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AFROTROPICAL Tropical & Subtropical Savanna
passerine birds

Most people look for large mammals in the African savanna, but the songbird life is equally impressive. Many of the species are simply beautiful to look at, with stunningly colourful groups such as starlings and sunbirds. 

Family Malaconotidae: Bush-shrikes & Puffbacks

(Isunga Lodge, Uganda)

Laniarius major, 'Tropical Boubou'.

'Puffbacks'

Puffbacks are so called because during courtship, the males fluff up a hump of lighter fluffy feathers on their lower back.

(Kisiwani, Tanzania)

Dryoscopus cubla, 'Black-backed Puffback'. Found in various habitats in eastern and southern Africa.

Family Platysteiridae: Wattle-eyes & Batises
Family Dicruridae: Drongos

Family Laniidae: Shrikes
Family Corvidae: Crows & Jays
Family Macrosphenidae: Crombecs & African Warblers

Family Cisticolidae: Cisticolas

(Isunga Lodge, Uganda)

Prinia subflava, 'Tawny-flanked Prinia'.

Family Pycnonotidae: Bulbuls

Family Zosteropidae: White-eyes

(Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, South Africa)

Zosterops virens, 'Cape White-eye'.

Family Leiothrichidae: Laughingthrushes Babblers

Babblers often hang out in noisy 'gangs'.  

(Enjojo Lodge, Uganda)

'Arrow-marked Babbler' Turdoides. The bright-eyed adult on the left, the darker eyed juvenile on the right.

Family Buphagidae: 'Oxpeckers'

There are lots of birds that will perch on larger mammals, but there is one group that specialises in it: the 'Oxpeckers'. They feed mostly on ticks, which is handy for the host mammal, as these tiny arachnids are ectoparasites. It has long been assumed Oxpeckers and their mammal rides were a good example of mutualism, where both species in the relationship benefited; but it is now considered a parasitic relationship; the birds usually eat the tick after they have fed on the mammal (when they are fat and full of nutritous yummy blood), and studies have shown no correlation between the presence of Oxpeckers and less ectoparasites. Additionally, the birds have been observed eating into the wounds of their host animals. The ultimate hanger-on-ers. However, there have been observations of Oxpeckers giving warnings to their Rhino rides when predatory humans are approaching. 

(Lake Mburo, Uganda)

Buphagus africanus, 'Yellow-billed Oxpecker'.

Family Sturnidae: Starlings & Mynas

One of the most stunning groups of birds in the African bush. Luckily, many of these starlings are easily seen around lodges and camps.  

Lamprotornis corruscus, 'Ruppell's Long-tailed Starling'. Large and striking. Common and seems comfortable near roads and lodges. 

Cinnyricinclus leucogaster, 'Violet-backed Starling', (Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa).

Golden-breasted Starling, (captive, Nature's Valley, South Africa)

Lamprotornis regius, 'Golden-breasted/Royal Starling'. Long tail. Found in open habitats in eastern and north-eastern Africa. 

Family Muscicapidae: Old World Flycatchers, Chats

Cossypha heuglini, 'White-browed Robin-chat'. Found in thicket and riverine habitats in wetter woodlands, including gardens, in wider eastern Africa.

Family Nectariniidae: Sunbirds

Nectarinia kilimensis, 'Bronze Sunbird' (Isunga Lodge, Uganda).

Cinnyris venusta, 'Variable Sunbird' (Isunga Lodge, Uganda).

Chalcomitra senegalensis, 'Scarlet-chested Sunbird' (Kilwa, Tanzania).

Family Ploecidae: Weavers & Widowbirds 

The breeding males of Widowbirds have long black tails. 

Euplectes ardens, 'Red-collared Widowbird' (Enjojo Lodge, Uganda).

Euplectes albonotatus, 'White-winged Widowbird' ( (Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa).

Family Viduidae: Indigobirds & Whydahs

Vidua macroura, 'Pin-tailed Wydah' (Isunga Lodge, Uganda).

Family Ploecidae: Weavers and Quelea

(Kisiwani, Tanzania)

Ploceus cucullatus , 'Village Weaver'. Widespread, found in open habitats across sub-Saharan Africa, including around villages, and introduced to some Indian Ocean islands and Caribbean.

Quelea Quelea, 'Red-billed Quelea'. Usually seen in large flocks, and often claimed to be the most numerous bird in the world.

Family Estrildidae: Estrildid Finches including waxbills

Uraeginthus bengalus , 'Red-cheeked Cordonbleu'. Small bright blue bird, with males having maroon patch on face. Found in open habitats, including around human habitats, across tropical western and eastern Africa.

(Entebbe Botanical Gardens, Uganda)

Lagonosticta senegala, 'Red-billed Firefinch'.

Family Passeridae: Sparrows

Passer griseus, 'Northern Grey-headed Sparrow' (Isunga Lodge, Uganda).

Family Motacillidae: Wagtails & Pipits

For the page on the African savanna

Updates
My first trip after the virus is as Expedition leader in Tasmania with Coral Expeditions (March), followed by my role as biologist guest lecturer on the Great Barrier Reef (April) and Expedition Leader in the Kimberley (in May). If you can't go travelling until everything settles down, then until then, here I am doing online guided walks for Noble Caledonia and online lectures for Silversea.