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

At first glance, storks look a lot like herons, however, they are not closely related. Like herons, they have evolved long legs that are used to wade through the aquatic habitats in which most species dwell. There, they use their long bills to hunt for small animals such as insects, molluscs, fish, frogs, reptiles and mammals. They are often tall, and include some of the largest of all flying birds. They often use thermals to soar and some species are migratory or disperse widely. Many species build large nests, which may be used season after season. Their communication often includes loud clattering of the bill.

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda).

Mycteria ibis, 'Yellow billed Stork'.

Anastomus lamelligerus, 'African Openbill Stork'. They are dark grey, almost black in colour. Their bills have a gap and do not meet in the middle. The distinct bill is used to feed on it's favoured prey of molluscs. Found across Sub-Saharan Africa and western Madagascar, wherever there is open areas of shallow freshwater.

(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: 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).

(Lake Victoria, Uganda)
(Lake Victoria, Uganda)

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).

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Bubulcus ibis, 'Cattle Egret'.

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Ardea cinerea, 'Grey Heron'.

(Murchison River, Uganda)

Ardea goliath, 'Goliath Heron'.

Family Accipitridae: Eagles & Hawks

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Haliaeetus vocifer, 'African Fish Eagle'.

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.

(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).

(Viavia hotel, Entebbe, Uganda)

Corythornis cristatus, 'Malachite Kingfisher'. Found near still water across Sub-Saharan Africa.

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Ceryle rudis, 'African Pied Kingfisher'.

(Lake Mburo, Uganda)

Megaceryle maxima, 'Giant Kingfisher'. The largest kingfisher in Africa.

Family Meropidae: 'Bee-eaters'

(Murchison River, Uganda)

Merops bulocki, 'Red-headed Bee-eater'.

(Murchison River, Uganda)

'Red-headed Bee-eater' breeding colony in sand cliffs on banks.

Family Buphaigidae

There are many of birds, such as herons, that perch on larger mammals in the water, but there is one group that specialises in living on top of mammals in Africa: the 'Oxpeckers'.

(Kazinga Channel, Uganda)

Buphagus africanus, 'Yellow-billed Oxpecker'.

Family Muscicapidae: Old World Flycatchers, Chats

(Lake Mburo, Uganda)

Muscicapa aquatica, 'Swamp Flycatcher'.

Family Ploceidae: Weavers

(Bigodi, Uganda)

Ploceus superciliosus, 'Compact Weaver'.

(Lake Victoria, Uganda)

Euplectes axillaris, 'Fan-tailed/Red-shouldered Widowbird'. Lives in swampy areas in southern and eastern Africa.

Back to the page on the African freshwater wetlands

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