I have been with Rainbow Tours since 26 June 2000 (coincidentally Madagascar’s Independence Day) and have been a keen birder ever since I can remember. Often, birds are my “window” into a new country, and I then study other aspects afterwards. These ten birds are not necessarily the rarest or the most beautiful, but certainly memorable when visitors make that ‘eye-to-brain’ connection with them, even non-birders and especially, for beginner birders.
Shoebill - Uganda
Dinosaur like; even non birders want to see this prehistoric-looking creature. Nationally rare in Uganda but reliably seen there; also present in Akagera (Rwanda) and in west Tanzania. Nothing can prepare you for making that eye-to-brain connection with one of these monsters of the swamps, where they use their massive beaks to pull lungfish out of mud.
Pink pigeon – Mauritius
Saved from the very brink of extinction by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, (and yes it really IS pink), this beautiful pigeon survived extinction centuries earlier probably due to unpalatable flesh, which is believed to be largely thanks to a berry with narcotic properties – upon gorging themselves on these berries, the said pigeons were reported to flop down onto the ground and lie there in a daze for a while…
Blue Crane – South Africa & Namibia
South Africa’s iconic national bird, a beautiful, graceful creature; unmistakable with a very catholic diet; also found in Namibia. Inhabits open grasslands. Endangered.
Pittalike ground-roller – Madagascar
Widely regarded as the most beautiful of Madagascar‘s endemic birds, the ground-rollers are an endemic family of shy, forest-dwelling beauties. This one, as its name implies, is strikingly lovely and like its congeners, is best sought during spring and summer when they call.
Knysna Turacou – South Africa
Exquisite crested, long-tailed green bird with striking crimson wing panels which show in flight; all the true Turacous contain a unique pigment (turacoverdin, related to copper) which gives the blood-red colour to their flight feathers. Eats fruit; denizen of evergreen forests from the Garden route/ eastern Cape north to KZN.
Black Paradise Flycatcher – Seychelles
The avian gem of the Seychelles, this beauty is confined to the idyllic island of La Digue where much effort has been made to save the remaining population; critically endangered but commonly seen in the ‘Veuve reserve’, an unofficially protected site in this island’s dense woods.
Lilac-Breasted Roller – Kenya, Botswana
Iconic African savannah bird, almost a ‘junk bird’ in Botswana it is so common there – but beautiful and symbolic of the African bush.
Kori Bustard - Tanzania, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia
The world’s heaviest flying bird, this massive and increasingly rare terrestrial bird is found in much of sub-Saharan Africa – good places to seek it range from Kruger Park to Serengeti.
‘My partner pointed this bird out to me and said it was a Bustard – I told him to mind his language!!!!’, reads one description of the bird, explaining then that ‘bustard’ comes from the French ‘bistarde’ meaning ‘slow bird’. Males can weigh 20kg. And they are anything but slow…
Bateleur – Uganda, Rwanda, Botswana, Zambia, South Africa
Bateleur means acrobat in French, a reference to this short-tailed eagle’s remarkable aerial antics and displays. Almost abundant in Botswana, Zambia, parts of Zimbabwe, South Africa and eastern Africa. Also one of the most attractive of raptors.
Palm-nut Vulture - Uganda, KwaZulu Natal South Africa, Mozambique
Unique among raptors in being a vegetarian vulture which has evolved to live on an extremely specialised diet of oil palm kernels. Common on the Victoria Nile in Uganda, ranges down to KZN – look for it at and near St Lucia.
Do any of these birds make your Top 10? Have we left any out?