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A bird’s eye view of Kafue

A bird’s eye view of Kafue

Southern ground hornbill, Kafue
Southern ground hornbill, Kafue


Straddling nearly three degrees of latitude, Kafue National Park encompasses a vast diversity of habitats and consequently, a wealth of Zambian birdlife. In the dry south the mopane woodlands are the breeding ground for approximately a third of the world’s black-cheeked lovebird population, whilst the north boundary just captures the limits of distribution for some of Zambia’s ‘northern specials’, like the chestnut-mantled sparrow-weaver, black-collared eremomela and fawn-breasted waxbill. The charismatic bar-winged weaver comes very close to this boundary but has not yet made the Park’s list.

The miombo woodlands are particularly tall in the north and are especially beautiful. They sweep down to cover most of the Park and miombo specials include Bohm’s flycatcher, pale-billed hornbill, miombo tit and spotted creeper. Racket-tailed roller is a ubiquitous, often noisy and always breathtaking spectacle.

Both the scaly-throated honeyguide and little spotted woodpecker can be encountered in the miombo, as well as in riverine vegetation. Quiet backwaters are the favoured haunt of Pel’s fishing owl, while Bohm’s bee-eater, half-collared kingfisher and African finfoot are all common along the Kafue River’s edge.

Away from the river, the many open pools and marshes attract the wattled crane. Generally seen in pairs and often with one young, these birds can be found in larger concentrations on the Busanga Plains in the north. The southern crowned crane is also most common on the plains and is seasonally present on sandbanks along the river, a habitat it shares with the African skimmer.

The spectacular crowned eagle is fairly common, favouring the same tall riparian habitat as the enigmatic Ayre’s hawk eagle. Dickinson’s kestrel nests in palm trees throughout, but is particularly prevalent in the south along the edges of the plains and on the shores of Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. Another palm-nester, the red-necked falcon is also found in the south.

Of course much of the excitement, and most of the controversy, occurs at the more obscure, ‘little brown job’ end of the scale. Where the eastern and miombo scrub-robins converge, the former from the south and the latter from the north, near Lake Itezhi-Tezhi, particular care is called for in identification. They are very similar in appearance (and by no means always visible in their habitats) but can be differentiated based on song. Then there are potentially eleven cisticolas to work through, and seven pipits. So good birding, and good luck!

Read more articles from this issue:
Main menu (Issue 16, March 2014)
Full contents listing
Birds & Birding

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Kafue Destination Profile
Kafue News