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The Serengeti – a birdwatcher’s paradise

African Wildlife
Photo Credit: Hu Chen

Our lives would be far less colourful if birds did not form part of our world. However, these magnificent creatures are often overlooked by tourists while undertaking trips to Africa. I have to admit that I used to show no interest in our feathery friends either, until I realised how exciting it can be to spot as many different types of birds while on a wildlife safari.

Have you ever considered that the Serengeti might just be one of the best places in the world for birdwatchers? Whenever we imagine ourselves going on luxury safari holidays to East Africa, we most probably have the open plains of the Serengeti in mind. Not necessarily the type of environment we think of when looking for a great variety of birds. Even though the plains of the Serengeti are notorious, it has far more to display. The beautiful riverine forest along the Grumeti River, and the rolling hills that support the woodlands in the north, make this national park more ecologically diverse than originally anticipated.

That is exactly why the Serengeti should not be overlooked by bird lovers when they plan their next African holiday. The Serengeti boasts with more than 500 species of birds, and some of these species are endemic to East Africa. From the quaint grey throated spurfowl, to the pretty Schalow’s turaco, and even the red throated tit are just some of the species you will not be able to see anywhere else in the world. Collectively known as the “Serengeti specials”, they are worth the trip to tick them off your list.

Predatory birds, herbivores, insectivores, and scavengers, the birds of the Serengeti play an important role in this impressive ecosystem. So, remember to pack your binoculars, because here are some species you can look forward to on your next luxury Tanzanian safari:

Photo Credit: Max Murauer

Arguably one of the continent’s most famous birds, the ostrich is a hard bird to miss while you are on holiday in Africa. The world’s largest bird might just have the smallest brain compared to the size of its body, since their eyes are bigger than their brains! Standing tall at 2,7 metres and weighing up to 159 kg, they often fall prey to predators such as lions, hyenas, leopards, and cheetahs. But they are no easy target, since they can reach a speed of 70 km/h. Should running fail them, they have a 10 centimetre long claw on each two-toed foot to protect themselves with. Predators better watch out!

Photo credit: John Mitchell-Adams

The grey crowned crane is the national bird of Uganda and Tanzania, and is easy to distinguish due to the “crown” on its head that consists of stiff golden feathers with black tips. This bird is a site to behold on any African safari trip, and has to be on the must-see-list of any true birdwatcher. Unlike the other crane species, grey crowned cranes roost in trees. Their chicks are precocial, which means that they are hatched at an advanced stage. They can run and basically feed themselves from the moment they have hatched.

Photo credit: Chris Stenger

A spectacular bird with a most distinguishable call that you will probably hear while you are on your luxury African safari. The African fish eagle’s beauty has captured the hearts of many, which is the likely reason why it features in the folklore of several nations. Yet, they have very bad manners. These birds are kleptoparasites which means that they will regularly steal prey from other predatory birds. Despite its name, its diet is quite diverse and includes ducklings, terrapins, small crocodiles, monkeys, and in certain areas, flamingos. With toes that are covered in tiny spikes called spiricules, they can easily grab and hold on to fish and other slippery prey.

Photo credit: Laya Clode

Your luxury African safari holiday almost cannot be complete without seeing the beautiful lilac-breasted roller. With their vibrant and colourful plumage, they are easily spotted on the open branches where they like to sit. Known in Afrikaans as troupand (directly translated as wedding band), they received this name because in certain local tribes young men were expected to catch one of these birds and present it to the father of the bride before they could marry. These birds are not dimorphic, meaning that it is not easy to distinguish between males and females, since both have a stunning appearance. A brave little creature that will even attack prey that is too big to eat. In this case they will first discombobulate the prey with its wings until it is safe to pounce.

Photo credit: Zdenek Machacek

Even though they are small, between 15 and 35 centimetres, you don’t want to miss the bee-eaters. With 27 different species of bee-eaters, they are found in Africa, Australia, Europe, and Asia. Quite the adaptable bird, since it can live in a variety of environments: from savannahs to shrub lands, forests and agricultural areas. They live in extended families, with many overlapping generations, but are still able to identify their parents, siblings, and nesting neighbours. Make sure to be on the lookout for these colourful birds while you are on your wildlife safari.  

Have any of these birds piqued your interest and set your heart on a luxury African safari tour? Then it is time to start planning. And since we are African travel specialists, why not give Destinations Africa a call? Or take a look at our website to get an idea of the type of bespoke itinerary we can put together for you.

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