Tanzania is one of the best birding destinations in Africa, the country has over 1,100 species of birds where some are resident to the country and some are migrants, among all birds 22 are endemic and are only unique to Tanzania. The migrant species are present from November to April, these are just few birds that are found in Tanzania and if it’s your lucky you might encounter them during the Safari;
Ostrich(Struthio camelus) – Ostriches are the largest flightless living birds with black and white color for male and scruffy grey-brown color for female, they weigh from 60 to 145 kg with height of 6 ft 11 in to 9 ft 2 in, they can run at speed of up to 70km/h and can cover 3 to 5 m (9.8 to 16.4 ft) in a single stride, which makes them the world’s fastest two legged animal. The female common ostrich lays her fertilized eggs in a single communal nest, the size of their egg is 15 cm (5.9 in) long, 13 cm (5.1 in) wide, and weigh 1.4 kilograms.
Secretary bird (Sagittarius serpentarius) – This is a large and mostly terrestrial bird of prey that is Endemic to Africa, usually found in the open grasslands and savannah of the sub-Saharan region, The secretary bird is distinguished by its long legs and a black crest of feathers on the back of its head, its body is covered in mostly by gray feathers. They feed up on snakes, but also consume lizards, amphibians, rodents and birds eggs. Small animals are eaten whole while larger prey is stamped to death before being eaten.
Flamingos(Phoenicopterus ruber) – The name “Flamingo” comes from Portuguese or Spanish flamingo, “flame-colored”, In world there are six species of flamingo, but there are only two species of Flamingo found in Tanzania which is greater and lesser flamingo, the greater flamingo is the tallest of all six species, with height of 3.9 to 4.7 feet and a weight of up to 3.5 kg, and the shortest flamingo species (the lesser) has a height of 2.6 feet and weighs 2.5 kg. the lesser and greater both lay a single egg on a mud nest and after hatching, both the male and female feed the chick a milky liquid called “crop milk”. In Tanzania flamingo breed on the Lake Natron, but large flocks are frequent in Lake Manyara, Arusha NP and Ngorongoro Crater.
Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori) – This is the world’s heaviest flying bird native to Africa and can weigh up to 19kg, It is a land bird with long neck and long foot, the sides of the crown on the head extend into a black crest, greyish brown backs, vermiculated grey necks and breasts, whitish bellies, black and white spotted patterns on the shoulder and sides of their necks, and black and white bars on their tails.
Hornbills(Bucerotidae) – Hornbills are tropical birds named for their unusually large, curved bills which is frequently brightly colored and sometimes has a casque on the upper mandible. There are about 55 living species of hornbills in Africa, where 24 species found in Africa. They nest in tree cavities, the incubating female seals herself in by plastering the entrance closed, and the male feeds her through a slit until the eggs hatch and she breaks the seal.
Storks – There are about 20 species of long-necked, large birds constituting the family Ciconiidae, 8 of the world’s storks species are found in Africa, Storks are viewed as wetland species and whilst some storks are restricted to aquatic habitats while others are not, storks are carnivorous, feeding on a range of reptiles, small mammals, insects, fish, amphibians and other small invertebrates. In Tanzania The Serengeti is a stronghold for the saddle-billed stork, a pied giant with a red and yellow bill, while Selous and Ngorongoro are good for the yellow-billed stork, which resembles its Eurasian counterpart.
Herons & egrets – Herons and egrets are both long-legged, freshwater, coastal birds. They both belong to the same family Ardeidae and have a similar appearance. This family of long-legged birds is represented by 20 species, including the familiar grey heron, the goliath heron and various white or black egrets. Most species are water dependent, the cattle egret flocks around buffalo herds to catch disturbed insects.
Ibises & spoonbills (Family Threskiornithidae) – Medium-sized wading and terrestrial birds of temperate and tropic regions, with prominent bills long neck and legs, anterior toes, and highly social habits. The Ibises and Spoonbills are closely related, their most striking difference is in bill shape, with the Ibises having curved bills and the Spoonbills having straight bills that are broad at the end. Ibises use their bills to probe in mud, while Spoonbills move their side to side in the water to catch prey, their prey includes crustaceans, mollusks, fish, insects, amphibians, reptiles, carrion and even small mammals.
Northern white crowned shrike (Eurocephalus rueppelli) – This is an insect eater that can be found in dry thorn bush, semi-desert, and open acacia woodland in east Africa, It hunts from an exposed perch, feeding mainly on large insects, usually taken from the ground. The shrike builds a cup like nest out of spider webs and grass and it’s thought that it might be a cooperative breeder, which means that babies are brought up not just by the parents but by additional group members.
White faced whistling duck (Dendrocygna viduata) – This is a common, noisy and gregarious species that at times can occur in huge flocks, it has a Black-and-white head, rufous breast, and barred flanks. Like all whistling-ducks, long neck and legs give it a gooselike appearance. Its distribution patterns are interesting because it’s found only in eastern and southern Africa and South America. Found in freshwater marshes, lakes, and rice fields. Usually in flocks, sometimes numbering in the hundreds.
African Pygmy falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) – At just 19-20cm in length the smallest falcon on the continent, gray-and-white that is similar in size to a shrike. It’s found in arid savanna, where it breeds in the nest of a Sociable Weaver or buffalo-weaver. One of its favorite foods is small birds, though it leaves the weavers it lives among alone. Though small, these falcons will bravely chase off predators larger than themselves, especially if they are protecting eggs or chicks in the nest.
African marsh harrier(Circus ranivorus) – The bird is the smallest of all the marsh harriers and is commonly found in eastern and southern Africa, African Marsh-Harrier can be identified by the presence of barring on the wings and tail, as well as by its darker head. They spend most of their time near large water bodies of water, their species is known to be declining due to loss of their habitats in the wetlands.
Woodland kingfisher(Halcyon senegalensis) – This bird is found in many places throughout the sub-Saharan Africa, the population of this bird in the northern and southern is limited the birds migrate to and from central and eastern Africa depending on rains. In Tanzania this bird is permanent resident, the birds can be aggressive on their territory and have been known to attack humans.
Black headed heron (Ardea melanocephala) – This is a large bird that can stand up to 85cm and have a wingspan of a metre and a half, The Black-headed Heron is a medium black, grey and white heron commonly found in the grasslands of Africa, most of the time is found near the water bodies preying mostly on fish and frogs, the heron stabs its prey at lightening speeds with its sharp bill. It will also hunt well away from the water, taking large insects, small mammals, and birds. It will wait motionless for its prey, or slowly stalk its victim.
African Hoopoe((Upupa africana) – This is one of the species of hoopoe in the family Upupidae, they are distributed everywhere in southern Africa except for deserts and prefers open woodland with short grass undergrowth, it has adapted well to the introduction of man-made habitats, such as parks, gardens and plantations. The bird is featured in so many legends, religious texts, folklore and superstitions throughout much of its African and European range.
Lilac breasted roller (Coracias caudatus) – This is one of the birds in roller family and is widely distributed in sub-sahara Africa, the bird has it has around 8 colours: green, white, black, yellow, turquoise, dark blue, reddish-brown, and lilac. It mostly feeds on scorpions, lizards and other insects. When nesting the pair will aggressively defend their nest against much larger creatures.
Superb starling (Lamprotornis superbus) – This is one of the most beautiful colored birds with black heads and blue-to-green back, upper breast, wings, and tail. Their belly is red-orange, separated from the blue breast by a white bar. The undertail and the wing linings are white. The bird is very curious and intelligent bird that shows little fear of humans. The superb starling lives in savanna, in thorn bush and open woodland, lakeshore woodlands, gardens and cultivated fields.
Francolins – These are birds that have been placed in genus Francolinus, Francolins, often called spurfows, are members of the pheasant family(including partridge, peacock, pheasant, and quail) there are about 40 species and 5 are found in Asia and the rest are found in Africa, Some species are recorded in Tanzania as noisy as their domestic mates. Among all species two species are endemic: the conspicuous grey-breasted francolin of the Serengeti and the Udzungwa forest partridge.
Guinea fowl (Numididae) – The bird is widespread and they are endemic to Africa, they are colored in white-speckled grey with a blue head and ivory casque. is widely domesticated for either its flesh and as a “watchdog” on farms for their naturally harsh sounds serve as a warning against predators or because they keep in check Lyme-carrying ticks and other pests.
Grey crowned crane(Balearica regulorum) – Associated with marsh and rank grassland, this astonishing bird has grey feathering capped by a bristly gold crown and red neck wattle. It is common in suitable habitats in the Serengeti and Ngorongoro, from humans who view this bird as a status symbol, resulting in widespread poaching and illegal trade.
Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) – This is a remarkable wading bird who is so named as its head shape, curved bill and back crest resembles a hammer. The hamerkop takes a wide range of prey; mostly fish and amphibians, but shrimps, insects and rodents are taken too. Prey usually hunt in shallow water; either by sight or touch, but the species are adaptable and will take any prey it can. A widespread inhabitant of wooded freshwater habitats, it constructs a massive and untidy nest using branches, sticks, mud and anything else that comes to hand, usually in a tree fork close to the water.
Woodpeckers (family Picidae) – These birds are part of the family Picidae, any of about 180 species of birds that constitute the subfamily Picinae (true woodpeckers) of the family Picidae (order Piciformes). Woodpeckers occur nearly worldwide, except in the region of Australia and New Guinea, but are most abundant in South America and Southeast Asia. Members of this family are chiefly known for their characteristic behaviour. They mostly forage for insect prey on the trunks and branches of trees, and often communicate by drumming with their beak, producing a reverberatory sound that can be heard at some distance.
African skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris) – This is a near-threatened species of bird belonging to the skimmer genus Rynchops in the family Laridae, African skimmers have long wings, with a black back, hindneck, and crown. The forehead and rest of the body is white, with a bright, long, orange beak that ends with a yellow tip (black tip when immature). Eagerly sought tern look alike feeds by flying low above the water, with the extended lower mandible of it’s bright red bill slicing the surface. Its favored habitat is wide rivers fringed by permanent sandbanks, notably the Rufiji in Selous.
African jacana (Actophilornis africanus) – These graceful birds are good divers and strong flyers. Squawking during flight, the African Jacana has a keen sense of sight and hearing and relies little on its sense of smell. But is most notable for its wide-spreading toes, which allow it to walk on lilies and other floating vegetation. It is common in marshy or well-vegetated pools and river edges throughout Tanzania.
Fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) – This is a large species of eagle found throughout sub-Saharan Africa, the African Fish Eagle is easily recognized by its white head, the striking contrast between the white upper-body and tail, the chestnut belly and the black wings, African Fish Eagles eat a wide variety of fish. However, unlike the Osprey, they don’t submerge themselves completely under the water when fishing. Instead, they catch their meals from the surface of the water, and then fly up to a perch to feed. In Tanzania it’s particularly common along the Rufiji River in Selous.
Vultures – A vulture is a large bird of prey with a head and neck more or less bare of feathers. There are 23 extant species of vulture and these are birds of prey that scavenge on carrion, the vultures have bare heads, a condition that prevents the feathers from mating with blood when the birds reach inside carcasses. Most vultures have a large pouch in the throat (crop) and can go for long periods without food adaptations to a feast-or-famine scavenging lifestyle.
Crows – This is a bird of the genus Corvus, or more broadly a synonym for all of Corvus. Crows are known for their intelligence and adaptability, and for their loud, harsh “caw.” Common species include the white-necked raven, Africa’s second largest passerine, and the marginally smaller pied crow and fan-tailed raven, all of which spend much of their time on the wing, when they could be mistaken for raptors. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything; typically earthworms, insects and other small animals, seeds, and fruit but also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests.
Owls – They are birds from the order Strigiformes, which includes over 200 species of mostly solitary and nocturnal birds of prey typified by an upright stance, a large, broad head, binocular vision, binaural hearing, sharp talons, and feathers adapted for silent flight. The owls have super-tuned senses that help them hunt prey all over the world.
Turacos – Unique to Africa, Turacos are remarkable for their coloration. Some are predominantly gray, brown, and white, but the 10 species of the genus Tauraco and the 2 species of Musophaga possess a unique and beautiful red pigment, turacin, and a green pigment, turacoverdin. The spectacular green-and-red Hartlaub’s turaco inhabits montane forest on Kilimanjaro NP and Ngorongoro, while Schalow’s turaco occurs in lower-lying Saadani NP and Udzungwa NP. Ross’s turaco is sometimes seen along the Serengeti’s Grumeti River.
Cormorants & darters – Cormorants belong to the Phalacrocoracidae family and Darters to Anhingidae, they are skilled fishers distinguished by long necks, cormorants are represented by two species, both common in the vicinity of water. The difference between a cormorant and a darter is that a darter has a straight (stiletto) bill, while the cormorants bill is hooked at the end like a pelican’s.
The common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus) – This is a member of the Bulbul family of passerine birds. It is found in north-eastern, northern, western and central Africa. Encountered by most visitors to Tanzania this is a bird is with thrush-sized brown with a darker face and throat. The belly is pallid and the under tail white (north part of range) or yellow (south part of range). Often in small flocks and not easily missed due to its noisy, repetitive, and powerful song.
Fork-tailed drongo, (Dicrurus adsimilis) – This is a species of drongo in the family Dicruridae, which are medium-sized, this pugnacious all-black bird has a deep forked tail and is common in wooded Savannah, where it perches openly and often emits a series of harsh, nasal notes. It could be confused with the slighter black flycatcher. They are almost exclusively carnivorous, but may take nectar when available. They fly catch or take prey from the ground, and are attracted to bush fires.
Wagtails – Are a group of passerine birds that form the genus Motacilla in the family Motacillidae. Wagtails are slender, often colorful, ground-feeding insectivores of open country in the Old World. Species of wagtail breed in Africa, Europe and Asia, some of which are fully or partially migratory. The African pied wagtail is one of Tanzania’s most familiar birds, often seen alongside the hotel swimming pools with its elongated tail bobbing up and down.
Shrikes – Shrikes are medium-sized birds with grey, brown, or black and white plumage. Most species are between 16 cm and 25 cm in size, however, the genus Corvinella with its extremely elongated tail feathers may reach up to 50 cm in length. Sometimes referred as butcher birds in reference to their custom of impaling their prey on thorns, shrikes are boldly patterned insectivores that perch conspicuously on the top of shrubs and trees. The widespread common fiscal is usually seen singly or in pairs, but the more gregarious grey-backed fiscal and magpie shrike are also common in the Serengeti.
Lovebird(Agapornis) – This is the common name for the genus Agapornis, a small group of parrots in the Old World parrot family Psittaculidae. The smaller lovebirds are sociable and brightly coloured savannah-dwellers with distinctive parakeet-like bills. Yellow-collared and Fischer’s lovebirds are both naturally endemic to northern Tanzania, with the former more likely to be seen in Tarangire and the latter in Serengeti.
Doves – This is a bird family consisting of pigeons and doves. It is the only family in the order Columbiformes, these include; the ring-necked and red-eyed doves rank among the definitive sounds of the African bush, as does the soft descending coo of the laughing dove and emerald-spotted wood-dove. Doves and pigeons build relatively flimsy nests, often using sticks and other debris, which may be placed on the branches of trees, on ledges, or on the ground, depending on species.
Cuckoos – These are birds in the Cuculidae family, they are highly vocal but equally ventriloqual, they are dove-sized birds with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail, most cuckoos are unlikely to be seen unless actively sought. Most cuckoos are insectivorous, and in particular are specialized in eating larger insects and caterpillars, including noxious hairy types avoided by other birds.
Mousebirds – They are birds in the order Coliiformes and they are endemic to Africa, Mousebirds are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers. They are typically about 10 cm in body length, with a long, thin tail; they are named for the mouse-like manner in which they shuffle along branches. They are generally seen in flocks of around 5-8 birds, flying laboriously between fruiting trees.
Bee-eaters – The wonderful family Meropidae contains 25 dazzling species, of which Africa is endowed with no less than 20 species, these sleek, colorful and sociable insectivores are well represented in Tanzania, with more than half the world’s 25 species present. Unusually, they can eat stinging insects, which they disarm by banging or scraping them against a branch with their long decurved bill. The bee-eaters have been considered to be related to other families, such as the rollers, hoopoes and kingfishers, but ancestors of those families diverged from the bee-eaters at least forty million years ago.
Honeyguides – They are birds found in the family of indicatoridae and they are about 17 species of birds in this family and most honey guides are dull-colored, the bird leads honey badger or a man to a bees’ nest by its chattering and flying ahead, after the larger animal takes the honey, the bird eats the wax and bee larvae. They are all brood parasites that lay one egg in a nest of another species, laying eggs in a series of about five during a period of 5-7 days.
Sunbirds – This one member of the family Nectariniidae, like the hummingbirds, sunbirds are strongly sexually dimorphic, with the males usually brilliantly plumaged in iridescent colors. In addition to this the tails of many species are longer in the males, and overall the males are larger. Most sunbirds feed largely on nectar, but will also eat insects and spiders, especially when feeding their young, about a third of the world’s 120 species occur in Tanzania.
Swifts & swallows – Swifts are high-fliers and extremely fast. No other bird can fly faster in level flight. They spend their lives in the air sleeping, mating and drinking on the wing and won’t land, avoiding coming anywhere near the ground. Swallows (and martins) are a group of passerine birds, which make up the more familiar-named songbirds.
Best program for bird sighting in Tanzania is explained below:
First Day: Arusha NP (in this park if its our lucky we might be able to see birds like eagles, pochards, geese, hamerkop, red shark, spurwinged goose, woodpecker, herons, secretary bird, grey parrot etc..,).
Program: Depart from Arusha Early in the morning to Arusha national park, once you arrive in the park you will have short walk with armed ranger trying to spot most of the bird that are active in the morning like the Robins, blackbirds and thrushes, and then after we will continue with game drive with picnic lunch and in late afternoon we will depart to Tarangire for overnight.
Second Day: Tarangire NP(in this park if its our lucky we might be able to see birds like Yellow necked spurfowl, Northern white crowned shrike, Pygmy falcon, Woodland kingfisher etc..,).
Program: Soon after breakfast early in the morning we will depart to Tarangire NP, this is one of the best park in Tanzania to spot birds, we will continue with game drive silently trying to spot as many birds as we can, in the afternoon picnic lunch in the site you will be able to spot superb staling with other birds which do not fear being near to humans, in the late afternoon we will drive to karatu for overnight.
Third Day: Manyara NP(in this park if its our lucky we might be able to see birds like Southern ground hornbill, Sacred ibis, Saddle-billed stork, Pied kingfisher etc..,).
Program: After breakfast you will depart to Manyara NP, here you will have a chance of walking through the tree top bridge/treetop walkway where you will also be able to spot birds, then later you will continue with game drive up to the lake manyara where you will see a lot of flamingos.
Fourth & Fifth Day: Serengeti NP(in this park if its our lucky we might be able to see birds like Southern ground hornbill, Sacred ibis, Saddle-billed stork, Pied kingfisher etc..,).
Program: Early in the morning we will leave karatu and depart to Serengeti NP, the park has around 500 bird species which makes it the best bird viewing park in North part of Tanzania, we will spend two days trying to spot different bird species.
Sixth Day: Ngorongoro Crater(in this park if its our lucky we might be able to see birds like Ostiches, Kori bustards, Secretary birds, Grey crowned Cranes etc..,).
Program: On this day we will depart very early after breakfast heading to Ngorongoro Crater, also this is a good place to spot different species of bird with great help of Guide, and if its your lucky you might be able to see turacos.
Seventh Day: Karatu – Kilimanjaro Airport
Program: After breakfast you will be transferred to Kilimanjaro/Arusha airport where will be the end of our service.
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