While an African safari is known for its remarkable mammals, especially the big five superstars of the animal kingdom, fewer realize that the vast game parks of this continent are also home to as many as 2500 species of birds.
The next time you head to this country for your dream jungle vacation, do not let the large animals steal the show. Take time out to see some of these iconic birds of Africa which will dazzle you as much as the big beasts by their impressive colors and displays.
Kruger National Park, South Africa
Masai Mara, East Africa
Etosha National Park, Namibia
Probably the most unusual looking of all avian species in Africa, the Secretary Bird is known to be found in the grasslands striding around in pairs looking for food. Kruger is a prime habitat to spot these long legged beauties and booking a package with Naturetrek will be your best bet for birding in Africa.
Their favorite food is reptiles, such as snakes, which they expertly stomp down with their long legs and talons. Secretary birds spend their lives on the ground, but at times fly to a small acacia tree to roost.
Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Tanzania and South Sudan.
No other bird captures the imagination of the onlooker more than the dinosaur-like Shoebill. Standing up to a height of 1.5m and a massive wingspan of 2.5m with a huge beak resembling a shoe, this solitary bird can be found in marshy areas hunting for reptiles and frogs, patiently waiting still for hours in one position.
South Africa, Madagascar, Senegal.
The highly intelligent Yellow-Billed Stork is a medium-sized wading bird found in freshwater lakes of Africa. They hunt by carefully using one foot to disturb the river bed to flush out fish and other crustaceans from their hiding places. Once they spot their prey, they are able to catch it with their fast reflexes.
African Fish Eagle
Across Sub-Saharan Africa in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya.
The African Fish Eagle is a powerful bird of prey and a National Bird of both Zambia and Namibia. With eyesight eight times more powerful than human beings, this bird can spot its prey from more than a mile away. Having a wing span of nearly 2.5m, the African Fish Eagle is one of the largest of its kind in Africa and certainly the most iconic of all the eagles.
Sudan, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya, Uganda and DR Congo
This is another impressive raptor with extraordinary eyesight which mainly preys on small reptiles and mammals. A speckled wing tip and a white belly makes it easy to distinguish them from other birds of its kind. The Augur Buzzard is often found perched on rocks or on top of a tree looking for prey.
Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania and Namibia
The Kori Bustard is a large bird which spends most of its life on the ground. They fly only when threatened or disturbed and settle down on the ground quickly after things have cleared. This buzzard can attain a height of four feet and clean themselves with dust as they do not possess preening glands like other birds. The Kori hunts by following herds of antelope or zebras that disturb creatures from the ground by moving their hooves.
Across whole of Sub-Saharan Africa
If you find a huge bulky nest of more than five feet on a tree, rest assured you are looking at the nest of a Hamerkop. Resembling a duck, this bird gets its name from the brown crest behind the head and the broad bill which resembles a hammer. Hamerkops have webbed feet, suitable for wading.
Savannahs of Sub-Saharan Africa
This is a common bird which can be found inevitably perched on the head or back of any large mammal like a giraffe, buffalo or zebra. They primarily feed on the ticks and flies that infest the skin of these animals to suck their blood. While the oxpecker gets its meal, the animal gets much needed relief from the parasites. However, given the chance, the oxpecker would rather feed on the blood created by the open wounds on the skin of the animals.
Throughout tropical Sub-Saharan Africa
This small sparrow size bird, as the name suggests, hunts mainly on flies and other small insects found near shrubs and swamps. This bird is rather difficult to spot but with a bit of patience, it can be spotted when it jumps into the air to catch its prey.
Yellow Billed Hornbill
Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania, Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Entrea.
A large yellow beak and a characterized casque are the main features of the yellow billed hornbill which include the southern yellow-billed hornbill as well. These birds are usually found foraging on the ground looking for small insects,seeds and even spiders and scorpions are on their menu. In the dry season they resort to feeding on ants and termites.
African Masked Weaver
Throughout southern Africa
Also referred to as the southern masked weaver, this bird is found in a range of habitats from shrubs to wetlands and even semi desert regions. They feed on insects, seeds and nectar and are seen flying solo as well as in large flocks. The African Masked Weaver build its nest usually over water and is made from palm leaves and grass.
Southern ground hornbill
Burundi, Kenya, Namibia, Angola right up to South Africa.
This is the largest of all the Hornbill species to be found in Africa and is characterized by the black color and vivid red patches on the throat and face. Adults and juveniles usually stay together in flight flocks of ten or more birds. Their habitat is mainly woodland and savannah where they can be seen foraging on the ground feeding on reptiles, small mammals, frogs and rabbits. The southern ground hornbill is a highly endangered species and can be spotted mostly in protected wildlife reserves.
Coastal southwest Africa
This is another highly endangered species of birds and the only penguin to be found in Africa. The jackass penguin gets its name from the loud braying sound, resembling that of a donkey, they make while communicating with each other. They come ashore in large numbers during the night to rest and during the day to feed on the pelagic fish found the coastal waters.
Abundant in Sub-Saharan Africa
Found all over Africa and further till Iraq, the sacred ibis are found generally close to rivers, streams, swamps and near human habitats as well. They feed in flocks during the day and nest at night in tree colonies along with other large wading birds like herons and egrets.
So now that you know the top birds of Africa, go visit now and indulge in the diversity.