Africa is home to some of the most diverse, abundant, and colorful bird species on the planet. From the vibrant colors of the lilac-breasted roller to the graceful flight of the African fish eagle, African birds captivate both birdwatchers and casual observers alike. More than 2,300 bird species have been identified in the continent, with 67% of them being unique to Africa. While the big cats often steal the show on safari, the vast array of African birds is often overlooked. Birds have played a range of roles in African ecosystems since the time of the dinosaurs, from fierce predators like the fish eagle to scavengers like the vulture and helpful companions like the oxpecker.
In this article, we will explore some of the most fascinating and unique African birds, from the iconic ostrich to the elusive shoebill, and gain a greater appreciation for the diversity and wonder of these feathered creatures.
Also, read Adventurous and Best Safaris in South Africa to Visit
List of birds of Africa
We chose to highlight the most recognizable African birds because of their diversity and beautiful coloring displays. Here is the complete list.
1. African Fish Eagle:
The adult is a huge, striking chestnut-and-white eagle that perches prominently along rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. The immature scruffy is dark brown and speckled with white on the head. The juvenile is distinguished in flight by its white windows in the wings and pale, dark-tipped tail.
It catches fish by making an elegant, shallow dive to the surface of the water, but it also eats birds, reptiles, and carrion. It makes a loud penetrating “wheeee-ah-kleeuw-kleeuw-kluuu” call while tossing its head backward; it is one of Africa’s most unique bird sounds.
2. Collared Sunbird:
A little sunbird with a short bill and a metallic-green back and a yellow belly. The male has a green neck with a short purplish breast band, whereas the female has a yellow throat and no breast band. Pairs can be found along the forest border, woodland, and savanna, where they join mixed-species flocks to scavenge leaves and hover for insect food. They will, however, subsist on fruit and nectar, frequently by piercing the base of a flower and sucking out nectar without pollination.
Variable Sunbird “yellow-bellied” races are larger than Collared Sunbird, having a longer bill and a broader purple-blue breast band.
3. African Masked Weaver:
The Southern Masked-Weaver (Ploceus velatus) is found throughout southern Africa, where it can be found in a variety of habitats such as shrubland, savanna, grassland, open woodland, inland marshes, and semi-desert environments. They can also be found in parks and gardens in the suburbs. The Southern Masked-Weaver is 11-14.5 cm long, with a short, powerful, conical bill and pinkish brown legs. The female has a pinkish-brown bill, brown or red-brown eyes, and a drab greenish-yellow body with darker streaks on the upper back. Her throat is yellowish, and her abdomen is off-white.
4. Crowned Plover:
The crowned plover, often called the crowned lapwing, is a flexible bird that may be found all over Southern Africa. Its black crown split by a white halo, brown and white plumage and a mix of red legs make it simple to identify. Crowned plovers have a lengthy breeding season. Eggs are placed in a sandy region that has been lined with plants or pebbles before the rainy season. On warmer days, the male helps the females with the incubation of the eggs.
Flamingos are a safari must-see due to their bright pink coloring and one-legged attitude. They have the longest, most elegant necks of any bird and the greatest proportionally proportioned legs of any bird. They frequently rest their heads on their body to prevent neck muscular fatigue. Flamingos can be found in large colonies throughout Sub-Saharan Africa. They favor mud flats because they can shape the loose mud into nesting mounds.
6. Eurasian Golden Oriole:
Males are unmistakable: golden-yellow with black wings and tail; females and immatures are greenish yellow overall with dusky wings and varied, fine dark streaking below; and all plumages have a powerful-looking reddish-pink beak. (dullest in immature). Favors deciduous and mixed woodland and parks, particularly those with tall leafy trees; on migration, may end up in more open settings. Despite vivid colors, she is shy and difficult to spot. It prefers to stay hidden in the forest and flies rapidly and readily across great distances. Listen for the lovely, smooth, melodious songs as well as gruff, corvid-like sounds.
7. Great Cormorant:
Large cormorants are found almost everywhere. Take note of the huge size, white patch on the throat, and lack of a crest. Adults that are breeding have a circular white patch on their sides. Immatures have contrasting white bellies, and African “White-breasted” birds have substantial white underparts in all plumages. Frequently seen standing on rocks or pilings. Dives frequently to catch fish. Found in a variety of water bodies, including rivers, reservoirs, and marine settings; in North America, it is restricted to the coastal North Atlantic.
8. Grey-Crowned Crane:
A magnificent blue-gray crane with a black-and-white face and a golden-yellow plume crown. Immatures have more rust than adults. Singles, couples, and flocks favor wetlands, flooded grasslands, and man-made bodies of water, but they may forage in a variety of other open habitats. Resident, although may become nomadic locally in reaction to rain. Groups are easily identified by their low mournful bugling “maaah-hem” call. The Black Crowned Crane is distinguished by its slaty-gray coloring, smaller red facial wattles, and red-and-white (rather than white) cheek patches.
9. Helmeted Guineafowl:
Guinea fowl are prevalent in Africa’s savannas and grasslands, with their distinctive vivid blue head and neck and hanging scarlet wattle. They are terrestrial birds (though they can fly and glide for short distances) and prefer to run rather than fly when attacked. They are frequently observed, like chickens, foraging in the loose ground in search of food such as seeds, fruits, greens, snails, spiders, worms, and insects. They may also pounce on larger prey such as frogs and toads, lizards, smaller snakes, and small mammals using their sharp claws.
10. Kori Bustard:
Despite being one of the largest flying birds and featured on our list of the world’s largest birds, the kori bustard prefers to forage on the ground rather than fly. Its principal food sources are seeds and lizards. There are kori bustard subspecies in East and Southern Africa that are both grey in color with golden legs and a black cap. These polygamous African birds attract multiple females, mate with them, and then abandon the females to care for the young on their own.
Read More, Famous African Animals and Where to See Them in Africa
African birds are an integral part of the continent’s natural heritage, and their presence is a testament to the importance of preserving and protecting Africa’s unique ecosystems. Whether soaring through the skies or perched on a branch, these birds provide a source of inspiration and wonder for people around the world.
As we continue to learn more about these fascinating creatures and their role in African culture and ecology, let us strive to ensure their continued survival for generations to come. By supporting conservation efforts and promoting sustainable practices, we can help safeguard the future of these remarkable birds and the environments in which they thrive.