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Federal Republic of Nigeria

Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinicus ©Nigel Blake Website

Nigeria is Africa's most populous nation, although travelling along the arterial roads, east to west and north to south, one might doubt it. One appears to move along a tiny corridor barely touching the apparently primary forest through which one travels in the southern half of Nigeria. In reality the vegetation is almost all secondary growth and primary forest can be found only in the SE of the country and along the Nigeria-Cameroon border.

From the Mangrove swamp along almost all of Nigeria's coastline we move north through the forest belt. The forest exists where the rainfall is high and is distributed evenly throughout the year. As the rainfall diminishes so the forest gives way to Savanna, trees becoming more scarce as a definite dry season develops. In the dry far north the land is red; mud-built palaces, mosques and houses create a biblical town and landscape.

Each bio-geographic region has its unique avifauna - few bird species are found in both forest and Savanna. Typical birds of the dry lands are: Hooded Vulture, Stone-partridge, Guinea fowl, Black-billed Wood-dove, Black Cuckoo, Blue-naped Mousebird and Abyssinian Roller.

Oyo State in the Yoruba heartlands of Southwest Nigeria is the area with which I am most familiar. The sites described below are typical of secondary forest growth with some notable waterfowl. They are on the outskirts of the state capital, Ibadan, and are accessible. While I would not give them Top Site status they do represent the only area I know where the illusive Ibadan Malimbe may be found.

Top Sites

Ibadan University

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For a casual visitor the Campus of the University of Ibadan (UI) offers excellent birding opportunities; the campus is large, more than 500Ha, and has two prime sites – Oba Dam and the Botanical Gardens. The Campus is open and permission is not required for entry but if you can find a local enthusiast to accompany you then so much the better.

Oba Dam

Satellite View

The Dam site has a wide variety of waterfowl including: Pigmy goose, Lily-trotter, Black-winged Stilt, Egyptian Plover, Black Crake and a dozen species of herons and egrets. At the right time of the year 10 or more species of swallow and swift can be seen including the uncommon Psalidoprocne obscura and Usher's Spine-tailed Swift. Giant Kingfishers and Ospreys are occasional visitors. A visitor in late September/October might be surprised by hearing the familiar song of a Willow Warbler. Great Spotted and Levaillant's Cuckoos with their allies the Coucals, Senegal (including the rare rufous phase bird, Centropus epomidis, as it was once styled) and the Yellowbill are not uncommon.

The Botanical Gardens

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This is secondary forest and harbours an ornithological gem. Square-tailed Drongo and the less frequent Glossy-backed Drongo can be found, the African and Black-headed Orioles, Painted Snipe, doves – Red-eyed, Mourning, Vinaceous, Laughing, Green Fruit; Klaas' and Didric cuckoos are heard more often than seen, the Long-tailed and the splendid Standard-winged Nightjars might be seen at dusk. Four or five kingfishers, European, White-throated and Little Bee-eaters together with Lilac-breasted Rollers very much brighten one's day. Lucky visitors might see a small flock of some of the unbelievably coloured Bush-shrikes such as the Fiery-breasted, Malaconotus cruentus. Many iridescent-plumaged starlings and a vast number of little brown jobs will round off a couple of hours in the gardens. Of the Ploceidae, the genus Malimbus is a West African speciality: the Red-vented, Blue-billed, Red-headed Malimbes are frequently encountered in the gardens but the gem is Malimbus ibadanensis, the Ibadan Malimbe, a little known local endemic found here and the adjoining land of IITA, the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture. If you can somehow get an invitation to IITA then treasure it – its woodland is less disturbed and its lake larger than UI's – Great White Egrets, Night Heron, Allen's Reedhen and the large Pied Kingfisher come to mind. Eight species of Plover and five Sandpipers were seen by the author in the space of half an hour.

The Campus

The Lanner nests on the University Clock tower; the Barn Owl flies in and out of the Great Hall. On the telephone lines the Woodchat can be seen, the Lizard Buzzard is common and the lovely Black-shouldered Kite can often be seen; overhead the Palm-nut Vulture is the only one of its species you will find in Ibadan – in towns to all points of the compass there are Vultures but not in Ibadan. The footpaths around the University Farm and Zoonoses Department hold Little Bittern and is a good spot to try to sort out the many species of Weaver which you will see.


Number of Species

Number of bird species: 953

National Bird Black-crowned Crane - Balearica pavonia


Number of endemics: 3

Ibadan Malimbe Malimbus ibadanensis Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia Jos Plateau Indigobird Vidua maryae


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

The Birds of Nigeria

An Annotated Checklist JH Elgood, JB Heignham, AM Moore, AM Nason, RE Sharland and NJ Skinner Series: BOU CHECKLISTS 4 305 pages, col plates, tabs, maps. British Ornithologists' Union 1994
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0907446167

Buy this book from NHBS.com


African Bird Club


Nigeria has a bird list of just over 900 species and this is increasing every year particularly since the establishment of the A. P. Leventis Ornithological Research Institute in Jos, Plateau State, in 2003. Prior to this, apart from a 3-year migration study at Lake Chad, there had been very little interest in Nigeria since the 1980s. Unfortunately, during the 1990s, Nigeria gained a very bad reputation worldwide for its political instability and this, coupled with widespread incidences of armed robbery especially on the main highways tended to put off all but the intrepid traveller from visiting Nigeria…

Nigerian Conservation Foundation


NCF pursues the conservation of nature and its resources with the aim of improving the quality of human life…

Nigerian Conservation Foundation


P0 Box 74638, Victoria Island, Lagos. + 234 1 2642498 ext 7903 ncf@hyperia.com Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF)
The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) is a non-governmental organisation (NGO) dedicated to the promotion of nature conservation in Nigeria. Registered in 1982 as a charitable trust, the activities of the NCF encompass conservation, education, support for wildlife research, protection of endangered species and habitat and lobbing for legislation and policy initiatives that promote nature conservation. The Foundation was affiliated to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF); the largest private conservation organisation in the world, through an agreement signed in 1989 during the visit of His Royal Highness, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, President of WWF International. NCF is now an associate member of the WWF family…

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

Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands


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The Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands Conservation Project is an IUCN field project based in Nguru, Yobe State, Nigeria. The overall goal of the Project is: To achieve sustainable development of the Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands for the benefit of current and future generations of people and for the conservation of wildlife both within the wetlands and the surrounding drylands…



Nigeria has only 4 endemic species, 2 of which occur only on the Jos Plateau, Rock Firefinch Lagonosticta sanguinodorsalis and Plateau Indigobird Vidua maryae. Of the other 2, Ibadan Malimbe Malimbus ibadanensis is restricted to a small area in the degraded forest belt of the south-west and the Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia is only found in the southern part of the Niger Delta. The only area protecting any of these is the small Amurum Reserve which surrounds the Ornithological Institute on the Jos Plateau…

Yankari National Park


Satellite View

Yankari National Park with an area of 24,410km is Nigeria's premier tourist resort and is also one of The most important conservation areas in the whole of West Africa…

Guides & Tour Operators

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

Birding Pal


Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Trip Reports

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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.

2005 [07 July] - Stephen Greenfield


Given that Nigeria has such a terrible reputation among travelers, I should share that I had an enjoyable visit and did some exciting birding while there for a business trip recently. The people I worked with and met were delightful and, though one has to be aware of crime, I never felt threatened, and would eagerly take any opportunity to return…

Other Links

Fishing Owls at Agenbode, Nigeria


In 1995, Phil Hall observed a fishing owl near a village on the banks of the Ogwe River, a tributary of the Niger, near Agenebode, Nigeria…