Senegal is home to a diverse array of bird species, making it a popular destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. From majestic birds of prey to colourful songbirds, the country offers a unique and captivating glimpse into its natural beauty.
Some of the most iconic birds of Senegal include the African fish eagle, osprey, marabou stork, yellow-billed stork, pelican, flamingo, bee-eater, grey-headed kingfisher, and northern red bishop. Each of these birds is unique in its own way, with distinctive features and behaviours that make them fascinating.
Here's a list of some of the most common bird species found in Senegal, along with some details about each one:
The superb African fish eagle is a predatory bird of prey that likes to stay close to bodies of water like rivers, lakes, and the ocean. It is a huge bird, reaching 2 metres in wingspan, with striking dark brown and chestnut colouring and an entirely white head, breast, and tail.
As its name suggests, the African fish eagle is a proficient hunter who primarily feeds on fish, swooping down to capture its food with its razor-sharp talons. It is a lone bird that is typically spotted soaring on thermals or perched high in a tree.
A common sight for birdwatchers in Senegal is the African fish eagle, especially in protected areas like the Saloum Delta National Park and the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary. The African fish eagle thrives in these protected areas, and birdwatchers frequently witness these magnificent birds in action as they dive into the water to grab fish.
In terms of morphology and overall look, aquatic warblers resemble sedge and moustached warblers quite a bit. The median crown-stripe on them is small, distinct, and yellow, which helps to identify them. Compared to the sedge warbler, the adult's upperparts are more sandy and have long, dark-brown streaks that are accented by lighter stripes. The mantle sides of aquatic warblers have two distinct yellow-buff bands, and the rump is rusty with brown streaks.
The sexes are comparable. Unlike juveniles, adults almost always have delicate streaking on their breasts and sides.
The Audouin's gull, one of the rarest in the world and primarily found in areas near the Mediterranean Sea, was named in memory of the French biologist and ornithologist Jean Victor Audouin (1797–1841).
The mantle and upper wing of the adult male Audouin's gull are a very light shade of grey. Small patches of the primary coverts that almost reach the alula, as well as the outermost primary flight feathers, are completely black in hue.
The black primary feathers have white spots on their tips. The bird has a long, white face with a sloping forehead and a large, hooked, dark red bill that is yellow at the tip.
A black band rings the upper and lower jaws directly behind the yellow coloration. An extremely thin, deep red orbital ring surrounds the eye, which is nearly black in colour. The legs are a shade of greyish green.
The adult female resembles the male in many ways. The body colour of juveniles is a lot darker grey-brown, and they have black upper wings and a tail that is white at the base and over the uppertail coverts. The bill is black, and the head and face are also grey. Three years pass before the juvenile resembles the adult in full growth, with annual changes to colour and patterning.
The national bird of Senegal is the Ospery. Also known as the sea hawk or fish eagle, this large bird of prey can be found in coastal regions and near other bodies of water, such as rivers and lakes. The osprey has a distinctive appearance with its brown and white mottled plumage.
The osprey is an expert fisherman and is well adapted to catching fish with its sharp talons and hooked beak. It can be seen hovering high above the water, waiting for its prey to come close to the surface. Once it spots a fish, it will dive down at a high speed and extend its talons to catch the fish before returning to its perch.
Photo Credit - Osprey - Karanta Camara
The Bar-tailed Godwit is unremarkable looking but has record-breaking endurance. It spends the summer in the Arctic nesting on top of the world and then migrates south to spend the winter along estuaries and beaches from the UK to New Zealand.
Large waders, bar-tailed godwits have longish legs and very long, slightly curved beak. In flight, it is possible to see dark wingtips and finely barred tails. Seasonal differences in underpart colouring aside, adults have streaked and speckled backs and crowns with subtle markings on the breast.
Adults have pale, whitish underparts, a pale brow stripe that is interrupted by a darker stripe through each eye, and a pinkish bill with a dark tip. During the breeding season, males grow coppery orange feathers on their abdomen, chest, neck, and face. Additionally, they get dark wing patches that are noticeable when flying.
In the non-breeding season, females can be distinguished from males only by their greater size and longer bills. In breeding plumage, females are paler than males. They might not be brick-red like their male counterparts, but they do feature warm cinnamon underparts.
Although juvenile Bar-tailed Godwits look similar to non-breeding adults, their neck and breast are a warm, buff colour. At least until the beginning of winter, their upper sections are also more contrasted.
Barn owls, the most common owl species, have 32 subspecies and may be found everywhere but Antarctica. Pale, pigeon- to crow-sized birds with a huge head and an upright stance, barn owls are pale in colour. The thing that best distinguishes them is probably their flattened, heart-shaped faces. Their face and underparts are paler, ranging from buff to practically white, and their top parts are a combination of tawny brown and grey plumage.
The off-white face and huge, black eyes of barn owls stand out against the absence of ear tufts. They are all-pale below, with large, rounded wings, a short, broad tail, and a blunt face when they are flying.
If you notice a pair together, this can be a helpful field marker because females are larger than males in all dimensions except wing and tail length. Females typically have larger markings on their wings and thorax and are typically darker below.
Barn owl juveniles resemble their parents in appearance, but they are typically more strongly marked.
They are named after a beautiful tern that is distinctive in its black summer plumage. A small and graceful member of the tern family is the black tern. The breeding season, when black terns have mainly dark plumage, is when they are most easily distinguished. The wings, back, and belly are a slate-grey colour in this plumage. Black terns have white underparts, a white patch on the breast, and pale grey upperparts in their alternate plumage. The head is white, with a black crown in the middle. The legs are a deep red, and the bills are black. While the females seem significantly grayer after breeding, both sexes have comparable appearances.
Although juvenile black terns typically have a pale brown coloration on their foreheads and backs, they nonetheless resemble adults in their alternate plumage.
The name "Black-headed Gull" is rather misleading because only mature birds during the breeding season have black heads; all other birds have dark brown heads. It is not present in other plumages or in the winter. It is common inland in both rural and urban areas, unlike many gulls, which are only found in coastal settings.
Adults have a dark brown or chocolate brown hood that hangs down across their cheeks and under their chin when they are in breeding plumage.
The bill and legs are dark red, and the eye ring is somewhat white. The bird's tail, underparts, and neck are all white, whereas the rear of the bird is a light grey colour.
The outer primary flight feathers on the wings are primarily mid-grey in hue with white edges and black tips. Adults who do not breed look identical to breeding adults but lack the brown hood, which reveals a white head with a dark ear patch. Some birds also have dark splashes or shading on their foreheads and necks.
The majority of juvenile birds are brown, with some "scale" patterns on the neck, back, upper wings, and tail, which has a black tip. The bill and legs have a pinkish-grey hue.
The most common grebe species in North America is the ear grebe, which is distinguished by golden tufts on either side of its face. It is known as the black-necked grebe in the UK, where the species is much rarer.
Each winter, ear grebes moult from their summer breeding plumage, which is more colourful, into a more simple plumage. Both the basic and alternative plumage of males and females are identical.
A flowing golden 'ear tuft' is present on each side of the face, close to the eyes, giving eared grebes their characteristic appearance in the summer. Their eyes are a striking shade of red with an orange ring around the outer and a yellow ring inside. Their head is black with a peaked crown.
They have warm rufous brown sides with a black neck, breast, and upper back. Dark brown wings have a white patch that may be seen when the bird is flying. Their bill is straight, slender, and light grey in colour. Their legs and feet are dark with a hint of green.
Non-breeding eared grebes moult into a pair of feathers that are much duller and less conspicuous after losing their eye-catching golden facial plumes. Their lower wings and flanks take on a little lighter shade of grayish-black, while their back, nape, and upper wings turn charcoal black. They have a white chin, a white chin patch, a white breast, and a white belly. Their cap is black. In the winter, their bill darkens, but their dark crimson eyes do not.
The yellow-billed stork is an important cultural symbol in Senegal's traditional folklore and art. Its image is often used on clothing and textiles, as it is considered an icon of purity and grace.
The Yellow-billed Stork is a popular sight for birdwatchers, particularly in national parks and reserves such as the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary and the Saloum Delta National Park. These protected areas provide the perfect habitat for the bird to thrive, with abundant food sources and a variety of other bird species for it to interact with.
Photo Credit - Yellow-billed Stork - Karanta Camara
The pelican is a large water bird that is commonly found near the Senegal coast, lagoons, and estuaries. It is well known for its long, broad bill, large throat pouch, and massive wingspan that can reach up to 3 metres.
In Senegal, the pelican is a common bird to find in national parks and reserves such as the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary and the Saloum Delta National Park. These protected areas provide the perfect habitat for the pelican to thrive with an abundance of fish, crustaceans, and other aquatic prey. They can often be seen flying in formation, gliding over the water, or diving down from the air to catch fish.
The flamingo is a large, majestic bird known for its distinctive pink feathers and long, thin legs. Flamingos can be found in many different parts of the world, but in Africa, one of the most popular places to see them is Senegal, where they gather in large flocks.
There are two species of flamingo that are commonly found in Senegal: the Greater and the Lesser. The Greater Flamingo, as the name implies, is the larger of the two species and has a pale pink coloration, while the Lesser Flamingo is smaller and is a darker, more vibrant pink.
Flamingos are social birds and are often found in large flocks, sometimes numbering in the thousands. They are also migratory birds and will travel long distances to find suitable breeding and feeding grounds. In Senegal, flamingos can be found in several different locations, including the Langue de Barbarie National Park, the Saloum Delta National Park, and the Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary.
Bee-eaters are a family of birds found in many parts of the world, including Senegal. These beautiful birds are known for their brightly coloured plumage, long, pointed beaks, and their ability to catch and eat flying insects, including bees, on the wing.
In Senegal, one of the most commonly found species of bee-eater is the blue-cheeked bee-eater. This bird has stunning bright green and blue plumage, with distinctive blue feathers on its cheeks. It can be found in a variety of habitats, including savannas, woodlands, and open grasslands.
The Blue-cheeked The bee-eater is a migratory bird that visits Senegal during the winter months, usually between November and March. At that time, they can be seen perched in trees or flying out in short bursts in search of their next meal. They catch insects in mid-air using their sharp, pointed beaks and then return to their perch to beat the insect against a branch to kill it before swallowing it whole.
The Senegal parrot belongs to a group of birds renowned for their exceptional qualities as pets, stillness, and unusually calm demeanour. These birds are the most widespread of the Poicephalus, having their origins in Africa (thus the name "Senegal"). It is not difficult to find them in pet stores. They are regarded for their pleasant disposition and the fact that they are much less expensive than their Poicephalus relatives, which makes them a wonderful option for someone looking for a "larger" bird.
The Senegal Parrot, which is around 9 inches long, is not a very "flashy" companion parrot like some other birds of a similar size. With an iridescent green throat, orange thighs, and a yellow breast, they are generally dark green and brownish-grey in colour. The eye is a pale yellow-orange colour, which is contrasted by the darker grey of the face, and the beak and feet are also black. They do not require excessive "flash." They have a fantastic personality to go along with their natural beauty.
The monotypic African Jacana belongs to the Jacanidae family, which includes six genera and eight species. These remarkable wading birds can be recognised by their long legs, incredibly long toes, and long, thin claws, which allow them to evenly distribute their weight when walking over water on thin, frail floating vegetation.
The adult male of this species is a medium-sized waterbird with an almost egg-shaped body, a long neck, long legs, and a short tail. Although the colouring is darker below, the body and upper and lower wing portions are primarily rufous brown in colour. The eye stripe and primary flying feathers are black, while the neck and head are white with them. Black also covers the back of the neck.
The white feathers change colour from white to a pale yellow to orange hue at the base of the front of the neck, where they connect with the upper chest. The bill, which has the appearance of being short, is blue and has a frontal shield that continues above the eye stripe and crosses the face, forehead, and crown.
The long, slender toes and claws on the grey legs and feet appear far larger than they should for a bird of their size. Iride is a dark brown colour. The African jacana is distinctive due to a combination of these characteristics.
Although often larger in size and weight, the adult female resembles the male in many ways. Adult birds seem similar to juvenile birds, although juvenile birds lack the blue bill and have a mostly brown head. White sections of the underbody have a rufous patch on the belly.
The Grey-headed Kingfisher, also known as the Grey-headed Woodpecker [AH1],, is a beautiful bird found in Senegal and other parts of sub-Saharan Africa. This kingfisher species is relatively small, measuring about 16cm in length, and is known for its striking blue, white, and chestnut brown plumage and large orange bill.
Grey-headed kingfishers primarily feed on fish, although they will also eat insects and other small invertebrates. They catch their prey by diving headfirst into the water and grabbing the fish with their sharp beaks before returning to their perch to eat.
During the breeding season, grey-headed kingfishers are known for their elaborate courtship displays. Males will perform a variety of aerial acrobatics, including swooping dives and looping flights, to attract a female.
Photo Credit - GREY-HEADED KINGFISHER - Karanta Camara
The Northern Red Bishop, also known as the Red Bishop, is a small bird that is native to many areas of Africa, including Senegal. This brightly coloured bird is a member of the weaver family, and the males are known for their distinctive bright red and black plumage, especially in the breeding season.
In Senegal, Northern Red Bishops can be found in a variety of habitats, including grasslands, wetlands, and agricultural areas. They are often seen perched on tall grasses or reeds, where they build their nests.
During the breeding season, males will perform elaborate courtship displays, including fluttering their wings and puffing out their feathers, to attract a female.
Northern Red Bishops primarily feed on seeds and insects and are often seen foraging on the ground or in low vegetation. They are also known for their unique nesting habits, with males building intricate nests made of grass.
In conclusion, the birds of Senegal offer a unique and captivating glimpse into the country's natural beauty and diversity. With a wide range of species to discover, Senegal is truly a paradise for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts. So, if you're planning a trip to Senegal, don't forget to bring your binoculars and camera to fully appreciate and capture the beauty of these iconic birds.
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