Africa is the second largest continent in the world and has an amazing diversity of bird life. South Africa is one of the most well known birding destinations with a fantastic variety of birds with over 850 species recorded.
Visitors to Africa come from all around the world to experience the magnificent sights of African birds both endemic to the continent or intra-African migrants that come at various times of the year such as Kingfishers and Cuckoos.
Many birds visit Africa from the Arctic, Asia, Antarctica and Europe. Resident birds include the Secretary Bird, the Ostrich and one of the more signature birds of the African Plains, the Vulture who is most commonly associated with kills and carcasses (carrion) and are usually observed soaring to the ground or sitting in trees waiting for mammal and reptile predators to finish feeding before swooping down to finish off the remains. Africa is home to around 8 species of Vulture.
Examples of African Birds
Take a look at some of the amazing birds of Africa below:
The Cape Gannet (Morus capensis) is an easily identified seabird because of its large size. It is part of the Gannet family: Sulidae. Cape Gannets resemble the Northern Gannets apart from the fact that the Northern Gannet is entirely white except for black wing tips.
The Cape Gannet total breeding population is around 150,000 birds, with 12% in Namibia, although numbers have declined on the Nambian Islands over the last fifty years, and 88% in South Africa. The largest colony of this large seabird is found on Malgas Island, South Africa.
Out of the six species of flamingo on our planet, the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) is the most common and widespread member of the flamingo family.
The Greater Flamingo is an easily identifiable, colorful wading bird and is often found flocking together with the Lesser Flamingo in the great salt lakes across Africa.
The Grey Loerie bird (Corythaixoides concolor) is a South African bird which ranges from the tropical west and Central Africa. It is a common resident to Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, northern Botswana, western Mozambique and northern South Africa. The Grey Loerie bird is a medium sized bird that is also known as the ‘Go Away Bird’ or in Afrikaans, ‘kwêvoël’.
The population count of these remarkable birds is not known, however, they are frequently observed in pairs or in small groups of 3 – 20 individuals.
Great White Pelican
The Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) is one of the world’s largest flying birds that is found in the shallow swamps of Africa.
The Great White Pelican breeds in Southern Europe and in Asia. There are no sub-species of the Great White Pelican.
Great White Pelicans are also known as the White Pelican or the Eastern White Pelican.
Pelicans and their relatives make up the order ‘Pelecaniformes’ and they can be distinguished from other birds by having feet with all 4 toes webbed which is known as ‘totipalmate’.
The Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta), is a remarkable wading bird who is so named as its head shape, curved bill and back crest resembles a hammer. The Hamerkop is distributed around the coasts of Africa, south of the Sahara and Madagascar. The Hamerkop constitutes the family Scopidae and genus Scopus all on its own because of its unique characteristics.
The Hamerkop is currently placed in the pelican and cormorant group, Pelecaniformes, although it is classified into Ciconiiformes (storks, herons, egrets, ibises, and spoonbills) by other authorities.
The Hamerkop is known by several other names such as Anvil Head, Hammerkopf, Hammerhead Stork, Umber Bird…
The African Hoopoe (Upupa africana) is an African bird that belongs to the Family: Upupidae which also includes the Eurasian Hoopoe (Upupa epops) although these are two separate species.
The African Hoopoe differs from the Eurasian Hoopoe by the coloration of the males, females are similar in appearance. The male African Hoopoe has richer cinnamon coloration on its upperparts, lacks the subterminal white band on the crest and has all black primaries. Habits and vocalisations in both species are the same.
African Hoopoes are widespread throughout Africa except in western and central equatorial lowlands forests. Some populations of African Hoopoes are migratory while others are sedentary.
The Ostrich (Struthio camelus – meaning ‘camel-like’) is the world’s largest flightless bird which is native to the savannas and grasslands of South Africa. It has also been introduced to Australia.
The ostrich is a member of the ratite (which means flightless bird) family of birds. It is the only living species in the family Struthionidae and a member of the order Struthioniformes which also includes Rheas, Emus, Kiwis and Cassowaries which are also large, flightless birds from different parts of the world.
The African Sacred Ibis (Threskiornis aethiopicus) is a species of ibis found near shores and marshes throughout Africa, south of the Sahara and in Madagascar.
The African Sacred Ibis is a wading bird that belongs to the family: Threskiornithidae. The sacred ibis thrives in large colonies near waterways throughout Africa. It inhabits wetlands such as marshes, swamps, riverbanks, flood plains and mud flats both coastal and inland. It is also known to visit pastures, ploughed land and rubbish dumps.
The Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) is a large raptor related to hawks and eagles. This large, terrestrial bird of prey is endemic to the open grasslands in sub-saharan Africa. The Secretary Bird is famed for being the prominent emblem of Sudan and South Africa and appears on both nations coat of arms.
Secretary birds are so called because of their quill-like crests on the backs of their heads that resemble 18th century clerks with pens tucked into their wigs.
The Tawny Eagle (Aquila rapax) is a handsome, large bird of prey that inhabits Africa. It can be observed both north and south of the Sahara desert.
The Tawny Eagle was once considered a relative of the Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), however, it is now classed as its own species due to differences in anatomy particularly the length of the gape flange which never extends beyond the middle of the eye in the Tawny Eagle. Steppe Eagles are also larger than Tawny Eagles, nearly twice the size, and darker in color.
There are 8 species of Vultures in Africa including the Hooded Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, White headed Vulture, Egyptian Vulture, Palmnut Vulture, Cape Griffon, Ruppel’s Griffon and White-backed Vulture.
Africa’s White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus) is an Old World Vulture who is closely related to the European Griffon (Gyps fulvus). It ranges from Mauritania, east to Ethiopia and south through East Africa to South Africa. Most birds of prey will feed on live prey, however, Vultures are specialized ‘eaters of the dead’. It is not an uncommon sight to see a group of different species of Vulture feeding on a dead animal at the same time.
The White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) is a large wading bird that belongs to the family: Ciconiidae. The African White Stork is found in North West and Southern Africa.
The White Stork is famous for building its large stick nests on top of buildings and other structures when suitable trees are unavailable.
The White Stork breeds in larger numbers in areas with open grasslands, particularly grassy areas which are wet or frequently flooded, and less in areas with taller vegetation cover such as forests and shrublands. Non-breeding birds gather into groups of 40 – 50 during the breeding season.