Some Birds of West Africa

From the steamy jungles of the Congo to the burning sands of the Sahara and Namibia to the rolling savannahs, to the snowy summits of Kilimanjaro, Africa presents a range of climates and habitats that harbors an immense variety of spectacular birds.
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Most of these photographs were made on or near the grounds of the Kairaba Beach Hotel at Serrekunda, The Gambia.
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1. Long-Tailed Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis caudatus).
Africa boasts a number of spectacular starlings--a far cry from the drab, noisy birds that we call by that name in Europe and America. This one is common around human habitation. A clumsy flyer, but nimble on the ground.
2. White-Crowned Robin Chat (Cassypha albicapilla).
This bird is common around low shrubs near open places: shy, but often seen near human habitation, especially where dense shrubbery borders a garden.
3. Red Bishop (Euplectus orix).
Common in grasslands. Fond of millet fields, elephant grass, and other thick tall grasses, especially in swampy areas.
4. Common Garden Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus).
Common around gardens and farmland where trees or bushes are nearby. Plumage varies geographically.
5. Brown Babbler (Turdoides plebejus).
Common, gregarious, noisy. Likes to hide in thick bushes bordering gardens and farmland and carry on an incessanat chatter. Plumage drab brown, shade varies geographically.
6. Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis [Stigmatopelia senegalensis]).
Very common in villages, towns and surrounding farmland. Rather tame. Ground feeder. Swift flyer. Voice, a soft, rapid cooing.
7. Senegal Fire Finch (Lagonosticta senegala).
Abundant around human habitation. Less often in farmland and savannah. Rather tame. Female largely a drab brown with crimson punctuation.
8. Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata [Corythornis cristata]).
This tiny (5½ inches) kingfisher is common around streams, lakes and ponds of the lowlands. Feeds on small fish and acquatic insects.
9. Barbary Shrike (Lanarius barbarus [L. erythrogaster]).
Common but secretive, hiding in thick shrubbery. More often heard than seen. Often heard in duets–a wonderful round, hollow whistle, a "whoo-ee" that inflates and encircles then draws in again, answered by a sharp "tik-tik."
10. Carmine Bee-Eater (Merops nubicus).
Seasonally common in the dry savannah. Hunts insects, expecially locusts and winged ants, among grazing animals, both wild and domestic, often perching on their backs. Nests in huge colonies in riverbanks.
11. Red-Throated Bee-Eater (Merops bulocki).
Locally abundant. Tends to avoid very dry and very wet areas. Hunts for insects in the treetops of forest margins and open woodlands.
12. Lavender Fire-Finch (Extrilda caerulescens).
Tame. Locally common. Prefers drier areas. Frequently seen in small flocks or mixed with other waxbills around human habitation.
13. Speckled Pigeon (Columba guinea).
Large (15 inches). Locally common in the drier parts of the savannah, especially around human habitation and cultivated lands.
14. Red-Cheeked Cordon Bleu (Estrilda bengala [Uraeginthus bengalus]).
Seasonally abundant in orchards and open woodlands. Frequently seen in parties of 10 to 30 individuals around human habitation, sometimes mixed with other Estrildines.
15. Pigmy Kingfisher (Ceyx picta [Ipsidina picta]).
This tiny (5 inches) kingfisher is often seen far from water hunting terrestrial insects from a perch, though it frequently skims the water for aquatic insects, as well.
16. Crocodile Bird (Egyptian Plover) (Pluvianus aegyptius).
Common on freshwater sandbanks, sometimes in flocks. Avoids saltwater shores. Makes no nests, but buries its eggs and small chicks in the sand. Not shy.
17. Long-Tailed Shrike(Corvinella corvina).
A weak flyer, common in the drier northern savannahs, often in small groups.
18. Abyssinian Roller (Coracias abyssinica)
Common on the drier parts of the open savannah and around farmlands wherever there are good perches. Avoids the forests.
19. Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus [Plesiositagra cucullatus, P. collaris)
Abundant around human habitation. Nests in huge colonies of hundreds of pairs. Male has a short breeding plumage season. In eclipse plumage is similar to the female and scarcely distinguishable from other weavers of similar size.
20. Purple Glossy Starling (Lamprotornus purpureus [Lamprocolius purpureus]).
Common around human habitation, but somewhat shy and wary.
21. Little Bee-Eater (Merops Pusilus [Melittophagus pusillus]).
Locally common. Prefers borders of wet areas, but widely distributed throughout the open savannah. Hunts from a low perch.
22. Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis).
Wary but common around human habitation. Weak flyer. Frequently seen hunting for insects on the ground near dense shrubbery or tall grass.
23. West African Thrush (Turdus pelios [T. libonyanus]).
Abundant throughout the region–farm, forest, and savannah–but prefers areas near human habitation.
24. Crowned Crane (Balearica pavonina).
Widely distributed throughout the region– frequents grassy marshlands, wet plains and rice fields as well as some drier areas growing crops.
25. African Spoonbill (Platalea alba).
Mostly found near shallow water– running or still, salt or fresh.
26. Rufous-Crowned Roller (Coracias naevia).
Not common, but not wary– Prefers better wooded savanna areas. Perches for long periods, then swoops down suddenly on prey.

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This page last updated 12 September 2006
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