Visitors to Africa intent on having an avian experience par none will barely have time to put down the binoculars with around 2,340 bird species crisscrossing the continent’s skies. More than 1,560 of these occur nowhere else in the world, including 14 entire families with 156 species between them.
The feathered kind act as natural indicators of Savannah grasslands, forests, mountains, coastal areas, deserts, and semi-deserts that span their vast home ranges. Within them exist 1,248 Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas stretching over roughly two million square kilometres.
Not only do these species have the ecological value of critical importance, but they also bring flights of fancy to any birdwatching safari experience in Africa. From the endemic species that call Tanzania (30), South Africa (16), Ethiopia (15), Democratic Republic of the Congo (12), and Kenya (11) home, to the migrants that make full use of the warmer summer months of the southern hemisphere. Birdlife in Africa include the African fish eagle, the helmeted guineafowl, yellow-billed stork, lilac-breasted roller, Southern ground-hornbill, African hoopoe, ostrich, marabou stork, white-backed vulture, and red-billed oxpecker.
In preparation of ticking off the all-important lifers on a birding safari to Africa, visitors should pack a field guide specific to the area on the itinerary. A good pair of binoculars is non-negotiable and essential, along with a camera to capture those special moments. Whether soaring or flying, darting or diving across the skies over the varied habitats of Africa, virtually all the countries on the continent provide ample opportunities to observe the inhabitants of the skies.
The continent’s islands shouldn’t be overlooked when it comes to birding. More than 100 endemic species occur in Madagascar with countless other species making their home between Seychelles, Comoros, São Tomé, and Principe.
Even though Africa is abundantly rich in birdlife, some of the species on the continent continue to struggle for survival due to threats such as loss of habitat, destruction, and degradation. More than 270 of them are threatened with extinction, with 30 of them considered ‘Critically Endangered’.