Birding in one of Africa’s best-kept secrets!
Angola is one of the ‘last frontiers’ when it comes to travel in Africa. Beset with a devastating civil war that raged on for around three decades (30 years), travel to this country was largely out of the question. At the turn of the millennium, with peace and stability growing in Angola, the country gradually began to open up, and while the ‘early explorers’ had to keep a beady eye out for land mines, they uncovered the raw beauty of this unfortunate country.
Moving to the present day where peace reigns in Angola, and the country is seeing a huge rise in infrastructural developments (almost all of what they had was destroyed in the war) making this country easier than ever to access. This brings with it, the country’s supreme birding. Home to nearly 1000 species of birds, and countless endemic and near-endemic species, Angola is dripping with highly sought-after birds. Species such as White-headed Robin-Chat, Braun’s Bushshrike, Red-crested Turaco, Pulitzer’s Longbill and Gabela Helmetshrike serve only to whet ones appetite.
I was fortunate enough to travel to this mesmerizing country in mid 2018, on a scouting trip for Birding Ecotours. Keeping it simple, the trip was excellent and a resounding success. You can read more about it here.
The 2018 trip will not be my only foray into Angola, and for more details about some of my upcoming tours to Angola, have a look at our tour page.
Please enjoy some of the photos from the trip below:
Braun’s Bushshrike – One of the most sought-after endemics, this bird has an isolated range in the north of the country, and is best sought in the northern scarp forest around the small village of Quitexe.
Black-necked Eremomela – This snazzy bird is a denizen of the rich miombo woodlands in the country. The patches occurring occurring on the base of Mount Moco (the country’s highest peak) is an excellent area to search.
Black Bee-eater – Simplicity at its best! Nothing quite matches the awe-inspiring colors of this spectacular bird! Although more widespread into central Africa, this bird remains one of the most sought after out there, and a firm favorite all around!
Angolan Lark – One of the less flashy specials, this lark is a regular feature in the montane grasslands found in the central parts of the country, such as those around Mount Moco. While it appears like a Rufous-naped Lark look-alike, its song is surprisingly world’s apart!
Red-crested Turaco – As the national bird of Angola, and one of the true endemics of the country, this is a highly sought-after bird, occurring in the northern half of Angola. Although difficult to find it its preferred forested habitats, their raucous calls herald their arrival from a long way off.
White-collared Oliveback – Since this small pocket of Olivebacks were found in the far north of Angola a few years ago, there has been some speculation regarding these birds, as their closest-known range is roughly 1000km away. Most likely however, it that these birds occurring in the north of the country are just an isolated and newly discovered population of White-collared Oliveback, and not a ‘new’ species. We were fortunate enough to run into a small group of these birds around Quitexe.
Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye – This is a somewhat underrated central African bird – their ridiculous colours and bright yellow/orange belly almost makes this tiny bird unbelievable! This is a common resident in some of the premier forests in the country, such as the Kumbira Forest.
Black-collared Bulbul – World’s apart from any other African bulbul, these strange birds are a major target in the broad south-central-western African region, occurring sporadically from Zambia to Gabon. These birds can be sought in a variety of open, rank areas on the edges of forests.
White-headed Robin-Chat – One of the most sought-after birds in Angola, this species was only recently re-described to science a decade or two ago, and is now only known from a handful of isolated locations in remote parts of Angola and the DRC. This large forest robin is best found near the spectacular Kalandula Falls, where they frequent the dark and dense swampy forests.
Anchieta’s Barbet – This is one of the most difficult-to-find miombo specials, and Angola is arguably the easiest country in which to find it. The miombo around Mount Moco and near the Kalandula Falls are both excellent sites, and host good populations of these prized barbets.
Tit Hylia – This is one of the smallest birds African birds, and as such, one of the most difficult to find. Their tiny size, nearly inaudible call, and preference for forests make these birds a tough customer anywhere in their wide central African range. Best searched for in the forests around Quitexe, although it is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.
Gabela Akalat – This is a dainty and shy forest robin, occurring in the Kumbira Forest, and is one of the true Angolan endemic birds. Although not difficult to locate, the challenge lies in getting good views of these birds as they flit and hop about restlessly in the dark undergrowth. This is one of three birds named after the ‘town’ of Gabela, where they were first described.
Angolan Waxbill – These cute endemics are best found in the mountains of southern Angola, where the spectacular Tundavala Gap remains a reliable area to track them down.
Gabela Helmetshrike – Another of Angola’s endemic birds, this species is getting more and more difficult to locate, and is best sought in the dry woodlands of the Kissama National Park, not far outside the capital city, Luanda.
Kalandula Falls – The stunning Kalandula Falls are one of the hallmark attractions to the country, and speak for themselves!
Angolan Batis – Despite the name, this is not an endemic bird, and occurs quite widely throughout the forests along the western escarpment.
Rüppell’s Parrot – This is often considered one of the traditional Namibian specials, but almost all of these Namibian specials also occur well into southern Angola, and can readily be found here, arguably in a smaller area than in Namibia. These parrots occur in the dry woodlands near Lubango.
Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush – These birds are incredible songsters, and occur widely throughout western Angola. This bird is singing away, proclaiming its territory, just outside the capital of Luanda.
Red-fronted Parrot – There is always something special about seeing parrots in the wild. These are an uncommon central-west African species, that occur only in the north of the country. This bird was part of a small flock seen near N’dalatando.
Red-backed Mousebird – Another special bird of south-central Africa, these swallows are a regular sight at some of the river bridges in the northern half of the country.
White-fronted Wattle-eye – Another of the true Angolan endemic birds, this small flycatcher-like bird has a fairly small range in the northern half of the country, and is best found in the Kissama National Park, near the capital, Luanda.
Red-backed Mousebird – Mousebirds are an entire family endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. These are gregarious and highly charismatic birds that always put a smile on your face! Despite being one of the prized specials of Angola, these are fortunately common birds that you should come across in a few places.