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Where to watch birds in Botswana
There is no doubt about it - with about 577 bird species including over 500 regularly occurring species, Botswana offers some brilliant birding opportunities. With a knowledgeable local guide you may expect 100 species per day in winter, and up to 200 species in summer. A checklist for Botswana is published by BLB. This list is filterable for the Roberts new and old names; do they occur in Botswana; are they threatened or a rarity; are they waterbirds.
Gaborone is a suitable place to start your birding experience in Botswana.There are numerous sites in and around the city, and information regarding these can be found in 'Birds of Gaborone area and where to find them' by Tyler and Borello (click here for a map of birding sites in and around Gaborone). Please check the BirdLife Botswana recommended Tours for professional birding tours in Botswana.
There are no endemic bird species in Botswana, and the country's only near-endemic is the Short-clawed Lark with the major global stronghold in the grasslands of the southeast (Gaborone - Ramatlabama area).
However, populations of globally threatened Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret in the north are of international importance. When flooded, Sowa Pan, to the east of the Makgadikgadi Pans, attracts globally significant numbers of Lesser and Greater Flamingos. Breeding occurs sporadically, every five to six years, depending on the water levels, such as after the rainy season of 1999-2000, when more than 200,000 Flamingos concentrated to breed in the shallow saline lake formed in the pan.
In the north-western corner of Botswana is the inland delta of the Okavango (18,000 square kilometres) where the Okavango River spreads out into a maze of channels, lagoons and backwaters, creating the largest Ramsar site in the world. The threatened Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret have their global stronghold in this area. Other special birds include: Rufous-bellied Heron, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Collared Pratincole, Chirping Cisticola, Long-toed Lapwing, Pel's Fishing Owl, Pink-backed Pelican, Swamp Boubou, Brown Firefinch, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Greater Swamp Warbler, African Pygmy Goose, African Skimmer, Long-crested Eagle, White-backed Night Heron, Bat Hawk, African Wood Owl, Narina Trogon and Southern Carmine Bee-eater.
The Chobe River in the north-east provides a similar habitat on a much smaller scale. Special birds include: Bradfield's Hornbill, Narina Trogon, Carmine Bee-eater, Long-crested Eagle, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Green-capped Eremomela, Miombo Rock Thrush, Stierling's Wren-Warbler, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Racket-tailed Roller, Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Orange-winged Pytilia, Trumpeter Hornbill, Bearded Robin, Red-faced Cisticola, Collared Palm Thrush, Swamp Boubou, Copper Sunbird, Purple-banded Sunbird, Brown Firefinch, Slaty Egret, Rufous-bellied Heron, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Moorhen, Red-headed Quelea, Chirping Cisticola, Luapula Cisticola, Greater Swamp Warbler, White-crowned Lapwing, African Skimmer, African Pygmy Goose, Rock Pratincole, African Finfoot, Half-collared Kingfisher and White-backed Night Heron.
In years of high rainfall, a shallow alkaline lake system, theMakgadikgadi Pans (12,000 square kilometres) are formed. The pans are famous for their large flamingo breeding colonies. Other special birds include: Great White Pelican, Caspian Tern, Grey-headed Gull, African Spoonbill, Spike-heeled Lark, Pink-billed Larek, Rufous-naped Lark, Cape Clapper Lark, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, Northern Black Korhaan, Greater Kestrel, Capped Wheatear, Lesser Kestrel, Red-footed Falcon, African Palm Swift, Red-necked Falcon, Wattled Crane, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-necked Grebe, Collared Pratincole, Black-winged Pranticole, Montagu's Harrier, Pallid Harrier, Caspian Plover, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Kori Bustard, Southern Ground Hornbill, Secretarybird, Bronze-winged Courser, Orange River Francolin, Burchell's Sandgrouse and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse.
The Botswana side of the Limpopo is covered by the Eastern hardveld running from the Francistown region all the way down to the Lobatse area. In the Francistown - Palapye region, watch out for Arnott's Chat, Arrow-marked Babbler and the localised and elusive Boulder Chat. Further south, look out for Short-toed Rock Thrush, and in the riverine woodlands of Limpopo River keep you eyes open for Meves's Starling, African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron and African Pygmy Kingfisher. In the extreme south-east (south of Lobatse), the woodland gives way to grasslands - the only region where the Cape Longclaw occurs, also excellent for larks, including the localised Short-clawed, together with the more widespread Fawn-coloured, Sabota, Pink-billed, Spike-heeled, Melodious and Rufous-naped. The area also holds a number of other grassland species including South African Cliff Swallow, Pallid and Montagu's Harrier, Long-tailed Widowbird and Northern Black Korhaan.
Much of the rest of the country falls within the Kalahari sandveld ecosystem - low shrubs and bushes interspersed with patches of woodland. The more arid central and south-west areas support Red-capped Lark, Grey-backed Sparrowlark, Capped Wheatear, Double-banded Courser, Greater Kestrel, Acacia Pied Barbet, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, Caspian Plover, Cape Crow, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Black-chested Prinia, Marico Flycatcher, Scaly-feathered Finch, Lesser Grey Shrike, Rufous-cheeked Nightjar, Sabota, Fawn-coloured and Rufous-naped Larks, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Lesser Masked Weaver, Gabar and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawks and Black-Chested Snake Eagle.
The northern Kalahari tree and bush savanna (southern half of Ngamiland, and northern half of Ghanzi District and the Central Kalahari Game Reserve, plus areas south of Makgadikgadi Pans and west of the Serowe village) is inhabited by species such as Arrow-marked Babbler, Bradfield's Hornbills, African Barred Owlet, Bateleur, Ant-eating Chat, Brown-crowned and Black-crowned Tchagras, Violet-backed and Cape Glossy Starlings.
Details of birding sites recommended by BirdLife Botswana
- Bokaa Dam
- Tale Pan
- Tsholofelo Sewage Ponds
- Lake Ngami
• Vulture Colony at Mannyelanong Reserve near Otse-“Link to Cape Vulture Environment Club file”
• Kolobeng River
• Nata Bird Sanctuary- “Link to Nata Bird sanctuary file in Empowering people”