Zambia has a diverse array of birdlife, making it an ideal destination for visitors to enjoy a birding safari. One of the rarest birds in Africa, the Shoebill is also found there.
Zambia is one of the hottest destinations in Africa for birders. There are over 700 species to be found throughout the many diverse ecosystems. Perhaps the best time for birding is just before the summer rains arrive, as this is when the local population is swelled by the arrival of many migrant species.
Most of the avifauna is found on the Central African Plateau as this region has many ecosystems. There are several birding hotspots, which include the Lochinvar National Park, Bangweulu Swamps and the South Luangwa National Park and Kafue. Another great spot is the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage, which has dams which attract a wide array of species.
Lochinvar National Park
The Lochinvar National Park is reputed to be one of the best places in the world to see water birds in great concentrations. Tens of thousands occur during the summer months during the rainy season. The park is accessible although there are no serviced campsites, so you need to be completely self-reliant.
This remote reserve is different to most parts of Zambia and is composed of vast wetlands on the edge of the Kafue flats. It is dominated by a large lagoon. It is also a refuge for the Kafue Lechwe, which occur in their thousands. The park is home to Buffalo, but no other dangerous animals so visitors are allowed to walk in the Park although vehicles are not allowed to leave designated roads.
Birding in Lochinvar
Over 420 different species of birds occur in the park. It is a good place to see the endangered Wattle Crane, Greater and Lesser Flamingos and watch the daring acrobatics of the African Skimmers. There are numerous species of duck, including the Whistling Duck and Fulvous duck. There are many species of waders to delight as well.
It's not just waterfowl that twitchers can look forward to as the park is home to over 50 species of raptors including Black Sparrow hawks and Peregrine falcons. Keep an eye open for the Narina Trogon and yellow throated Sand grouse.
South Luangwa National Park
Perhaps a more accessible region for fantastic birding is the South Luangwa National Park, which is home to around 400 species of the 732 species found in Zambia. Birding here is at its best at the end of the dry season when the lagoons begin to recede, trapping fish and amphibians, creating a feast for waders. There are a number of accommodation options available.
Birding in South Luangwa
A highlight will be seeing hundreds of red-faced yellow billed storks, marabous, saddle bills and herons feasting. The park is also one of the best places in the world to see the elegant and graceful Crowned Crane which occurs around the salt pans.
Just before the wet season the intra-African migrants and palearctic migrants from Europe arrive, including swifts, storks and bee eaters. One of the most beautiful sights has to be the vibrant carmine bee-eaters which gather in their hundreds to nest in the steep banks of the river. Ground Hornbills, Heuglins Robins and fish eagles are all also common. Bangweulu Swamps - seek out the elusive Shoebill.
These swamps are a designated Ramsar Site and part of a proposed IBA (Important Bird Area) and are home to one of birders most sought after birds - the rare and elusive Shoebill. Many birders will make an expedition to the swamps just to see the Shoebill.The best time to visit is during the wet season in summer between November and March.
However, the swamps are also home to other rare species including the Swamp fly-catcher and Marsh Tchagra. Visitors can see Pratincoles and Crowned Cranes, various species of ducks, geese, pelicans and flamingos. Rarities often seen include Slatey and Black egrets.
by Michael English