By Akil Halai – Field Operations, Asilia Lodges & Camps in Tanzania
The conversation was all about how different birders are to your normal guest interested in the wildlife and particularly the big 5. When visitors come for such birding expeditions it is not only to see & photograph the beautiful birds Tanzania promises to offer but also tick off special and specific bird species from their bird list. We call these unique species “lifers”. The group did conclude that ticking off “lifers” in Tanzania was very easy due to its habitat diversity and accessibility. This is a known fact. With Tanzania offering over 2 dozen national parks, game reserves and important bird areas (IBA’s), it is a must visit for ornithologists.
It has one of the largest species lists of any African country, over 1,000 of which 800 are roughly resident and over 200 are regular migrants. On a survey done in 2013, 56 species are of global conservation concern of which 21 are endemic to Tanzania and 43 species only occur in one or two other east African countries.
Of the 80 IBA’s Tanzania has to offer, covering 18% of its land area; most of Asilia lodges and camps are located in these IBA’s. You will undoubtedly uncover a lot of bird species when staying at any Asilia property. One of the benefits of my job with Asilia is that I do from time to time have the opportunity of seeing different birds in different habitats at different times of the year.
Having said that, I know from experience that Tarangire National Park is considered a birding haven. With over 500 species recorded, the swamps, tinged green year-around have more breeding species of birds in one habitat; than anywhere in the world. A visit to Oliver’s Camp or Little Oliver’s most likely gives you a chance to see notable birds such as the African orange-bellied parrots, Ashy starlings, Red-and-yellow barbets, White-headed buffalo-weavers and the beautiful Speckle-fronted weavers. Out of this list, the Ashy starlings are endemic to Tanzania. If you are in luck and an avid birder, you have good chances of treats such as the Vulturine guineafowls, Pink-breasted larks and the yellow-collared lovebirds amongst many more.
The Ngorongoro Conservation Area is another excellent birding destination. Birdlife near The Highlands is rich and interesting. Among the birds to be seen are white-eyed slaty flycatcher and Livingstone turaco. Many specialized grassland birds are resident in the crater. Most noticeable are Ostrich, Kori bustard, Crowned crane and the Secretary bird. Avid birders should watch for the Golden-winged sunbirds during their decent and the Rosy-breasted longclaws on the crater floor. Migratory birds are present from November to April. A visit to the Highlands camp is requisite to tick off many other sunbird species apart from the welcoming staff and the beautiful domes.
With six Asilia luxury camps and lodges located in the best spots, the Serengeti has more than 500 bird species recorded, and the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem is one of Africa’s Endemic Bird Areas (land important for habitat-based bird conservation), hosting five bird species found nowhere else. These Serengeti specials are easy to locate and identify within their restricted range. The Grey-breasted spurfowl is a common bird in the Seronera area, in the center of the park. In woodland areas, parties of Fischer’s lovebird draw attention to themselves and the rufous-tailed weaver is a partly big fascinating bird placed in its own genus. The other two Serengeti-Mara EBA endemics are the Usambiro barbet and the Grey-crested Helmet-shrike.
In Ruaha, our intimate Kwihala Camp and our latest addition Jabali Ridge on magnanimous kopjes prevail. The southern circuit is also a game changer when it comes to birds. The Ruaha National Park is inhabited by over 450 different bird species including some endemics such as the Ashy starling and the Yellow-collared Lovebird. Some of the resident birds of the Ruaha National Park are the Crested Barbet, Dickinson’s kestrel, Pale-billed Hornbill, Purple-crested Turaco, Ruaha chat, Racket-tailed roller, Plovers, Kingfishers, Hornbills, Green-wood hoopoes, Sunbirds, Bee-eaters, and Egrets. The park is visited by Eurasian migrants twice a year; from October to November and from March to April. Among the migrants in the Ruaha National Park, you can see the Sooty Falcon, whose breeding grounds are in the Sahara and in the Middle East, and the Eleonora’s Falcon, whose breeding grounds are in the Mediterranean. The park is also inhabited by birds of prey such as Pel’s fishing owl around the southern part of the park, the African hawk, the Bateleur, and Eagles such as the Long-crested, Martial and Snake-eagles.
With over 440 species recorded, The Selous and the area around our new camp Roho ya Selous is also an excellent birding destination. The most conspicuous birdlife is attracted to the sandbanks, lagoons, islands, and channels along the Rufiji River. A good way to enjoy the birdlife is on a boat safari. Common birds include yellow-billed storks, kingfishers, plovers and colorful bee-eaters. You must look for the beautiful Bohm’s bee-eater. One of my favorites. Fish eagle and palm-nut vulture can be found perched high in the trees and skimmers can sometimes be seen flying across the water.
If you thought this was enough birding in Tanzania already, you are not a fervent birder and haven’t visited our paradise island on the shores of Lake Victoria – Rubondo Island. With parrots singing while you sip your coffee or the pretty wattle-eyes busy with their duet while you chill at our lodge sipping your delicately prepared cocktail, Rubondo; a series of eleven islands at the heart of Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest lake, is a birder’s heaven and home to Rubondo Island Camp. The African fish eagles & the yellow-billed kites are everywhere busy looking for food and patrolling the area. It has an abundant number of herons, storks, ibises, egrets, cormorants & kingfishers.
So what are you waiting for? Join us for a safari and start birding! Make an enquiry below or get in touch with your usual travel agent.