The beginning of 2015 has been an interesting challenge. We have seen absolutely tremendous growth in the Namibian tourism sector, which has meant all hands on deck:- quoting, looking after clients and making sure that we remain top of our game.
Believe it or not, as we are heading into busy season, it has given me the opportunity to get back to updating our blog and telling you more about our amazing little corner of the World!
I have recently been chatting with an agent regarding birding in Namibia and as I started looking into ornithology in Namibia I realised that with over 650 species having been identified in Namibia, many of these species are range restricted, that this is a subject that warrants some investigation. It is not a case of where do you go to see birds, it is a case of what do you want to see.
Before I even start this – the ONLY true endemic Namibian bird is the Dune Lark (Certhilauda erythrochlamys) of the 10 families of birds that are endemic to Africa 7 are found in Namibia, and there are 14 NEAR-endemic species in Namibia, so let’s start with those!
Dune Lark (Certhilauda erythrochlamys)
There are 90 species of Lark found world-wide, 70 of these are found in Africa (and 50 of those are endemic) making it a favourite with bird watchers. The Dune Lark is unique even amongst these.
It has evolved and is found in the oldest desert in the World, with its preferred habitat being the sand dunes of the Namib. It does not drink any water, getting everything that it needs from its diet of seeds and insects.
Its range falls almost entirely within the protected areas of the Namib Naukluft National Park, between Swakopmund and Luderitz.
Hartlaub’s Francolin (Pternistis hartlaubi)
Also known as the Hartlaub’s Spurfowl – this near endemic (found living in the rocky escarpments from Southern Angola to Central Namibia) – the Erongo region is great for spotting these guys, but be warned – you are going to need an early start as they are most active in the early mornings, when they emerge as noisy family groups.
Ruppell’s Korhaan (Eupodotis rueppellii) previously known as the Ruppell’s Bustard
They are near-endemic due to the fact that they have a limited regional range along the sandy, gravel plains of the Namib Desert and are often spotted along the roads in the Namib Naukluft. Named after a German explorer and naturalist, they are usually observed on their own or in small family groups. It is a large bird and the males and females have a very similar plummage.
Rosy-faced Love Birds (Agapornis roseicollis) also known as the rosy-collared or peach-faced lovebird.
The normal range area for this gorgeous little parrot is presumed to run from the Southern reaches of Angola, through Namibia and as far south as the northern Cape in South Africa. It is a very popular cage bird in the USA and there are reports that feral populations these lovebirds are thriving in Arizona!
Ruppell’s Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii)
One of the harder species of parrot to spot, the range area of this bird stretches from Southern Angola to the central Namibian highlands. It is found in the savannah and dry woodlands. While it is a protected species, it is listed as of least concern on the ICUN red list, even though wild populations are increasingly threatened by capture of these birds for pet shops.
Your best chance of spotting one of these illusive birds is by taking a walk along one of the dry river beds in central Namibia at either the beginning or the end of the day!
Monteiro’s Hornbill (Tockus monteiri)
This medium sized, African hornbill is found in the driest habitats of any hornbill, worldwide preferring the desert-like habitats. Unlike all other Hornhill species, which are omnivorous, this species of Hornbill are exclusively insectivorous.
In the Spring Monteiro’s Hornbills migrate to an area just south of the Capital city, Windhoek to nest.
With the adaptations to the arid environs, they also can get by without drinking water.
Damara Hornbill (Tockus damarensis)
The family of red-billed hornbills are found in sub-Saharan Africa. The Damara Red-billed Hornbill is one of five separate species. During breeding season the female will close herself into a naturally occurring hole in a tree, using mud and fruit pulp, leaving only a narrow opening for the male to feed both her and the chicks. Once the chicks are too big for the nest, the plug is broken open and both parents will feed the chicks.
Barlow’s Lark (Certhilauda barlowi)
Larks are an ancient group of birds which seem to have diverged early on and have no close living relatives today. The Barlow’s Lark has only recently been described as a separate species of the Karoo Lark complex. The fact that the four species of Karoo Lark have very similar colouration and the same basic plumage pattern, leading to a lot of identification problems for the novice birder. The other problem with the Barlow’s Lark is that it was believed to only occur in the restricted diamond areas in the deep south of Namibia, they prefer the dense coastal scrub and are really hard to observe!
Benguella Lark (Certhilauda benguelensis)
When the long-billed Lark cluster was split into 5 species, the Benguela Lark (or Benguela long-billed Lark) became a near-endemic species. Very little is known about these larks, the diet includes beetles, other insects and seeds. It occurs from the region just north of the Brandberg right into Southern Angola. Its massive bill is used for foraging in the sand.
This species of Lark has a very large range area, from the southern reaches of Angola to the area around Luderitz in the south of Namibia. They prefer the open gravel plains of the True Namib, avoiding the sand dunes and the coastal belt. Its diet consists of invertebrates, seeds and the soft tips of the grasses. They are also believed to be monogamous and the eggs are laid after the rainy season, March to July.
These larks attract their mates by aerial acrobatics, Gray’s Lark only does this performance in the early morning (pre-dawn) to avoid exertion in the heat of the day.
Herero Chat (Namibornis herero)
With a range area of 20,000km stretching from the south of Angola to south of Swakopmund, this species has a severely fragmented population, so the actual size of the population has never been determined.
It is usually found inhabiting rocky hills and mountains, and is associated with the Camphor Bush.
Its diet consists mainly of insects, which they usually pounce on whilst on the ground.
From a distance they can be mistaken for the familiar chat, and it is only on closer inspection that the contrasting white throat and solid black line through the eye can be seen.
These birds are mostly quiet, only singing during mating season.
White-tailed Shrike (Lanioturdus torquatus) also known as the chatshrike
This small, pretty bird was first identified in the Namib Naukluft in the 1800’s. its favoured habitat is scrub savannah and thornbush. They are often found single or in pairs (during breeding season)
This is a near-endemic with a striking black and white plumage, which stands out from the usual fawny colouring of desert-adapted birds.
It has a very upright stance and very short tail, making it instantly recognisable
Rockrunner (Achaetops pycnopygius) also known as the Damara Rock Jumper
This is a species of African Warbler found in Namibia and Angola, but it has a very different behaviour to the rest of the genus, which has led to the speculation that it needs to be re-classified.
Both sexes sing, usually at dawn and dusk, and mainly during breeding season
It is commonly seen in the rocky areas of central Namibia, and can be described as little feathered mountain goats
Bare-cheeked Babbler (Turdoides gymnogenys)
There are two sub-species of this babbler recongised; the Hartlaub and the Roberts.
This Babbler prefers undergrowth along dry river beds and open woodland. An interesting fact is that it has been recorded to be a host for the young of a cuckoo species on Southern Africa (a brood parasite), one of the reasons is probably because the bare-cheeked babbler is a cooperative breeder, living in groups. (Making it easier to pop another egg in without anyone noticing)
Chicks are cared for by group members.
This near-endemic to Namibia can be differentiated from the Southern Black tit by the white plumage on its wings. It is usually seen in pairs or small groups in savannah woodlands. Locally it is common in the Namibian Highlands and the fringes of the Namib Desert, with people reporting some of their best encounters at Erongo Wilderness Lodge.