Republic of Botswana
There is no doubt about it - with nearly 600 bird species including over 500 regularly occurring species, Botswana offers some brilliant birding opportunities. The country is essentially a semi-desert, covered largely by dry tree, shrub and grass savanna (a fine example being the Central Kalahari Game Reserve). Only in the wetter north (Okavango Delta and, within it, the Moremi Game Reserve) and northeast sectors (Chobe National Park and the Kasane Forest Reserve); do tropical woodlands occur. In the extreme southwest the dunes of windblown sand form a transition between the Kalahari and Namib-Karoo zones (Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park).
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 south-east (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 or 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.
Almost 80% of the country falls within the Kalahari sandveld ecosystem - low shrubs and bushes interspersed with patches of woodland, inhabited by species such as Arrow-marked Babbler, Bradfield's Hornbill, Barred Owl, Bateleur, Ant-eating Chat, Three-streaked and Black-crowned Tchagras, Plum-coloured and Cape Glossy Starlings. The more arid central and south-west areas (including the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park) support Ostrich, Gabar and Pale Chanting Goshawks, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Greater Kestrel, Kori Bustard, Northern Black Korhaan, Caspian Plover, Double-banded Courser, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Pied Barbet, Lesser Grey Shrike, Red-capped, Sabota, Fawn-coloured and Rufous-naped Larks, Grey-backed Finchlark, & Capped Wheatear.
When to travel
Botswana lies under the Tropic of Capricorn with temperatures reaching their highest levels from October to March with an average of 35-40C at midday and 26C overnight. In the winter, April to August, temperatures often fall to c. 27C at midday, and c. 6C overnight. November to February are not just the hottest, but also the wettest months - and the best time for a birder to visit the area since most of the intra-African and Palaearctic migrants are present and resident species are in breeding plumage. With a knowledgeable local guide you may expect over 100 species per day in winter, and over 200 species in summer.
Chobe National Park
Chobe National Park The Chobe National Park (with 450 species – Botswana's longest list) in the north-east provides a similar habitats on a much smaller scale: the Chobe River itself, seasonally inundated floodplains, covered with reeds; riverine woodland and further from the river, mixed broadleaved woodland. Special birds include: African Finfoot, White-backed Night and Rufous-bellied Herons, Slaty Egret, Bradfield's and Trumpeter Hornbills, Narina Trogon, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Racket-tailed Roller, Half-collared Kingfisher, Green-capped Eremomela, Angola Rock Thrush, Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah, Golden-backed Pytilia, Eastern Bearded Robin, Red-faced Cisticola, Collared Palm Thrush, Coppery and Purple-banded Sunbirds, and Pink-throated Longclaw.
Getting there: The entry point to Chobe is the village of Kasane, reachable by tarred roads but, with exception of the Kasane – Ngoma Bridge (tarmac); all roads in the park are sandy tracks negotiable by 4x4 only.
In years of high rainfall, a shallow alkaline lake system, the Makgadikgadi Pans (16,000 square kilometres) are formed. The pans are famous for their large flamingo breeding colonies. Other special birds include: White Pelican, Secretary-bird, Montagu's and Pallid Harriers, Marshal and Tawny Eagles, Red-necked Falcon, Greater, Lesser and Red-footed Kestrels, Burchell`s and Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Wattled and Crowned Cranes, Ground Hornbil, Bronze-winged courser, Red-winged and Black-winged Pratincoles, Spike-heeled, Pink-billed, Rufous-naped and Clapper Larks, Chestnut-backed Finchlark, Capped Wheatear.
Getting there: All roads in the Makgadikgadi & Nxai Pans National Park are negotiable by 4x4 only. There are several basic campsites in the park, lacking any facilities and without potable water.
In the northwestern corner of Botswana is the inland delta of the Okavango (18,000 square kilometres) where the Kavango River spreads out into a maze of channels, lagoons and backwaters, creating the largest Ramsar site in the world. Habitats range from open grasslands (seasonally flooded) and palm fringed islands with tall stands of mature woodland, to ample Papyrus and Phragmites which line the waterways and lagoons, and lush riverine forests along the riverbanks. The threatened Wattled Crane and Slaty Egret have their global stronghold in this area. Other special birds include: Pink-backed Pelican, Rufous-bellied and White-backed Night Herons, Pygmy Goose, African Skimmer, Pel's Fishing Owl, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Pink-throated Longclaw, Red-winged Pratincole, Chirping Cisticola, Long-toed Plover, Swamp Boubou, Bat Hawk, Western Banded Snake and Long-crested Eagles, Southern Carmine Bee-eater, Narina Trogon and Brown Firefinch.
Getting there: The entry point for most tourists is the town of Maun. While western Delta and Panhandle, as well as Moremi Game Reserve are reachable by car (4x2 and 4x4, respectively); light aircrafts are the best way to get around the most of the delta if time matters.
Environmental & Travel Journalist
Other material - Andrew Hester
Bird Guide - Western Cape - 0027 +83 456 1824
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 589
(As at September 2018)
National Bird: Lilac-breasted Roller Coracias caudatus (Sometines the national bird is said to be Kori Bustard Ardeotis kori
There are no endemic bird species in Botswana, and the country's only near-endemic is the Short-clawed Lark Certhilauda chuana with the major global stronghold in the grasslands of the southeast in the Gaborone - Ramatlabama area with the rest of the population across the border in South Africa.
Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Bird Atlas of Botswana
By Huw Penry | University of KwaZulu-Natal Press | 1994 | Paperback | 320 pages, 25 colour photos, maps |
ISBN: 0869808958Buy this book from NHBS.com
Birds of Botswana
By Peter Hancock & Ingrid Weiersbye | Princeton University Press | 2015 | Paperback |398 pages, 177 plates with 1200+ colour illustrations; colour photos, colour maps, 597 colour distribution maps |
ISBN: 9780691157177Buy this book from NHBS.com
Southern African Birdfinder
By Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode & Jonathan Rossouw | New Holland Publishers | 2006 | Paperback | 456 pages, 80 col photos, 100 maps, pull-out route map |
ISBN: 1868727254Buy this book from NHBS.com
National parks and game reserves bookings
Bookings aren't available at the park gate, and without one you will be denied entry to the park. Book through Department of Wildlife and National Parks (phone +267 580-774, fax +267 580-775, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com, PO Box 131 Gaborone) in the Government enclave in Gaborone. When booking include the name of the park, the campsites requested, the dates of arrival and departure, the total number of campers and whether they are citizens, residents or visitors to Botswana.
African Bird Club
With a good tourist infrastructure, friendly people and over 500 regularly occurring species, Botswana offers many opportunities for the birdwatcher. It also contains the Okavango delta, one of the jewels of Africa and home to an amazing variety of wildlife. Birdwatching however, can start in and around the capital, Gaborone.
Currently BirdLife Botswana remains active providing services to its members, which are the valuable mainstay of BLB. It is also heavily involved in education and outreach, and continues to undertake research and be involved in conservation. Kabelo Senyatso, who was sponsored by BLB to undertake an MSc in Conservation Biology at the University of Cape Town, works for the Society as it's Conservation Officer and Director.
BirdLife Botswana - Francistown Branch
Background history etc…
BirdLife Botswana - Gaborone Branch
Background History & Contacts etc…
BirdLife Botswana - Kasane Branch
Contact details, meetings, etc…
BirdLife Botswana - Maun Branch
Contacts, meetings etc…
Kalahari Conservation Society
Welcome to the home page of the Kalahari Conservation Society. The aims of the KCS are simple but of prime importance to the future of Botswana, to the conservation of the natural heritage, and indeed to the economy…
*List of protected areas of Botswana
The Nata Bird Sanctuary, the only protected reserve in Botswana in the northeastern periphery of Sowa Pan, is a community-managed project, with assistance from the Nata Conservation Committee and national and international organizations. The prominent wildlife species in the sanctuary are reported to number 165 bird species. The sanctuary is of international importance due to its population of 250,000 lesser flamingo Phoenicopterus minor and greater flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus, which visit the sanctuary every year during the winter period to breed, after the rainy season, when the water sources are full.
IBA Okavango Delta
The Okavango Delta is home to a prosperity of wildlife and attracts thousands of visitors a year…
The natural unspoiled environment of the Chobe, makes one to wonder whether there is any other place in the world where the sun rises and sets in its own peculiar way like it does in Chobe region…
NP Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is a large wildlife preserve and conservation area in southern Africa. The park straddles the border between South Africa and Botswana and comprises two adjoining national parks: Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in South Africa and Gemsbok National Park in Botswana
NP Makgadikgadi Pan
The Makgadikgadi Pan, a salt pan situated in the middle of the dry savanna of north-eastern Botswana, is one of the largest salt flats in the world. The pan is all that remains of the formerly enormous Lake Makgadikgadi, which once covered an area larger than Switzerland, but dried up several thousand years ago.
NP Nxai Pan
Nxai Pan is a large salt pan topographic depression which is part of the larger Makgadikgadi Pans in northeastern Botswana. It lies on the old Pandamatenga Trail, which until the 1960s was used for overland cattle drives. The area is speckled with umbrella acacias and is said to resemble the Serengeti in Tanzania. This landform is a major part of the Nxai Pan National Park, and is a seasonal home to large herds of zebra and wildebeest. In the rainy season between December and April the pan becomes grassy and attracts these animals in their tens of thousands, along with smaller numbers of gemsbok, eland and red hartebeest.
The Mokolodi Wildlife Foundation was formed in 1991 with the aim of promoting wildlife conservation and environmental education for the children of Botswana. The first project of the Foundation was the creation of the Mokolodi Nature Reserve in 1994 on 30 square km of donated land outside Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. In addition to naturally-occurring animal species such as warthogs, steenbok, kudu and a variety of snakes, several species have been re-introduced e.g. zebra, giraffe, eland, ostrich, hippos and rhinos.
The Selinda Reserve is a 300,000 acre private wildlife sanctuary in the northern part of Botswana. Although there is a lot of hype which goes with eco-friendly projects nowadays, this project is serious about its conservation and unique in that it is shared by a maximum of 32 guests split between three camps and managed by a very experienced team of conservationists.
Forums & Mailing Lists
An interactive forum for sharing information on Botswana’s birdlife - This blog has been established as an interactive forum for BirdLife Botswana to share information on the birds of Botswana. Check regularly for news updates, interesting sightings, training opportunities and upcoming events.
Guides & Tour Operators
Superb birding in Africa’s greatest wilderness areas:
This truly marvelous birding adventure samples three countries and spectacular, diverse scenery - the coastal Namib Desert (inhabited by desirable, localized endemics) and Namib Escarpment (a whole suite of birds occurring ONLY in Namibia and southern Angola), Etosha National Park, Caprivi Strip and adjacent panhandle of the Okavango Delta. Please contact us for more tours that are run in Botswana.
A listing of various safaris for birders…
Rockjumper Birding Tours
Botswana is without a doubt one of the greatest safari nations in Africa, and while it doesn’t offer any endemic birds, the sheer volume and diversity of birds and wildlife, especially in the Okavango Delta, makes this a thoroughly worthwhile destination.
This 13 day Botswana Birding Safari Tour presents the greatest bird safari in Africa with some of the best birding guides in Botswana accompanying you. The tour departs only in January, February and March.
Forget big lodges with large numbers of tourists . They are not for anyone who wants to capture the heart and soul of Africa. We learned this from the guests we guided over twenty years ago and it is even more relevant in today`s fast moving and crowded world. When we created Wilderness Safaris in 1983 we had this obsession for privacy ingrained in our philosophy and it is an integral part of our culture today…
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2006 [10 October] - Bo Beolens
This leg was a truly marvellous 2-week multi-nation birding safari. The adventure first sampled one of the richest birding regions in Africa, the Victoria Falls/Caprivi/Okavango region. This is one of the greatest bird (both water birds and woodland species) and mammal havens on earth. The itinerary then took us westwards into increasingly dryer habitats and eventually into the very heart of the Namib Desert with its beautiful, rugged mountains, gravel plains, camelthorn-lined dry riverbeds, dunes and more. The stunning, scenically diverse Namib Desert (which extends into southern Angola) is inhabited by a host of endemic bird species. Finally, this leg ended on the Namib Coast. Here, Namibia’s only true endemic (Dune Lark) displays above sparsely vegetated red sand dunes, the diminutive, endangered Damara Tern reaches its highest densities anywhere, the beautiful Chestnut-banded Plover runs over the sand, and an amazing spectacle of flamingos, pelicans, waders and grebes work the Walvis Bay Lagoon…
2010 [08 August] - Josh Engel & Charley Hesse
…By the water's edge we saw Little Grebe, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Striated Heron, Hamerkop, Hadeda Ibis, Red-billed Teal, Southern Pochard, African Pygmy-goose, Blacksmith Lapwing and the seldom seen Allen's Gallinule. Other birds in the grounds themselves were African Harrier Hawk, Little Bee-eater, African Hoopoe, Bradfield's Hornbill, Wattled Starling, Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver, Red- billed Firefinch, Blue Waxbill & Village Indigobird…
2013 [01 January] - Andreas Viberg
2013 [03 March] - Neil McLeod - Namibia, Botswana & Zambia
Naturetrek - Safariwise
2013 [04 April] - Terry Stevenson
…The final part of our tour took us to two of the very best areas in the Okavango. Firstly at Xaro, where we saw no fewer than four different Pel's Fishing-Owls, and then at Stanley's Camp where birds included Red-billed and Swainson's francolins, Slaty Egret, Dickinson's Kestrel, Small Buttonquail, African Barred Owlet, and Southern Ground-Hornbill…
2013 [09 September] - Charley Hesse & Ken Behrens
…We were now on our way to Etosha National Park and we had a few stops where we saw Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Southern Pale Chanting-Goshawk & Monteiro's Hornbill. The highlight of the ride though was a pair of Namaqua Sandgrouse with very cute, fluffy chicks, right by the side of the road. We took a short cut along a gravel road after the town of Kalkfeld which was particularly good for larks and other open country birds. Along here we saw Sabota, Fawn-colored & Stark's Lark as well as Southern Pied Babbler, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Southern Anteater-Chat, Long-billed Pipit and Scaly-feathered Finch….
2013 [11 November] - Derek Scott & Steve Braine
…Next morning before breakfast, we drove north across the barren plains to Okondeka waterhole where we were pleased to find three Ludwig’s Bustards along with large numbers of Namaqua Sandgrouse. Other birds seen on this drive included several Double-banded Coursers, some very obliging Spike-heeled Larks, three Pink-billed Larks, about 10 Stark’s Larks and a Capped Wheatear, while mammals included eight Spotted Hyaenas that had congregated around a kill…
2013 [11 November] - Ralf Jahraus
This report is based on a 23 days trip to Botswana, including a short side trip to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Places visited were Moremi, Chobe, Nxai Pan, Magadigadi Pan and the Central Kalahari…
2013 [11 November] - Steve Braine - Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls Birding Safari
Surprisingly for this time of year, the migrants had not arrived in numbers yet, and the country was in the grip of a bad drought. This made birding rather difficult, as no birds were responding to playback. However, we were fortunate to see three of the nightjars, but very few cuckoos. We managed to clean up on all the babblers and bee-eaters and also had luck with a perched Bat Hawk, good views of Lesser Black-backed Gull (a vagrant in southern Africa), and a few other interesting birds…
2014 [03 March] - Terry Stevenson - Namibia & Botswana
As we touched down in Windhoek for our 2014 Namibia and Botswana tour, we knew things would be different. Instead of a barren semi-arid landscape, we headed towards town with four-foot-high grass all along the roadside. There were similar scenes throughout much of the tour, and far more actual rainfall than we've ever had before…
2014 [04 April] - Birding Africa
...On this trip we managed to see most of Namibia's endemics and near-endemics and enjoyed some exciting big game viewing in the world-renowned Etosha National Park. Our tour began in the scenically beautiful Erongo Mountains, where we had Roadrunner, Hartlaub's Francolin and Monteiro's Hornbill; then on to Walvis Bay, with its elegant flamingoes and myriad shorebirds. We visited the rocky Spitzkoppe massive and searched for Herero Chat, before a storm overtook us near the Brandberg and we were shocked to find the normally dry Ugab River in flood....
2015 [03 March] - Justin Nicolau - Namibia & Okavango Delta
From the outset, photography was our goal, and so it was expected that the total number of species seen would be lower than on previous trips to these destinations. We still had a very successful birding tour, recording 309 species of birds (including seven that were heard only), 10 species of reptiles, and over 40 species of mammals, including all of the sought after “Big 5”, which consisted of countless black rhinoceros, African elephant, and African buffalo, half a dozen lion sightings, and a male leopard on a kill, which was outshone by a mother cheetah and her cubs attempting to hunt at a waterhole. Most of the country had recently received good
2015 [06 June] - Andy Hurley - Namibia, Botswana & Zimbabwe
A list of bird seen is not yet fully sorted, but I have been adding the new ones add and when to my year list I will endeavour to add a complete list at the end of this report.
2015 [09 September] - Ken Behrens - Namibia & Botswana
Our Namibia and northern Botswana tour has long been one of our most popular, and for good reason. The Namib escarpment and desert hold a suite of endemic birds that is shared only with adjacent Angola.
2015 [12 December] - Jason Boyce - Okavango & Victoria Falls
... not only one of the only two true endemics of Namibia, the Dune Lark, but a couple of other excellent species as well. Some of the first species that made their way onto the trip list at Rooibank included Dusky Sunbird, Namaqua Dove, Cape Sparrow, Bokmakierie, and Rock Martin. The first fortyfive minutes of the walk did not produce any sign of the lark, but soon enough we had an individual displaying and calling 20 meters above some dunes in the distance...
2016 [03 March] - Terry Stevenson - Namibia & Botswana
After an easy crossing into Botswana, we spent two nights at Xaro Lodge. This small camp is only accessible by boat, and is undoubtedly the best place to look for Pel's Fishing-Owl -- which for many birders is the highlight of a visit to the Okavango. We were not disappointed, with good views our first afternoon, and then a second bird (right in the open!) during a boat trip the following day. Other memorable sightings included Hamerkop, Little Bittern, Slaty Egret, the shy White-backed Night-Heron, African Marsh-Harrier, Allen's Gallinule, Lesser Jacana, African Wood-Owl, White-fronted Bee-eater, Crested Barbet, Retz's Helmetshrike, Chirping Cisticola, and Southern Brown-throated Weaver.
2016 [10 October] - Cuan Rush - Okavango
2016 [10 October] - Steve Braine - (Namibia &) The Okavango
...After lunch we officially started the tour and set off to the Gammams sewerage works where we were rewarded with several good birds, here we encountered many Egyptian geese, South African Shelduck, Southern Pochard, Red-billed and Hottentot Teals, Little Grebes, Purple Swamphen, Common Moorhen, other species included Grey Heron, Western Cattle Egret, Squacco Heron and a brief glimpse of Little Bittern as it flew over the reed beds and then disappeared...
2017 [04 April] - John Hopkins - Botswana's Desert & Delta
...we had an outstanding trip with 1 5 0 bird species and 20 major mammal species. Highlights for all were mainly mammalian, with very close views of African Wild Dogs from at least two packs on four days; two Leopards, one at night on an I mpala kill; two very close large Lions...
2017 [09 September] - Peg Abbott
Naturalist Journeys & Caligo Ventures Botswana Bird, Mammal Species List - Summary: An extraordinary couple of weeks inserting ourselves into an immersion of animals. Having Hippos out the door and Elephants near camp, a pack of 23 Lion in the neighborhood kept us on our toes. We saw some difficult species well, Lesser Jacana, White-backed Night-Heron, both Slaty and Black Heron, Rufous-bellied Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Dickenson’s Kestrel and Black Coucal.
2017 [09 September] - Peg Abbott - Botswana Wildlife Safari
2018 [08 August] - Daniel Keith Danckwerts - Namibia , Botswana & Zambia
Our epic overland adventure through Namibia, Botswana and Zambia began on the outskirts of the bustling city of Windhoek...
Places to Stay
Cresta Mowana Lodge
It is easy to see why Cresta Mowana Safari Resort & Spa near the Chobe Game Reserve was named after a baobab tree. This luxury Chobe lodge was built around a majestic 800-year old specimen of Adansonia digitata. Legends about baobabs abound, one being that God uprooted the baobab and flung it to the ground upside down, because it kept walking when He first planted it into Chobe soil…
Mowana Safari Lodge
A deluxe hotel, the Mowana is the finest safari lodge in the Chobe National Park. This spectacular park is home to over 45,000 elephants. The hotel features early morning game drives and sunset river cruises. Enjoy spectacular river views from your private balcony. Rooms offer all the modern luxuries. Other amenities include air conditioning, airline desk, bar, car parking, conference rooms, direct-dial telephone and free transfer to and from the airport. The hotel offers free game viewing.
Sandibe Safari Lodge
Sandibe Okavango Safari Lodge is set within a private concession of 8 000 hectares (19 800 acres) along the southeastern border of the Moremi Wildlife Reserve within the Okavango Delta….
This blog has been established as an interactive forum for BirdLife Botswana to share information on the birds of Botswana. Check regularly for news updates, interesting sightings, training opportunities and upcoming events.
Southern Africa Birding
Birding Resources for Southern Africa. This site is about birds and birding in South Africa and the Southern African region, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Zambia. The region`s best birding sites are featured under Birding Spots, together with birding resources under Bird guides, tours and Accommodation. The latest rare bird sightings are posted on our Twitchers Tales page, What`s On highlights major events, and Birding Organisations puts you in touch with other birders and organisations working towards bird conservation.