Birdlife in Zambia

By African standards, Zambia is well known ornithologically. So far 740 species have been recorded here.
Avifaunal Areas of Zambia
To a large extent Zambia’s avifauna is that of the Central African Plateau. The vegetation is principally miombo woodland, bisected by grassy dambos along drainage lines. In some areas the miombo woodland is replaced by other woodland types, dry forest or thicket. Along watercourses there may be riparian forest, or in wetter areas in the north, wet evergreen forest. Most of these habitats have a distinctive set of birds.
Zambia also has low-lying valleys. These include the Luangwa and Middle Zambezi Valleys and the country between Lakes Tanganyika and Mweru. A number of birds found in these areas are different from those occurring at higher altitudes.
A very small part of Zambia has montane altitudes. The avifauna here is quite different from that of the rest of the country and includes several species with very limited ranges.
Codes used are: (E)Endemic (found only in) to this habitat. (m) Established migrant, (n) (s) (e) (w) Found only in northern/southern/eastern/ western Zambia.
Of Zambia’s woodland birds, a few are found only in particular kinds of woodland – miombo or mopane, for example or in association with fig or palm trees. Most, however, occur in a range of woodland types, and often also the edge of forest. This is true of many of the forty-four species of diurnal raptor of the family Accipitridae – the vultures, hawks, eagles, etc. Thus the Bateleur, Shikra and Lizard Buzzard can be found almost anywhere. Among the less common members of this family, the African Cuckoo Hawk, Bat Hawk, Western Banded Snake Eagle, Ayres Hawk Eagle and Crowned Eagle are more common in Zambia than in many other countries where they occur.
Some of the birds inhabiting woodlands are the doves, pigeons, parrots, cuckoos. owls, nightjars, kingfishers, hornbills and the Broad-billed Roller. Barbets, honeyguides, woodpeckers, Swallows, the Fork-tailed Drongo and flycatchers. See the bird checklist for a full list of species found in Zambia.
Miombo Woodland
Lying at the centre of the miombo zone of south-central Africa, Zambia has a greater variety of miombo birds than any of its neighbours. Miombo is the commonest woodland type in Zambia and such areas have an undisturbed avifauna.
Many of the birds of the miombo woodland join mixed-species bird parties. A typical bird party may contain members of ten or twenty species, mainly of territorial insectivorous birds. The party travels slowly through the woodland and membership changes as the route leaves and enters individual territories. A party is often first noticed where one of its more conspicuous members is seen or heard – a Fork-tailed Drongo or Arnot’s Chat, for example. The following are some of the birds that, where they occur, usually join mixed-species bird parties in miombo woodland. Scimitarbill, Hoopoe, barbets, honeyguides, woodpeckers, pipits, cuckoo shrikes, eremomelas, Miombo Barred Warbler (E), hyliotas, flycatchers, Chinspot Batis, tits, Spotted Creeper (E), orioles, Brubru, Southern Puffback, Grey-headed Bush Shrike, Fork-tailed Drongo, Violet backed Starling, Yellow-throated Petronia, Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-weaver (E) (n), Weavers, Seed-eaters, Cabanis’s Bunting (E)
More independent birds found here are the Pale-billed Hornbill, Central Bearded Scrub Robin, Trilling Cisticola (n) and many of the sunbirds.
Mopane Woodland
n addition to those birds found in any woodland type, mopane has several species, listed below, that in Zambia are largely or entirely confined to this habitat. All are easily noticed because they are vocal, numerous and/or conspicuous, while in the case of the sparrow-weaver the nests cannot be missed. The Black-cheecked Lovebird is of particular interest because it has a very small range and is considered endangered. Among the threats to its continued existence in the wild are drought and the possibility that illegal capture for the cage-bird trade might resume. Others are the Three-banded Courser, Red-billed Hornbill, Southern Long-tailed Starling, Southern Grey-headed Sparrow and the White-browed Sparrow-weaver
Light Woodland
n places, the natural woodland is open, such as on the edges of plains and dambos. Elsewhere light woodland has been created by human activity. Among the characteristic birds of such areas are the Black Shouldered Kite, Black-bellied Bustard, Namaqua Dove (m), Grey Lourie (s), Bare-faced Go-away Bird (n), Little Bee-eater, Lilac-breasted Roller, Flappet and Fawn-coloured (w) Larks, Red-backed Cisticola (m), Fiscal Shrikes and the Yellow-fronted Canary
Particular Trees
Trees and bushes of one species or another in the Acacia group occur in much of Zambia, particularly south-west. Among birds associated with these are the African Mourning Dove, Acacia Pied Barbet, the migrant Tit Babbler, Burnt-necked Eremomela, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Cape Glossy Starling, Burchell’s Starling, Scaly-feathered Finch, Black-faced Waxbill, Shaft-tailed Widow and in sub-montane areas, Brown Parisoma.
In baobabs, the Red-billed Buffalo Weaver often builds nests. Hollows in the same tree may be used for breeding by the Mottled Spinetail.
Several birds are associated with one or more species of Palm. Thus the Palm-nut Vulture normally occurs in the vicinity of raphia or elaeis palms. Dickinson’s Kestrel, Red-necked Falcon, African Palm Swift and Collared Palm Thrush often nest in palms such as borassus.
Large spreading sycamore fig trees in otherwise rather open country are a conspicuous feature of parts of southern Zambia. Numerous species eat the fruit or make hole nests in dead branches. One bird that does both is Chaplin’s Barbet. It occurs in a limited part of Zambia centred on the Kafue flats and is Zambia’s only endemic bird. This striking white and black species is considered near-threatened.
Forest Habitats cover a small part of the surface of Zambia. However, they have a diverse avifauna that is largely different from that of the neighbouring woodlands. In forest, as in miombo woodland, many of the smaller birds gather into mixed-species foraging bird parties.
Some birds occur regularly at forest edge or in such near forest habitats as dense woodland, well developed thickets or rich vegetation on termite mounds. These include Blue spotted Wood Dove (n), Schalow’s Turaco, Lady Ross’s Turaco (n), Emerald Cuckoo, Speckled Mousebird (n), Narina Trogon, Brown-headed Kingfisher, Black-backed Barbet (n), Yellow breasted Apalis, Dusky Flycatcher (n), Collared Sunbird, Brown and Blue-billed Firefinches, Black-tailed Grey Waxbill (n) and Black-faced Canary (n).
Riverbanks often support a growth of riparian forest. Even if only a few meters wide or discontinuous, this habitat and the water it overhangs may be occupied by White-backed Night Heron, Green-backed Heron, Hadeda, African Black Duck, African finfoot, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Half-collared and Giant Kingfishers, Bohms Bee-eater (n) Olive woodpecker (n) Grey-olive Bulbul (n), Cassin’s Grey Flycatcher (n), Black throated Wattle-eye and Spectacled Weaver.
North of about 14 degrees, patches of wet evergreen forest, often called mushitu, grow on moist ground along rivers or at their headwaters. This rich habitat is more widespread at plateau levels than in low lying country between lakes Mweru and Tanganyika and it does not occur in the northern Luangwa Valley. Mushitu birds that are relatively widespread in northern Zambia include Woolly-necked Stork, Golden-rumped Tinkerbird, Purple-throated Cuckoo Shrike, Little and Cabanis’s Greenbuls, Yellow-throated Leaflove, West African Thrush, Bocage’s Robin, Evergreen Forest and Laura’s Warblers, Grey Apalis, Blue-mantled Flycatcher, Olive Sunbird, Many-coloured Bush Shrike, Square-tailed Drongo, Splendid Glossy Starling (m), Dark-backed Weaver and Black-bellied Seed-cracker. Less widespread mushitu species include Cinnamon Dove, Margaret’s Batis (w) and Green Twinspot.
Dry evergreen forest in northern Zambia is generally less well developed than mushitu but, where rich enough, supports many of the same birds. The dry Cryptosepalum forests of the north-west support an additional species, the Gorgeous Bushshrike.
The Marsh Tchagra is one of a number of birds that occupy the dense, tangled bracken-briar at the outer edge of forest in northern Zambia.
Despite the few montane forests in Zambia, a large number of montane forest birds occur here. They include the Red-breasted Sparrowhawk, Rameron Pigeon, Pink-breasted Turtle Dove, Mountain Nightjar, Scarce Swift (m), Bar-tailed Trogon, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Eastern Mountain Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Bulbul, Olive and Orange Thrushes, White-chested Alethe, Starred and Olive Flanked Robins, Sharpe’s Akalat, Yellow throated Warbler (Mafinga only), Chestnut-headed Apalis, Slaty Flycatcher, Cape Batis, African Hill Babbler, Eastern Double-collared Sunbird, Fulleborn’s Black Boubou, Waller’s Red-winged and Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starlings and the Red-faced Crimsonwing.
Several further birds occurring only at montane altitudes like in the dense bracken briar at the edge of montane forest: Red-tailed Flufftail, Cape Robin, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Churring and Black-lored Cisticolas, Baglafecht and Bertram’s Weavers, Swee Waxbill, African Citril and Streaky Seed-eater.
Wetlands:Dembos Grasslands
On the generally flat plateau, rivers are fed principally by dambos, where water seeps out into grassland and drains into the watercourse running through the centre of the dambo. On the upper parts of the dambo, close to the woodland edge, scattered trees are occupied by the White-winged Black Tit.

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