Bird watching

Ethiopia has numerous, diverse and colorful birds comparable and even much better than many African countries. One major reason for Ethiopia’s Bird watching in Ethiopia high profile among bird watchers is the large number of species that are endemic or near endemic- in Africa comparable only to South Africa and Tanzania. One major reason for a high degree of endemism in Ethiopia is the country’s diverse topography. The central highlands, the surrounding arid lowlands, the Rift valley that runs north south dotted with fresh water lakes support different range of habitat and hence diverse species of birds.

More than 830 species of birds (28 species are endemic) have been recorded, compared to 250 in UK. About 14 species are semi endemics sharing with Eritrea. The other advantage of birding in Ethiopia is the relative ease of spotting many species of birds including the endemic or the semi endemic species over a normal length holiday.
Where to see birds

Here below is highlight of Ethiopia’s main birding sites. However it should be clear that these lists are not the only possibilities to spot birds. It is intended to serve as a rough plan for a kind of birding program. Bird watchers need to allow at least a minimum of 10 days to cover all the areas listed below
Addis Ababa: Even in and around the capital, Addis Ababa, visitors can see a minimum of six to eight endemic or semi-endemic species.

North of Addis Ababa: The seasonally wet highland grasslands of the sululta plains, 31km north of Addis Ababa, support a good number of waders including the black-winged lapwing, around 30km further north, and the Blue Nile gorges around Debre Libanos are home to at least seven endemics or semi-endemics, among them the banded barbet, Rueppell’s chat and white-billed starling.

Bird watching in Ethiopia The town of Bahir Dar on the southern shore of Lake Tana supports many species of forest and water birds. On the Road to the Blue Nile Fall and at the fall visitors can expect to see many birds including the endemic black headed forest oriole, white collared pigeon, Yellow fronted parrot Between Bahir Dar and Axum are the spectacular Simien Mountains. Although the area’s birdlife is not as rich as that found in the Bale Mountain, the scenic crags and escarpments provide an unparalleled opportunity to see the soaring lammergeyer. Sightings of this immense bird and its incidental companion, the semi-endemic thick-billed raven, are almost guaranteed.

East of Addis Ababa

the Akaki wetlands. With its open river, marshes, waterfall and seasonal lakes, this is a great spot for birds. The wetlands boast a decent variety of waders, ducks and sometimes flamingos. The semi endemic wattled ibis and red-chested wheat ear both commonly spotted there. Further east on the same road is Debre Zeit, the site of a collection of crater lakes which are home to a wide variety of waders and ducks as well as the endemic white-winged chat.

The rocky escarpment near the little village of Ankober, north-east of Addis Ababa has become a more recent fixture on the birder’s itinerary, or account of the discovery in 1976 of the endemic and very localized Ankober Serin. Around 200km due east of Addis Ababa lies the awash National Park, one of the best places for birding in Ethiopia.

The Dire Dawa Harar area provides the bird watcher with a variety of habitats including semi arid bush, highland grassland and water ways. A bonus to this area is that much of the region’s avifauna overlaps with species from the Ogden region of south-east Ethiopia.

South of Addis Ababa

Bird watching in Ethiopia South of the junction town of Mojo, the string of Ethiopian Rift valley lakes are home to a selection of water birds including, during the northern winter, a large number of pale arctic waders and waterfowl and a few semi-endemics such as the brown saw wing.

Lake Ziway, with its large expanses of aquatic vegetation, attracts some interesting water birds including herons and storks, the acacia savannas and the cliff-lined shores of Lake Langano provide a habitat for the hornbill, fan-tailed raven and helmet shrike.

The saline waters of Lake Abyata and Lake Shala are known as the feeding and nesting grounds of large numbers of greater and lesser flamingos and the great white pelican. In the northern winter, the shores attract a good number of waders and ducks. On Lake Awasa, the African pygmy-goose can sometimes be spotted, along with various species of stork, ibis, crake, heron and coot.

At the southern end of the Ethiopian Rift valley, the varied habitats around Arba Minch, such as the freshwater lakes Chamo and Abaya, the lowland river in forest and the acacia woodland, attract a wide variety of birds, including weavers, sunbirds and waxbills.

The thickly forested hills of Wondo genet, south of Shashemene, are home to an excellent variety of birds including many semi endemics such as the thick – billed raven and the Abyssinian slaty flycatcher.

Bird watching in Ethiopia

The Bale Mountains National park is a favorite among birders and is endemics (16 in total). The park protects a wide range of habitats, from alpine and heather moorland. Endemics include the Abyssinian long claw, Abyssinian catbird, and spot-breasted lapwing, which is so common that a sighting is almost guaranteed.

South of the Bale Mountains are various spots which, though rather inaccessible, are home to some of Ethiopia’s most rare endemics, such as bush crow. The areas around Negele, Yabelo and Mega are particularly good,
West of Addis Ababa: The Jimma- Bonga area in western Ethiopia has some extensive montane forests, and the birds associated with them include woodpeckers, warblers, birds of prey and hoopoes. The Gefersa Reservoir, 18km outside Addis Ababa, is a good place to spot water birds, including two semi-endemics, the blue-winged goose and wattle ibis. The best time to see birds in Ethiopia is between October and February.