Zambia deserves a great deal more attention as a birding destination than it gets. It is widely stated that this country has only one endemic, Chaplin’s Barbet, recently renamed Zambian Barbet. This attractive fig-eating bird is considered Vulnerable, with a total population estimated at 7800 individuals.,
However, since Black-cheeked Lovebird seems to be extinct in Namibia (except for a tiny feral population), this extremely localized, tiny parrot becomes a second Zambian endemic. Also Vulnerable, its tiny distribution is centered in tall Mopane woodland in southern Zambia. While this species lurks a mere 1.5 hours’ drive west of Zambia’s mighty Victoria Falls, tapping into local knowledge is highly recommended if you don’t want to get lost or stuck on the tracks (which often become completely flooded in the rainy season) through the notorious “black cotton soil.”
Zambia has a third possible endemic, another tiny barbet species called the White-chested Tinkerbird which is known only from a single specimen collected in north-western Zambia. Birdlife International considers this to be a “Data Deficient” species. Some authorities have suggested it is just an aberrant Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, but some argue that it is in fact its own species.
This enigmatic bird is a good example of how unexplored Zambia is. This country has miles and miles of pristine woodland and is absolutely full of birds, but, surprisingly, it is not birded very much at all. This means that birders who do visit this country stand a chance of discovering range expansions of Congolese or Angolan birds, or even find something new to science (this statement is even more true of northern Mozambique, though).
Apart from the 1-3 endemics that Zambia has, this country’s main birding claim to fame is that it is the best country for Miombo (Brachystegia) woodland endemics, as well as for birds typical of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but that marginally reach into Zambia. The species it shares with DRC include Brown-headed Apalis, Bamboo Warbler, Bannerman’s Sunbird, Margaret’s Batis, Anchieta’s Barbet, Laura’s Woodland Warbler, Brown-headed Apalis, Pale-billed Hornbill, and Whyte’s Barbet. Zambia’s portion of the Miombo woodland—a broad forest that stretches through Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe—houses the greatest diversity of Miombo birds of any of these other countries. Here you can find Miombo Pied Barbet, Miombo Rock Thrush, Miombo Tit, and Miombo Double-collared Sunbird. Zambia is also a very good country for seeking Shoebill. Böhm’s Flycatcher and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver are additional finds.
Zambia is brilliant for African megafauna as well as for the biggest mammalian migration known to humans, the 8-million strong Straw-colored Fruit Bat spectacle around Kasanka National Park. Despite being one of Zambia’s smallest national parks, Kasanka boasts over 100 mammal species, and is one of the best places in Africa to see the elusive Sitatunga antelope and the canopy-dwelling Blue Monkey.
Zambia is also the site of Victoria Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, which is more than a mile wide and twice the height of Niagara Falls. Impressive only begins to describe this all but unexplored African landscape. Consider pairing Zambia with Malawi for an amazing three-week adventure. Contributor: Chris Lotz/Birding Ecotours.