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South-Central Africa

…birding excitement and great endemics

I have just had a bit of fun compiling a rough list of endemics and specials of South-central Africa - a region with large tracts of Miombo Woodland - north of South Africa but still within easy striking distance of us. Many of these South-central African birds are easily found in Malawi, Zambia and sometimes Mozambique, countries that are relatively easily birded by doing a road trip starting in Johannesburg. And, Malawi is remarkably easy to negotiate in a 2x4 sedan.

A good number of these birds are also found in Zimbabwe, which is easy to negotiate in a sedan vehicle but which a lot of overseas visitors are of course currently avoiding.

Some of these specials have their main ranges in Zambia/Angola/DRC, but are most easily seen in Zambia (and sometimes Malawi) due to infrastructure and/or safety problems in the other countries. Angola of course does have a plethora of other endemics near Gabela and birds it shares only with Namibia - in addition to the birds I have listed below. Perhaps half the birds I have listed are more-or-less restricted to Miombi woodland, which is a stunning, uniquely southern African dry forest type that only very marginally gets into South Africa around Pafuri and what was Venda.

A few of the birds on my list have (in most cases limited) ranges in East Africa (mainly southern Tanzania) or West Africa - for example, Spotted Creeper, which in southern Africa is largely in Miombo but in different woodland types in West Africa.

I have based the list on the book that anyone who dreams of birding through Africa needs to have - "Birds of Africa south of the Sahara" by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan. If you don't know the birds yet and look them up in this book you will realize how spectacular some of them are! I have an annotated version of the list (including page numbers for each bird in the above book) if anyone is interested - the annotated version will also be placed on our website within a day or two.Malawi has many of these specials but it is surprisingly poorly-birded - it has a great infrastructure, is inexpensive, has some of Africa's most splendid scenery (mountains, lakes and great rivers), and is safe with wonderfully friendly inhabitants. Zambia has a disproportionate number of the specials I list below, has huge expanses of pristine Miombo woodland and has excellent accommodation including a good number of deluxe/markedly upmarket lodges. It is also one of the very best counties in which to find Shoebill. Mozambique south of the Zambezi is now pretty well-birded, but areas north of the Zambezi are potentially even more exciting than southern Mozambique. There is wonderful Miombo woodland in Northern Mozambique inhabited by birds most southern African birders have not yet seen. Then, also north of the Zambezi, there is MOUNT MABU - a very recently-discovered (thanks to Google Earth) sprawling, pristine forest that could even hold birds new to science (not that you will be able to drive there; please see http://www.kew.org for more information). And not far (as the crow flies) from Mt. Mabu is beautiful Mount Namuli, with its endemic Namuli Apalis and a couple of other specials such as Thyolo Alethe and the bizarre Dappled Mountain Robin.On another note, I am excited about the new lists that are going to be added to the Birdlife South Africa website (which is being revamped). These lists are a great resource for birders, and we are working further on them so watch that website! Obviously, the list I have just compiled excludes the greatest country for endemics on the entire African mainland (i.e. excluding Madagascar), South Africa. The rough list of South-central African endemics and specials I have compiled follows (anyone willing to send a list of Albertine Rift Endemics or Ethiopian endemics?):Lilian's Lovebird
Black-cheeked Lovebird
Racket-tailed Roller
Pale-billed Hornbill
Anchieta's Barbet
Whyte's Barbet
Chaplin's Barbet
Miombo Pied Barbet
Pallid Honeyguide
Black-and-rufous Swallow
Angolan Cliff-swallow
Fulleborn's Longclaw
Rosy-throated Longclaw
Grimwood's Longclaw
Woodland Pipit
Short-tailed Pipit
Miombo Tit
Spotted Creeper
Boulder Chat
Cabanis's Greenbul
Grey-olive Greenbul
Black-collared Bulbul
Miombo Rock-thrush
Miombo Scrub-robin
Sooty Chat
Arnott's Chat
Dambo Cisticola
White-winged Apalis
Chapin's Apalis
Brown-headed Apalis
Black-necked Erememela
Salvadori's Eremeomela
Red-capped Crombec
Southern Hyiliota
Bohm's Flycatcher
White-tailed Blue Flycatcher
Livingstone's Flycatcher
Malawi Batis
Margaret's Batis
Souza's Shrike
Fulleborn's Boubou
Miombo Blue-eared Starling
Sharp-tailed Starling
Bocage's Sunbird
Bannerman's Sunbird
Anchieta's Sunbird
Shelley's Sunbird
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird
Forest Double-collared Sunbird
Bocage's Weaver
Bertrand's Weaver
Bar-winged Weaver
Ove-headed Weaver
Montane Widowbird
Marsh Widowbird
Black-bellied Seedcracker
Lesser (Nyasa) Seedcracker
Black-chinned Quailfinch
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah
Southern Citril
Black-faced Canary
Yellow-browed Seed-eater
Reichard's Seed-eater
Black-eared Seedeater

Chris Lotz - BIRDING ECOTOURS http://www.birdingecotours.co.za

4th July 2014