Birdlife of Namibia (Photo Gallery)

Travel photographer Ted Stedman visited Namibia earlier this year for a scenic tour and came back with these winning shots of birds he encountered in the Caprivi strip and Etosha National Park.

The Caprivi Strip is a narrow finger of land belonging to Namibia but extending 280 miles further east than the rest of the country. The German Chancellor Leo von Caprivi bargained with the British to get this strip of land so they could have access to the mighty Zambezi River and thus a route to the east coast of Africa – the only problem being that Victoria Falls stands in the way.

The eastern Caprivi Strip is a world away from the desert after which Namibia is named. Instead, here one finds a watery world that can be regarded, ecologically, as an extension of the Okavango Delta, with marshes and forest-lined big rivers inhabited by Pel’s Fishing Owl, African Fish-eagle, Slaty Egret, a host of heron species, a plethora of bee-eaters and kingfishers, hippos, crocodiles and masses of other wildlife. This is wild Africa, a little piece of Namibia wedged between Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Angola.

Further to the west lies Etosha National Park. Etosha, which means “place of dry water,” encloses a huge, flat calcium carbonate depression (or pan) and is one of Africa’s most beloved game-viewing parks. The pan provides a shimmering backdrop to an area of semi-arid savannah grassland and thorn scrub. The endless horizon of Etosha is dotted with other waterholes that, when full, attract about 150 mammal species including zebra, lion, elephant, and antelope as well as the endangered black rhinoceros, black-faced impala, tssesebe, and gemsbok. During the wet periods, the pan fills with blue-green algae, which lures thousands of flamingos.

Below is a glimpse of just a few of the birds one might see during a scenic tour to Namibia.

Caprivi Strip:

African Fish-Eagle

African Fish-Eagle © Ted Stedman

African Fish-Eagle is relatively common on many major rivers and lakes in sub-Saharan Africa. This fish-eagle is actually an ancient lineage of sea eagles, and as such has dark talons, beaks, and eyes. And, like the Osprey, the African Fish-eagle has structures on its toes called spiricules that allow it to grasp and carry slippery prey. © Ted Stedman


African Pygmy Goose

African Pygmy Goose © Ted Stedman

The African Pygmy Goose is not a goose at all, but a perching duck.  The attractive duck is the smallest waterfowl in the world, weighing in at a mere 260-280 grams. They are typically shy and prefer to stay undercover, so this out-in-the-open image was a lucky shot.  © Ted Stedman

Editor’s Note: watch this Birding Adventures TV episode dedicated to the African Pygmy Goose in Botswana.

Malachite Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher © Ted Stedman

Malachite Kingfishers are widely distributed in Africa south of the Sahara and are common to reeds and aquatic vegetation, especially near slow moving water or ponds. In flight, the kingfisher often appears as a fast-flapping blue blur. It is often seen sitting upright on a preferred perch close to the water before suddenly dropping to seize a fish. © Ted Stedman


Saddle-billed Stork

Saddle-billed Stork © Ted Stedman

Saddle-billed Storks can reach a dizzying height of 59 inches (1.5 meters or 5 feet). Their heavy heads droop slightly below belly height during flight, which gives birdwatchers a clue to their identity. They feed mostly on fish, frogs, and crabs.  © Ted Stedman


Southern Carmine Bee-Eater

Southern Carmine Bee-Eater by © Ted Stedman

There are seven species of bee-eaters in Namibia, and this, the Southern Carmine Bee-Eater, is among the finest in coloration (its carmine red is offset by a green-blue crown and undertail covert). These birds often feed on insects flushed by bush fires and large plains animals, including the Kori Bustard, below.   © Ted Stedman


Related post:   Shamvura Camp: Namibia’s Portal to the Kavango Region


Etosha National Park:


Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard-Etosha Nat'l Park © Ted Stedman

The Kori Bustard is the largest bustard in sub-Saharan Africa, and depending on whom you ask, ties with the Great Bustard as the heaviest bird that can still fly. Sometimes, Southern Carmine Bee-eaters hitch a ride on bustards and feed on the insects flushed from the grass as it strolls.  © Ted Stedman

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill-Etosha Natl Park - small

Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill uses its massive bill to eat fruit, insects, and small animals. Pairs form monogamous unions, and males can be seen feeding females as they are ensconced in a protective cavity of trees or rocks. © Ted Stedman.



Editor’s Note: Once again, watch this Birding Adventures TV episode dedicated to the African Pygmy Goose in Botswana.


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