Republic of Benin

Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea ©Birding Ecotours Website
Birding Benin

Benin, officially the Republic of Benin, is a country in Western Africa. It borders Togo to the west, Nigeria to the east and Burkina Faso and Niger to the north; its short coastline to the south leads to the Bight of Benin. Its size is just over 110,000 km² with a population of almost 8,500,000. Its capital is the Yoruba founded city of Porto Novo, but the seat of government is the Fon city of Cotonou. Benin was known as Dahomey until 1975.

Benin, a narrow, north-south strip of land in west Africa, lies between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer. Benin’s latitude ranges from 6°30′N to 12°30′N and its longitude from 1°E to 3°40′E. Benin is bounded by Togo to the west, Burkina Faso and Niger to the north, Nigeria to the east, and the Bight of Benin to the south. With an area of 112,622 square kilometers, roughly the size of Pennsylvania, Benin extends from the Niger River in the north to the Atlantic Ocean in the south, a distance of 700 kilometers (about 500 miles). Although the coastline measures 121 kilometers (about 80 miles) the country measures about 325 kilometers (about 215 miles) at its widest point. It is one of the smaller countries in West Africa: eight times smaller than Nigeria, its neighbor to the east. It is, however, twice as large as Togo, its neighbor to the west. A relief map of Benin shows that it has little variation in elevation (average elevation 200 meters).The country can be divided into four areas from the south to the north. The low-lying, sandy, coastal plain (highest elevation 10 meters) is, at most, 10 kilometers wide. It is marshy and dotted with lakes and lagoons communicating with the ocean. The plateaus of southern Benin (altitude between 20 meters and 200 meters) are split by valleys running north to south along the Couffo, Zou, and Oueme Rivers. An area of flat lands dotted with rocky hills whose altitude seldom reaches 400 meters extends around Nikki and Save. Finally, a range of mountains extends along the northwest border and into Togo; this is the Atacora, with the highest point, Mont Sokbaro, at 658 meters. Two types of landscape predominate in the south.Benin has fields of lying fallow, mangroves, and remnants of large sacred forests. In the rest of the country, the savanna is covered with thorny scrubs and dotted with huge baobab trees. Some forests line the banks of rivers. In the north and the northwest of Benin the Reserve du W du Niger and Pendjari National Park attract tourists eager to see elephants, lions, antelopes, hippos, and monkeys.

Benin’s climate is hot and humid. Annual rainfall in the coastal area averages 36 cm. (14 in.), not particularly high for coastal West Africa. Benin has two rainy and two dry seasons. The principal rainy season is from April to late July, with a shorter less intense rainy period from late September to November. The main dry season is from December to April, with a short cooler dry season from late July to early September. Temperatures and humidity are high along the tropical coast. In Cotonou, the average maximum temperature is 31 °C (89 °F); the minimum is 24 °C (75 °F).Variations in temperature increase when moving north through a savanna and plateau toward the Sahel. A dry wind from the Sahara called the Harmattan blows from December to March. Grass dries up, the vegetation turns reddish brown, and a veil of fine dust hangs over the country, causing the skies to be overcast. It also is the season when farmers burn brush in the fields.

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Top Sites
  • Important Bird Aeas include:

    Lake Ah
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 592

    (As at September 2018)
  • 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
  • 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: 0691007144 Buy this book from
  • African Bird Club

    In comparison with some of its neighbours, the avifauna of Benin has been poorly studied. Until 1993 only 425 species had been recorded. This was in comparison with 625 for Togo, its neighbour in the Dahomey Gap
  • West African Ornithological Society

    The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists

Abbreviations Key

  • Important Bird Areas

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Clickable list with site descriptions
  • NP Pendjari Biosphere Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Pendjari is a conservation stronghold in West Africa, which forms part of a critically important triad of national parks and reserves where 90% of the population of West African lions remain.
  • NP W

    InformationSatellite View
    The W National Park is a major national park in West Africa around a meander in the River Niger shaped like the letter W. The park includes areas of the three countries Niger, Benin and Burkina Faso, and is governed by the three governments. The W National Park is also known for its bird populations, especially transitory migrating species, with over 350 species identified in the park. The park has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area...
Trip Reports
  • 2008 [01 January] - Vincent van der Spek - Burkina Faso & Benin

    PDF Report
    Where are you going? And where about is that? Isn't that dangerous? That's basically how people responded when I told I was about to visit Burkina Faso, with a side trip to Benin.
  • 2016 [09 September] - Sash Tusa

    PDF Report
    This was primarily a business trip, so birding was generally snatched opportunities in the region of the capital, Cotonou. A number of short (2-3 hour) trips really highlighted the excellent birding potential of this part of the country, plus the real potential for cetacean-watching from the shore.

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