AFROTROPICAL Freshwater
water birds

The wetlands of Africa include some of the most impressive birds and congregations of birds in the world...

Family Anatidae: Ducks

(Lake Victoria, Uganda)

Anas undulata, 'Yellow-billed Duck'.

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Alopochen aegyptiaca, 'Egyptian Goose'.

Family Gruidae: Cranes

(Bigodi, Uganda)

Balearica regulorum, 'Grey-crowned Crane'. The national bird of Uganda.

Family Heliornithidae: Finfoots

A small family of secretive waterbirds.

(Mburo Lake, Uganda)

Podica senegalensis, 'African Finfoot', female, in the water.

African Finfoot (image by Damon Ramsey)(Mburo Lake, Uganda).

African Finfoot, male, showing off it's strange finny-feet that give the birds their name.

Family Rallidae: Rails, Gallinules, Coots

Family Burhinidae: Thick-knees

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Burhinus vermiculatus, 'Water Thick Knee'

Family Recurvirostridae: Stilts & Avocets

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Himantopus himantopus, 'Black-winged Stilt'.

Family Charadriidae: Plovers, Dotterels

Family Jacanidae

Actophilornis africanus, "African Jacana'.

Family Scolopacidae: Sandpipers, Snipes

Family Laridae: Gulls, Terns & Skimmers

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus, 'Grey-headed Gull'.

Rynchops spp. 'Skimmers', 'Scissorbills'

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.  

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Rynchops flavirostris, 'African Skimmer'.

Family Ciconiidae: Storks

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda).

Mycteria ibis, 'Yellow billed Stork'.

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, 'Saddle-billed Stork'.

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

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.

Family Phalacrocoracidae: Cormorants

Phalacrocorax lucidus, 'White-breasted Cormorant' (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).

Family Anhingidae

Anhinga rufa, 'African Darter', (Murchison River, Uganda).

Family Threskiornithidae: Ibis and Spoonbill

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).

Family Balaenicipitidae: the Shoebill

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.

Family Pelecanidae: Pelicans

Pelecanus onocrotalus, 'Rosy/Great White Pelican', (Kazinga Channel, Uganda).

Family Ardeidae: Egrets

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).

Family Accipitridae: Eagles & Hawks

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).

Family Alcedinidae: Kingfishers

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.

Family Meropidae

Merops bulocki, 'Red-headed Bee-eater' (Murchison River, Uganda).

'Red-headed Bee-eater' breeding colony in sand cliffs on banks (Murchison River, Uganda).

For next page of more birds: passerine/songbirds of African freshwater wetlands

For the page on the African freshwater wetlands


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.