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          Fest Ethiopia

 

 

Endemic Birds of Ethiopia                                     

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WATTLED IBIS

 (Bostrychia carunculata)
Wing 325-380 mm

Because of its loud, raucous "haa-haa-haa-haa" call, the Wattled Ibis is easily recognized even from some distance away. A flock of these ibises rising or flying overhead becomes especially noisy and obvious. In flight a white patch shows on the upper surface of the ibis' wing, and at close range its tliroat wattle is visible. These two diagnostic features distinguish the Wattled Ibis from the closely related Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedavli), which also occurs in Ethiopia.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

The Wattled Ibis occurs throughout the Ethiopian plateau from about 1500 meters (5000 feet) to the highest moorlands; it is most common along highland river courses with rocky, cliff-like edges but is found also in open country and ill olive, juniper, podocarpus, hagenia, St. Johin's wort and giant heath forests and occasionally in eucalyptus stands. The ibis is gregarious, often flocking in groups of 50 to 100; rarely is it found alone. Small flocks of ibis can often be seen in Addis Ababa, flying between the old Palace and Trinity Cathedral grounds and in the area surrounding the National Palace. The birds normally roost on cliff-edges; in the early morning, they fly and call noisily while following the river courses to their feeding areas, which are usually in open country. With their long downward-curved beaks they probe the ground, searching for insects and other small invertebrates.

Little is known about the ibis's breeding habits. The prenuptial behavior including establishment of pairs and preparation of nesting sites as well as length of incubation and brooding behavior are not known. The ibis nests in the little rains in March-April, in the big rains ill July and occasionally in the dry season in December. Its nest is made of sticks and lined with grass stems, mosses and strips of bark. The Wattled Ibis normally lays two to three dirty-white, rough-shelled eggs. The birds seem typically to nest in colonies in bushes growing out from cliffs, but surprisingly few of their nesting sites have been reported considering what a common and obvious plateau bird it is. Occasionally the Wattled This nests singly or in twos or threes on tops of trees or on ]edges of houses. The young, covered in black feathers when still at the colony, are fed away from the colonial site once they can fly. Little else about the life of this species is known: it provides an excellent opportunity for study and observation of an Ethiopian endemic. .

 

                     
     

BLUE-WINGED GOOSE

 (Cyanochen cyanoptera)
Wing 325-376 mm

The Blue-winged Goose inhabits plateau marshes, streams and damp grasslands from about 1800 meters (6000 feet) upward. Pairs or small parties of three to five of these geese are common and easily seen at high elevations in small stream valleys and in pools and marshes in the moorlands where giant lobelia, alchemilla and tussock grass predominate and where they nest in March, April, June and September. During the big rains of July, August and September Blue-winged Geese flock in groups that may include 50 to 100 or more individuals which at this time probably undergo molt, losing the flight feathers. In the big rains the flocks also move to lower elevations of the plateau: for example, in one day in August 165 Individuals were counted at Gafersa Reservoir, some 20 kilometers west of Addis Ababa.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

The goose has a peculiar habit, whether standing or walking, of resting its neck on its back. Indeed this posture together with the comparatively dull body color and bluish wing-patches are useful marks for identifying the species. Another characteristic habit of the goose can be observed during pair formation when the male struts around the female, his head bent over his back, and his bill pointed skywards or even behind him, exposing his blue wing patch and uttering a rapidly repeated soft, barely audible whistle, a "wnee-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu-whu". Parties of this goose, like other geese, station sentinels at the periphery of the flock. An alarmed goose produces a soft "whew-whu-whu-wliu" and, when forced into flight, a rather nasal bark, a "penk, penk-penk", uttered at take-off but not in flight.

Studies of captive Blue-winged Geese suggest that they are largely active at night, which perhaps explain why so little is known about the species. This goose lays four to seven cream-colored eggs; the nestling is largely black with various silvery-white markings above, silvery-white below; the immature is similar to but duller than the adult. In total numbers the Blue-winged Goose seems to be one of the least numerous of any species of goose in the world. In Africa it is unique: its closest living relative lives in South America.

         

                                

 

HARWOOD'S FRANCOLIN

 (Francolinus harwoodi)
Wing 180-190 mm

Harwood's Francolin has been reported from only three localities along about 160 kilometers of valleys and gorges within the upper Blue Nile system extending to the east and north of the Addis Ababa-Debre Marcos-Dejen bridge; this francolin is a very poorly known Ethiopian endemic. It was first recorded for science in 1898 at Ahiyafej, then again in 1927 at Bichana, and in 1930 at Kalo Ford along the banks of the Blue Nile "below Zemie". No other record of this species has been published although recent reports suggest that it is more widely distributed than previously thought.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

Majoir R.E. Cheesman, who obtained the 1927 and the 1930 the specimens, observed that the local people around Bichana knew the species "and considered it the best table bird of the Francolin family". In fact, the Bichana specimen was presented to him by the leader of the area to be eaten; Cheesman thought the live animal was not from Bichana but was captured alive in the lower altitudes of the Blue Nile Valley and brought to him.

Very little can be said about the biology of this francolin. The male can be recognized by a distinctive U-shaped pattern on the black and white feathers of the breast; the female is unknown to science. Its preferred surroundings are unknown; its nest, eggs, time of nesting, food, call and general behavior are undescribed. Since the local people at least in the late 1920's and 1930's were familiar with the Harwood's Francolin, it seems reasonable to assume that it may have been more common than thought at that time and may still be so today. Two species very closely related to the Harwood's Francolin occur in Central and Southern Africa. The two, the Hildebrandt's Francolin (Francolinus hildebrandti) and the Natal Francolin (F. natalensis), are especially fond of dense bush along stream beds and rocky bills covered with long grass or bush. It again seems very reasonable to assume that the Harwood's Francolin lives in similar habitat in the Blue Nile Valley system.

                              

 

 

ROUGET'S RAIL

 (Ralbus rougetii)
Wing 125-135 mm

The Rouget's Rail is common on the western and southeastern highlands, but its presence is not so obvious as that of some other endemics. Once one is able to recognize the bird's calls, one well appreciates how common this rail is. It has two calls which are useful in identification: one, a piercing alarm note, a "dideet" or "a di-dii", and the other, a display call, "wreeeee-creeuw-wreeeee-creeliw". This Rail mainly lives at higher elevations of up to 4,100 meters (13,500 feet) where it inhabits small pockets of grass tussock and wet hollows with plenty, of cover; it is a characteristic bird of the moorlands of Ethiopia.

Like other rails and crakes, the Rouget's Rail skulks through and around the grass tussocks, probably searching for aquatic insects, crustaceans, small snails and seeds. This endemic, slightly larger than many of its rails-like relatives, is tame compared with most rails, and at times simply stands in all open area where it is easily observed. Normally, however, one gets only a fleeting glimpse of the bird as its moves quickly through the tall grass, characteristically flitting its tail upward and showing the white undertail coverts. The flashes of white - on and off, so to speak - are indeed obvious and often draw the attention of the observer to the bird for the first time.

Both male and female have similar russet-colored plumages, tile immature is slightly lighter in color. This rail sometimes lives in family parties of three to ten. It seems not to be so nocturnal in activity as once thought. Rouget's Rail nests from April through October; the nest is a shallow cup of grass placed in tussock grass. In one clutch a rail lays as many as eight eggs, brownish-cream colored with reddish-brown splashes and lilac-grey undermarkings. The nestling is yellow-brown with black along the sides of the face, its neck is russet, its crown, bill and legs are black.

 

                               

 

SPOT-BREASTED PLOVER

 (Vanellus melanocephalus)
Wing 234-240 mm

The Spot-breasted Plover is an endemic usually found above 3050 meters (10,000 feet) in marshy grasslands and moorlands with giant health, giant lobelia, alchemilla and tussock grass in both the western and southeastern highlands. Widely distributed and locally common, the plover usually is seen in pairs or in small parties, or, in the non-breeding season, in small flocks of up to 30-40 individuals. Its behavior has been compared with that of the Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) of Europe: it is a relatively tame, noisy bird with a swerving flight; on the ground it makes short runs and sudden stops. When calling, it produces a "kree-kree-kre-krep-kreep-kreep", a "kueeeep-kueep" and the cry "pewit-pewit". It is distinguished from other plovers by having fleshy wattles in front of the eyes and by the breast spotted with black.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

Hardly anything is known about this plover. For example, the nest and eggs have only recently been described: the nest, a shallow scrape within a patch of grass and moss in the giant lobelia moorlands with small lakes, contained four eggs that were brownish-blue to smoke-grey and heavily marked with black. The plover is known to breed in April in the Bale Mountains and in August in Shoa Region. Other aspects of its life history are unrecorded. Although locally common, it is one of the least studied plovers in the world.

 

                               

 

WHITE-COLLARED PIGEON

 (Columba albitorques)
Wing 212-234 mm

The White-collared Pigeon - unmistakable with its uniform greyish color, white collar patch and, in flight, white on the wings is the dominant pigeon on the plateau above 2,400 meters (8,000 feet). It mainly inhabits rugged areas of the western and southeastern highlands, especially cliffs and escarpments, but it is also a common feature of many plateau villages and towns where it lives in association with churches and other large buildings. It also frequents bridges on the highways and roads of the plateau.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

A regular occurrence on the plateau in the morning is the movement of White-collared Pigeons from their roosting sites on the cliffs to grain fields where they feed; occasionally a flock of several hundred individuals may visit these fields. In the Bale Mountains the pigeons roost at the higher elevations of up to 3,800 (12,500 feet) in flocks and in meters the morning fly to lower elevations to feed. In the Semien Mountains they roost usually on the lower levels of the cliffs at about 2100 meters (7,000 feet) and every morning slowly spiral up to the tops of the cliffs at 3,200-4,400 meters (10,500-14,500 feet) before moving inland to feed. In late afternoon they either remain inland and roost in trees, or they return to the cliffs where they hurtle themselves over the edge and, passing within a few meters of the cliff-face, fly at very high speeds to their roosting sites hundreds of feet below.

This pigeon nests most months of the year (January-June and August-November) on ledges of cliffs, bridges and houses. Its nest is like most pigeons' nests, made largely of grass stalks and small sticks. It lays two creamy white and glossy eggs. The male and female, who may be at the nest at the same time, are alike in appearance. Despite this pigeon's abundance and its occurrence in large areas of the plateau, including cities like Addis Ababa little else is known about its life history.                       

 

                               

 

YELLOW-FRONTED PARROT

 (Poicephalus flavifrons)
Wing 160-188 mm

The Yellow-fronted Parrot occurs in Ethiopia from approximately 600 to 3,350 meters (2,000-1 1,000 feet) in the western and southeastern highlands, the Rift Valley and the western lowlands in forests and woodlands varying from St. John's wort and hagenia to olive, podocarpus and juniper to fig and acacia. It is an uncommon but regular visitor on the Armed Force Hospital grounds near the old airport in Addis Ababa. One's attention is usually first attracted to the presence of this species by its loud squeaky calls and unmusical shrill whistles. Typically one then sees the greenish parrots with yellowish heads in a small flock of three to eight individuals, high up in a tree where they are probably feeding. Their food is thought to be fruit, including baobab if available, sorghum, maize and seeds. Although this parrot is frequent to locally common and widely distributed in the country, little is known of its habits: the time of nesting is not known: the nest and eggs are undescribed. In fact, this parrot is so poorly known that practically any information an observer discovers about it will be new to science.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

 

                               

 

BLACK-WINGED LOVEBIRD

 (Agapornis taranta)
Wing 95-110 mm

The Black-winged Lovebird is the common, small green parrot of the Ethiopian plateau. It is widely distributed from about 1,500-3,200m. (5,000-10,500 feet) in the western and southeastern highlands and in the Rift Valley in forests and woodlands of hagenia, juniper, podocarpus, olive, acacia, candelabra euphorbia, combretum and fig. It commonly visits gardens, especially with seeding trees in Addis Ababa. The lovebird flies in noisy flocks which number usually five to ten individuals although as many as 50 to 80 individuals may be present. It flies swiftly and makes sharp turns at high speeds; it moves its wings in quick, short flaps, the black under the wings being obvious then. Both sexes have a large bright red bill; the male has a red forehead, the female and immature do not.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

Although the behavior of captive Black-winged Lovebirds has been documented in detail, no study of this species has been done under natural conditions. In captivity the lovebird is a sociable creature: a pair regularly stands as close together as possible. The two birds at times bounce their heads and necks up and down and move around in small circles: they may do this several times before they stop and press their bodies together again. The lovebird walks; it does not hop. Under natural conditions it has been observed to feed on juniper berries, figs and seeds. At night the birds sleep in holes in trees. It has a shrill twittering call and, in flight, a sharp whistle.

Amazingly, only one record of the nest and eggs of the lovebird has been documented: around 1900 one egg was obtained in April from a hole in a tree; the size and color of the eggs, details of the nest and the kind of tree were not recorded. Recent observations on pairing behavior and activities associated with nesting indicate that this species is a solitary nester, doing so probably from March through November.            

 

                               

 

PRINCE RUSPOLI'S TURACO

 (Turaco ruspolii)
Wing 180-184 mm

Prince Ruspoli's Turaco is known in the literature from two areas in southern Ethiopia in juniper forests with dense evergreen undergrowth: one is at Arero and the other 80 kilometers north of Neghelli: both localities are 1800 meters (6000 feet) in elevation.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

This Turaco was first introduced to science when Prince Ruspoli collected it in either 1892 or 1893. Since Prince Ruspoli, an Italian explorer, was killed in an "encounter with an elephant" in the Lake Abaya area and unfortunately did not leave any notes about his travels, the locality and date of collection of the first specimen of this turaco remain unknown.

His Collection was studied by T. Salvadori in 1896 who named the new turaco in honor of Prince Ruspoli. In subsequent years several other explorers searched for the turaco; none were successful until the early 1940's when several specimens were obtained in the Arero forest. After these specimens were obtained, the turaco was not reported again until very recently, in the last five years, when several have been seen and four collected at the locality north of Neghelli. This turaco is considered to be an endangered species and is included in the "Red Book" of endangered animals of the world. However, recent sightings in juniper forests and especially in dry water courses which include figs, the rubiaceous tree, Adina, and undergrowth of acacia and Teclea shrubs, suggest that the species may be more common than thought.

There are no breeding records nor any recorded observations on the nesting activities of Prince Ruspoli's Turaco, its nest and eggs are unknown. It has been reported to feed on fruits of Tecle and Aditicl. Its call has been described as a low "chirr-clia" and short "te".                     

 

                               

 

BANDED BARBET

 (Lybius undatus)
Wing 79-84 mm

The little-known Banded Barbet is very widely distributed throughout Ethiopia between 300 and 2400 meters (1000-8000 feet). Although the numbers and abundance of this species have not been determined, it seems to vary from being uncommon in the north west and cast to locally common elsewhere in the country, living singly or in pairs in trees near water.

It has been reported to eat insects (beetles) and the fruit of fig trees. The barbet has been described also to hawk insects like a flycatcher and to hang from a branch up side down like a tit. Its call notes are metallic and it produces also a "gr-gr-grgrgr..." in rising tempo. The barbet has been reported to nest in a hole in a branch of a tree or in a tree or in a stump: the time of nesting and the eggs have not been described.                       

 

                               

 

GOLDEN-BACKED WOODPECKER

 (Dendropicos abyssinicus)
Wing 89-99 mm

The Golden-backed Woodpecker, is a very uncommon, not often seen endemic of the Ethiopian highlands from about 1,500 to 2,400 meters (5,000-8,000 feet), although it has been seen up to approximately 3,200 meters (10,500 feet).

It lives in western and southeastern highlands in forests, woodlands and savannas and seems to be more uncommon in the northern than in the southern parts of the country. It has been reported to haunt especially candelabra euphorbias, junipers and figs. The male Golden-backed Woodpecker has a green unbarred back and bright red crown, nape, rump and upper tall coverts. The crown and nape of the female are ash brown, not bright red.

The woodpecker has been reported to breed from February-May and possibly in December. No information, however, is available on its nest, nesting habits, numbers or food. Very little is known about this species.                      

 

                               

 

WHITE-TAILED SWALLOW

 (Hirundo megaensis)
Wing 100-105 mm

The White-tailed Swallow was first introduced to science in 1942 when C. W. Bensoii reported it in southern Ethiopia from Yabelo to Mega in short grass savana with small acacia thorn bush.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

This endemic, related to the Pied-winged Swallow (Hirundo leucosom a) of western Africa and the Pearl-breasted Swallow (H. diniidiata) of southern Africa, is common but restricted to an area of about 4850 square kilometers (3000 square miles) between 1200 and 1350 meters (4000-4500 feet). This restriction has baffled scientists because there is no obvious explanation, particularly no natural barriers or boundaries which mark off the area, for such a limited distribution. In recent years there have been reports of the swallow in the Addis Ababa area. Studies of this species in the future may show that its distribution is not so limited as thought.

The species is unique among swallows in having the greater part of the tail white; the white is very conspicuous in flight. The White-tailed Swallow is thought to be a sedentary species, remaining mainly in its home range. It is not associated with human habitation. C. W. Benson suggested that this swallow may build its nest in January and February in holes in the tail chimney-shaped ant hills common in the area. The nest, however, has not been discovered.                   

 

                               

 

ABYSSINIAN LONG-CLAW

 (Macronyx flavicollis)
Wing 83-95 mm

The Abyssinian Long-claw - very similar in both appearance and behavior to the Yellow-throated Long-claw (Macronyx croceus) of other parts of Africa - is a common grassland bird of the western and south eastern highlands except in the extreme north where it does not occur.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

Like other long-claws, this Ethiopian endemic inhabits grasslands and has plumage markings similar to those of meadowlarks of North and South America (passerine birds that are not related to long-claws). The Abyssinian Long-claw occurs largely between 1,200 and 3,050 meters (4,000-10,000 feet) but occasionally reaches the grassland moorlands up to 4100 meters (13,500 feet); it is most common between 1,800 and 2,750 meters (6,000-9,000 feet).

Living singly or in pairs, this long-claw is usually seen sitting on a lump of dirt, a rock, a small bush or a fence. Its black necklace and saffron throat and neck are especially obvious when it sits. Considered to be "tame and friendly", when breeding, it nests in February, June, July and August. Its nest is a cup-like structure raised slightly above the ground and lined with various grass fibers. The eggs, two or three in number, are glossy, pale greenish-white and flecked with dull brown. It makes "a clear trilling little song from a perch or on tile wine, and a piping call note".                      

 

                               

 

WHITE-WINGED CLIFF-CHAT

 (Myrmecocichla semirufa)
Wing 106-122 mm

The White-winged Cliff-Chat is a bird which is locally frequent to common in the highlands of most of Ethiopia where it lives in gorges, on cliffs, on scrubby mountain-sides and in open country among rocks and grasslands; it is uncommon in the north in Eritrea.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

The Chat occurs usually above 2000 meters (6500 feet) and rarely below 1500 meters (5000 feet). Its preferred habitat in the country varies. For example, in Eritrea the White- winged Cliff-Chat lives on rocks and in mountain gorges from 1800 to 2400 meters (6000-8000 feet). In the south in Sidamo it occurs slightly lower between 1500 and 1800 meters (5000-6000 feet) in hilly downland rather than rocky country.

Mainly black and chestnut in color, both sexes of this chat can be readily distinguished when flying by the white patch on the wings (basal part of primaries). The male Cliff-Chat (Myrmecocicha cinnamomeiventris), similar in appearance to the White-winged Cliff-Chat, has a white shoulder patch but not the white wing patch: in flight the wings of this species are glossy blue-black. The female White-winged Cliff-Chat is not so strongly colored as the male; her plumage, especially underneath, is more brownish in color. The young bird is brownish-black, spotted above and below with dark buff, like its parents, it too has the distinguishing white wing patch.

The White-winged Cliff-Chat nests during the rains in June, July and August. Its nest is a compact structure of grass stems and mosses usually placed in a crevice of a rock. The chat is occasionally associated with human settlements where it has been known to nest in holes in stone walls. Its eggs are usually three in number, glossy, white or greenish-white, and speckled with fine pale rust color. Its food is undocumented: immatures, however, have been seen in Addis Ababa in the rains feeding on recently emerged termites. It has a "modulated flute-like song".                      

 

                               

 

RUPPELL'S CHAT

 (Myrmecocichla melaena)
Wing 85-94 mm

The Ruppell's Chat is uncommon to locally frequent in the western highlands of Shoa, Gojjam, Gonder, Wollo, Tigre and Eritrea regions. It has not been recorded in the southeastern highlands nor in the southern portion of the western highlands. This chat, living singly, in paris or In small parties, inhabits edges and sides of cliffs and gorges and associated bare rock above 1800 meters (6000 feet); it shows a distinct preference for high elevations of the plateau around waterfalls and wet rocks on the tops of precipitous ravines and cliffs.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

The Ruppell's Chat is a wholly black bird except for a white patch on the inner surface of the wing (inner webs of the primaries and innermost secondaries) which contrasts sharply with the black when the bird flies. When sitting, the Chat has the habit of flitting its tail high over its back. Its time of nesting has not been definitely recorded although in December a pair was once seen building a nest in a crack on a cliff-face in Eritrea. Details of the nest have not been recorded nor have the eggs. The Ruppell's Chat is one of the poorest known of all Ethiopian endemics.                      

 

                               

 

ABYSSINIAN CATBIRD

 (Parophasma galinieri)
Wing 83-91 mm

The Abyssinian Catbird - one of the finest, if not the finest singer of all the birds of Africa - is frequent to common in the western and southern highlands between 1800 and 3500 meters (600-11,500 feet) in giant heath, St. John's wort, highland bamboo, juniper, podocarpus and olive forests. It lives singly, in pairs or in parties up to eight often in thickets and vines that fringe these forests.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

It is found as far north as the Semien Mountains, it does not occur in Eritrea. The catbird is a resident garden bird of plateau cities; for example, it is a regular inhabitant in Addis Ababa in gardens with large trees, for instance, embassies, hotels and many private compounds.

One usually first notices the catbird when it sings. The birds, which appear to be territorial, are intense singers in the rains when a male and a female often duet persistently. The male, stretching his neck skyward and holding his wings out at the bend, vigorously produces a long clear ringing song: the female answers with a churring or purring note. Because the little-known catbird lives in dense parts of thickets, it is sometimes difficult to see. Distinguishing features are its general greyish, color, dirty, white forehead and chestnut belly and undertail coverts.

This endemic is known to feed on juniper berries, but other items in its diet are not known. It certainly nests in May and July; it probably nests from February through July. The nest is a small, frail, thin, cup-like structure of plant stems placed loosely in a tangle of vines; one was discovered five meters up in a St. John's wort tree. The eggs, two in number, are pale flesh-colored and uniformly covered with fine flesh marks and a few dark chestnut spots.

The classification of the catbird is not well understood: it may be a flycatcher or a babbler. Recent evidence, based on plumage characters, indicates that the Abyssinian Catbird is a babbler whose nearest relative may be the Bush Blackcap, also called Blackcap Babbler (Lioptilus nigricapillus), found in the thickets and forests of eastern South Africa.                       

 

                               

 

WHITE-BACKED BLACK TIT

 (Parus leuconotus)
Wing 71-81 mm

The Whlte-backed Black Tit, wholly black with a whitish mantle, is found in woodlands, thickets and forests in the western and southeastern highlands from 1800-3500 meters (6000-11,500 feet).

It is locally frequent to occasionally common except in Eritrea, where it is uncommon. One usually notices first its typical tit-like call, it is seen in small parties or in pairs, in trees or bushes especially along small stream valleys in the wooded areas high up on the plateau. Its habits have not been recorded. It may nest in January; its nest and eggs are not described. It is indeed little known.                     

 

                               

 

YELLOW-THROATED SEED-EATER

 (Serinus flavigula)
Wing 64-70 mm

The Yellow-throated Seed-eater is known from a few isolated areas in acacia-grass savanna in southern and southeastern Ethiopia. It is a species of questionable taxonomic status since it may be a hybrid between the Yellow-rumped Seed-eater (S. atrogularis) and the White-bellied Canary (S. dorostritus). It has a grey back and is similar in size to the Yellow-rumped Seed-eater but has streaks on the back and a long tail like the White-bellied Canary. Further evidence for considering the Yellow-throated Seed-eater a hybrid is that it is known only from localities where both the Yellow-rumped Seed-eater and the White-bellied Canary would be expected to occur as well.

The habits of the Yellow-throated Seed-eater are unknown. Its nest and eggs are undescribed. Most ornithological references maintain that, until the Yellow-throated Seed-eater is better known, it should be considered a separate species. It is on this basis that the bird is included here and therefore is considered to be another species found only in Ethiopia.                       

 

                               

 

BLACK-HEADED SISKIN

 (Serinus nigriceps)
Wing 74-80 mm

The Black-headed Siskin is common to locally abundant in tile western and southeastern highlands from 1800-4100 meters (6000-13,500 feet). Almost always in flocks, this little-known finch inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, alchemilla, tussock grass and giant heath, highland grasslands and the open areas of montane forests, especially St. John's wort and hagenia. Flocks are regularly seen alongside the road to Gaferssa Reservoir west of Addis Ababa.

The male Black-headed Siskin is the only yellow finch with a black head in the highlands of Ethiopia. The female is similar but her head and neck are dull olive green with some black present oil the top and sides of head, chin and throat.

It breeds in the higher levels of the plateau in bushes and low trees in May, June, September, October and November. Its nest is a well-made, compact, deep cup-like structure fitted with moss, lichens, stems and small roots. Its eggs, two or three in number, are bluish-white with a few brown spots.                       

 

                               

 

WHITE-BILLED STARLING

 (Onychognathus albirostris)
Wing 151-165 mm

The White-billed Starling is frequent to locally abundant in the western and southeastern highlands, being most common in the north. Widely distributed in the country, it usually lives in association with cliffs and gorges near waterfalls. It also inhabits moorlands with giant lobelia, alchemilla, tussock grass and giant heath and highland grasslands: it rarely travels below 1800 meters (6000 feet).

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

Its square tail and white bill distinguish the White-billed Starling from other red-wing/chestnut-wing starlings. It feeds on the fruits of juniper and fig trees often in groups of five to 40 non-breeding birds. It nests in June in Eritrea in crannies high up on sheer cliffs, sometimes in association with the White-collared Pigeon.

These starlings also inhabit buildings where they occasionally nest: for example, one pair was seen nesting is October under the eaves of a church at Ankober. Details of the nest and the eggs of this species have not been described, however. Its call is "loud and monotonous". Other details of its life history are unknown. Mackworth-Praed and Grant - authors of several books on birds of Africa --- have compared this starling's habits with those of the Bristle-crowned Starling (Onychognathus salvadorii).                       

 

                               

 

BLACK HEADED FOREST ORIOLE

 (Oriolus monacha)
Wing 128-145 mm

The distribution, numbers, time of nesting and life history of the Black-headed Forest Oriole are not clearly understood because of the difficulty of distinguishing it from the Black-headed Oriole (Oriolus larvatus). The two are separable by the color of parts of wings feathers, features that are not easy to see in the field.

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The outer margins of the flight feathers (primaries) and the outer secondaries of the Forest Oriole are grey; the inner secondaries, mainly olivaceous-yellow, are edged in grey on the inner webs.

The outer margins of the primaries and outer secondaries of the Black-headed Oriole are white; the inner secondaries, mainly black, are edged in pale yellow on the outer webs. In the field the two species are partially separable by habitats, the haunts of each differing somewhat. The Black-headed Forest Oriole inhabits evergreen forest (olive, podocarpus) and juniper woods of the highlands; it is absent in lowland dry acacia thorn scrub country. The Black-headed Oriole lives in the lowland dry acacia thorn scrub country and the juniper woods of the highlands; it does not inhabit the highland evergreen forest.

The Black-headed Forest Oriole occurs in the western and southeastern highlands, the Rift Valley and southern Ethiopia from about 1200-3200 meters (4000-10,500 feet). It is frequent in the north, common to abundant in the south. It breeds in August and possibly July. It has three calls: a rich and loud "li", a harsh "skaa-skaa" and three or four liquid whistling notes slurred together. The nest, eggs and other aspect of its life history have not been described.                      

 

                               

 

STRESEMANN'S BUSH-CROW

 (Zavattariornis stresemanni)
Wing 137-150 mm

Stresemann's Bush-Crow - reported to science for the first time in 1938 - is a frequent to common bird in a restricted area of about 2400 square kilometers (1500 sq. miles) around Yabelo, Mega and Arero in southern Ethiopia.

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This species' distribution to the north and south is limited probably by elevation and consequent change in habitat: in the north the land be- comes higher and mountainous, in the south, lower and more open. The areas to the east and west of its present distribution are of similar elevation and include park-land acacia country of the type that it is found in ; yet the bush-crow does not occur in either area. This phenomenon has fascinated scientists ever since the species was discovered.

The bush-crow looks somewhat like a starling. Even its nest, is starling-like. It also associates with starlings, like the White-crowned Starling (Spreo albicapillus); mixed parties of the two are not uncomrnon in the Yabelo-area. Yet the curved bill, the bristles which extend well over the nostrils and the bare area around the eyes suggest that the bush-crow is not a starling but a member of the crow family, probably related to choughs (Pyrrhocorax sp.).

The bush-crow travels in parties of about six or so from June to February. In February and March it builds its nest some five to six meters from the ground on top of an acacia. The nest is a globular structure composed of thorn-twigs 30 or more centimeters (1 foot) long. The untidy nest, about 60 centimeters (2 feet) in diameter, has an inside chambers 30 centimeters in diameter, whose floor is lined with dung and dry grass. The entrance to the chamber is from the top and is protected by a vertical tubular tunnel some 15 centimeters (6 inches) long. The general appearance of the nest is of a vertical cylinder tapering towards the top with the entrance tunnel at the summit. The bush-crow is not a colonial nester; three individuals of unknown sex, however, have been seen to frequent one nest. It lays eggs, up to six in number, that are smooth, glossy and cream-colored with blotches of pale lilac. The only reported call of the bush-crow is a high pitched "chek". With both starling-like and crow-like affinities, this is a fascinating species to study.                       

 

                               

 

THICK-BILLED RAVEN

 (Corvus crassirostris)
Wing 427-472 mm

The Thick-billed Raven, closely related to the White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis) of East and South Africa, is a bird which is common to abundant from about 1200 to at least 4100 meters (4000 .13,500 feet). It visits many habitats including alpine screes, Cliffs and gorges, giant lobelia-chemilla-tussock grass-glant heath moorlands, highland grasslands, giant lieath, St. John's wort, bamboo, juniper, podocarpus, olive and lowland subtropical humid forests.

© Henry Brousmiche - www.brousmiche.net

It is especially abundant at higher elevations where it is obvious and sometimes bold around camps, villages and cities including Addis Ababa.

It is a frequent and persistent visitor to camps of travelers, where it scavenges for scraps including those in ashes of camp fires. This raven accompanies Lammergeiers (Gypaettus barbatus) when they drop bones and will steal from them if given a chance. Ravens sometimes also kill small rodents out on the open moorlands and grasslands and, by holding the huge arched bill up-side-down scatter dung to obtain insects. They feed on grain where "whole corners of the field (have) been cleared by them."

The Thick-billed Raven is easily recognized by the large curved, white-tipped bill and the white nape at the top of the neck. In flight, its neck extends forward, giving the raven a somewhat hornbill-like appearance. They are excellent fliers and soarers, often performing in formation along sheer cliff-faces. Two birds may give magnificent aerial displays, occasionally clenching feet and descending together for some 200 meters or so.

They nest in December, January and February on rocks and high up in trees. Details of the nest are unknown, as are the eggs. Although they usually live in pairs and are territorial, they sometimes congregate in parties of four to ten individuals. During courtship, the male feeds the female. He finds a morsel of food, then flies with it to a branch where he sits and calls his partner. She comes to him and flutters her wings, after which he feeds her. During this ceremony, the two birds produce hoarse gurgling and choking noises. Their typical call note, however, is a throaty "phlurk-phlurk" which has been described also as harsh and guttural or as a croak, which sounds as if the bird had "lost its voice" and was suffering from a "sore throat".                       

                                                              

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