(Non-passerine) Birds 
AFROTROPICAL Tropical & Subtropical Savanna 

Birdwatching in the African savanna is easy and very rewarding. The open habitat means the birds are easy to see compared to the closed habitat of rainforest. The diversity of the birds here is high, and repeated trips will reward the visitor with new species.

Family Phasianidae: Fowl

(Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa)

Pternistis natalensis, 'Natal Spurfowl/Francolin'.

Family Columbidae: Doves and Pigeons

(Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa)

Turtur chalcospilos, 'Green/Emerald-spotted Wood Dove'.

Family Musophagidae: Turacos

(Entebbe, Uganda)

Crinifer zonorus, 'Eastern Plantain-eater'. A large bird usually seen in small groups. Has a loud yelping call that increases in volume and speed. Found in open woodland and gardens in eastern Africa.

Corythaixoides personatus, 'Bare-faced Go-away Bird'. Usually seen in small noisey groups. Found in savanna woodlands and open areas, including around gardens, in eastern Africa. 

(Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa)

Tauraco porphyreolophus, 'Purple-crested Turaco'.

Family Cuculidae: Cuckoos

(Queen Elizabeth National Park, Uganda)

Centropus superciliosus, 'White-browed Coucal'.

Family Gruidae: Cranes

(outside of Cape Town)

Grus paradisea, 'Blue Crane', 'Paradise/Stanley Crane'.

(Lake Mburo, Uganda)

Balearica regulorum, 'Grey-crowned Crane', 'Golden-Crested Crane'. Found in woodlands and wetlands in eastern and southern Africa. The national bird of Uganda.

Family Burhinidae; 'Thick-knees'

Burhinus vermiculatus, 'Water Thick-knee'.


Family Ciconiidae, 'Storks'

(Enjojo Lodge, Uganda)

Ciconis episcopus, 'Woolly-necked Stork'.

Family Scopidae

There is only one species in this family, the odd looking Hammerkop. Once thought to be related to the similar looking storks, it is now thought to be more closely related to the pelicans and that other African weirdo, the Shoebill! 

Scopus umbretta, 'Hammerkop'. The bill combined with the crest at the back of the head gives the shape of a 'hammerhead', thus the Afrikaans name. They build a huge obvious nest in a tree. Mostly feed on aquatic animals which they hunt by wading through shallow water. They range over most of sub-Saharan Africa.

Family Ardeidae: Herons


Ardea melanocephala, 'Black-headed Heron'. Very tall. Similar to Grey Heron, this species is darker, with black and white underwings in flight and grey legs not yellow. Usually found stalking through grass in open woodlands, but also in small ponds, throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Family Accipitridae, Eagles, Hawks and Old World Vultures

(Bigodi, Uganda)

Lophaetus occipitalus, 'Long-crested Eagle'. Large, black, with long crest (obvious when perched). Found in open habitats across much of sub-Saharan Africa.

(Entebbe, Uganda)

Milvus aegyptius, 'Yellow-billed Kite'. Sometimes considered a sub-species of the widespread Black Kite. Common across open habitats of sub-Africa.

Family Coliidae: Mousebirds

mousebirds-speckled-group-kampala-uganda(Kampala, Uganda)

Mousebirds are usually plain brown in colour with patches of colour on the face and have long tails. They are most distinct by their habitat of crawling through the vegetation. This behaviour and their fluffiness suggest their common name. Mousebirds are found mostly in open habitats across Africa. The family is only found on this continent, and indeed even their entire order is endemic to Africa.

mousebird-speckled-kampala-uganda(Kampala, Uganda)

Colius striatus, 'Speckled Mousebird'. The largest and most common of the Mousebirds can be seen on the edge of the forest.

Family Upupidae: Hoopoes

Family Bucerotidae: Hornbills

Hornbills are an old world tropical group, found in Africa and Asia, and extending to the Solomon Islands in the east. They are large birds with huge bills, the ecological and morphological equivalent to the new world tropical Toucans.

(Enjojo Lodge, Uganda)

Lophoceros alboterminatus , 'Crowned Hornbill'. Found in wetter woodland and edge of forest in southern, eastern and parts of western Africa.

Family Bucorvidae: Ground Hornbills

hornbill-ground-northern-murchison-uganda(Murchison, Uganda)

There are two species of Ground Hornbill. They are large black birds with obvious colourful throat pouches (red in male, blue in female). They have distinctive specialised feathers that act as eyelashes. Unlike most other Hornbills, these two species are carnivorous. They live in the open habitats of Africa, where the family is endemic

hornbill-ground-murchison-uganda(Murchison, Uganda)

Bucorvus abyssinicus, 'Northern (Abyssinian) Ground Hornbill'. Distinguished from the 'Souther Ground Hornbill' by the blue face. Found in open habitats across west and east Africa, north of the equator.

Family Coraciidae: 'Rollers'

(Lake Mburo, Uganda)

Coracias caudatus, 'Lilac-breasted Roller'. Found in open woodlands across eastern and southern Africa.

Family Meropidae: Bee-eaters

One of the most diverse and pretty groups of birds in the African woodlands. They are often very obvious and easy birds to see as they tend to to perch on exposed branches. 

'White-throated Bee-eater' (image by Damon Ramsey)'White-throated Bee-eater' (Kilwa, Tanzania)

Merops albicollis, 'White-throated Bee-eater'.


Merops albicollis, 'Blue-cheeked Bee-eater'. Breeds in dry habitats in the middle east, then most migrate to overwinter in woodlands and forest in tropical Africa.

Family Alcedinidae: Kingfishers

(African) Mangrove Kingfisher (image by Damon Ramsey)(African) Mangrove Kingfisher (Mozambique)

Halcyon senegaloides, '(African) Mangrove Kingfisher'. Large Kingfisher coloured a very bright blue, which can make it easily visible in open areas, and a contrasting red bill. Similar to Woodland Kingfisher, but that species has lower black mandible  and cleaner white head. Found in mangroves, and open habitats, including human settlements, along east coast of Africa.

(Viavia, Entebbe, Uganda)

Halcyon senegalensis, 'Woodland Kingfisher'. Large Kingfisher coloured a very bright blue, which can make it easily visible in open areas, and with a contrasting red bill. Similar to African Mangrove Kingfisher, but that species has an all red bill and grey wash to head. Found in open habitats, including human settlements, throughout tropical Africa.

(Mburo, Uganda)

Halcyon chelicuti, 'Striped Kingfisher'. Small kingfisher. Some blue on back (but often difficult to see when perched) with varying amounts of lines on a dirty white underbelly and sides. Orange-red on underside of lower mandible of bill. Recorded to be quite territorial. Found in open habitats across sub-Sharan Africa.

Family Lybiidae: African Barbets & Tinkerbirds

(Isunga Lodge, Uganda)

Lybius bidentatus, 'Double-toothed Barbet'.

(Bigodi, Uganda)

Trachyphonus purpuratus'Yellow-billed Barbet'. Found on forest edge in tropical eastern and western Africa.

(Lake Mburo, Uganda)

Trachyphonus vaillantii, 'Crested Barbet'. Found in forest and savanna in southern and eastern Africa.

Family Picidae: Woodpeckers

(Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, South Africa)

Campethera abingoni 'Golden-tailed Woodpecker'

the Birds of the African Savannas continued at:
Afrotropical Tropical Savanna passerine birds 

Back to the page on the African savanna

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