Birding in Botswana: A Kaleidoscope of Color

by Sandy Salle on February 11, 2014

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If you don’t come to Botswana as an avid birder, you will certainly leave as one! With over 570 different species of bird, Botswana offers travelers a unique perspective into the colorful world of birding.

Two of the BEST places in Botswana to view birds include the Okavango Delta and the Chobe Game Reserve. Both areas are known for their diverse eco-systems, which include marshes, waterways, and riverine forests. These varying eco-systems create exceptional habitats for birds, which is why nature-enthusiasts and birders flock to Botswana.

Arguably, the best time to visit Botswana for its birds is during the summer months (November through April), which is also considered their green or rainy season. This is the time when migratory birds visit and mammals give birth to their young.

In both the Okavango Delta and the Chobe Game Reserve, travelers can embark on walking safaris and mokoro safaris (traditional canoe safaris), which both offer exceptional opportunities to get up close to birds in their natural habitats. Although you could enjoy birding safaris via game vehicle, the sounds of the engine can scare the birds off. It’s also much more peaceful when you can enjoy the soft sounds of nature and the beautiful bird songs without the sound of your game vehicle in the background.

Some of the birds that frequent the Botswana waterways include the slaty egret, waders, storks, fish eagle, bateleur, cranes, and many, many others.

Below I’ve spotlighted just a few of my favorite Botswana birds:

Lilac-breasted roller: A fan favorite among birders, the lilac-breasted roller has to be one of the most beautiful birds on the planet. With an array of vibrantly colored feathers, including turquoise, royal blue, yellow, orange, and red, this rainbow-drenched bird is truly a magnificent creature to witness in the wild.

So how did this bird get its name? Well, it has a lilac-colored breast and it rolls in the air. The male reaches between 65 – 165 feet in the air, and then dives down, rolling from side to side before perching next to a female on a tree limb.

lilac breast roller

Image above of a lilac-breasted roller

Bateleur: One of the most beautiful eagles is the Bateleur, famous for its characteristic red facial skin, black body, and white feathers beneath the wings. This magnificent bird can be spotted near bodies of water in Botswana as it searches for small mammals and reptiles for prey.

Southern Carmine bee-eaters: Another spectacularly gorgeous bird that can be seen in Botswana is the colorful Southern Carmine bee-eater. Known for its emerald green head, and electric pink / red body, the Southern Carmine bee-eater is sought after by avid birders for its impressive display of colors. These beautiful birds can be seen on riverbanks, standing in the entranceway of the tunnels that they make for nests.

Ostrich: Can an ostrich fly if it weighs 350 lbs and is 9 ft. tall? The answer is no—not unless it has jet engines strapped to its wings. But, the ostrich does have one airplane capability working for it—the ostrich can use its wings to direct its course when running and help the animal to keep balance.

What ostriches can’t do in the air they make up for in their great running speed. Running in sudden bursts at speeds slightly more than 40 miles per hour, the ostrich can move across large distances without tiring. The ostrich cannot maintain this speed for long periods of time though; so, on average, it runs 30 mph and has the ability take 10 – 15 ft. strides.

Botswana birds

Greater & lesser flamingo: Its stilt-like legs, fashionable hot pink feathers, and long, curved bill, make the flamingo one of the world’s most unique and mesmerizing birds. Popular for their abundant flamingo populations, Botswana offers a rare insight into the breeding grounds of flamingos.

There are five species of flamingo, which can be characterized in a number of ways, one being their feather color. Flamingo feather colors range from pale pink, to hot pink, to crimson. Another characteristic that differs between each flamingo species is their height. The lesser flamingo, which is indigenous to eastern Africa and southern Africa, is one of the smallest and brightest colored of the flamingo species.

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