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Niger

Striped Kingfisher Halcyon chelicuti ©Ross Warner Website

Niger, officially the Republic of Niger, is a landlocked country in Western Africa, named after the Niger River. It borders Nigeria and Benin to the south, Burkina Faso and Mali to the west, Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the east. Its size is almost 1,270,000 km², making it the largest nation in West Africa, with a population of just under 13,300,000, mostly clustered in the far south and west of the nation. The capital city is Niamey.

Niger is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, with over 80% of its territory covered by the Sahara desert, and much of the rest threatened by periodic drought and desertification. The economy is concentrated around subsistence and some export agriculture clustered in the more fertile south, and the export of raw materials -- especially uranium ore. Niger remains handicapped by its landlocked position, poor education, infrastructure, health care, and environmental degradatio

Niger is a landlocked nation in West Africa located along the border between the Sahara and Sub-Saharan regions. Its geographic coordinates are latitude 16°N and longitude 8°E. Its area is 1,267,000 square kilometres (489,000 sq mi) of which 300 square kilometres (115 sq mi) is water. This makes Niger slightly less than twice the size of the U.S. state of Texas, and the world's twenty-second largest country (after Chad). Niger is comparable in size to Angola.

Niger borders seven countries on all sides and has a total of 5,697 kilometres (3,540 mi) of borders. The longest border is with Nigeria to the south (1,497 km; 930 mi). This is followed by Chad to the east, at 1,175 kilometres (730 mi), Algeria to the north-northwest (956 km; 594 mi), and Mali at 821 kilometres (510 mi). Niger also has small borders in its far southwest frontier with Burkina Faso at 628 kilometres (390 mi) and Benin at 266 kilometres (165 mi) and to the north-northeast (Libya at 354 kilometres (220 mi).

Niger's subtropical climate is mainly very hot and dry, with much desert area. In the extreme south there is a tropical climate on the edges of the Niger River basin. The terrain is predominantly desert plains and sand dunes, with flat to rolling savanna in the south and hills in the north.

The lowest point is the Niger River, with an elevation of 200 metres (722 ft). The highest point is Mont Idoukal-n-Taghès in the Aïr Massif at 2,022 metres (6,634 ft).

Niger also has a rich past as the geology and the famous dinosaur fossils demonstrate. Human presence in Niger goes back approximately 60,000 years. Rock carvings in the Aïr and Djado, in the deserts of the north of the country, testify to the former presence there of elephants and hippos at a time when the Sahara was lush and green. The no longer extant town of Takkada, also in the Aïr, was a centre of copper production from approx. 1360 BC. It was still active as such in 1354 AD, when it was mentioned by the traveller Ibn Battuta from Morocco.

Regional and local kingdoms waxed and waned throughout Niger until colonisation by the French took place around 1900. Niger as a sovereign nation has existed since 1960. Civilian and military governments have alternated over the past 40 years, but throughout that time Niger has on the whole been remarkably peaceful, unrest in the north of the country during the 1990s notwithstanding. Islam helps give the country a structure, and the people are very friendly. There are some seven major ethnic groups in Niger. French, however, is the most widely spoken language, and it adds a lot to your visit to Niger if you know at least a few words. Although lacking in tourist infrastructure outside Niamey, Parc du W and the Aïr, there certainly is suitable accommodation in Niger for birders on tight budgets.

Bird-wise much remains to be discovered in Niger. Only the area around the capital Niamey, Makalondi district and Parc National du W, all in the southwest of the country, and the Aïr Mountains in the north, have been birded more or less systematically. Even in those areas new species for the country are still found regularly. The country list stands at approximately 530 species at present. These include colourful Afrotropical residents, enigmatic Afrotropical migrants, and familiar Palearctic migrants in surroundings that make you appreciate them anew.

Niger has no endemic or restricted-range species, but it is an excellent country to see Sahara-Sindian, Sahelian and Sudan-Guinea Savanna biome species. The nature of the terrain and the vegetation are such that you actually get to see most birds, rather than only hear them. In many places you can also go off the beaten track quite easily. Only in the extreme southwest, in and around Parc National du W, do you need to watch out for large predators.

Banding and satellite-tracking studies have shown that Niger shares at least some of its birds with 80 other countries, from Guinea to the Shetland Islands, across Scandinavia to Russia and Kazakhstan, and via the Kaukasus, Middle East and East Africa down to Madagascar, South Africa and Namibia. For a further 7 countries, links are probable based on likely migration routes between banding and recovery locations. Further countries will no doubt be added as new information becomes available. With all these comings and goings, the composition of the avifauna of Niger truly changes all the time, throughout the year.

While in the country you will not want to miss the giraffes 70 km south-east of Niamey nor perhaps the hippos at Ayorou on the Niger River, near the border with Mali. When birding in Parc du W, you will obviously also enjoy looking for the considerable variety of antelope, monkeys, buffalo, elephants, and with a lot of luck even a lion, leopard or cheetah. In relaxed Niamey itself a visit to the National Museum is a must, with its various ethnological and natural history collections, and its artisans at work in an open shed. After a hard day birdwatching or sightseeing, don't forget to relax with a drink on the terrace of the Grand Hotel overlooking the Niger River watching the camels, pedestrians, motorbikes and cars cross the bridge, and the local longboats plying their trade. As the sun goes down you will see the flying foxes spreading out from their dormitories, pitch black in the fading light. You will be glad you came to Niger.

Contributor

Joost Brouwer

Brouwer Envir. & Agric. Consultancy

Manager Niger Bird DataBase & ABC Niger Country Coordinator

BrouwerEAC(AT)wanadoo.nl

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 530

Checklist

Checklist

WebBirder Checklist

Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder

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

Trip Reports

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CloudBirders

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.

2008 [01 January] - Mary Crickmore

Report

…Park W is one of these West African parks, located at the corner where the boundaries of Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso meet. It is named for the 'W' shape that the Niger River forms in that part of its course. The northern entrance to Park W can be reached in about a two and a half hour drive from Niamey, the capital of Niger, over mostly good paved or laterite road. You need to have your own vehicle or go with an organized tour. You must always travel with a guide, and at the park entrance there are guides waiting their turn to be assigned…

Organisations

African Bird Club

Website

Bird-wise much remains to be discovered in Niger. Only the area around the capital Niamey, Makalondi district and Parc National du W, all in the south-west of the country, and the Aïr Mountains in the north, have been birded more or less systematically. Even in those areas new species for the country are still found regularly. The country list stands at approximately 530 species at present. These include colourful Afrotropical residents, enigmatic Afrotropical migrants, and familiar Palearctic migrants in surroundings that make you appreciate them anew…

West African Ornithological Society

Website

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.

Reserves

Aïr and Ténéré Natural Reserves

Website

Satellite View

The resident avifauna of the region consists of Saharan, Saharo-Sahelian and Saharo-Montane residents (Newby et al., 1987). Sand grouse Pteroclididae, doves Columbidae, barbets Capidonidae, larks Alaudidae, crows and ravens Corvidae, buntings Emberizidae and weavers Ploceidae are the most conspicuous residents. The last significant population of the West African race of the ostrich, Struthio camelus camelus, estimated at 800 - 2,000 head, and substantial numbers of Nubian bustard, Neotis nuba also occur (Magin, 1990a). The reserve is visited by some 85 species of Palaearctic passage and overwintering migrants…

IBAs

Website

Lists of species and maximum counts found at each IBA mentioned below can be downloaded in a spreadsheet from Niger IBA checklist. Additional sites close to Niamey that are good for birding are mentioned in the section - Visiting…

W National Park

Website

Satellite View

Some 150km southeast of Niamey, on the bank of the River Niger and extending to the point where the borders of Niger, Burkina Faso and Benin meet, in Niamey Department…