Federal Republic of Nigeria

Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum ©Jason Boyce Website
Birding Nigeria

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

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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
  • Peter Turner

    | peterct1945@yahoo.co.uk

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 975

    (As at April 2020)

    National Bird Black-crowned Crane - Balearica pavonia

  • Number of endemics: 4

    Ibadan Malimbe Malimbus ibadanensis, Rock Firefinch Lagonosticta sanguinodorsalis, 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

    | By Nik Borrow & Ron Demey | Christopher Helm | 2014 | Edition 2 | Paperback | 592 pages, 266 plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781472905680 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Birds of Western and Central Africa

    | By Ber van Perlo | Princeton University Press | 2003 | Paperback | 384 pages, 109 plates with colour illustrations; colour & b/w illustrations, 1500+ b/w distribution maps, colour maps | ISBN: 9780691007144 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Birds of Nigeria

    | (An Annotated Checklist) | JH Elgood, JB Heignham, AM Moore, AM Nason, RE Sharland & NJ Skinner | British Ornithologists' Union | 1994 | 305 pages, colour plates, tables, maps | ISBN: 9780907446163 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

    We protect the environment and transform livelihood through our programmes
  • Nigerian Conservation Foundation - BirdLife Partner

    Victoria Island, P O Box 74638, Lagos, Mailto:info@ncfnigeria.org
  • West African Ornithological Society

    The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists

Abbreviations Key

  • IBA Hadejia-Nguru Wetlands

    InformationSatellite View
    The Hadejia-Nguru wetlands are on the List of Ramsar wetlands of international importance. Nguru Lake and the Marma Channel complex (58,100 ha) are designated a Ramsar Site. The wetlands are important for waterbirds, both for breeding species and for wintering and passage Palearctic waterbirds. The estimated waterbird population varies between 200,000 and 325,000. 377 bird species have been seen in the wetlands, including occasional sightings of the near-threatened pallid harrier and great snipe species
  • IBAs

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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
  • NP Cross River

    InformationSatellite View
    Although the park has been poorly explored, over 350 bird species have been recorded. It is one of the two parts of Nigeria where Xavier's greenbul is found. Other species unusual in Nigeria include bat hawk, Cassin's hawk-eagle, crested guineafowl, grey-throated rail, olive long-tailed cuckoo, bare-cheeked trogon, lyre-tailed honeyguide, green-backed bulbul, grey-throated tit-flycatcher and Rachel's malimbe.
  • NP Gashaka Gumti

    InformationSatellite View
    Gashaka-Gumti National Park (GGNP) is a national park in Nigeria, It was gazetted from two game reserves in 1991 and is Nigeria’s largest national park. It is located in the eastern provinces of Taraba and Adamawa to the border with Cameroon. The avian fauna is very rich and diverse, there are stocks are up 1 million birds estimated. The park is officially labelled as one of Africa's "Important Bird Areas" - and with more than 500 species found, and visiting bird watching enthusiasts are constantly adding new species to the list. The red faced lovebird is only found here and in the Central African Republic's Bamingui-Bangoran National Park and Biosphere Reserve .
  • NP Kainji

    InformationSatellite View
    The park includes three distinct sectors: a part of the Kainji Lake in which fishing is restricted, the Borgu Game Reserve to the west of the lake, and the Zugurma Game Reserve to the southeast.
  • NP Kamuku

    InformationSatellite View
    The Kamuku National Park is a Nigerian national park in Kaduna State, Nigeria, with a total area of about 1,120 km2 (430 sq mi). The park has a typical Sudanian Savanna ecology. There are at least 177 species of birds, including migrants and residents. The park is important for species such as the secretarybird (Sagittarius serpentarius), Denham's bustard (Neotis denhami) and the Abyssinian ground-hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus) which are rare in other parts of Nigeria...
  • NP Okomu

    InformationSatellite View
    The park is about 60 km north west of Benin City. The park holds a small fragment of the rich forest that once covered the region, and is the last habitat for many endangered species. About 150 species of birds have been identified.[6] These include Angolan pitta, grey parrot, wrinkled hornbill, fish eagle, hawks, woodpeckers, great owl, grey hornbill, cattle egret, black-casqued hornbill, yellow-casqued hornbill, Sabine's spinetail, Cassin's spinetail, black spinetail, white-breasted negrofinch, chestnut-breasted negrofinch, pale-fronted negrofinch and yellow-throated cuckoo...
  • NP Old Oyo

    InformationSatellite View
    The park covers 2,512 km2, mostly of lowland plains at a height of 330 m and 508 m above sea level. The southern part is drained by the Owu, Owe and Ogun Rivers, while the northern sector is drained by the Tessi River. Outcrops of granite are typical of the north eastern zone of the park, including at Oyo-lle, with caves and rock shelters in the extreme north.
  • NP Yankari

    InformationSatellite 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. There are also over 350 species of bird found in the park. Of these, 130 are resident, 50 are Palearctic migrants and the rest are intra-African migrants that move locally within Nigeria.
Trip Reports
  • 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…
  • 2013 [03 March] - Per Holmen

    Hi all, somehow I ended up in Lagos, Nigeria early in March this year. As usual, when visiting a new country or city I did some research about the potential for birding. Lagos is not the safest city in the world, so the thought of rummaging the streets with an expensive camera and binoculars was not much appealing. However; some conservancy effort is even going on in Lagos and I managed to find a place called Lekki Conservation Center. I managed to schedule a few trips to this little fenced off and secure oasis. This is what I discovered...

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content