meet all budgets, a well-established road and rail network, prime natural habitats, a variety of climates and landscapes, and the third highest number of bird species in the whole of Africa.

Between October and February many Palearctic migrants ‘winter’ along Kenya’s coastal and inland shorelines. Many swallows, terns, plovers and waders can be found during this time; while between June and August most weavers and bishops are in their full breeding plumage, and some Southern African migrants can also be seen.

Kenya’s national parks make excellent centres for bird watching in Kenya – the Maasai Mara from the majestic Ground Hornbill to the spectacular Rosy-breasted Longclaw and Magpie Shrike; the Samburu and Shaba reserves for the rare White-headed Mousebird, Williams’s and Masked Larks; and Nairobi for the Northern Pied Babbler and African Finfoot.  Kenya’s handful of endemic birds include Jackson’s Francolin, Aberdare Cisticola, Hinde’s Babbler, Williams’s Lark, Sharpe’s Longclaw, Taita Thrush and Clarke’s Weaver.

Such a diverse range of national parks and reserves supports a great diversity of bird species, and makes any bird watching holiday in Kenya so very rewarding!

Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays

Bird watching in Tanzania

Tanzania is a true wilderness – over a quarter of this magnificent country is dedicated to incredibly wild and beautiful national parks and reserves. With a range of endemic bird species, Tanzania is a great location for a bird watching holiday. A tremendous amount of ornithological research has been carried out here in the past twenty years, which has hugely increased the information and resources for bird watching in Tanzania. Come for great endemics, near-endemics and speciality birds. The changes suggested by on-going research make listing the exact number of endemics rather difficult. Some sources suggest around 26, while others who prefer to split sub-species will suggest as many as 34. A selection of their spectacular endemic birds include the Udzungwa Forest Partridge, Uluguru Bush Shrike, Mrs Moreau’s Warbler, Loveridge’s and Rufous-winged Sunbirds, the Kilombero and Usambara Weavers, not to forget the four very special endemics to be found on Pemba Island (Green Pigeon, Scops Owl, Sunbird and White-eye).

Birding in Tanzania is not only recommended for endemism; over 1100 species have been recorded here and birders in Tanzania will love the range of environments and the sheer variety of birds to be seen on a safari holiday.

Our Northern Tanzanian migration safari blends the very best that is East Africa. The forests, lakes and savannahs of East Africa teem with birds, including a number of Serengeti specialities, but we will also focus on mammals as we have timed this tour to coincide with the great Wildebeest migration through the central Serengeti, where you will stand a good chance of finding many of the region’s predatory cats too.

Our exclusive Migration Safari will let you experience the integral and complete wonders of Tanzania.

Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays

Bird watching in Ethiopia

Often called “The Roof of Africa”, Ethiopia is one of the continent’s top birding destinations. The extensive highlands, which dominate most of the country, are bisected by the Rift Valley, and fall away to arid desert and bush country in the north, south and east, and to moister Guinea woodland in the west. Its avifauna represents an interesting mixture of East and West African, Palearctic and some strikingly unusual endemic components. In addition to more than 800 species of birds, 30 species are confined to this dramatic region.

Much of the highlands are under subsistence agriculture, but there still exist considerable tracts of Afro-alpine shrubland and pockets of Afromontane forest. For birders, the most popular access to really high altitude is the Bale Mountains National Park. Here the highest all-weather road in Africa crosses the Sanetti plateau (4377m) and allows easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands and lakes. Highland endemics such as Spot-breasted Plover and Rouget`s Rail occur alongside spectacular giant lobelias and Ethiopian wolves. The highlands also offer a number of species not found elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle and Red-billed Chough. Other more widespread highland endemics include Blue-winged Goose, Wattled Ibis, Thick-billed Raven, White-billed Starling, Abyssinian Longclaw, White-winged Cliff Chat and Black-headed Siskin.

Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays

Ethiopian forest endemics, accessible at such forest patches as those at Wondo Genet (central highlands) and Debre Libanos (northern highlands) include Yellow-fronted Parrot, Black-winged Lovebird, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher, Abyssinian Black-headed Oriole, Banded Barbet, and in Juniper-Hagenia forest at higher altitude, such as at Dinsho or near Robe in the Bale mountains, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Catbird, White-cheeked Turaco and the Abyssinian Woodpecker. Other forest species particularly worthy of mention are Ayres’s Hawk Eagle and Abyssinian Ground-Thrush.

In the south of the country, high diversity and endemicity combine to offer absolutely superb birding. Highly sought-after specialties include the endemic Prince Ruspoli`s Turaco, White-tailed Swallow, Stresemann’s Bush Crow, Sidamo and Degodi Larks as well as a number of dry country species shared with far northern Kenya and Somalia, such as Vulturine Guineafowl, African White-winged Dove, Red-naped Bush Shrike, Somali Long-billed Crombec, Yellow-vented Eremomela and the Juba Weaver.

In the far west of the country, along the Sudanese border, low-lying plains are cloaked with moister woodland supporting an avifauna quite unlike that of the rest of the country. It seems somewhat West African in character, and specials include Egyptian Plover, Black Scimitarbill, the Levant Sparrowhawk (a rare winter migrant), Little Green and Red-throated Bee-eaters, Gambaga Flycatcher, Pygmy Sunbird, Black-rumped Waxbill, Black-faced and Bar-breasted Firefinches ,Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Brown-rumped Bunting and Green-backed Eremomela.

Yet another Ethiopian endemic – the Thick-Billed Raven.

The birding is relatively easy while very diverse. The scenery forms one of Africa’s most dramatic backdrops alongside fascinating cultures and a variety of unique mammals such as Gelada Baboon, Mountain Nyala and the critically endangered Ethiopian Wolf. This makes for a top birding tour with a great all-round experience.

Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays

Bird watching in Uganda and Rwanda

A bird-watching trip to Uganda will include Bwindi-Impenetrable, Kibale, Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks, to look for such specialties as the Shoebill, White-naped Pigeon, Rock Pratincole, Green-breasted Pitta, African Green Broadbill, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Blue-headed Sunbird and Strange Weaver. Uganda offers over 1000 species, and is the most accessible place to see the legendary Shoebill. To find it, you will embark on a small boating excursion and explore the vast swamps within Queen Elizabeth and Murchison Falls National Parks.

Bwindi-Impenetrable National Park, with its misty peaks and fern-loaded forests, is an amazing biodiversity hotspot that hosts 24 of Uganda’s 26 Albertine Rift endemics. It also offers one of the greatest wildlife experiences on earth: the opportunity to come face to face with one of our closest relatives, the Gorilla. Our tours allow a day for those who wish to track gorillas, while others can do the extra birding.

At lower altitudes, Short-tailed Warblers, Red-throated Alethes, and Kivu Ground Thrushes are found in the mossy undergrowth. African Grey Parrots fly overhead while Chimpanzees shriek from deep in the forest. Higher up, the cloud-swathed Virunga volcanoes loom in the distance. Here you can search for Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Ruwenzori Turaco and the near-mythical Yellow-crested Helmet-shrike.

Bird watching in Rwanda is somewhat overlooked in favour of gorilla-trekking trips. However, birdlife in Rwanda is excellent, giving visitors the chance to see some of the Albertine Rift endemic bird species. There are over 650 species in Rwanda, which is amazing for such a small country and makes for great birding.

The key area for bird watching in Rwanda is the vast Afromontane forest of Nyungwe National Park, which is recognized as an IBA (‘Important Bird Area’) by Birdlife International. Some of Rwanda’s Albertine Rift endemics, including the Handsome Francolin, Ruwenzori Turaco, Albertine Owlet, Collared Apalis, Red-collared Mountain Babbler, Grauer’s and Neumann’s Warblers. As an aside, the papyrus swamps in Akagera National Park are one of few places in Africa where Shoebills are easily encountered.

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Birding Safaris in Africa | Africa Birding Tours and Holidays
Birding safaris in Africa | Africa birding tours and holidays safari packages offer the quintessential birding safari experience. Birding safaris in Africa | Africa birding tours and holidays really does impress with its birding holidays and it is not unusual to record more than 100 species in a day. Thanks to vast wilderness areas, impressive...
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