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    Birdlife of Tanzania

    14 minutes read
    Flamingos at Lake Manyara National Park - Easy Travel Tanzania
    Flamingos at Lake Manyara National Park - Easy Travel Tanzania

    Considering a Tanzanian adventure? Most of us imagine majestic elephants, towering giraffes, or swift gazelles crossing the savannah.

    But there’s more to Tanzania than just its terrestrial wildlife; raise your gaze to the skies, and you’ll find an entirely different spectacle. Yes, we’re referring to the rich birdlife of Tanzania.

    From tiny weavers to massive ostriches, and local endemics to migratory birds from far continents, Tanzania’s avian population offers an unforgettable spectacle on par with its land-based counterparts. So, as we embark on this journey, remember also to look up and enjoy the aerial wonders.

    Now, let’s explore the vibrant birdlife of Tanzania…

    Yes, we’re referring to the rich birdlife of Tanzania. From tiny weavers to massive ostriches, local endemics to migratory birds from far continents, Tanzania’s avian population offers an unforgettable spectacle on par with its land-based counterparts.

    So, as we embark on this journey, remember to also look up and enjoy the aerial wonders. Now, let’s explore the vibrant birdlife of Tanzania…

    3 reasons why the birdlife of Tanzania is the best

    1. The birdlife of Tanzania is diverse

    Africa, with its diverse habitats and climates, has an impressive 2,500 bird species spread across its vast expanses (View Source). Amazingly, of this large number, more than 1,100 bird species have staked their claim within the boundaries of Tanzania, a truly staggering concentration of avian biodiversity.

    Now, number crunching isn’t required to grasp the impressiveness of this figure. But if we indulge in a bit of basic arithmetic, we can gain a bit more perspective on Tanzania’s bird richness. If you take the number of bird species found in Tanzania and compare it with Africa’s overall bird species count, you’ll find that Tanzania hosts almost 45% of all bird species found on the African continent.

    Looked at in this light, Tanzania isn’t just a prime location for birdwatching. It’s one of the continent’s leading nations in terms of bird species diversity — an avian hotspot that any bird enthusiast or wildlife lover should aim to explore.

    2.The birdlife of Tanzania is unique

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    Tanzania - istock 1331985599 - birdlife of tanzania

    Let’s put numbers aside for a moment and delve into a term that holds significance for bio-diversity circles: endemic (View Source). When a species is described as endemic, it means it’s unique to a specific geographical location and can’t be found naturally anywhere else on the planet.

    Understanding this term gives us an impressive perspective on Tanzania’s unique contributions to global avian biodiversity. Believe it or not, the country boasts an intriguing 26 endemic bird species. These species, in all their vibrant, chirping, fluttering glory, represent an exclusive avian identity defined by Tanzania’s unique habitats (View Source).

    This means that over two dozen bird species call only this East African nation their home, adding a special credential to Tanzania’s biodiversity. You won’t find these birds in your backyard unless, of course, your backyard is in Tanzania.

    This not only underscores Tanzania’s importance as a protector of unique species but also celebrates the varied and suitably hospitable environments that exist in this country. From thick forests to vast savannahs, the rich tapestry of Tanzania’s landscapes provides the perfect stage for these species to live and thrive.

    3. It's habitat rich

    Tanzania’s biodiversity is further enhanced by its rich array of habitats. The country’s unique geographical features — ranging from towering mountains to deep lakes, arid savannahs to lush rainforests — provide an ideal sanctuary for a vast array of wildlife, including its many bird species.

    Each habitat fosters different environments, attracting a specific assortment of birds. The vast plains of the Serengeti, for instance, are home to ground-dwelling birds like the Kori Bustard and Secretary Bird. At the same time, the rich forests of the Eastern Arc Mountains and Lake Zones are the sole domains of several endemic bird species.

    Moreover, the expansive freshwater and saltwater bodies, including Lake Victoria and the Indian Ocean coast, draw in countless water birds and migratory species, providing plentiful bird-watching opportunities. The annual appearance of migratory flamingos turning Lake Natron pink is a sight to behold.

    Birdlife

    Some birds to look out for:

    If you’re not a birder, worry not—Tanzania will turn you into one. But where to start? Where to look? Here’s a glance at some of our favorite winged ones:

    From the 24 different species of bats that live on the slopes of Kilimanjaro to Serengeti’s ostrich, the largest living bird in the world, a trip to Tanzania offers access to some incredible bioregional variation, from savannah to subalpine, and with that brings bird variety.

    The big birdlife of Tanzania

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    Get ready for an exciting trip through Tanzania’s world of colorful and lively birds. With over a thousand different types of birds, Tanzania is like a big, beautiful show of chirping melodies, bright colors, and cool bird activities. This bird show takes place everywhere, from the watery lands of Lake Manyara National Park to spreading areas of Tarangire National Park.

    Northerly winds bring even more birds to Tanzania, adding to the mix and making it even more fun to watch. Whether you love birdwatching or just like going on adventures, this would be a not-to-forget trip that lets you get close to Tanzania’s bird wonders.

    Tanzania’s different habitats—from large, open grasslands to calm waters, tough mountains, and green forests—are home to unique and rare birds. The birds’ world in Tanzania gives birdwatchers and adventurers an unmatched and captivating experience they’ll remember forever.

    1. Bateleur

    The Bateleur, a relative to the snake eagle, is a robust raptor known for its striking contrasts of black plumage and a vividly red beak. On the raptor’s face, a distinctive clown-like nose is present.

    This feature seems to reflect its French name origins, “Bateleur,” translating to “street performer” or “juggler.” These birds are not merely known for their seemingly playful appearance but also for their impressive hunting skills.

    Displaying a fine mastery of air acrobatics, the Bateleur soars over the African terrain in search of prey, establishing it as one of nature’s most captivating performers.

    2. Secretary Bird

    The Secretary Bird, characterized by its tall, elegant stature, stands apart in the bird kingdom. What makes this species particularly striking is a cluster of long, quill-like feathers that sprout from the backside of its head, somewhat akin to a secretary with pens tucked away in their hair.

    This unusual yet endearing appearance is complemented by a demeanour that radiates confidence and strength. This bird also serves a vital role in its habitat, balancing the ecology by preying on venomous snakes, rodents, and insects.

    Its unique attributes make the Secretary Bird a favourite among both bird watchers and nature enthusiasts.

    3. Augur Buzzard

    Nestled within the boundless expanses of the Serengeti, the Augur Buzzard is an opportunistic bird of prey that is hard to miss. With its broad wings and sharp curved beak, this strong-built bird is indeed a heavyweight in the avian world.

    But Augur Buzzard’s claim to fame extends beyond the Serengeti. Interestingly, this raptor served as the inspiration for the mascot of the Seattle Seahawks football team.

    In addition to its influential status in pop culture, the Augur Buzzard also plays a critical role in keeping the ecological balance of its habitat by preying on small mammals, birds, and reptiles. Its remarkable features and contributions certainly warrant admiration and respect. (View Source)

    The Flashy Birdlife of Tanzania

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    1. Fischer's Lovebird

    Fischer’s Lovebird, a small, brightly colored parrot species, is one of the notable avian treasures of Northern Tanzania. These captivating birds are aptly named for their exhibition of ‘romantic’ behavior or love tendencies.

    Known for their lifetime monogamous pairs, they are often seen canoodling, with pairs spending significant time nestled together or engaging in mutual grooming — images that embody an affection reminiscent of human love. But their social identity doesn’t end with their partners.

    Fischer’s Lovebirds also demonstrate social engagement within their flocks. They engage in group feeding and communal roosting, creating an animated spectacle against the Tanzanian landscapes.

    However, these charming birds are enduring struggles, listed as ‘near-threatened’ due to loss of habitat and illegal pet trade, highlighting the importance of their conservation in their native habitats.

    2. Lesser Flamingo

    Flamingos, with their iconic pink hue and graceful elegance, are a real marvel of nature, far from the static lawn decorations often seen in suburban yards. In Tanzania, these species aren’t just aesthetic elements adorning the landscapes; instead, they play crucial roles in the ecosystem.

    Prime flamingo spots in Tanzania, Lake Manyara and Lake Natron, annually transform into a vast canvas of pink as thousands of these majestic birds descend to breed and nest. It is a magnificent sight, delighting photographers and bird enthusiasts alike, as a sea of pink spans across the horizon, painting an ethereal picture against the stunning backdrop of the lakes.

    As for their unique, eye-catching color, these birds don’t owe it to a fashion statement, but to their diet. Flamingos munch on algae and crustaceans rich in astaxanthin, a chemical compound that imparts the characteristic pink colour to their feathers. Over time, this natural dye accumulates in their system, causing them to exhibit an increasingly deeper pink hue. This dietary habit has led to a fascinating interrelation between their environment, diet, and appearance that charms observers worldwide.

    3. Superb Starling

    What sets the Superb Starling apart from other birds is its mesmerizing, iridescent chest and back, which shimmer in a coat of metallic blues and greens under the sunlight. These colours are sharply contrasted by its bright white eyes, dark wings and tail, and a remarkably vivid orange-red underbelly.

    As its name suggests, the Superb Starling is a truly magnificent bird to behold and can be seen in various regions throughout East Africa. This petite bird is known for its striking appearance and wide-ranging presence. What sets the Superb Starling apart from other birds is its mesmerizing, iridescent chest and back, which shimmer in a coat of metallic blues and greens under the sunlight. These colors are sharply contrasted by its bright white eyes, dark wings and tail, and a remarkably vivid orange-red underbelly.

    This makes the Superb Starling one of the more eye-catching bird species to grace the African landscape. However, its intrigue goes beyond mere aesthetics. The Superb Starling is also known for its unique family dynamics, displaying communal breeding behaviours yet familiar sibling rivalries.

    For these reasons, the Superb Starling is more than just a small bird with a large range; it is also an embodiment of unique habits and remarkable beauty, making a sighting of these resplendent creatures a truly memorable encounter.

    The noble birdlife of Tanzania

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    1. Hamerkop

    I’ll never forget first seeing this macho bird circling Lake Duluti outside Arusha (View Source).

    The Hamerkop is an extraordinary bird, native to sub-Saharan Africa, whose sighting leaves an undeniably strong impression on anyone fortunate enough to witness it. Its most distinctive feature, the peculiar shape of its head robustly resembling a hammer, immediately catches the eye, and hence its descriptive name ‘Hamerkop,’ which translates to ‘Hammerhead’ from Afrikaans.

    One memorable spotting of this unusual bird took place at Lake Duluti near the city of Arusha. This bird made an unforgettable spectacle as it majestically circled around the lake, showcasing its brown feathered massiveness. With its unique build and impressive wingspan, the Hamerkop undoubtedly dominates the avian landscape around it.

    2. Kingfisher

    The Kingfisher is one exceptional bird widely known for its vibrant colours, distinguishable beak, and amusing personality. With a sturdy, dagger-like beak ideal for fishing, Kingfishers set a compelling example of precise, natural adaptation in close connection with their habitat.

    These lively birds, often found in areas teeming with water bodies, are a joy to watch as they dive swiftly into the water, hunting for small fish – an activity that gives them their name. In Tanzania, the Kingfisher isn’t just one bird but represents a fascinating group of various varieties, each distinguished by its unique colours, sizes, and behaviours.

    Whether it’s the small, brightly coloured Malachite Kingfisher with its vivid plumage or the oversized, stocky Pied Kingfisher with its striking black-and-white markings, these are birds that you simply can’t ignore.

    The 5 best places to see the amazing birdlife of Tanzania

    Bottom line?

    Tanzania crawls with world-class wildlife at every turn, but it’s skies are full of incredible birdlife, too. Talk to any birder and they’ll tell you: a trip to East Africa is like birding heaven. So please: don’t forget your binoculars.

    Getting you there?

    Easy Travel can offer customized, bird-specific daylong and multiday trips to Tanzania’s hottest birding sights. Our guides and naturalists all carry decades of bird knowledge, so contact us today to get started.

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1.What bird species are commonly found in Tanzania?

    Tanzania is a haven for bird enthusiasts, boasting many bird species that enhance the country’s rich biodiversity. From the striking greater and lesser flamingos that bathe the lakes in hues of pink to the majestic African fish eagle asserting its dominance in the skies, the birdlife is genuinely diverse.

    Spectacular species like the vibrant Lilac-breasted roller, the unique Ruaha hornbill, and the intimidating Ruppell’s vulture are also worth looking out for. Other noteworthy birds include the elegantly poised African jacana, the ceremonious Grey-crowned crane, the distinctive Secretary bird, and the captivating Tanzania red-billed hornbill, rounding out the country’s remarkable avian offerings.

    2. What is the best time to go birdwatching in Tanzania?

    From June to October, birdwatching in Tanzania tends to be most rewarding during the dry season. During this period, the usually dense vegetation thins out, providing clear, unobstructed views of birds in their natural habitats.

    This clearing offers ease in spotting resident species and allows for a glimpse of the rare spectacle of bird migration. In these months, observers can witness a variety of bird species, both local and migratory, filling the Tanzanian skies with a display of unparalleled diversity and beauty.

    3. Which national parks or reserves are best for birdwatching in Tanzania?

    Tanzania has numerous prime birdwatching locations, showcasing a fascinating collection of bird species against stunning landscapes. Renowned for its diverse fauna, the Serengeti National Park also draws birdwatchers worldwide with its avian offerings.

    The Ngorongoro Conservation Area, featuring multiple habitats, is home to numerous birds. Tarangire National Park is another enchanting destination that hosts several iconic and endemic birds within its vibrant and diverse birdlife.

    Likewise, the verdant landscape of Lake Manyara National Park allows for an enjoyable birdwatching experience, complemented by the panoramic Arusha National Park. Not to be overlooked, Ruaha National Park is renowned for its magnificently remote wilderness brimming with birds of all kinds.

    At the same time, Mikumi National Park is a lesser-known but equally captivating birdwatching spot, with abundant bird species adding to Tanzania’s ornithological allure.

    4. Can I find endemic bird species in Tanzania?

    Tanzania’s rich biodiversity accommodates several bird species exclusive to its geographical territories. Such endemic species include:

    • The stunning Usambara eagle owl.
    • Evocative Pemba scops-owl.
    • Elusive Udzungwa forest partridge.
    • The distinctive Uluguru bush shrike.

    These enticing species inhabit various niches across the country, each presenting unique birdwatching opportunities. In particular, the mountainous regions and unique habitats, such as the Usambara mountain range and the forested areas of Pemba and Udzungwa, offer shelters to these bird species, enhancing Tanzania’s reputation as a birdwatcher’s paradise.

    5. What equipment should I carry while birdwatching in Tanzania?

    Equipping yourself properly can significantly enhance your birdwatching experience in Tanzania. A good pair of binoculars is fundamental, providing you with clear, close-up views of birds. 

    A spotting scope on a tripod is ideal for observing birds at a distance, while a field guide to East African birds can assist in identifying various species. Lastly, a notebook for logging your sightings and suitable outdoor attire and footwear ensure comfort and ease during your birding adventure.

    6. What birdwatching etiquette should I follow in Tanzania?

    Birdwatching in Tanzania typically doesn’t necessitate special permits, making it an accessible activity for everyone. However, securing the services of a local guide with expert knowledge of wildlife and terrain is advisable.

    Such a guide can efficiently navigate through the parks and assist in identifying the dynamic array of bird species. Furthermore, insights shared by the guide about local birdlife and habitats can significantly enrich your birdwatching experience.

    7. Do I need a special permit or a guide for birdwatching in Tanzania?

    When birdwatching in Tanzania, it’s important to act responsibly to ensure the well-being of the wildlife and the environment. This involves maintaining a sufficient distance from the birds and preventing disturbances to their natural behaviours and habitats, such as nests. 

    Sticking to designated paths helps protect the terrain, and keeping sounds to a minimum aids in observing the birds in their serene, natural state. Lastly, adherence to park rules, correct disposal of waste, and upholding respect for local customs bolster the sustainability of these fantastic birdwatching locations.

    8. What habitats support the diverse birdlife in Tanzania?

    Tanzania’s diverse landscape, encompassing savannas, forests, wetlands, mountains, and lakes, nurtures a rich, distinct array of bird species. Each habitat caters to different avian communities, markedly showcasing the biodiversity.

    Wetlands, for instance, are magnets for waterbirds and waders that thrive in aquatic environments. In contrast, lush forests support many endemic species that have adapted to the specific conditions of this unique habitat, exemplifying Tanzania’s wealth of captivating birdlife.

    9. What safety precautions should be taken during birdwatching in Tanzania?

    A successful birdwatching trip requires proper preparation to ensure comfort, health, and safety. Always carry ample water to stay hydrated, and wear suitable clothing and footwear that cater to the terrain and weather conditions.

    Protection against sun exposure and insect bites, involving sunscreen and insect repellent, is crucial. Being aware of weather updates and potential changes ensures readiness while remaining vigilant around wildlife, and following your guide’s advice guarantees that interactions with nature proceed smoothly and safely.

    10. Can beginners enjoy birdwatching in Tanzania?

    Tanzania provides an exceptional birdwatching opportunity, catering to the skill sets of both novice and seasoned bird enthusiasts. The abundance and variety of bird species in the region ensure that even first-time birdwatchers can make exciting sightings. 

    Furthermore, the diverse landscapes and captivating wildlife create unique bird habitats and offer engaging encounters for people of all experience levels. As a result, birdwatching in Tanzania remains a fulfilling and gratifying experience for all who embark on this beautiful journey.

    11. What is the variety of bird species one can expect in Tanzania's coastal areas?

    Tanzania’s coastal regions and islands – Zanzibar, Pemba, and Mafia – present exceptional birdwatching locales, hosting a range of seabirds, waders, and other coastal species. One can often spot Lesser Crested Terns and White-fronted Plovers here, with their striking appearances adding charm to these coastal spots.

    The endemic Pemba Scops-Owl, native exclusively to Pemba Island, also contributes to the allure for birdwatchers. This rich diversity of avian life set against the pristine coastal backdrop makes these locations a paradise for bird enthusiasts.

    12. Can I participate in birdwatching tours in Tanzania?

    Indeed, numerous tour operators in Tanzania specialize in organizing birdwatching excursions to some of the most renowned national parks, reserves, and birding hotspots throughout the country. These carefully planned tours encompass a full suite of services, including accommodations, logistics, guided walks led by well-informed guides, and all other required amenities that ensure a seamless and enjoyable birdwatching journey.

    As a result, birdwatchers can focus on their passion, appreciating an astonishing array of bird species in picturesque surroundings. It is an exceptional opportunity for travellers to immerse themselves in Tanzania’s captivating wildlife while experiencing the ease and comfort these well-tailored tours provide.

    13. Is it possible to spot migratory birds in Tanzania?

    Without a doubt, Tanzania is a significant destination for many migratory birds from different parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe, particularly during the dry season. The country transforms into a haven for several migrating birds, making it an exceedingly rewarding birdwatching destination.

    During this period, you can expect to marvel at the sight of vibrant European Bee-Eaters, elegant White Storks, and stunning Eurasian Rollers, among many others. This seasonal spectacle of migratory birds provides an exclusive opportunity to witness the richness of avian biodiversity, making your visit to Tanzania an unforgettable natural experience.

    14. Can I contribute to bird conservation efforts in Tanzania?

    Contributing to Tanzanian bird conservation efforts can be accomplished in several ways:

    1.Raising awareness about the region’s diverse animal life and its threats can attract attention and potentially garner added support for these conservation initiatives.

    2. Giving financial support to local organizations dedicated to preserving the habitats and health of these bird species can help bolster their ongoing projects. Participating in citizen science projects or volunteering your time can also provide practical support to these endeavours.

    3. Adhering to responsible birdwatching practices during your visit, such as preventing disturbances to birds and their habitats, can significantly ensure their longevity for future generations to admire.

    Musaddiq Gulamhussein - Owner - Easy Travel Tanzania

    About the author: Musaddiq

    Meet Musaddiq Gulamhussein, owner of Easy Travel Tanzania, a tour company creating life-changing safari experiences for over 35 years. Musaddiq has explored Tanzania, developing a deep understanding of the local cultures and traditions. Follow his journey and gain insights into the African Safari experience through Easy Travel's social media and blog.

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