As with South Africa, Namibia offers a rather unique birding experience. While there is only one true endemic, the Dune Lark of the seemingly lifeless Namib dune fields, there are around 20 near-endemics to be seen, some of which are restricted to northern Namibia and southern Angola. With Angola being a far more challenging travel destination, Namibia remains the best place to see species such as Cinderella Waxbill, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Herero Chat and others. A new population of Angola Cave-Chat, a species formerly though to occur only in Angola, has recently been found in the Zebra Mountains of northern Namibia, further adding to the country’s list of special birds.
In birding terms, Namibia can be roughly divided into Southern, Central and Northern regions and the Caprivi Strip.
The main birding destination in Southern Namibia is Sossusvlei, an ephemeral pan in the Namib dune fields and a good place to find the country’s only endemic, the Dune Lark, which is restricted to this sand dune habitat. This is the essential Namib Desert experience and the dead trees set against the red dunes make for one of Namibia’s most photographed scenes. In the far south, between Port Nolloth in South Africa and the German town of Lϋderitz, the endemic Barlow’s lark can be found. The rest of the far south is pretty desolate and undeveloped (much of it falling under restricted-entry diamond mining concessions) and, though there are birds to be found here, it’s generally avoided by international birders.
Significant Birding Spots: Sossusvlei, Sesriem Canyon, Hardap Dam Nature Reserve and the Fish River Canyon.
A few significant species: Dune Lark, Barlow’s Lark, Stark’s Lark, Rϋppel’s Korhaan, Ludwig’s Bustard, Common Ostrich, Namaqua Sandgrouse, Burchell’s Courser, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Damara Canary, Karoo Eremomela.
Central Namibia will form a large part of any Namibian birding adventure. Most tours will kick off in Windhoek, which is situated in the Khomas Hochland Mountains on the central plateau at around 1 650 meters above sea level, and as such the highest region in the country. Moving westwards one will drop down through the escarpment and into the desolate Namib Desert before reaching the cold, nutrient rich waters of the Atlantic Ocean. The coastal lagoons here support tremendous numbers of waders, Flamingoes, Cormorants and other marine birds, with regular appearances by regional rarities as added excitement. Moving northwards through the Erongo region, where rugged granite outcrops stand tall over the surrounding arid plains, one will leave the Central Region on the way to Etosha National Park.
Significant Birding Spots: Avis Dam, Daan Viljoen Game Park, Walvis Bay, Swakopmund, Brandberg, Twyfelfontein, Spitzkoppe and Erongo Mountains.
A few significant species: Rockrunner, Herero Chat, Hartlaub’s Spurfowl, Damara Tern, Monterio’s Hornbill, White-tailed Shrike, Carp’s Tit, Chestnut-banded Plover, Bank Cormorant, Tractrac Chat, Benguela Long-billed Lark, Augur Buzzard, Damara Red-billed Hornbill.
Moving north, the main port-of-call on most birding tours is Etosha National Park, Namibia’s flagship wildlife region. Synonymous with big game and wide open spaces, Etosha also provides some exciting birding. Further north of Etosha the Kunene River valley on the Angolan border amps things up a bit with some even more exiting birding, including the newly discovered Angolan Cave-Chat population. The Waterberg Plateau to the south-east of Etosha is another worthwhile destination and provides a convenient final stop-over on tours heading back to Windhoek.
Significant Birding Spots: Waterberg Plateau National Park, Etosha National Park, Hobatere, Ruacana and the Kunene River.
A few significant species: Cindarella Waxbill, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Violet Wood-Hoopoe, Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush, Rϋppel’s Parrot, Carp’s Tit, Madagascar Bee-eater, Chestnut Waver, Grey Kestrel, Freckled Nightjar, African Barred Owlet, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Blue Crane, Caspian Plover, Eastern Clapper Lark, Red-necked Falcon.
The Caprivi Strip.
In a complicated colonial treaty, a 450 kilometer strip of land stretching eastwards like a wedge between Angola, Botswana and Zambia was annexed to Namibia, creating what is known as the Caprivi Strip, which adds a subtropical savannah element to the country’s diverse range of biomes. The Caprivi consists of Broad-leaf Woodland, with the Okavango, Kwando, Linyanti and Zambezi Rivers providing ample water and fantastic riparian habitat. The birding here is superb, particularly during the summer months when migrants are present and when the wet conditions attract a range of interesting birds. The Caprivi links the rest of Namibia with Botswana and Zambia, which can thus be combined in a superb birding itinerary.
Significant Birding Spots: Rundu, Popa Falls, Mahango Game Reserve, Shakawe (Botswana).
A few significant species: Pel’s Fishing Owl, Rock Pratincole, White-backed Night-Heron, Slaty Egret, Ayre’s Hawk-Eagle, Western Banded Snake-Eagle, Bat Hawk, Coppery-tailed Coucal, Sharp-tailed Starling, African Skimmer, African Pygmy Goose, Rufous-bellied Tit, Lesser Jacana, Tinkling Cisticola, Wattled Crane, Rosy-throated Longclaw, Black-faced Babbler.