Photo Blog: The Water Birds of Sub-Saharan Africa

December 28, 2018

These are the ‘fisherfolk’ that form an integral part of the ecosystems in the wetland deltas, rivers and lakes of sub-Saharan Africa.

Water birds are an important indicator of the health of water systems because their reliance on this habitat means that population trends can show how well an ecosystem functioning. This is just a small collection of an extensive list of water birds that can generally be found in freshwater systems throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

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African Jacana © Patrick Shah Photography

African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus): This lightweight beauty is found on freshwater wetlands with floating vegetation where it can move easily thanks to the long toes which spread the weight of its body evenly over a larger area. Weighing in at around 260g, the female is almost double the male’s size, and their mating system is reversed. This means the male performs all the nesting duties while the female has access to several males and defends the territories against other females.

Journeys Discovering Africa, Waterbirds, Birds of Southern Africa, Southern African Birds, Birding, Birders

Black Crake © Patrick Shah Photography

Black Crake (Amaurornis flavirostra): Like the African Jacana, this water bird frequents several types of freshwater habitats with moderate cover of vegetation and permanent flooded areas. Along with the usual diet of aquatic invertebrates and plants, the Black Crake steals eggs and nestlings from other species such as weavers and herons. It can also be found perched on the back of the large mammals such as hippos and warthogs, gleaning parasites.

Journeys Discovering Africa, Waterbirds, Birds of Southern Africa, Southern African Birds, Birding, Birders

Goliath Heron © Patrick Shah Photography

Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath): When opening its beak, this large heron sounds similar to the harsh barks of an old dog, with croaks, squawks, growls and gurgles. It will walk slowly in deep water or stand still in shallow water or on floating vegetation, watching the water in search of prey. They can spear large fish of up to 2 to 3kgs, after which it carries them to the shore to eat quietly, unless disturbed by other fish predators like the African Fish Eagle.

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Great Egrets © Patrick Shah Photography

Great Egret (Egretta alba): The Great Egret flies directly with deep, steady wing beats, while holding its neck in an open S-shape, folded onto the back. It approaches its landing spot with a long glide and sometimes a circle of the site. During the breeding season, these circling flights are also performed but with the addition of snapping, calling and where necessary territorial defence by standing tall or supplanting the flight of an intruder.

Journeys Discovering Africa, Waterbirds, Birds of Southern Africa, Southern African Birds, Birding, Birders

Great White Pelicans © Patrick Shah Photography

Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus): This large, distinctive water bird takes on a pinkish flush with a yellow wash over its breast during the breeding season. Great White Pelicans are gregarious and large flocks often fish together encircling and trapping shoals of fish in shallow water where all the birds are able to scoop up fish in the skin pouch below the bill.

If you’re interested in doing a birding safari or including a birding aspect to a wildlife safari, please do contact us to discuss your options.


Posted by tfhadmin


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