Birding in Zambia
The Republic of Zambia is a landlocked tropical country in south-central Africa. It has an area of 752,614km² and in 1994 the population was estimated to be 9.3 million, thus the average population density is 12.4 people per km². Most of the country is elevated plateau between 900m-1250m a.s.l. and small area in the north-east exceeds 2000m. Through Zambia lie several ancient arms of the rift valley system, notably the Luangwa and Zambezi Valleys (including the famous Victoria Falls) and the country around Lakes Mweru and Tanganyika. Most of the country is drained by the Zambezi system which flows into the Indian ocean. The remaining area lies within the Congo catchment and thus eventually feeds the Atlantic. Zambia's very pleasant climate can be divided into 3 seasons. The hot rainy season usually lasts 5-6 months between November and April. The remaining months are generally dry with temperatures cooler between May and August and hotter in September and October. Annual rainfall averages between 700-1500mm, decreasing southwards and in the major low-lying river valleys.
About 750 species have been recorded in Zambia. Of this total, well over 600 species are residents or afro-tropical migrants which breed here and about 100 are non-breeding migrants or vagrants from the palearctic region. Zambia has only two true endemic species (Chaplin's Barbet & Black-cheeked Lovebird); but there are several near-endemics and a large number of species that otherwise only occur in Angola and DRC - countries that are less accessible to travelling birders. It is the best place for finding all the south-central African endemics and one of the most important countries in Africa for birds.
Zambia can boast large tracts of pristine wilderness and the vast majority of the country falls within the Zambezian biome. Miombo woodland is the dominant vegetation and as it has little understorey it is easy to walk through. The key to successful birding is locating bird parties; these may comprise 20, 30 or more species and are a typical feature of the habitat. In most areas the woodland is laced with grassy dambos along the drainage lines; these hold a very different variety of species, particularly if they are wet or spongy. In the north, evergreen forest patches (mushitus) are found in dambos and in the north-west there are many forest species characteristic of the Congo basin. In the north-east several highland areas hold afromontane species, including many typical of the Eastern Arc mountains in Tanzania. Zambia also has a rich array of wetlands that are famous for their vast numbers of birds as well as their populations of Shoebills and Wattled Cranes. Further exploration of the country will reveal many other interesting habitats for birding such as teak and dry evergreen forest, acacia, munga & mopane woodland, thickets, termitaria, plains, papyrus swamps and seasonal pans. There are 19 National Parks in Zambia, covering nearly 9% of the country and in addition 35 Game Management Areas (GMAs) account for a further 22%.
Birders looking for more information and a full Zambian checklist, contact the Zambian Ornithological Society firstname.lastname@example.org or check a recent Bulletin of the African Bird Club for contact details of the Zambian representative. ZOS publish a newsletter every month and the Zambia Bird Report annually. ZOS is the BirdLife International Representative in Zambia.
Places to visit & birds to see
Below are some of the top birding destinations.
Bangweulu Swamps - between Serenje and Samfya, is the place for Shoebills, several camps and other good birding spots nearby (e.g. Kasanka and Lavushi Manda NPs). Other birds include: Denham's Bustard, Common Bittern, White-cheeked Bee-eater, Rosy-breasted Longclaw, Wattled Crane, Swamp Flycatcher.
Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage
Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage - a world famous home for Chimpanzees near Chingola, with accommodation, also a great birding spot. Birds include: Pale-billed Hornbill, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike, Central Bearded Scrub Robin, Bocage's Robin, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Laura's Warbler, Black-collared Eremomela, Splendid Starling, Chestnut-mantled Sparrow-weaver, Sharp-tailed Starling, White-chinned Prinia, Sousa's Shrike, Red-capped Crombec.
Ishiba Ng'andu Nature Reserve
Ishiba Ng'andu - the spectacular estate near Mpika was made famous in the best-selling book The Africa House. Accommodation. Birds include: White-headed Saw-wing, Bocage's Robin, Stout Cisticola, Bar-winged Weaver, Böhm's Flycatcher, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Red-and-blue Sunbird, Black-chinned Quailfinch, Fülleborn's Longclaw, Ross's Turaco, Long-toed Flufftail, Yellow-bellied Hyliota.
Lochinvar National Park
Lochinvar NP - in southern Zambia near Monze, some of the best wetland birding in the world with tens of thousands of waterbirds, camping or day trips. These include: Slaty Egret, Wattled Crane, Common Pratincole, White Pelican, Saddle-billed Stork, Denham's Bustard, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Caspian Plover and many palearctic waders and very good for raptors.
Mwinilunga - the far north-west where the Congo birds begin. Stay at Nchila Wildlife Reserve (Hillwood) and from there visit the source of the Zambezi, the Zambezi Rapids, the Chitunta Plain and the forests of the far north. Birds include: Grimwood's Longclaw, Black-collared Bulbul, Angola Lark, Black-tailed Cisticola, Rufous Ant Thrush, Afep Pigeon, White-spotted Flufftail, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Black-and-rufous Swallow, Honeyguide Greenbul, Bristlebill, Grey-winged Robin, Bamboo Warbler, Spotted Thrush-babbler, Margaret's Batis, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, Bannerman's Sunbird.
Nkanga River Conservation Area
Nkanga River Conservation Area - near Chaoma in southern Zambia, the best site for Zambia's endemic, Chaplin's Barbet, with accommodation, also within easy reach of Victoria Falls, Kafue NP and Lochinvar. Birds include: Crowned Eagle, 6 species of francolin, Streaky-breasted Flufftail, Sooty Chat, Miombo Pied Barbet, White-winged Black Tit, Green Indigobird, Narina Trogon, African Broadbill, Shelley's Sunbird. Black-cheeked Lovebird is found in Kafue NP nearby.
Nyika National Park
Nyika NP - the best area to find all the montane specials, camping, or accommodation on Malawi side close by. Birds include: Bar-tailed Trogon, Olive-flanked Robin, Sharpe's Akalat, African Hill Babbler, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Red-tufted Malachite Sunbird, Bertram's Weaver, Mountain Marsh Whydah, White-chested Alethe, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Waller's Red-winged Starling, Chestnut-headed Apalis, Blue Swallow, Hildebrandt's Francolin.
South Luangwa National Park
South Luangwa NP - near Chipata in eastern Zambia, the most popular NP for big game viewing with many camps. Birds include: Bat Hawk, Pel's Fishing Owl, Lilian's Lovebird, African Skimmer, Southern Crowned Crane, African Pitta, Southern Carmine Bee-eater.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 750
National Bird: African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocoder
Number of endemics: 2
Chaplin's Barbet Lybius chaplini, Black-cheeked Lovebird Agapornis nigrigenis
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
A Field Guide to Zambian Birds not found in Southern Africa
Dylan Aspinwall and Carl Beel 144 pages, 25 colour plates, 2 maps. Zambian Ornithological Society Distributed by NHBS Reprinting 2007
ISBN: 9982811002Buy this book from NHBS.com
Field Guide to the Birds of East Africa
Fanshawe, John Fanshawe, Norman Arlott, John Gale, Brian Small Hardcover (October 2000) Academic Press Inc
ISBN: 0856610798Buy this book from NHBS.com
Important Bird Areas in Zambia
Peter Leonard - Zambian Ornithological Society 2005 ISBN: 99828110101
Newman's Birds of Southern Africa
Kenneth Newman Paperback - 510 pages ( 1 January, 1999) Southern Book Publishers
ISBN: 1868127575Buy this book from NHBS.com
Photographic Guide to Birds of Prey of Southern, Central and East Africa
David Allan, Peter Hayman (Illustrator) Paperback - 144 pages ( 1 November, 1996) New Holland Publishers (UK) Out of Print
ISBN: 9781868725212Buy this book from NHBS.com
SASOL Birds of Southern Africa
Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey and Warwick Tarboton Series: THE ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA 447 pages, col plates, maps. New Holland Publishers 4th Edition
ISBN: 9781770079250Buy this book from NHBS.com
Southern African Birdfinder
Where to find 1400 bird species in southern Africa and Madagascar Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Jonathan Rossouw 456 pages, 80 col photos, 100 maps, pull-out route map. New Holland Publishers 2006
ISBN: 1868727254Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Birds of Zambia: An Atlas and Handbook
Robert J Dowsett, Dylan R Aspinwall and Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire (606 pages, 16 colour plates, 720 distribution maps) Tauraco Press 2008 - Distributed by NHBS
ISBN: 9782872250059Buy this book from NHBS.com
Zambia Bird Report 1999
Peter Leonard, Carl Beel, Carl & Paul Van Daele - Zambian Ornithological Society 2001
ISBN: 139665Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Highlights include birding the Kasane area, Victoria Falls, Nkanga River Conservancy – one of the best birding hotspots as birding here is fast and furious with a bewildering variety of birds, Kasanka National Park which has serveral different habitats, and Bangweulu swamp (Shoebill Island Camp) is an absolute waterbird mecca, with over 400 species on record.
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Navigate African Safaris
Zambia, which consists mainly of high plateaus with some hills and mountainous areas, is a landlocked country with a tropical climate. The country is drained by two main river basins: the Zambezi/Kafue basin in the centre, west and south, and the Congo basin in the north.
Norman Carr Safaris
Norman Carr Safaris is one of the leading safari operators in the Luangwa Valley…
Robin Pope Safaris
Robin Pope Safaris is the most established and successful safari operator in the South Luangwa National Park, Zambia. With three small camps, Nkwali, Nsefu and the infamous Tena Tena, RPS offers personalised safaris combining genuine African bush with simple yet stylish luxury. Each camp is individual in atmosphere and location.
Rockjumper Birding Tours
Zambia is one of Africa’s most remarkable countries, offering vast areas of pristine wilderness and a great diversity of habitats. A tour to Zambia will specifically target the nation’s endemics and near-endemics, namely Chaplin’s Barbet, Black-cheeked and Lillian’s Lovebird, Böhm’s Flycatcher and the beautiful Böhm’s Bee-eater.
SafariWise was founded in Namibia in 1992 and operated in Botswana and Namibia. In 1999 the company spread its wings to South Africa where it trades as SafariWise (South Africa), and also started doing Safaris to Mozambique…
Shenton Safaris - Photographic Safari Zambia
Explore Southern Africa safari holidays in Zambia with Shenton Safaris and get up close and personal with the wildlife of Africa…
Specialist birding trips in Zambia, Botswana and South Africa…
A specialist travel company offering tours in Zambia, for small groups at various times of the year.
We are an innovative and rapidly-growing company offering superb birding tours to many tropical destinations throughout the world. One of the things that sets us apart is our commitment to protecting the same birds that we love to show our clients. We are running several tours in conjuction with BirdLife International where we will donate half, or in a few cases ALL of the profits to bird conservation!
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…
2007 [05 May] - Chris Lotz
…This was the first day of our Zambian (Shoebill) trip. The morning started out with Jay and Marilyn, two clients from the US, that chose to drive up through Botswana with me and therefore had a trip on the Chobe River before meeting up with the rest of the party at Livingstone. Birding on the river was fairly quiet due to the very high water levels but we managed some good sightings of Long-toed- and White-crowned Lapwings. A Red-billed Francolin made it’s appearance barely meters away from a Lioness which lay in ambush, waiting for a herd of Buffalo coming down to drink. Huge flocks of Collared Pratincole came in to land and a stunning Malachite Kingfisher sat sunning itself meters away…
2008 [11 November] - Kathie Claydon
…We have visited Livingstone many times, staying at Liyoyelo Farm. No longer a farm, this is NOMAD African Travel’s base in Zambia by the Zambezi river, 16 kms west of Livingstone and close to the boundary of Mosi-oa-Tunya park…
2009 [12 December] - Josh Engel
We began this tour by seeing one of Africa’s most beautiful and sought after birds: African Pitta. After that, the rest was just details. But not really, considering we tacked on 260 more birds and loads of great mammals. We saw Zambia’s only endemic bird, Chaplin’s Barbet, as well as a number of miombo and broad-leaf specialties, including Miombo Rock-Thrush, Racket-tailed Roller, Southern Hyliota, Miombo Pied Barbet, Miombo Glossy Starling, Bradfield’s Hornbill, Pennant-winged Nightjar, and Three-banded Courser…
2012 [11 November] - John van der Dol
…Our boat trip up and down the mighty Zambesi was very successful with three male Finfoots being the highlights. Great views and more photos. Six were seen at two locations last tour. Other interesting birds were loads of Water Thick‐knees, two Rock Pratincoles, some Skimmers, and the usual herons including Goliath, Green‐backed etc. Giant and Malachite Kingfishers were fun and lots of Blacksmith and White‐crowned Lapwings gave good views too messing around along the river banks….
2013 [03 March] - Neil McLeod - Namibia, Botswana & Zambia
Naturetrek - Safariwise
2013 [12 December] - Tertius Gous
This was an intensive seven-day tour visiting key sites near Lusaka, Ndola and Choma. The main aim was timing the tour at the best season for African Pitta, and having multiple chances to find it. We birded the mixed and miombo woodlands of the Zambian plateau and then descended into the Zambezi valley where we searched for birds typical of the dry deciduous thickets and woodlands of this region, in particular the African Pitta...
2014 [09 September] - Errol de Beer
This trip was run as a customized tour for three clients, all with lists of well over 7000 species seen worldwide, and in fact Dollyann was hoping to reach 8000 species by the end of this trip. Travel to some really remote destinations, particularly in Malawi, was necessary to find some of the group’s target birds. Places like Misuku Hills and Uzumara Forest in Malawi are hardly ever visited by birders, primarily from a logistics point of view, and also because of lack of suitable accommodation. Both these destinations are, however, excellent birding spots, and Uzumara in particular could be included in most itineraries, using accommodation in the town of Rumphi as a base. On the Zambian side we included the Mwinilunga area, a must for any serious birder; this area hosts many Angolan/Congo specials, found nowhere else in Zambia...
2015 [04 April] - Justin Nicolau
...A visit to the nearby Batoka Gorge, cut away by the Zambezi River beneath the falls, yielded African Openbill, Verreaux’s Eagle, Rock Martin, Red-winged Starling, White-backed Vulture, and a resident pair of Augur Buzzards. Mosque Swallows and African Black Swifts quartered above, while Trumpeter and African Grey Hornbills crossed the deep woodland below.
2015 [08 August] - Geoff Lockwood - Namibia, Botswana & Zambia
The coastal pre-tour gave us the usual spectacular sightings of thousands of Greater and Lesser flamingos, as well as a number of endemic and near-endemic cormorants, oystercatchers, larks, and chats. For the first time on these pre-tours, we visited the spectacular coastal wetlands at Sandwich Harbour, involving a drive along the shoreline followed by a breathtaking drive back over the dunes. The trip provided the first record of an Augur Buzzard for the Kuiseb Delta, and also great views of displaying Dune Larks, but it will be the drive back along the beach ahead of the rising tide and the roller-coaster ride over the dunes that will be the highlight for most of the group.
2016 [10 October] - Cuan Rush - Namibia, Okavango and Victoria Falls V
Places to Stay
Chiawa Camp is a must for any visit to Zambia. Superb accommodation, magnificent game viewing and scenery, and a large variety of activities are complemented by a modern infrastructure and an attentive, professional staff.
Chinzombo Safari Lodge
Nestled in a shady grove of magnificent ebony and mahogany trees on the banks of the Luangwa River, offers accommodation for a maximum of 18 guests. It is a small, personalised lodge known for its friendly welcoming atmosphere and scenic location overlooking the National Park.
Chundukwa River Lodge
Situated on the grassy banks of the Zambezi River just 25km upstream from the mighty Victoria Falls, Chundukwa offers the best of both worlds when visiting the Victoria Falls-only 30minutes drive away, however far enough from the busy hotels and buzzing Helicopters to provide a real retreat for the mind and soul...
The quality of our guiding is of a high standard and with a great diversity of mammals, both large and small, and over 400 bird species the South Luangwa is a spectacle not to be missed…
Ilala Lodge offers distinguished yet affordable accommodation in warm elegant surroundings. The decor evokes an era of early adventure and the quest for discovery in Africa. All the communal guest areas exude a colonial atmosphere with antiques, curios and unusual prints which continue the theme of African adventure and sophisticated indulgence from times gone by...
Kafunta River Lodge
Set in riverine forest on the banks of the Luangwa River, our eight chalets, set on stilts, overlook the South Luangwa National Park. Relax on your private verandah and allow your senses to appreciate the surroundings. Observe Elephants crossing the river and Giraffe browsing. Listen to the Hippo’s chorus and the songs of the rich bird life.
Kaingo is a small, exclusive camp, deep within the South Luangwa National Park. This camp is renowned for excellent game sightings, particularly leopard. As the number of guests is limited to ten, you will enjoy a personalised and exclusive safari…
Kapani Safari Lodge
The South Luangwa National Park is bordered to the East by the Luangwa river, the lifeblood of this, Africa`s finest Game Sanctuary. Kapani lies on one of its many ox-bow lagoons and is one of the most established camps in the Valley. Well known for walking safaris and game drives of exceptionally high guiding standard, Kapani offers a fine wilderness Safari experience, either on foot or by open vehicle. Kapani`s three bush camps Luwi, Nsolo and Kakuli, lie deep in the Park and offer guests close encounters with the real Africa.
Lilayi Lodge, only 20 minutes drive from Lusaka, provides the ideal setting for a relaxed stay. Set in a 700 hectare game ranch the lodge offers a luxurious accommodation close to Zambia`s capital city. The Lodge is designed in traditional style with thatched chalets, one of which accommodates the lounge, bar, dining area and modern kitchen. A recent addition is a new conference and function room built in the same style. Set in very attractive parkland with a sparkling pool, the complex is designed for comfort and relaxation with particular attention to excellent cuisine and service.
Lunga River Lodge
Kafue National Park is a vast, unspoilt area where the wildlife moves freely with the changing seasons. The park has a number of major rivers as boundaries or that flow through the park itself. Lunga River Lodge is situated on the banks of the Lunga River which is a major tributary of the Kafue River. Seasonal flooding limits access to the park, however, with the advent of the dry season, the reserve becomes a paradise for the discerning visitor requiring a superb bush safari. Lunga has two bush camps on the Busanga Plains which is undoubtedly one of the more remote and spectacular safari experiences in Africa.
Mfuwe Lodge is positioned inside Zambia’s famed South Luangwa National Park. Built between two spectacular lagoons, this new lodge offers remarkable game viewing right from your balcony. All the materials used in the construction of the new Lodge, including thatch for the roofs, timber and stone have been obtained locally. Great attention has been given to environmental issues, and the low profile lodge blends totally with the surrounding environment.
Musungwa Safari Lodge
Nkwali, Tena Tena & Nsefu Camps
Nkwali, Tena Tena and Nsefu Camps are all owned and operated by Robin Pope Safaris. They are small bush style camps with the emphasis on the guiding and the bush experience….
Shoebill Island Camp
Shoebill Island Camp is currently the only photographic safari camp in the Bangweulu area. This tented camp accommodates a total of twelve persons in comfortable twin bedded cottage tents. Shared shower and safari toilet units are located nearby. A central dining and lounge nsaka and lookout platform provide a relaxed setting for those wishing to relax and observe the prolific birdlife from camp…
Taita Falcon Lodge
Perched above Rapid 17 on the very edge of the Batoka Gorge, Taita Falcon offers superb views of the raging Zambezi waters 200m below…
African Bird Club
For a long time Zambia has been a well kept secret by those who live there and those who visit. However, this is changing rapidly as increasing numbers of birders and ecotourists are discovering this wonderful country. Zambia is safe and very friendly. It is accessible and the infrastructure is reasonable. It still supports huge areas of wilderness and it holds 750 species of bird, many of which are difficult to see anywhere else. Amongst its attractions are the spectacular Victoria Falls and some of the very best game-viewing safaris anywhere in the world…
Zambian Ornithological Society
Welcome to the web site of BirdWatch Zambia (BWZ), a conservation society formerly known as ZOS (Zambian Ornithological Society). For over thirty years, BirdWatch Zambia has provided a home for those interested in learning about and protecting Zambia’s bird life.
The Great Bangweulu Basin, incorporating the vast Bangweulu Lake and a massive wetland area lies in a shallow depression in the centre of an ancient cratonic platform, the North Zambian Plateau. The basin is fed by 17 principle rivers from a catchment area of 190,000 kms2, but is drained by only one river, the Luapula.
Chimfunshi Chimp Sanctuary
On the headwaters of the Kafue River, sixty kilometers west of Chingola, lies the Chimfunshi Wildlife Orphanage. Aside from Chimpanzees, Chimfunshi does have a host of other animals benefiting from the care of David and Sheila Siddle.
In Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands (BirdLife International 2001), 31 IBAs are listed for Zambia. The Zambian IBA network has now been updated and revised and comprises 42 IBAs. These have been documented in detail in Important Bird Areas in Zambia (LEONARD, P.M. 2005) from which the following map and IBA list is taken…
North Luangwa Conservation Project
In 1986, Mark and Delia Owens established the North Luangwa Conservation Project (NLCP) to rehabilitate and conserve the 2,400-square-mile North Luangwa National Park of Zambia. At that time, commercial meat and ivory poachers had killed all of the park's 2,000 black rhinos and they were killing 1,000 of its elephants each year. In the previous decade, poachers had slaughtered up to 100,000 elephants and virtually all of 6,000 black rhinos in the Luangwa Valley as a whole. They set wild fires that burned over 85% of the area every year. If left unprotected, by 1996 North Luangwa would have been sterilized of its large mammals.
Birdlife in Zambia
By African standards, Zambia is well known ornithologically. So far 740 species have been recorded here…
Birdlife in Zambia
To a large extent Zambia`s avifauna is that of the Central African Plateau. The vegetation is principally miombo woodland, bisected by grassy dambos along drainage lines. In some areas the miombo woodland is replaced by other woodland types, dry forest or thicket. Along watercourses there may be riparian forest, or in wetter areas in the north, wet evergreen forest. Most of these habitats have a distinctive set of birds…
Southern Africa Birding
Birding Resources for Southern Africa.