a field guide to the planet - by Damon Ramsey
The wetlands of Africa include some of the most impressive birds and congregations of birds in the world...
Anas undulata, 'Yellow-billed Duck'.
Alopochen aegyptiaca, 'Egyptian Goose'.
Balearica regulorum, 'Grey-crowned Crane'. The national bird of Uganda.
A small family of secretive waterbirds.
Podica senegalensis, 'African Finfoot', female, in the water.
African Finfoot, male, showing off it's strange finny-feet that give the birds their name.
Burhinus vermiculatus, 'Water Thick Knee'
Himantopus himantopus, 'Black-winged Stilt'.
Actophilornis africanus, "African Jacana'.
Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus, 'Grey-headed Gull'.
There are three species of skimmers; one in tropical Asia, one in the tropical Americas, and this one in tropical Africa. The have the most uneven bills of any bird in the world. They use the bizarre elongated lower mandible to slice through the surface of the water as they fly. Their main prey is reported to be fish. Skimmers tend to live in estuarine areas, but can also fly further upriver into freshwater areas.
Rynchops flavirostris, 'African Skimmer'.
Mycteria ibis, 'Yellow billed Stork'.
Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, 'Saddle-billed Stork'.
Leptoptilos crumenifer, 'Maribou Stork'. Found across sub-Saharan Africa. Yes, that's right, his head looks like a testicle sac. These birds are unusual for a stork in their habitat of scavenging, eating carrion, human rubbish and even faeces.
Phalacrocorax lucidus, 'White-breasted Cormorant' (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
Anhinga rufa, 'African Darter', (Murchison River, Uganda).
Bostrychia hagedash, 'Hadada Ibis'. This species is take for granted, as it is common and noisy even around towns; but at the right angle of light it is a stunningly beautiful bird.
Platalea alba, 'African Spoonbill', (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
The Shoebill was until recently considered and called a Stork, but recent genetic evidence suggests it is more related to the Pelicans (and Hammerkop).
Balaeniceps rex, 'Shoebill'. A large and bizarre looking bird. Restricted to African wetlands and quiet and scarce. However, there are tours that target these birds.; see Places to see African wetlands.
Pelecanus onocrotalus, 'Rosy/Great White Pelican', (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
Egretta garzetta, 'Little Egret' (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
Bubulcus ibis, 'Cattle Egret' (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
Ardea cinerea, 'Grey Heron' (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
Ardea goliath, 'Goliath Heron' (Murchison River, Uganda).
Haliaeetus vocifer, 'African Fish Eagle' (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
As with most eagles, the female of the African Fish Eagle is larger than the male. They appear to pair up with the same mate season after season. (That sounds depressing).
The nest of the paired African Fish Eagles is often re-used season after season, and therefore can be quite large. They are usually constructed in a leafless tree with great views of the surroundings.
'Harrier' (Lake Mburo, Lake Victoria, Uganda).
As suggested by the name, the Kingfishers around African wetlands catch fish, and from my observations and photographs this seems to be the main prey item. They are also recorded to catch frogs and crustaceans (Lake Mburo, Uganda).
Ceryle rudis, 'African Pied Kingfisher' (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).
Megaceryle maxima, 'Giant Kingfisher', (Lake Mburo, Uganda). The largest kingfisher in Africa.
Merops bulocki, 'Red-headed Bee-eater' (Murchison River, Uganda).
'Red-headed Bee-eater' breeding colony in sand cliffs on banks (Murchison River, Uganda).
Thinking of travelling again after everything settles down? The first expedition I am booked to work on after the virus is the Great Barrier Reef in Australia with Coral Expeditions. Meanwhile, here is a shortened version of one of my lectures in a warmer part of the world.