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Flock to the Luangwa Valley

Flock to the Luangwa Valley

Lilac breasted roller
Lilac breasted roller
TOM VARLEY

HEATHER ASHCROFT

The Luangwa Valley, and especially South Luangwa National Park, offers birding opportunities for beginners, veterans and everybody inbetween. The majestic African fish eagle with its far-carrying call is enough to get the attention of even the visitors who only want to see cats.

For the intermediate birders, raptors like the tawny eagle and the massive martial eagle are always a highlight, while even the most experienced birders will struggle with the chicken-like call of the western banded snake eagle, a common sight here in Luangwa.

Of course birding is not only about the big and powerful birds. Guests new to the art of birding always appreciate the extravagant colours of lilac-breasted rollers and white-fronted bee-eaters, and the weird and wonderful mannerisms of African jacanas and green wood-hoopoes.

For the experts, racket-tailed rollers make the vast mopane forests of the Luangwa Valley their playground, and do not forget about the holygrail of birding in Africa, the highly secretive African pitta that breeds here during the rainy season (see page 15 Harare for a beautiful photo of these illusive birds)

South Luangwa National Park is also famous for its night-safaris, and even then it still offers much for the birders. Verreaux’s eagle owl with its pink eyelids and piercing gaze never fails to fascinate and the night call from the bronze-winged courser sounds like something out of a Stephen King movie. The owlets of the Luangwa Valley will keep the average birder guessing as to their whereabouts, but do not worry – guides in the Valley are all experts and ready with answers.

But the one bird that stands out above all else is Pel’s fishing owl. Yes, it’s an owl that catches fish! This beautiful bird stands more than half a metre tall and weighs in at over 2kg. They are so rare that I once saw an old lady cry when she finally saw this special owl, after a search that took 16 years and spanned four countries. But in the Luangwa Valley, especially in the drier months, sightings rival any other national park or conservancy and they are one big reason why expert birders flock to the Luangwa Valley. So, no matter if you’re a novice or a professional birder, South Luangwa National Park, with 496 recorded bird species, offers enough to fill the lenses of your binoculars for days on end.

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

More from the Zambezi Traveller:
Luangwa Destination Profile
Luangwa News