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Friendly people and beautiful birds

Friendly people and beautiful birds

Friendly people and beautiful birds

There are so many reasons to come to Zambia; there are the people who are amongst the friendliest on this planet; there are its waters, in the shape of lakes, rivers and waterfalls; there are the wonders of the floral world, such as giant baobab trees, dotting the landscape from north to south.

But one of the major features that make Zambia truly unique is its fauna. Naturally, big herds of elephants, or antelopes being stalked by predators, come to mind. Yet, sometimes it’s the smaller things that deserve attention, and Zambia is full of little attractions; in this case, I’m talking about birds.

Even though very often neglected, our avian friends are a beauty to look at, and Zambia has more than 750 species. One of the most recognised is the African fish eagle. Being Zambia’s national bird, found on some of the Zambian Kwacha notes, and quite vociferous about its territory (hence its scientific name Haliaeetus vocifer), it can be found in the Zambezi or the Luangwa Valleys. These beautiful birds of prey can be seen gliding down from their perch, trying to grab a fish that hasn’t made it to safety.

Another icon of the feathered world is the shoebill, which only occurs in swampy areas where it can use the tall reeds and grasses to hide and build its nest. Visitors will be lucky to spot these tall stork-related birds, (shoebills can stand up to 1.40m), but chances of doing so are increased in the Bangweulu Swamps. Drifting among the fields of reeds in a mokoro-type boat is a thrill in itself.

Almost similar in height are the members of the crane family in Zambia. Flocks of grey crowned cranes can be seen in the Luangwa Valley, hard to miss thanks to their loud calls sounding like ‘owani’ (the crowned crane’s local name) when in flight, or greeting each other while landing at their breeding grounds. Here they will also perform their ritualised mating dance.

The other member of the crane family, the wattled crane, can be found in good numbers on the Busanga Plains in Kafue National Park, or in the remote Liuwa Plains National Park in the west of the country.

There are so many more species though, most of them smaller, yet even more colourful than one would imagine: there are all the bee-eaters, the rollers, the sunbirds, the kingfishers, not even mentioning the migratory birds coming from Europe and other parts of Africa during the wet season to find their breeding grounds here in Zambia. And each one of them is more beautiful and more surprising in its behaviour than the last. You can spend weeks between our two great valleys and still only scratch the surface of Zambia’s birding world.

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