Namibia is a paradise for birding enthusiasts. With habitats ranging from the dunes of the Namib, coastal wetlands and vast areas of savannah to the floodplains and waterways of Kavango and Caprivi, Namibia's birding checklist boasts 676 of Southern Africa's 887 species.
In the lush Caprivi Strip, you'll find exotic lilac-breast rollers, pygmy geese and African Jacanas. The pans of the Etosha National Park are a seasonal breeding ground for flamingos and home to 35 different species of raptors, including the lappet faced and hooded vultures.
Throughout desert regions, you'll see huge nests in trees and on top of telephone poles, these are the communal homes of the sociable weavers. Some of these homes have been recorded as being in continual use for up to 100 years.
Lastly, the Walvis Bay wetlands and Sandwich Harbor lagoons are RAMSAR sites, wetlands of international importance, that provide dry season refuge for many species, including much of Southern Africa's population of flamingos and the rare chestnut banded plover. Namibia's coastline also provides vital breeding grounds for the rare Damara tern.
Below is a list of popular birding destinations within Namibia.
Avis dam is a five-minute drive from Windhoek City centre en route to Hosea Kutako International Airport. The area surrounding the dam offers visitors a range of habitats to explore, including sweet-thorn savannah and open grassveld, as well as the open water, shoreline and marshy areas created by the dam itself. Windhoek residents and their dogs frequently visit Avis Dam to take long walks around the waters' edge and the neighbouring mountains.
Avis Dam is also a paradise for bird watchers. The sounds of the Kalahari scrub-robin, and the short-toed rock thrush often welcome visitors entering from the parking area. Just across the dam in the mountainous area, visitors may spot Monteiro's hornbill, white-tailed shrike and a grey louries. During the summer, the European bee-eater and wallow-tailed bee-eaters migrate to the area.
Bushmanland is home to the glorious baobab tree that supports a wide variety of bird life. Visitors can watch crimson-breasted shrikes, acacia pied barbets, red-billed buffalo-weavers and fork-tailed drongos fly past from under the tree's shade. The best time to visit the Bushmanland is after a good rainy season. When the pan next to Holboom is full, you can find whiskered terns, white-backed ducks, comb ducks, fulvous ducks and Southern pochards. Marula trees attract fruit birds such as the Meyer's parrot. A visit to the Nyae Nyae Pan gives visitors the chance to see wattled cranes as well as greater and lesser flamingos.
Bwabwata National Park
Bwabwata National Park is one of the best birding spots in Namibia. Birders who have been coming to the area for over 30 years continue to see new species on each visit. The Nambwa campsite is a popular area for birders to spot arrow-marked and Hartlaub's babblers, swamp boubous and hurricane trushes. African fish eagle and African harrier hawks regularly patrol the skies over the along the Kwando River. Spotting rare species such as the dwarf bittern can be a real treat for the lucky visitor.
The Kwando, Zambezi and Chobe rivers of the Caprivi region offer birders a once in a lifetime opportunity to spot up to 425 species of birds. African fish eagle, long-crested eagle, African marsh harrier and the western-banded snake eagle rule the skies over this region. At night visitors may spot Pel's fishing owl, African wood owls, African barred owlets and black-crowned and white-backed night herons. African pygmy geese can be seen moving between the water lilies. In the channels visitors can find pied, malachite and half-collared kingfishers. Just watch out for crocodiles and hippos!
Daan Viljoen is a popular birding spot just 30 km outside of Windhoek, and can be enjoyed as a day trip or overnight experience. Day visitors will want to concentrate on the areas surrounding the dam where they can find the black and white mountain wheatear as well as golden-tailed, cardinal and bearded woodpeckers. Just behind the dam offers a prime area for viewing rockers such as the speckled pigeon, rock martins and pale-winged starlings. The endemic Monteiro's hornbill is the star of Daan Viljoen Game Park, a must see for avid birders.
Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park is one of Africa's greatest wildlife parks and home to approximately 380 bird species. Of Namibia's 13 endemic species, 8 can be spotted in Etosha. The primary feature is the 6,000 square kilometer Etosha Pan, covering almost one quarter of the park. After the rainy season when the pan is full, it is spectacular and abounds with birds including flamingos, pelicans and rare blue cranes. The Halali Camp is the best place in Etosha for Namibian specials such as the bare-cheeked babbler, violet wood-hoopoe and Carp's tit. The open flats of Springfontein are good for spotting both double-banded courser and Temminck's courser while the Okaukuejo Camp holds several species more typical of drier habitats such as the southern pied babbler and the crimson-breasted shrike.
Impalila Island lies at the eastern extremity of the Caprivi Strip and is bounded by the converging Zambezi and Chobe Rivers and a natural channel known as the Kasai. It is also one of the best birding spots in the world. A boat trip down the Chobe River is a memorable experience. Along the shore you can see white-crowned lapwing and long-toed lapwing and in the floodplains a variety of herons and egrets, including rufous-bellied heron and slaty egret. A walk along the floodplain may provide views of long-toed lapwings, yellow-billed storks and black-winged and collared pratincoles. A highlight of any visit to Impalila Island is spotting a Pelâ€™s fishing owl along the walking trail on the island.
Lüderitz is a charming town on the southern coast of Namibia known for its windy conditions and the magnificent outings it affords avid birders. Along the peninsula south of Lüderitz you will find greater flamingo and African black oystercatcher. Lderitz is the only easily accessible area on the Namibian coast where African penguins are commonly found. Boat cruises past Halifax and Shark Islands are a must for visitors and especially birders, as they offer sightings of penguin, swift and Caspian terns, as well as albatross and petrel.
Mahango Game Park
Mahango Game Park is home to a range of habitats, from open water, floodplains and swamps to dry, dense and broad-leveled woodland. This mixture of habitats means that the park attracts over 410 different species of birds in an area less than 25,000 hectares. The woodland area is home to Swainson's and red-billed spurfowls and Meve's Starling. Along the floodplains visitors will encounter the endangered wattled crane and slaty egret. White-backed night heron are also commonly seen in the area to the south of Kwetche picnic site. Bee-eaters including the blue-cheeked, swallow-tailed and little Bee-eaters are a photographer's dream.
The Walvis Bay wetlands and nearby Sandwich Harbour, where fresh and salty water collide, are two of Namibia's Ramsar sites. Regarded as two of the most important coastal wetland in southern Africa, not only for the large numbers of resident species found here, but also for the vast numbers of both intra-African and Palaearctic migrants found at these sites. The best time to visit Walvis Bay is from October to April, when the migrant birds have moved in from the Northern Hemisphere. Walvis Bay is renowned for the large numbers of lesser and greater flamingos. The area is also home to rare species such as the Damara tern, chestnut-banded plover, black tern, red-necked phalarope and black-tailed godwit.
Waterberg Plateau Park
The Waterberg Plateau lies east of Otjiwarongo and towers over the surrounding plains. Over 200 different bird species have been recorded here including spectacular black eagles and Namibia's only breeding colony of Cape vultures. The morning wakeup calls from the Bradfield's hornbill and African grey hornbill, along with the spectacular scenery, make Waterberg Plateau a special place to visit.
Click here to download a birding checklist of Namibia.