Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

Little Rock Chat Monticola rufocinereus ©Markus Lilje Website
Birding Ethiopia

Ethiopia is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the world’s 27th-largest country, comparable in size to Bolivia. It lies between the 3rd parallel north and the 15th parallel north and longitudes 33rd meridian east and 48th meridian east. It shares borders with Eritrea to the north and northeast, Djibouti and Somalia to the east, Sudan and South Sudan to the west, and Kenya to the south. With over 102 million inhabitants, Ethiopia is the most populous landlocked country in the world and the second-most populous nation on the African continent. It occupies a total area of 1,100,000 square kilometres (420,000 square miles), and its capital and largest city is Addis Ababa. Within Ethiopia is a vast highland complex of mountains and dissected plateaus divided by the Great Rift Valley, which runs generally southwest to northeast and is surrounded by lowlands, steppes, or semi-desert. The great diversity of terrain determines wide variations in climate, soils and natural vegetation. It is an ecologically diverse country, ranging from desert along the eastern border to tropical forests in the south to extensive Afromontane in the northern and southwestern parts. Lake Tana in the north is the source of the Blue Nile. It also has a large number of endemic species, including 31 endemic species of mammals notably the gelada, the walia ibex and the Ethiopian wolf or Simien fox. The wide range of altitude has given the country a variety of ecologically distinct areas, and this has helped to encourage the evolution of endemic species in ecological isolation. Ethiopia is a global centre of avian diversity. To date more than 900 bird species have been recorded, around twenty of which are endemic and sixteen are endangered or critically endangered.In recent years, Ethiopia has rightly become one of Africa’s leading birding destinations. Its avifauna represents an interesting mixture of eastern and west African, Palearctic and endemic components, a staggering 37 are endemic or near-endemic. Ethiopia has a scenic diversity and cultural uniqueness that are probably unequalled in Africa.The highlands, which dominate the the centre and north of the country, are bisected by the Rift Valley, and fall away to arid desert and bushlands in the north, south and east, and to moister woodland in the west. Much of the highlands are exploited for agriculture, but there still exist considerable tracts of Afro-alpine shrubland and Afromontane forest.For birders, the most popular access to really high altitude is the Bale Mountains National Park in the south-eastern highlands. Here the highest all-weather road in Africa crosses the Sanetti plateau (4377m); allowing easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands and lakes. Highland endemics such as Spot-breasted Lapwing, Erlanger’s Lark and Rouget’s Rail occur alongside giant lobelias and Ethiopian wolves. The Bale Mounatins also curiously hold a number of species not found elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle or Red-billed Chough. Other more widespread highland endemics found here and elsewhere include Blue-winged Goose, Black-headed Siskin, Wattled Ibis, and Abyssinian Longclaw.

Ethiopian forest endemics are accessible at such forest patches as those at Wondo Genet and Lake Langano’s eastern shore in the Rift Valley, Dinsho and the Harenna Forest in the Bale Mountains, and several sites within easy striking distance of Addis Ababa, including Debre Libanos, Menagesha Forest, and the Entoto Hills. They include Yellow-fronted Parrot, Abyssinian Woodpecker, White-cheeked Turaco, Abyssinian Catbird (actually a babbler), White-backed Tit, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher and Abyssinian Oriole. Other forest species particularly worthy of mention include Ayre’s Hawk Eagle, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, African Hill Babbler, Abyssinian Crimsonwing and Green-backed Twinspot.Other highland localities deserving special mention include the Jemma River Valley north of Addis Ababa, which is the easiest place to see the highly localized and endemic Harwood’s Francolin, as well as many other exciting more widespread species of the northern highlands including Erckel’s Francolin, White-billed Starling, Rueppell’s Black Chat, Nyanza Swift and White-winged Cliff Chat. One of Ethiopia’s four highly localized endemic serins, Ankober Serin, is also a highland species, occurring along the spectacular Ankober escarpment north of Awash.

The Rift Valley, punctuated by several large lakes, offers few endemics but very diverse and enjoyable savannah and wetland birding. Some of the several excellent birding sites in the Rift Valley are Lake Langano, Awash National Park and Nechisar National Park, offering amongst many others African Swallow-tailed Kite, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Arabian Bustard, Somali Fiscal, and Gillet’s, Red-winged, White-winged and Singing Bush Larks, and a host of Afrotropical and Palearctic migrant waterbirds.In the south of the country, high diversity and high endemism combine to offer absolutely superb birding. Sought-after specials of the wonderful region bounded by Yabelo in the west and Negele in the east include the endemic Rupoli’s Turaco, White-tailed Swallow, Ethiopian Bush Crow and Liben Lark. Many of these species are highly threatened by agriculture and rangeland degradation, in particular the Liben Lark, of which only a few hundred individuals now remain in a small patch of grassland near Negele. In addition, this region offers a number of exciting dryland species shared with far northern Kenya and Somalia, such as Short-tailed Lark, Red-naped Bush Shike, African White-winged Dove, Somali Crombec, Pringle’s Puffback, Northern Grosbeak-Canary, Juba Weaver, Black-bellied Sunbird, Salvadori’s Serin, Yellow-vented Eremomela and Vulturine Guinea-fowl. Farther south still, the far-flung bushlands between Bogol Mayo and the Somali border at Dolo Odo are occasionally visited by birders for such species as Philippa’s Crombec and a chance of Heuglin’s Bustard.

In the far west of the country, along the Sudanese border, low-lying plains are cloaked with moister woodland supporting an avifauna quite unlike that of the rest of the country. This area is strongly influenced by Guinea-Congolean species more characteristic of West Africa, and specials include Egyptian Plover, Gambaga Flycatcher, Levant Sparrowhawk (perhaps a rare summer migrant); Pygmy Sunbird, Black-rumped Waxbill, Black-faced and Bar-breasted Firefinches, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Little Green & Red-throated Bee-eater, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-weaver and Green-backed Eremomela.Ideally one needs to rent a four-wheel-drive vehicle to do a visit to Ethiopia justice, although it is possible to fly to many areas, including the historically fascinating north. Most birders visit during the dry northern winter (October-March) when Palearctic migrants are abundant, but it is possible and productive to visit at all times of years. Over 500 species can be recorded on a thorough three-week trip.

This page is sponsored by Birding Ecotours

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 867

    (As at April 2020)
  • Number of endemics: 16

    Blue-winged Goose Cyanochen cyanopterus Harwood's Francolin Pternistis harwoodi Prince Ruspoli's Turaco Tauraco ruspoliiCaprimulgus solala Spot-breasted Lapwing Vanellus melanocephalus Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta Yellow-fronted Parrot Poicephalus flavifrons Stresemann's Bush-Crow Zavattariornis stresemanni White-tailed Swallow Hirundo megaensis Abyssinian Catbird Parophasma galinieri Red-billed Pytilia Pytilia lineata Abyssinian Longclaw Macronyx flavicollis Yellow-throated Serin Crithagra flavigula Salvadori's Serin Crithagra xantholaema Ethiopian Siskin Serinus nigriceps Ankober Serin Crithagra ankoberensis
  • iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

  • Birding Ethiopia: A Guide to the Country's Birding Sites

    | By Ken Behrens, Keith Barnes & Christian Boix | Lynx Edicions | 2010 | Paperback | 189 Pages, Colour photos, maps | ISBN: 9788496553552 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of Ethiopia & Eritrea

    | By John Ash & John Atkins | Christopher Helm | 2009 Hardback | 463 pages, 16p colour photos and maps | ISBN: 9781408109793 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of the Horn of Africa

    | By Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe | Christopher Helm | 2011 | Paperback | 512 pages, 213 colour plates, 1000+ colour distribution maps, colour & b/w maps | ISBN: 9781408157350 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Ethiopia

    | By Claire Spottiswoode, Merid Gabremichael & Julian Francis | Christopher Helm | 2010 | Paperback | 192 Pages, 150 Colour photos, maps | ISBN: 9781408130759 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • African Bird Club

    In recent years, Ethiopia has rightly become one of Africa`s leading birding destinations. Its avifauna represents an interesting mixture of east and west African, Palearctic and some strikingly unusual endemic components. In addition to more than 800 species of birds, of which a staggering 29 are endemic to Ethiopia and its neighbour Eritrea, Ethiopia has a number of peculiar mammals, and a scenic diversity and cultural uniqueness that are hard to equal…
  • Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society

    Facebook Page
    The Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (EWNHS) is an indigenous non-profit organization founded in 1966 in Addis Ababa. It has registered under the Charities and Societies Agency as Ethiopian Resident Charity in 2009. EWNHS is the oldest conservation institute that advocates for the wise use of natural resources, conservation of biodiversity and protection of environment through environmental education, awareness and community outreach and monitoring and research. EWNHS is BirdLife International partner and member in Ethiopia, and shares the mission of saving species, protecting sites, conserving habitats and empowering and improving the livelihoods of people. The organization strives to support the government efforts in conservation through provision of advice, information and hard data, best practice guidelines, disseminating of environmental issues, networking and collaboration, and proactively engaging in conservation projects.

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Abijatta- Shalla Lakes

    InformationSatellite View
    Situated in the Great Rift Valley, only 200 kilometers (124 miles) south of Addis Ababa, and in the Lake Langano recreational areas, the Abijatta Shalla lakes National Park attracts numerous visitors…
  • NP Awash

    InformationSatellite View
    Wildlife in this park include the East African oryx, Soemmerring's gazelle, dik-dik, the lesser and greater kudus, and warthogs. Anubis baboons and hamadryas baboons are present, as well as over 453 species of native birds like the North African ostriches
  • NP Mago

    InformationSatellite View
    Indigenous bird life include the extremely uncommon Turdoides tenebrosus especially at Lake Dipa, Estrilda troglodytes in the rank grass along streams and swamp edges, Phoeniculus damarensis, Porphyrio alleni, Butorides striatus also at Lake Dipa, and in riverine contexts Pluvianus aegypticus, Scotopelia peli and Cossypha niveicapilla. The park's perhaps best known attraction are the Mursi, known for piercing their lips and inserting disks made of clay.
  • NP Omo

    InformationSatellite View
    Over 306 species of birds can be seen
  • NP Semien Mountains

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The main attraction of the Simien Moumains National Park is its biosphere: the steep cliffs and the cool climate at the altitude of the Erica tree line (3600 to 4000 m ash) have created conditions that are appropriate for the survival of an ibex species (Capra ibex wee) endemic to the Simien Mountains. Despite the severe restriction of their habitat over the last centuries, several hundred animals have survived up to the present. Apart from the Walya ibex, many other animal species are found in the Park, for example the endemic Simien fox or Ethiopian wolf (Canis .071817,51-3 simony’s), several birds of prey, the endemic Gelada baboon ( Theropithecusgelada), the Klippspringer (Oreotragus omotragus), and the bush buck (liagelphus scriptus). The rareness of these species formed the backbone of the concept for conservation of the area, which led to the establishment of the Simien Mountains National Park in 1969, and its listing as a World Heritage Site in 1918.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Anytime Tours

    Tour Operator
    Ethiopia, “the Roof of Africa”, is an absolutely unique and spectacular birding destination. It is one of Africa’s most scenically beautiful countries, boasting some of the continent’s highest mountains and plateaus (but also contains a depression that reaches slightly below sea level), impressive escarpments, Great Rift Valley lakes and volcanoes and very varied vegetation from juniper forests to arid savannah dotted with monstrous red termite mounds. Descending from the highlands to the deep valleys far below can seem like entering a completely different world, all within the same day – it is an amazingly varied country…
  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    Ethiopia, “the Roof of Africa”, is an absolutely unique and spectacular birding destination with some of Africa’s highest mountains and plateaus, Great Rift Valley lakes and volcanoes, and varied vegetation (juniper forests to arid savannah), and about 30 endemic species. It is not too difficult to end up with an impressive bird list of well over 500 species!
  • Flamingos Tours Ethiopia

    Tour Operator
    With more than 850 different Birds, of which 22 endemic, we don’t have to explain you why Ethiopia is a top birding country in Africa. The diversity in climate and altitude is unique. Flamingos Tours Ethiopia is run by Belgian birdwatcher, who lives since 15 years in Ethiopia, where he first build 2 lodges in birding areas.
  • Four Winds

    Tour Operator
    Arrive Addis Ababa, afternoon drive to Geferssa Reservoir. Here, we expect to see some of the endemic birds like the Wattle Ibis, Rouget's Rail, black-headed Sis- kin, Abyssinian Long claw, the white collared pigeon and Blue-winged Goose. The African-black Duck, Ortolan bunting, Red-breasted Wheatear, Three-banded plover; African Marsh Harrier and African Fish Eagle are one of the species that we do see this afternoon…
  • Green Land Tours

    Tour Operator
    Although these custom tours provide many options, our itineraries are flexible and open to any possible program combinations. In addition GLT welcomes personal-interest touring requests
  • Rockjumper Birding Tours

    Tour Operator
    Ethiopia boasts the second highest endemic bird list on the African continent, and this unique avifauna and Ethiopia’s remarkable mammal assemblage form the focus of our tours to this magical birding destination.
Trip Reports
  • 2014 [01 January] - Mike Hunter

    PDF Report
    16 days in Ethiopia with the worst guide ever…
  • 2014 [11 November] - Svetlana Ashby

    Report PDF
  • 2014 [12 December] - Alex Bevan

    We had talked about an Ethiopian trip for a number of years and following a great slide show from David Fisher at our annual Christmas get together, we reached a provisional agreement to sort out a trip.
  • 2014 [12 December] - Zoothera Birding

    PDF Report
  • 2015 [01 January] - Remco Hofland

    Report PDF
    Visiting Ethiopia had long been a dream, and in the winter of 2014-2015 I finally managed to go. Iactually meant to go the previous winter, so when we finally went I had been emailing withdesignated, recommended guide Merid Gabremichael for almost two years. This meant the tourwas specifically targeting birds I wanted to see: besides all possible endemics, my targets included(African) Spotted Creeper and Abyssinian Catbird (new birdfamilies); Wattled & Black CrownedCrane; Arabian, Hartlaub’s & Black-bellied Bustard (who doesn’t love cranes and bustards?); Serval& Ethiopian Wolf; Abdim’s Stork and Lesser Jacana (to complete birdfamilies); African bogey-birdWhite-headed Vulture, WP-bird Egyptian Nightjar and all-time favorites Scissor-tailed Kite andSpot-breasted Lapwing.
  • 2015 [12 December] - Hans Matheve

    Erckel's Francolin (while enjoying a fresh beer we had nice scope views of a family from the terrace of the Ethio-German Hotel), White-winged Cliff Chat (surprisingly it took us some time before we found 3 of these birds at the first viewpoint), Rüppell's Black Chat (easily found up to 20), Ankober Serin (a pair of these endemics was a great surprise on our first day, we had them next to the first viewpoint at the escarpment along the trail to the bridge, 9.7339263697, 38.815371505), White-billed Starling (a noisy flock of 25+ birds was seen down from the escarpment).
  • 2016 [01 January] - Tomas Carlberg

    PDF Report
    We recorded 518 species of birds and 48 species of mammals during this successful three-weektrip. We experienced a drought that was the worst in the country in 30 years. We saw lots ofbirds and mammals, the main focus of this trip, including all possible endemics and many rarespecies. Because of the drought, we surely missed many species and saw fewer individuals ofmany species than we would have normally seen.
  • 2016 [03 March] - Richard Webb

    This was the second Wildwings’ tour to Ethiopia following on from Nigel Goodgame’s highly successful tour in2014. This year’s group was less bird-oriented than the 2014 group and consequently we spent less timelooking for LBJs and more time looking for mammals and photogenic birds. The trip was run a month earlierthan the 2014 tour and there were some interesting differences in the species seen, particularly the birds.
  • 2017 [01 January] - David Hoddinott - Ethiopian Endemics

    PDF Report
    The Horn of Africa is one of the prime birding destinations on the continent. Ethiopia is the mostaccessible country in the region, with a large number of endemics and near-endemics birds, and afew endemic mammals. On this tour, we explored the country from the depths of the Rift Valley tothe highs of the Sanetti Plateau, finding over 500 bird species and 38 mammals.
  • 2017 [02 February] - David Hoddinott - Ethiopian Endemics

    Report PDF
    Our memorable Ethiopian adventure started off with a wonderful drive south through the Great RiftValley, where we visited a number of impressive and unique lakes each offering a new set of birds. Ourfirst stop was at Lake Cheleleka where upon arriving at dawn, we were greeted by several thousandbugling Common Cranes, what a spectacle! Yellow-billed, White and hundreds of Marabou Storks wereseen in surrounding fields, along with Glossy Ibis, African Spoonbill and an assortment of waders,including Black-tailed Godwit, Temminck’s Stint and Little Ringed Plover. Greater Spotted Eagle,Western Marsh Harrier, Isabelline Shrike, Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark, and Erlanger’s Lark were othernotable sightings here.
  • 2017 [03 March] - Tomas Carlberg - Ethiopia’s Somali region

    PDF Report
    We recorded 241 species of birds and 25 species of mammals during this 10 birding days trip, focusing on the special birds and mammals in the Somali region. We managed too see all species on our “want list”, including Little Brown Bustard, Philippa’s Crombec, Somali Crombec, Rufous Elephant Shrew, Harar Dik-dik, Silver Dik-dik, and Dibatag...
  • 2017 [04 April] - David Karr - Bale Mountains National park & Rift Valley Lakes

    PDF Report
    Day 1. Drive to Bale Mountains National park via rift valley, with birding grounds including Bushoftu Craterlakes, Koka dam, Ziway and in the afternoon, Dinsho/Adelay grassland areas, also with roadside stops forany opportunity. Blue-winged Goose
  • 2017 [06 June] - David Karr - Awash NP

    PDF Report
    Synopsis: A three-day itinerary to one of Ethiopia’s pre-eminent birding destinations: the plains ofthe semi-arid Awash Region (alt. approx. 700m asl) – easily accessible from Addis Ababa by the newhighway to Adana and then secondary road to Awash Town (total driving time: 2.5 hours). Myitinerary was prepared by my Ethiopian guide, Meseret Mesbuki – contacted throughbirdingpal.com.
  • 2017 [06 June] - Stephen Blaber

    Overall, the trip was extremely successful and enjoyable with 100 new species, including almost all the endemics, and 430 species seen in total. We found that most birds and other wildlife were easy to see, perhaps because the people are mainly pastoralists and not hunters. Also the scenery is some of Africa’s most spectacular.
  • 2017 [12 December] - Nik Borrow

    PDF Report
    Ethiopia is a classic sub-Saharan destination with a wide range of habitats and an impressive list of species, including more endemics than almost any other comparable region of Africa. For many years in BirdQuest’s history, the challenge of finding all the endemic Ethiopian birds on a ‘regular’ basis has been one of our main aims
  • 2018 [11 November] - Attila Steiner

    PDF Report
    After we all arrived at Ghion Hotel in Addis Ababa and had breakfast everybody opted for a leisurely birding in the hotel’s lush garden. Just at the hotel door we watched endemic Brown-rumped Seedeaters, Baglafecht Weavers and ubiquitous Tacazze Sunbirds in all types of plumages.
  • 2018 [11 November] - Nik Borrow

    PDF Report
    Ethiopia is a classic sub-Saharan destination with a wide range of habitats and an impressive list of species, including more endemics than almost any other comparable region of Africa. For many years in BirdQuest’s history, the challenge of finding all the endemic Ethiopian birds on a ‘regular’ basis has been one of our main aims
  • 2019 [02 February] - Marcus Kohler

    PDF Report
    ...An early morning walk around the hotel brought better views of Ruppell’s Robin-Chat, a brief African Grey Woodpecker and Bruce’s Green Pigeon, while we could hear Thrush Nightingales from the neighbouring marsh. We headed off this morning to the famous Blue Nile falls, stopping at a rubbish dump, which was full of raptors: Tawny and Steppe Eagles, distant Egyptian as well as White-backed, and many Hooded vultures; a Cinnamonbreasted Bunting and Carmine Bee-eaters offering brilliant colour in a challenging landscape...
  • 2019 [04 April] - Michael Mills

    PDF Report
    ...Despite these challenges we fared exceptionally well on the birds. We found all the regional specialties except for Juba Weaver and White-winged Dove (and of course the questionable Nechisar Nightjar) that were put out of reach by safety concerns, logging over 500 species during our visit. Banded Barbet, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher and Brownrumped Seedeater were seen in our hotel gardens in Addis and Abyssinian Longclaw, Wattled Ibis, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon and Blue-winged Goose were found at Sululta Plain, before Rüppell's Black Chat, White-billed Starling, Whitewinged Cliff Chat, Ethiopian Groundscraper Thrush and Ethiopian Blue-breasted Bee-eater was seen at Debre Libanos...
  • 2019 [10 October] - Andy Bunten

    PDF Report
    ...A good breakfast followed and, as our rooms weren’t ready, we decided to go to the National Museum. En route we saw a few Hooded Vultures and some Yellow-billed Kites drifting across the road behind the numerous tall office blocks...
  • 2019 [11 Novemner] - Nick Borrow

    PDF Report
    ...Descending from the heights of Ankober we took in Yellowthroated Seedeaters and Yellow-breasted Barbets on our journey as we dropped down into the lands of the Afar, Issa and Kereyou tribesmen that surround Awash National Park. In these desiccated lands we hunted out Arabian Bustard, Somali Bulbul, Gillett’s Lark, and Nile Valley and Shining Sunbirds. At night we discovered the little-known Star-spotted Nightjar and for mammal enthusiasts we saw Salt’s Dik-dik, Beisa Oryx and Soemmerring’s Gazelle...
  • 2019 [12 Devember] - Gareth Robbins

    PDF Report
    ...We saw a good number of birds along the way such as Red-breasted Wheatear, the huge Thick-billed Raven, Wattle Ibis, Ortolan Buntings, a large flock of Ethiopian Siskins, Thekla’s Larks, Lanner Falcons, Common Kestrel and an Augur Buzzard...
  • 2020 [12 December] - Michael Widmer

    PDF Report
    Diary & annotated list
Places to Stay
  • Babogaya Lake Viewpoint Lodge

    The Lodge is situated near Debre Zeit, a town at 47 km south of Addis Abeba. We are on the border of Babogaya lake, which is an ancient volcano 1 km wide, filled with clear water in which it is possible to swim or to go around with a kayak
  • Bishangari Eco Lodge

    Trip Adviser
    Bishangari is many things. It is an eco-site, a natural wilderness, a wildlife sanctuary, a secluded beach resort and a luxury Lodge. But most of all it is a quiet and relaxing escape from the noise and bustle of everyday life. Addis Ababa may be only three and a half hours away by car, but to visit Bishangari is to escape to another world…
  • Swaynes Hotel - Arba Minch

    Swaynes Hotel is located in beautiful Arba Minch (in Amharic Forty Springs). It boasts of a spectacular hilltop setting overlooking the forest of Nechisar National Park and two lakes of the RIft Valley (Chamo and Abaya)…
Other Links
  • Endemic Birds of Ethiopia

    List with notes and images

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