The African continent hosts a variety of birds. It is a perfect place for bird enthusiasts as the birds found here belong to different species, have different patterns, and have colorful plumage. Some of the birds are purely a treat to the eyes, like the flamingos, the violet-backed starling et cetera.
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.
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 fully grown eagle is an impressive chestnut-and-white bird that stands out as it perches prominently near rivers, lakes, and other water bodies. In its younger stages, the bird, with a more rugged appearance, sports a dark brown hue speckled with white on its head. When in flight, the juvenile can be recognized by the white markings on its wings resembling windows and the pale, dark-tipped tail.
When hunting, this eagle displays grace by executing elegant, shallow dives to the water’s surface, capturing fish along with consuming birds, reptiles, and carrion. Its vocalization is distinctive, emitting a loud and penetrating “wheeee-ah-kleeuw-kleeuw-kluuu” call while tilting its head backward, making it one of the most unique bird sounds found in Africa.
2. Lilac-breasted roller:
The lilac-breasted roller is a striking bird that’s quite popular among bird watchers. You can find this beautiful species in the southern and eastern parts of Africa. They are often seen in the savanna, where they keep an eye out for arthropods and small vertebrates in the environment. This bird gets its name from the lilac color on its throat and upper breast. Its plumage is a delicate mix of up to eight different colors, including turquoise, green, black, tawny-brown, and royal blue. While watching this bird is a treat to the eyes, its vocalizations might not be as pleasant, as it produces a guttural cackle that could be mistaken for the harsh call of a crow.
3. Collared Sunbird:
The diminutive sunbird displays a concise beak and possesses a metallic-green back with a yellow underside. In the male, a green neck is adorned with a brief purplish breast band, while the female showcases a yellow throat without a breast band. These sunbirds can be spotted in pairs at the edges of forests, woodlands, and savannas. They often join mixed-species flocks to scavenge leaves and hover in search of insects. While they primarily feed on fruit and nectar, they also employ a technique of piercing the base of a flower to extract nectar without participating in pollination.
The “yellow-bellied” races of the Variable Sunbird are larger in size compared to the Collared Sunbird, featuring an elongated bill and a wider purple-blue breast band.
4. African pygmy kingfisher:
Kingfishers are known for their stunning appearance. They have colorful feathers that make them some of the most beautiful birds. They have tawny-colored undersides and various shades of blue or violet on their upper parts. This is due to the way their feathers are structured, as it creates this striking illusion of color. One particularly gorgeous kingfisher species is the African pygmy kingfisher. It has a deep blue crown and back, violet ear coverts, and rufous-coloured underparts. These birds tend to be quite shy. They are usually found either on their own or in pairs throughout most of sub-Saharan Africa, although they are not typically seen in dry regions.
5. African Masked Weaver:
The Southern Masked-Weaver (Ploceus velatus) is distributed across the southern regions of Africa and inhabits diverse environments such as shrublands, savannas, grasslands, open woodlands, inland marshes, and semi-desert areas. These birds can also be spotted in suburban parks and gardens. Measuring 11-14.5 cm in length, they possess a robust, short, conical bill and legs with a pinkish-brown hue. In terms of appearance, the female Southern Masked Weaver features a pinkish-brown bill, brown or red-brown eyes, and a drab greenish-yellow body with darker streaks on the upper back. The throat is tinged yellowish, while the abdomen appears off-white.
6. Violet-backed starling
The violet-backed starling, also called the amethyst starling, is a unique and beautiful African bird. The male stands out with its vibrant, iridescent violet plumage against a backdrop of pure white undersides. Yellow irises and a greyish-black bill complete its striking appearance. This starling species can be found across most of Africa, situated below the Sahara, except in drier regions and the Congo rainforests. It prefers habitats like open woodlands, gallery forests, and clearings within forests, where it searches the canopies for fruits, seeds, and invertebrates.
7. Crowned Plover:
The crowned plover, also known as the crowned lapwing, is a versatile bird widely distributed throughout Southern Africa. Its distinctive features include a black crown with a white halo, a plumage of brown and white, and a combination of red legs, making it easily recognizable. Crowned plovers exhibit an extended breeding season. They lay their eggs in a sandy area prepared with plant linings or pebbles before the rainy season. During warmer days, the male actively assists the females in incubating the eggs.
8. Greater Flamingo:
The greater flamingo holds the title for being the largest and most widespread bird among flamingo species. Its habitat stretches across parts of Asia and Europe. It has mainly pinkish-white plumage. It highlights red wing coverts and dark flight feathers. The distinctive long legs are a vibrant shade of pink, complementing its sizable, flexible bill that’s black-tipped with pink. It is designed to pick the food. The pink colour that flamingos are known for is a result of their diet rich in carotenoids, mainly from brine shrimps and algae. Apart from these, the greater flamingo also includes seeds and molluscs in its diet.
9. African green pigeon:
While pigeons might not be a top priority for birdwatchers, however, several Columbid species are worth a closer look. African green pigeons are distinct from the common city pigeons. They inhabit savannahs, woodlands, and riparian forests. They primarily feed on fruit found in the canopy. Spotting African green pigeons can be a challenge, but their unique song, which is a mix of whinnies, whistles, clicks, and cackles, can help you trace them. These birds possess excellent climbing skills, similar to that of parrots, and their plumage shares a similar color palette—grey-green on top, yellow-green below, with yellow thighs and purple-red shoulder patches. They have striking pale blue to white irises, a red bill, and red feet.
10. Eurasian Golden Oriole:
The males are easily recognizable, showcasing a golden-yellow hue with black wings and tail. On the other hand, females and juveniles exhibit a greenish-yellow coloration overall with dusky wings and intricate, subtle dark streaks beneath. Regardless of age or gender, they all possess a robust reddish-pink beak, which appears less vibrant in the immature stage.
Their habitat preference includes deciduous and mixed woodlands, as well as parks with tall, leafy trees. During migration, they may venture into more open environments. Despite their vibrant colors, these birds are shy and elusive, often concealing themselves in the forest. They are agile fliers, covering great distances swiftly. Their charming songs are smooth and melodious, complemented by gruff, corvid-like sounds.
11. Great Cormorant:
Large cormorants are highly ubiquitous, being present in almost all regions. Notable features include their significant size, a distinctive white patch on the throat, and the absence of a crest. Breeding adults display a circular white patch on their sides. Immature individuals exhibit contrasting white bellies, while African “White-breasted” cormorants have extensive white underparts in all stages of plumage. They are commonly observed perching on rocks or pilings and frequently engage in diving to capture fish. These birds can be found in various types of water bodies, ranging from rivers and reservoirs to marine environments. In North America, their habitat is primarily limited to the coastal areas of the North Atlantic.
12. Purple-crested turaco
Turacos are distinctive birds, characterized by long tails, sturdy bodies, small heads, and crests resembling mohawks. The purple-crested turaco, although beautiful, poses a puzzle for biologists regarding its exact classification within the turaco family. Its striking appearance is highlighted by a vibrant, deep purple crest, emerald green forehead, and eye mask. The throat, underparts, and mantle boast a lively lime-green hue. It is further complemented by crimson-red flight feathers and a pinkish-red tint on the breast. The remainder of its feathers have a pleasing bluish-purple shade. In the forest, the purple-crested turaco’s call, a raucous croaking, grows progressively louder, creating an echoing presence.
13. Grey-Crowned Crane:
This majestic crane possesses a stunning blue-gray plumage accented by a black-and-white face and a splendid golden-yellow crown of plumes. Younger cranes exhibit a rustier hue compared to the adults. Whether found alone, in pairs, or within flocks, they exhibit a preference for habitats such as wetlands, flooded grasslands, and man-made water bodies. However, they demonstrate versatility in foraging and can be seen in various open habitats. These cranes usually reside in a specific area but may adopt a nomadic lifestyle locally, especially in response to rainfall. Identifying them is relatively easy in groups due to their distinctive, mournful bugling call resembling “maaah-hem.” To differentiate the Black Crowned Crane, observe its unique slaty-gray coloration, smaller red facial wattles, and red-and-white cheek patches as opposed to the typical white markings.
14. Helmeted Guineafowl:
Guinea fowl are common birds in Africa’s grassy areas. They have a bright blue head and neck, and a red wattle that hangs down. These birds mostly stay on the ground, but they can fly short distances. When they feel threatened, they prefer running to flying. They are a lot like chickens and like to look for food in the soil. They eat things like seeds, fruits, plants, snails, spiders, worms, and insects. Sometimes, they catch bigger animals like frogs, lizards, snakes, and small mammals using their sharp claws.
15. Kori Bustard:
Even though the kori bustard is one of the biggest birds that can fly, it likes to search for food on the ground instead of flying around. It mainly eats seeds and lizards. In East and Southern Africa, you can find different types of kori bustards. They are gray with golden legs and a black cap on their heads. These birds in Africa often have many wives, mate with them, and leave the wives to take care of the babies all by themselves.
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.