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Democratic Republic of the Congo

Scarlet-chested Sunbird Nectarinia senegalensis ©Jens Eriksen

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (French: République démocratique du Congo), is a country in central Africa with a small length of Atlantic coastline. It is the third largest country (by area) in Africa.

In order to distinguish it from the neighbouring Republic of the Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often referred to as DR Congo, DRC, or RDC, or is called Congo-Kinshasa after the capital Kinshasa (in contrast to Congo-Brazzaville for its neighbour).

The name "Congo" refers to the river Congo, also known as the river Zaire. (The river name Congo is related to the name of the Bakongo ethnic group). The Democratic Republic of the Congo was formerly, in turn, the Congo Free State, Belgian Congo, Congo-Léopoldville, Congo-Kinshasa, and Zaire (or Zaïre in French). Though it is located in the Central African UN subregion, the nation is economically and regionally affiliated with Southern Africa as a member of the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

DR Congo borders the Central African Republic and Sudan on the North; Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi on the East; Zambia and Angola on the South; the Republic of the Congo on the West; and is separated from Tanzania by Lake Tanganyika on the East. The country enjoys access to the ocean through a 40-kilometre (25 mile) stretch of Atlantic coastline at Muanda and the roughly nine-kilometre wide mouth of the Congo river which opens into the Gulf of Guinea.

The Congo is situated at the heart of the west-central portion of sub-Saharan Africa and is bounded by (clockwise from the southwest) Angola, the South Atlantic Ocean, the Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, the Sudan, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania across Lake Tanganyika, and Zambia. The country straddles the Equator, with one-third to the North and two-thirds to the South. The size of Congo, 2,345,408 square kilometres (905,567 sq mi), is slightly greater than the combined areas of Spain, France, Germany, Sweden, and Norway.

As a result of its equatorial location, the Congo experiences large amounts of precipitation and has the highest frequency of thunderstorms in the world. The annual rainfall can total upwards of 80 inches (200 cm) in some places, and the area sustains the second largest rain forest in the world (after that of the Amazon). This massive expanse of lush jungle covers most of the vast, low-lying central basin of the river, which slopes toward the Atlantic Ocean in the West. This area is surrounded by plateaus merging into savannas in the south and southwest, by mountainous terraces in the west, and dense grasslands extending beyond the Congo River in the north. High, glaciated mountains are found in the extreme eastern region.

The tropical climate has also produced the Congo River system which dominates the region topographically along with the rainforest it flows through, though they are not mutually exclusive. The name for the Congo state is derived in part from the river. The river basin (meaning the Congo River and all of its myriad tributaries) occupies nearly the entire country and an area of nearly one million square kilometers (400,000 sq mi). The river and its tributaries (major offshoots include the Kasai, Sangha, Ubangi, Aruwimi, and Lulonga) form the backbone of Congolese economics and transportation. They have a dramatic impact on the daily lives of the people.

The sources of the Congo are in the highlands and mountains of the East African Rift, as well as Lake Tanganyika and Lake Mweru. The river flows generally west from Kisangani just below Boyoma Falls, then gradually bends southwest, passing by Mbandaka, joining with the Ubangi River, and running into the Pool Malebo (Stanley Pool). Kinshasa and Brazzaville are on opposite sides of the river at the Pool (see NASA image). Then the river narrows and falls through a number of cataracts in deep canyons (collectively known as the Livingstone Falls), and then running past Boma into the Atlantic Ocean. The river also has the second-largest flow and the second-largest watershed of any river in the world (trailing the Amazon in both respects). The river and a forty-kilometre-wide strip of land on its north bank provide the country's only outlet to the Atlantic.

The previously mentioned Great Rift Valley, in particular the Eastern Rift, plays a key role in shaping the Congo's geography. Not only is the northeastern section of the country much more mountainous, but due to the rift's tectonic activities, this area also experiences low levels of volcanic activity. The geologic activity in this area also created the famous African Great Lakes, three of which lie on the Congo's eastern frontier: Lake Albert (known previously as Lake Mobutu), Lake Edward, and Lake Tanganyika. Perhaps most important of all, the Rift Valley has exposed an enormous amount of mineral wealth throughout the south and east of the Congo, making it accessible to mining. Cobalt, copper, cadmium, industrial and gem-quality diamonds, gold, silver, zinc, manganese, tin, germanium, uranium, radium, bauxite, iron ore, and coal are all found in plentiful supply, especially in the Congo's southeastern Katanga region.

On January 17, 2002 Mount Nyiragongo erupted in Congo, with the lava running out at 40 mph (60 km/h) and 50 yards (50 m) wide. One of the three streams of lava flowed through the nearby city of Goma, killing 45 and leaving 120,000 homeless. Four hundred thousand people were evacuated from the city during the eruption. The lava poisoned the water of Lake Kivu, killing fish. Only two planes left the local airport because of the possibility of the explosion of stored petrol. The lava passed the airport but ruined the runway, entrapping several airplanes. Six months after the 2002 eruption, nearby Mount Nyamuragira also erupted, and again more recently in 2006. Both volcanos remain active.



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Number of Species

Number of bird species: 1189


Number of endemics: 17

Congo Peafowl Afropavo congensis Neumann's Coucal Centropus neumanni Schouteden's Swift Schoutedenapus schoutedeni Congo Bay-Owl Phodilus prigoginei Itombwe Nightjar Caprimulgus prigoginei Bedford's Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone bedfordi Itombwe Alseonax Muscicapa itombwensis Prigogine's Greenbul Chlorocichla prigoginei Kabobo Apalis Apalis kaboboensis Chapin's Crombec Sylvietta chapini Chapin's Mountain-Babbler Kupeornis chapini Stuhlmann's Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia stuhlmanni Rockefeller's Sunbird Nectarinia rockefelleri Ruwet's Masked-Weaver Ploceus ruweti Golden-naped Weaver Ploceus aureonucha Yellow-legged Malimbe Malimbus flavipes Black-faced Waxbill Estrilda nigriloris


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Birds of Western Africa: An Identification Guide

Nik Borrow and Ron Demey Series: CHRISTOPHER HELM IDENTIFICATION GUIDE SERIES 832 pages, 147 col plates, 1100 dist maps. Christopher Helm

ISBN: 0713639598

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa

Nik Borrow and Ron Demey Series: HELM FIELD GUIDES 496 pages, 150 col plates, 1300 maps. Christopher Helm See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0713666927

Buy this book from NHBS.com


African Bird Club


The Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC (previously Zaire) has a bird list consisting of 1,139 species following the ABC checklist mentioned below. This is probably the highest species count for any African country. Since 1996 a civil war and political instability have impacted the habitat adversely as well as limiting opportunities for visiting birders. There is much of interest for the birder to see in the DRC, so one can only hope that opportunities to visit will increase in the future…

Democratic Republic of Congo Birding Association

The Democratic Republic of Congo Birding Association was formally constituted on March 3rd 1998 by Tommy Pedersen, with valuable help from Marc Languy and Greg Davies.The goal for this organization is to be a medium for people interested in the Congolese avifauna…

West African Ornithological Society


The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.


Abbreviations Key

Garamba National Park


Satellite View

The park's immense savannahs, grasslands and woodlands, interspersed with gallery forests along the river banks and the swampy depressions, are home to four large mammals: the elephant, giraffe, hippopotamus and above all the white rhinoceros…

Kahuzi-Biéga National Park

Satellite View

Avifauna include the endemic Rockefeller's Sunbird Nectarinia rockefelleri; Grauer's Broadbill Pseudocalyptomena graueri; Grauer's Warbler Bradypterus graueri and Shelley's Crimsonwing Cryptospiza shelleyi

Odzala National Park


Satellite View

Located in the heart of the great Congo basin rainforest, the Odzala National Park, recently extended to cover 13.600 km2, is one of Africa's least known and most extraordinary tropical forest ecosystems…

Salonga - Lukenie - Sankuru Forest

Satellite View

Notable birds include: the endemic Congo Peafowl Afropavo congensis, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis, and Black Stork Ciconia nigra

Virunga National Park


Satellite View

Virunga National Park (covering an area of 790,000 ha) comprises an outstanding diversity of habitats, ranging from swamps and steppes to the snowfields of Rwenzori at an altitude of over 5,000 m, and from lava plains to the savannahs on the slopes of volcanoes. Mountain gorillas are found in the park, some 20,000 hippopotamuses live in the rivers and birds from Siberia spend the winter there…

Western Congolian swamp forests


This ecoregion, combined with the neighboring Eastern Congolian Swamp Forests, contains one of the largest continuous areas of swamp forest in the world…

Zaire - Parks


e.g. Savannah. 400,000 hectares. Access by poor roads from Isiro or Bunia or by light aircraft usually from Goma. Basic accommodation available in the park. Animals living in the park include antelope, baboon, buffalo, hippopotamus, elephant, giraffe, leopard, lion, warthog, white rhinoceros (very rare); and a wide variety of birds.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Mission Africa Safaris

Tour Operator

Mission Africa Safaris is a leading tour company registered in Uganda. We help put together exciting safaris in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Our expereinced and knowledgeable guides/office personnel will ensure you have a memorable time while on your tour. Our packages include bird watching, game drives, nature walks, mountain hiking, gorilla tracking. cultural visits among many other. We give affordable rates to our clients and incorporate a personal touch and quality while dealing with our clients - You can be one of them.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


Trip Report Repository

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.

2010 [09 September] - Sjef Öllers - Cameroon, Congo and Central African Republic

Report PDF

..I more or less accidentally found a tour to Congo and Central African Republic offered by Steppes Travel. The tour schedule looked excellent with almost two weeks spent in the Dzanga-Sangha area and the adjoining Nouabalé-Ndoki national park. Although normally we don’t like joining group tours, the interesting tour schedule convinced us to give it a try….

Northeast Congo Basin Moist Forests


A WWF Filed trip report… …You might spy two birds restricted to this forest: the long- tailed Bedford`s paradise flycatcher, which catches its prey in midair, or Turner`s eremomela, a small warbler…


Katanga Birding - Andrew Hester


Welcome to Katanga Birding, a blog on my birding experiences in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. I hope to post regular trip reports, lists, interesting sightings and other items of interest from my local patch..