GREAT BIRDING IN NAMIBIA
A TRIBUTE TO THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE NAMIBIA BIRD CLUB
The reason Namibia’s beautiful birds have remained a largely untapped niche in tourism is that many people think Namibia exists of desert only. But Namibia offers excellent birding in an amazing variety of bird-rich habitats. Namibia’s true endemic bird is the Dune Lark (Calendulauda erythrochlamys) and near-endemic birds are the Hartlaub’s Spurfowl (Pternistis hartlaubi), Rueppell’s Korhaan (Eupodotis rueppellii), Damara Tern (Sterna balaenarum), Rueppell’s Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii), Green Wood-Hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus), Monteiro’s Hornbill (Tockus monteiri), Barlow’s Lark (Calendulauda barlowi), Gray’s Lark (Ammomanopsis grayi), Carp’s Tit (Parus carpi), Bare-cheeked Babbler (Turdoides gymnogenys), Herero Chat (Namibornis herero), Rockrunner (Achaetops pycnopygius), White-tailed Shrike (Lanioturdus torquatus). Other Namibian specialties include the Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis), Slaty Egret Egretta vinaceigula), Short-toed Rock-Thrush (Monticola brevipes), Bank Cormorants (Phalacrocorax neglectus), African Black Oystercatcher (Haematopus moquini), Ludwig’s Bustard (Neotis ludwigii), Stark’s Lark (Spizocorys starki), Bradfield’s Swift (Apus bradfieldi), Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus), Sociable Weaver (Philetairus socius), Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus), Black-chested Prinia (Prinia flavicans) and Karoo Chat (Cercomela schlegelii).
With such varied pockets of habitat across Namibia it is no wonder that one cannot pick a favourite spot.
The Caprivi Strip is unbelievable, teeming with birdlife, especially when Southern Carmine Bee-eaters (Merops nubicoides) are around. While the Bee-eaters have made this narrow strip of land in extreme northeast Namibia famous, there are many other gems waiting to be discovered including African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis) and Half-collared Kingfisher (Alcedo semitorquata). Few birders realize that all the well known birding wonders of Botswana’s Okavango Delta, including Pel’s Fishing-Owl (Scotopelia peli), are also found in Namibia’s Caprivi Strip.
Another magical spot is the Etosha National Park, satisfying the keenest twitcher. Etosha means ‘Great White Place’, reflecting the presence of a huge pan in this spectacular park. Nearly 400 species of bird have been recorded, including Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus) and Bare-cheeked Babbler (Turdoides gymnogenys).
Nothing beats the ambience of the virtually unvegetated Atlantic coast at Walvis Bay and Swakopmund at sunset, with seemingly endless lines of Cormorants flying past in formation towards their roosting sites. Thanks to coastal lagoons, which attract vast numbers of waterbirds, including the rare Damara Tern (Sterna balaenarum), the birding can be fantastic.
Another famous spot is Sossusvlei surrounded by bare sand dunes and it is home to a host of species occurring nowhere else in Namibia. This main tourist attraction of the region is an excellent area to encounter specials such as Ludwig’s Bustard (Neotis ludwigii), Rueppell’s Korhaan (Eupodotis rueppellii) and Dune Lark (Calendulauda erythrochlamys). The road to Sossusvlei is one of southern Africa’s best places to see the Burchell’s Courser (Cursorius rufus).
The fiery red sands of the dry Kalahari bound the east of southern Namibia. Here you can find the Sociable Weaver Philetairus socius) and where the conspicuous nests of the latter species are found, the diminutive Pygmy Falcon (Polihierax semitorquatus) is usually present. The Kalahari Desert is also home to the Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea). Millions sparrow-coloured finches flock through the plains where they feed on grass seed. When they take to the sky en masse, it reminds one of locust swarms, hence their nickname locust bird.
Another vast area with unparalleled richness of birdlife is central Namibia. The Daan Viljoen Game Park just a short drive from Windhoek offers superb dry-country birding and supports a handful of southern African specialities, including the rare Rockrunner (Achaetops pycnopygius).
Other top twitching spots include the Naukluft mountain massif. This region boasts the majority of the country’s near-endemic Rosy-faced Lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis). Gondwana Canyon Park bordering the Fish River Canyon, one of Namibia’s most famous natural spectacles, is another destination where birders can be rewarded with the Freckled Nightjar (Caprimulgus tristigma) and Karoo Eremomela (Eremomela gregalis). The attractive Waterberg National Park quickens the pulse by standing a good chance seeing the scarce Rueppell’s Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii).
So, for those keen birdwatchers, come and visit Namibia. With one endemic, almost 20 near-endemics and a host of specials that are difficult to see elsewhere, a visit to Namibia is an important part of the southern African birding experience. And remember that in ecotourism, birding has the greatest potential to contribute to local communities. Especially for Namibia, where unemployment is rating high, investment in avitourism could be a major role player in fighting unemployment.
Enjoy birding Namibia!