Most people picture the dry desolate desert when they think of Namibia. However, though it is quite an arid country, there is much more to it than the Namib desert. In much the same way, first time birders to the country often expect the birds to be of the drab, brownish variety. Even though you do find those as well, three of my favourite Namibian birds are much more colourful… and very loud!
The Rosy-faced lovebird (Agapornis roseicollis, pictured above) is native to arid regions in southwestern Africa. With its luminous green coat, blue rump and pink face, this Lovebird adds a splash of colour to any occasion. They also have a high-pitched shriek call that is unmissable. Lovebirds are very social animals and often congregate in small groups, eating seeds and fruit, and taking frequent baths. They are colonial breeders with natural breeding sites in inaccessible and often vertical cracks in sandstone areas.
The Rüppell’s parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii, below) is another bird that initially seems entirely out of place in the Namib desert. It is endemic to an area from central Namibia to southwestern Angola, favouring mixed woodland near to dry streams or rivers, where it nests in tree cavities. Although mostly greyish brown, this parrot stuns with its bright blue rump and striking yellow on the wings and thighs. It also boasts a loud raucous shriek call in flight.
The Violet wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus damarensis, below) is another of my personal favourites. Its distinctive features are the coppery purple iridescence on the upperparts and its long, bright red bill. They are normally found in groups in arid woodlands along dry streams on the Namibian escarpment, where they give their resonant cackling call.
The calls of these three birds are usually the first thing that would alert me to their presence. I have had guests jump up from their breakfast to photograph a flock of very entertaining Rosy-faced lovebirds only to return 30 minutes later to cold eggs and coffee. I have also had many encounters where I heard both the Rüppell’s parrot and Violet wood-hoopoe call somewhere down a dry riverbed and ended up running after them with guests in tow. It is always very rewarding when we find these three stunning birds.
Namibia is home to over 600 bird species, including one true endemic and about 14 near endemics. Most of the country’s specials are found in relatively accessible locations, with good infrastructure in terms of accommodation and roads. All of this makes Namibia a brilliant birding destination.
With training in guiding and veterinary science, Nick Buys’ work in the field and passion for birds resulted in him setting up Nature Travel Namibia, through which he guides specialist trips around the country as well as the rest of Africa.