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Namibia Ornithology

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Bird Watching in Namibia

Over 630 of the 887 recorded species of birds for Southern Africa can be found in Namibia. Of these about 500 species breed locally while the rest are migrants. 11 species are endemic, meaning that over 75% of their total world populations are found in Namibia. While the majority of birds - over 400 species - occur in the water rich north eastern regions of Kavango and Caprivi, a considerable number are found in the desert, including several of the endemic species. This makes bird watching at the coast, especially at Walvis Bay Lagoon and Swakopmund, particularly rewarding as vast numbers of aquatic birds including thousands of flamingos can be seen. Another key area for spotters is the Hardap dam resort which attracts large numbers of waterbirds. Numerous birds of prey can be seen in the Caprivi strip and Kavango reserves while in Etosha there are 430 species, including Namibia's national bird - the vividly coloured crimson breasted shrike. Many of the bird species in Namibia have restricted world ranges or are only readily seen in Namibia. The key to the country's diversity of birdlife is the variety of habitats, ranging from the arid Namib desert and Kalahari desert and western escarpment, to the sub-humid woodlands, wetlands and forests of the north-eastern Caprivi region. Together with the marine and coastal environments these habitats make Namibia a rich birding experience.


Avis Dam, Windhoek

Avis Dam is a 5 minute drive from the Windhoek City Centre and there are two entrances to the dam. The first entrance is for birders on foot where there are Monteiro's hornbills, Short tailed shrikes, Pririt batises and Grey louries among others.

The second entrance allows you to drive around the flood plain where you will see Black storks and Black herons alongside Great White and Spoonbill storks, Blackwinged stilts, Threebanded plovers and Blue herons. AIn the rocky hills to the north are Mountain chats, Rockrunners, Pied barbets and the more elusive Osprey, African fish eagles and Great spotted cuckoo, as well as Goliath heron, Blackshouldered kites, Rock kestrels and European and Swallow tailed bee eaters have also been sighted.

The Avis Dam has been the centre of controversy for several years due to proposed developments at the dam which environmentalists believe will destroy the excellent birdwatching and recreational facilities.

Hardap Dam Resort

15 km north of Mariental is the Hardap Dam resort and Game Park. The lake at the dam is a popular fishing site, but it is the Game Park which will appeal to birders. With over 260 recorded species the reserve and reservoir are a perfect habitat for water loving birds such as flamingos, fish eagles, pelicans, spoonbills, Goliath herons, and many varieties of migrants and bush dwellers.

Western Escarpment

The western escarpment is home to several species usually found in relatively specialised habitats. These include Hartlaub's francolin, the Damara rockrunner, Monteiro's hornbill and Carp's black tit. Species such as the Herero chat are elusive birds subject to local movements which makes sighting them a challenge.

Walvis Bay

The coast is home to the diminutive Damara tern (90% of the world's population breeds in Namibia) and the major world population of Chestnut-banded plovers. From Walvis Bay it is possible to take a 4x4 trip over the dunes to Sandwich Bay. Here you can walk for 5km along the shoreline where pelicans, flamingos, egrets, sandpipers and terns make up the bulk of the birdlife. Bird Island is an offshore wooden platform situated 10km north of Walvis Bay. It is a roost and nesting point for seabirds.

Luderitz

The Luderitz area is home to a wide variety of aquatic birds. Large numbers of flamingos, cormorants and seagulls inhabit the shallow lagoon and in the bay seals and dolphins can be seen playing in the water.

Caprivi

This area is extremely rich in birdlife with some 440 species recorded in the 25,000 ha Mahongo Game Reserve alone. Several Okavango Delta specials such as the Slaty eagle, Wattled crane and Rufous-bellied heron are readily seen in the Caprivi.

Special Endemics

Special endemics include the Herero chat, Rockrunner, Dune lark, Monteiro's hornbill, and the endangered Damara tern. Some of the communal weaver bird nests in which hundreds of birds live together have been recorded as being in continuous use for up to 100 years.

Best time to visit

In the summer months all the northern European migrants are present and a self guided tour should bring a return of around around 300 to 350 species. A specialist guided tour could expect to return around 450 species.

Other Areas

  • Daan Viljoen Game Park with over 200 recorded species including the rare green-backed heron and pin-tailed wydah.
  • Waterberg Plateau Park with over 200 recorded species including the rare Rupell's parrot and both Bradfield's and Monteiro's hornbills.
  • Okarukuvisa Vulture Sanctuary which has a feeding platform in the Okarakuvisa Mountains.
  • Etosha National Park with kori bustards, ostrich, korhaans, marabou, vultures and many smaller species.
  • Lake Oponono near Ondangwa which is rich in wetlands species.
  • Mamili National Park which has over 430 recorded bird species.
  • Naute Dam on the Lowen river supports a good variety of waterbirds
  • Other areas to consider include

Specialist Operators

There is one specialist company operating such trips, The Namibia Naturalist, with tours guided by professional biologists designed specifically with birders in mind.

A 15 day tour would start in Windhoek exploring the sparsely wooded hills and valleys surrounding the city before proceeding southwards to Sossusvlei and the Namib desert, and then northwards to the coastal towns of Swakopmund and Walvis Bay. From the coast the group heads inland to Omaruru, from where the Spitzkoppe area is visited.

Last Updated on Thursday 26th November 2009

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