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Unless you’re an aicionado, you may be one of those people who usuafly look beyond the avian life on safari. But Mike Unwin questions how anyone can help falling in love with Africa’s birds

Taking a dip (below): White pelicans feed communally, corralling fish into the shallows and using their huge bills to scoop them from the surface BRENDON CREMER


Racket-tailed roller, melancholy woodpecker, golden bishop… The words alone convey colour, intrigue and wonder — and, thankfully, the feathered reality doesn’t disappoint. From purple grenadier to shoebill, Africa’s birds are just as captivating as their names. Indeed, many first-time visitors find these winged wonders add an unexpected new dimension to their safari.

Certainly, Africa is packed with birds. The continent, including Madagascar and its other islands, is home to nearly 2500 species, of which more than 1800 occur nowhere else on earth. Three countries, Kenya, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo, have each recorded more than 1000 species. And while these figures fall below those of South America, Africa arguably pips its New World cousin as a bird-watching location. The combination of conspicuous birds with conveniently open habitats means that nowhere else will you find such great variety so easily visible. It is no coincidence that for many years the world record for the most bird species seen in one country in a single day belonged to Kenya.

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October-December 2018 (84)
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About Travel Africa

Special Wildlife Issue, celebrating Africa's fauna • Big Cat lovers • Understanding elephants • In praise of primates • Painted dogs • Snakes • Birds • The wildlife in forests, deserts and rivers... and much more!