BIRDING ON OKONJIMA

divider

During you stay at Okonjima you will be exposed to a range of activities, each with its own characteristic opportunities to see interesting birds. Serious birders have a lot to look forward to, with numerous specials and endemics occurring at Okonjima. Just over 250 species  have been recorded, and a stay of a few days can produce close to 100 species, and even more if good rains have fallen.

Okonjima lies nestled between the sandstone outcrops of the Omboroko Mountains. An elevated sandy plateau occurs between the major escarpments, and this has resulted in mixed woodland, which together with the mountains produces significantly higher species richness than the surrounding thornveld plains.

GENERAL ACCOUNT OF INTERESTING BIRDS

The Red-Crested Korhaan is a bird you are likely to see on the Leopard Trail, and possibly on any of the other trails or game drives at Okonjima. It is often seen on the main entrance road along the plateau, perched on top of a mound calling. Apart from being a large and striking bird, it has the peculiar habit of flying straight up into the air as high as 25 meters, then folding its wings and dropping earthwards again, opening its wings and alighting safely just before the ground. It often calls whilst doing so. This aerial display one often sees from the Land Rovers when out in the bush. This is a highly visual display and is probably a territorial advertisement, and may also be used in courtship. The male’s red crest is only visible during his display to the female, which involves an upright posture and puffed out throat and neck plumage. The black belly and beautiful chestnut chevron markings on the back make this a stunning species to see.

The Giant or Verreaux’s Eagle Owl can sometimes be seen in the large Leadwood Trees sometimes passed whilst out on a game drive or looking for the Leopards. The huge size of these birds is impressive – over 3kg’s, allowing them to prey on birds such as Red-Crested Korhaan, Secretarybird, and other owls and raptors. Mammals also form part of their diet and young Duiker and Steenbok could easily be taken. Scrub Hares and the unusual Springhare would also make suitable prey, although being nocturnal they may be able to avoid predation fairly easily. Verreaux was a French naturalist who described many southern African bird species during the middle 1800’s. The Black Eagle is also known as Verreaux’s Eagle, and preys entirely upon Rock Hyrax, known locally as Dassies.

At the opposite end of the size spectrum is the little Pearl-spotted Owlet. This little bird rarely weighs more than 100g and is actually often seen perched out in the open hunting during the afternoon, unusual for an owl species. Its diet consists mainly of insects, although it will prey on any suitable small animal and can even catch bats in flight. It is so small that it nests comfortably in holes in trees excavated by barbets or woodpeckers. The name comes from the large white spots (“pearls”) on its otherwise brown colouration, although it is streaked, not spotted on the front. From behind, a false set of “eyes” are visible on the back of its head, something that is no doubt useful in deterring predators for a small diurnal species.

Sandgrouse are commonly seen at the waterholes during the mid morning and afternoon. If one watches carefully whilst they drink, the males may soak their belly feathers in the water for a while just before they take off. This behaviour is a clever way of bringing water to their chicks, as Sandgrouse nest far from water, often in barren plains in the desert. Males have been recorded flying water to nests 80km from the nearest water source. The chicks then open their beaks and let the water drain out of the males feathers, and down their throat. Namaqua, Burchell’s and Double-banded Sandgrouse can be seen at Okonjima.

Rosy-faced Lovebirds are not often seen, although they can be observed anywhere at Okonjima. The interesting thing about these birds, apart from their beautiful colouration, is their habit of carrying nesting material in their tail. This behaviour is observed in the male during the summer breeding season (February to April). The feathers on the birds’ rump have a contour shape and blades of grass are held between the feathers whilst carried to the nest site.

GENERAL BIRDING AROUND THE LODGE AND DURING ACTIVITIES.

Abdim’s Storks arrive with the summer rains and are commonly seen all around Okonjima foraging for insects. These birds have migrated from Europe, and will depart again at the beginning of the dry season.

Helmeted Guineafowl are common and you can expect to see them scurrying around the water holes and even moving through our luxury bush camp. As enigmatic as these birds are, the Go-away-bird is an even more typically dryland African species with its drawn out call that gives it its name. It belongs to the Lourie family which is a family endemic to Africa.

Three species of doves are commonly seen around the lodges, these are the Laughing, Cape Turtle and Namaqua Doves. Have a look at our birding pages to find out the difference between them.

The African Hoopoe is a characteristic bird with its long decurved bill and crest that is often seen foraging around the lodge, especially between the chalets at our luxury bush camp. The Lilac-breasted Roller is another species typifying southern Africa, with its vibrant colours and long central tail feathers. It is often seen perched on top of a tree from where it scans for prey, anything up to the size of small snakes and rodents.

The Kalahari Robin and Marico Flycatcher are two species often seen both around the lodges, and during activities at Okonjima. The former often dashes away from the car as you drive past out in the bush. It is a fairly non-discript little brown coloured bird. The Marico Flycatcher is a two-toned bird white below and brown above, which sits on the outer branches of trees hawking insects. It is common almost everywhere at Okonjima.

The Paradise Flycatcher is a busy little bird during the summer when it nests around the lodges, they have dark blue heads, chestnut backs and tail, and are white below. The males have much longer tails, and can sometimes be seen tussling with each other over a territory.

The Crimson-breasted Shrike is often seen around the luxury bush camp, and is a handsome bird with a bright red front, and black back. It often nests close to the chalets here. It is also often seen whilst waiting at water holes.

Southern Masked Weavers and Lesser Masked Weavers both nest at main camp, although the former is much more common. Have a look at our birding pages to find out how to separate these very similar species.

The common seed-eaters at Okonjima are the Scaly-feathered Finch, Violet-eared Waxbill and Black-cheeked Waxbill. All three can be seen foraging around the lodges, and are common at any water source, be it the bird bath in front of your chalet, the bird hide or the water-holes out in the bush.

SOME SPECIAL SPECIES TO LOOK OUT FOR AT OKONJIMA

This section is intended for the more serious birder, and includes some species that are only rarely seen, even by the Okonjima guides and staff themselves.

If good rains have fallen and there is a lot of water around, it is worth keeping an eye out for Dwarf Bittern and Green Sandpiper, especially down at the dam, both species have been recorded at Okonjima before.

Four of the five Courser species occurring in southern Africa have been recorded at Okonjima. Temminck’s Courser is common on the Cheetah Trail, though they can be seen elsewhere just as often. The similar Burchell’s Courser is a bird of the more arid areas, where vegetation is sparse. The gravel plains below the sundowner spot on the northern escarpment is a good place to look out or these birds. They can be identified by the white secondary wing feathers observed in flight, and by their grey (not rufous) back to their crown. The Double-banded Courser is another bird that prefers dry conditions, and may be hard to find in times of good rain as they may move out of the area. Again the open plains below North Mountain is the obvious spot for these birds, although keep a look out along the gravel roads as you drive in to Okonjima. The Bronze-winged Courser is more a bird of the woodlands, and should be looked out for towards evening as you return from game drives or any other activities. Anywhere on the plateau is a good spot for these birds, particularly the woodlands around the lodges.

Hartlaub’s and Orange River Francolin can be found anywhere along the escarpments and mountains. Both species have a unique call, which is the best way of locating them. Hartlaub’s Francolin is almost endemic to Namibia, with their range just extending into Angola.

Ruppell’s Parrot has a similar distribution, and is another of Namibia’s specials. They can be seen in the woodland on the plateau, and along the river beds where there are larger trees. These river beds are also the best spots to see Violet Woodhoopoe, such as the river below North Mountain. Two other, more common woodhoopoes occur, so have a look at the Okonjima Birding Pages for notes on identifying them.

Damara Hornbill can be seen anywhere on the plateau, as can Monteiro’s Hornbill. Bradfield’s Hornbill has also been recorded so keep an eye out for it. Have a look at the Okonjima Birding Pages for notes on how to differentiate these species.

Carp’s Tit are often seen whilst waiting in the leopards hides, although anywhere at Okonjima is possible. They are black birds with white panels on the wings, and move trough the trees in small groups. This species is also a near endemic; again its distribution just reaches Angola. The Bare-cheeked Babbler has also been recorded, although not often, and one should look out for it during any activities at Okonjima, but be careful not to confuse it with the Pied babbler – have a look at our birding pages to make sure you are prepared!

The Rockrunner is endemic to Namibia, and its characteristic call can be heard during the mornings along the rocky ridges. A walk along the Yellow Route, or even a short stroll to the look-out point near the Education Centre could prove fruitful. One needs to be alert to actually see the bird though.

The White-tailed Shrike is a bird of the dry thornveld, and can be seen wherever acacias are the dominant vegetation. It is a striking bird, with contrasting black and white colours, and another of the Namibian specials.

The yellow phase of the common Crimson-breasted Shrike has also been recorded on Okonjima, so it is always worth checking out any of these birds you see.

Chestnut Weavers move into the area after good rains and quickly start to build their scruffy ball shaped nests in any large tree them find suitable. They are a nomadic species, and interesting to see with their chestnut colouration, so different from the yellow of all the other true weavers found in southern Africa.

BIRDING HIGHLIGHTS AT OKONJIMA

This section contains information on some of the latest birding highlights at Okonjima, as well as notes on how to identify some of the similar species you may see whilst staying with us.

Some of the latest additions to our bird list include the Painted Snipe seen at the water-hole at Bush Camp, and the African Harrier-Hawk (Gymnogene) seen at the cliffs on South Mountain. The Damara Hornbill is new in the sense that it is has only recently been recognised as a separate species to the Red-billed Hornbill.

Species suspected to occur: the following species have been recorded either a very long time ago, or are unsure records:

  • African Crake
  • Woodland Kingfisher
  • Blue-cheecked Bee-eater
  • Blackheaded Oriole
  • Grey Penduline Tit
  • Common Whitethroat
The three common doves

It is not difficult to distinguish between these species, although all three are common around Okonjima, especially the lodges, and so you may want to know how to identify them. The Cape Turtle Dove has a black half-collar at the back of the neck, whereas the Laughing Dove has bronze speckling on its chest. The Namaqua Dove is smaller than the other two, with a long tail, and the male has a black face and throat, and a yellow bill. Just ask the guides to tell you which call belongs to which species.

The hornbills

These are an interesting group, as the female closes up their nesting hole in a tree using mud, then uses her own droppings and nest lining to close herself inside. Once the chicks hatch she breaks out, then re-seals the nest to keep the young safe. Whilst inside the female moults all her feathers, though at different stages, and re-grows new ones ready for use once the young have grown enough for her to leave the nest. The common Monteiro’s Hornbill often uses rock faces to nest in, closing it up in just the same way. This species differs from the Bradfield’s Hornbill in having white outer tail feathers visible in flight. When perched in a tree, Monteiro’s Hornbill has white spots on the wing (not so in Bradfield’s) and a dark eye, (red in Bradfield’s). The Damara Hornbill is the only hornbill with a white face and neck. Also occurring are the yellow-billed Hornbill (a similar but larger species than the Damara with a yellow bill) and the Grey hornbill, which is the only one with a dark bill which has a pale stripe.

Three species of woodhoopes occur at Okonjima, of which the Violet Woodhoopoe is the least common. This species is slightly larger than the similar Red-billed Woodhoopoe, and has a violet head and back, instead of the green tinge of the Red-billed. The Scimitarbill is a noticeably smaller woodhoopoe that has a more pronounced downward curve to its bill, and has black feet. It is also often seen singularly, whilst the other two species occur in groups.

The Bare-cheeked Babbler differs from the very similar Pied Babbler by having small black face markings behind the eye (actually a bare patch), a rufous nape and dark brown back. These areas are all white in the Pied Babbler.

Nesting weavers at Okonjima.

The Southern Masked Weaver has a red eye, a narrow black forehead, and brown legs. Its nest is a neat weaved dome that does not have an entrance tunnel. The Lesser Masked Weaver has a pale white eye, a broad black forehead, and much lighter coloured grey legs. Its nest is somewhat less tidily weaved than its counterpart, and it has a short entrance tunnel. The females do not have the black head markings like the males, and not such bright yellow either, but can be told apart using eye and leg colour.

OUR FULL BIRDING LIST

Bold Print = Southern African endemic
CAPITALS = Namibian endemic

No. English name

008 Little Grebe
049 Great White Pelican
062 Grey Heron
063 Blackheaded Heron
067 Little Egret
071 Cattle Egret
079 Dwarf Bittern
081 Hamerkop
083 White Stork
085 Abdim’s Stork
086 Woolynecked Stork
089 Marabou Stork
095 African Spoonbill
102 Egyptian Goose
103 South African Shelduck
106 Cape Teal
107 Hottentot Teal
108 Redbilled Teal
115 Comb Duck
116 Spurwinged Goose
117 Maccoa Duck
118 Secretarybird
122 Cape Vulture
123 Whitebacked Vulture
124 Lappetfaced Vulture
126 Yellowbilled Kite
126 Black Kite
127 Blackshouldered Kite
131 Verreaux’s Eagle
132 Tawny Eagle
133 Steppe Eagle
135 Wahlberg’s Eagle
136 Booted Eagle
137 African Hawk Eagle
140 Martial Eagle
142 Brown Snake Eagle
143 Blackchested Snake Eagle
146 Bateleur
148 African Fish Eagle
149 Steppe Buzzard
153 Augur Buzzard
159 Shikra
161 Gabar Goshawk
162 Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk
169 African Harrier Hawk
171 Peregrine Falcon
172 Lanner Falcon
173 Eurasian Hobby
178 Rednecked Falcon
179 Redfooted Falcon
181 Rock Kestrel
182 Greater Kestrel
183 Lesser Kestrel
193 Orange River Francolin
194 Redbilled Spurfowl
197 HAUTLAUB’S SPURFOWL
199 Swainson’s Spurfowl
200 Common Quail
201 Harlequin Quail
203 Helmeted Guineafowl
205 Kurrichane Buttonquail
226 Common Moorhen
228 Redknobbed Coot
230 Kori Bustard
232 Ludwig’s Bustard
237 Redcrested Korhaan
239 Northern Black Korhaan
242 Painted Snipe
245 Ringed Plover

249 Threebanded Plover
255 Crowned Lapwing
258 Blacksmith Lapwing
264 Common Sandpiper
265 Green Sandpiper
266 Wood Sandpiper
269 Marsh Sandpiper
270 Greenshank
274 Little Stint
284 Ruff
294 Avocet
295 Blackwinged Stilt
297 Spotted Thick-Knee
299 Burchell’s Courser
300 Temminck’s Courser
301 Doublebanded Courser
303 Bronzewinged Courser
338 Whiskered Tern
344 Namaqua Sandgrouse
345 Burchell’s Sandgrouse
347 Doublebanded Sandgrouse
348 Rock Dove
349 Speckled Pigeon
354 Cape Turtle Dove
355 Laughing Dove
356 Namaqua Dove
358 Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove
365 RUPPELL’S PARROT
367 Rosyfaced Lovebird
373 Grey Go-away-bird
375 African Cuckoo
377 Redchested Cuckoo
378 Black Cuckoo
380 Great Spotted Cuckoo
383 Jaconin Cuckoo
385 Klaas’s Cuckoo
386 Diederik Cuckoo
392 Barn Owl
393 Grass Owl
396 African Scops Owl
397 Southern Whitefaced Scops Owl
498 Sabota Lark
506 Spikeheeled Lark
507 Redcapped Lark
508 Pinkbilled Lark
515 Chestnutbacked Sparrowlark
516 Greybacked Sparrowlark
518 Barn Swallow
520 Whitethroated Swallow
523 Pearlbreasted Swallow
524 Redbreasted Swallow
526 Greater Striped Swallow
529 Rock Martin
530 Common House Martin
533 Brownthroated Martin
534 Banded Martin
541 Forktailed Drongo
543 Eurasian Golden Oriole
548 Pied Crow
552 Ashy Grey Tit
555 CARP’S BLACK TIT
557 Cape Penduline Tit
563 Southern Pied Babbler
564 BARECHEEKED BABLER
567 African Redeyed Bulbul
580 Groundscraper Thrush
583 Shorttoed Rockthrush
586 Mountain Wheatear
587 Capped Wheatear

398 Pearlspotted Owlet
401 Spotted Eagle Owl
402 Verreaux’s Eagle Owl
405 Fierynecked Nightjar
406 Rufouscheeked Nightjar
408 Freckled Nightjar
411 Common Swift
413 Bradfield’s Swift
415 Whiterumped Swift
417 Little Swift
418 Alpine Swift
421 African Palm Swift
425 Whitebacked Mousebird
426 Redfaced Mousebird
438 European Bee-Eater
445 Swallowtailed Bee-Eater
446 European Roller
447 Lilacbreasted Roller
449 Purple Roller
451 African Hoopoe
452 Green Wood-Hoopoe
453 VIOLET WOOD-HOOPOE
454 Common Scimitarbill
457 African Grey Hornbill
458 Damara Hornbill
459 Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill
461 Bradfield’s Hornbill
462 MONTEIRO’S HORNBILL
465 Acacia Pied Barbet
476 Lesser Honeyguide
483 Goldentailed Woodpecker
486 Cardinal Woodpecker
487 Bearded Woodpecker
493 Monotonous Lark
494 Rufousnaped Lark
495 Eastern Clapper Lark
497 Fwancoloured Lark
589 Familiar Chat
595 Anteating Chat
613 Whitebrowed Scrub-Robin
615 Kalahari Scrub-Robin
619 Garden Warbler
621 Chestnutvented Titbabbler
625 Icterine Warbler
628 Great Reed Warbler
631 African Reed Warbler
634 Sedge Warbler
643 Willow Warbler
651 Lonbilled Crombec
653 Yellowbellied Eremomela
656 Burntnecked Eremomela
657 Greybacked Camaroptera
658 Barred Wren-Warbler
662 ROCKRUNNER
664 Zitting Cisticola
665 Desert Cisticola
669 Greybacked Cisticola
671 Tinkling Cisticola
672 Rattling Cisticola
685 Blackchested Prinia
689 Spotted Flycatcher
695 Marico Flycatcher
697 Chat Flycatcher
703 Pririt Batis
710 African Paradise Flycatcher

713 Cape Wagtail
716 African Pipit
717 Longbilled Pipit
719 Buffy Pipit
731 Lesser Grey Shrike
732 Common Fiscal
733 Redbacked Shrike
739 Crimsonbreasted Shrike
740 Blackbacked Puffback
741 Brubru
743 Browncrowned Tchagra
744 Blackcrowned Tchagra
752 WHITETAILED SHRIKE
756 Southern Whitecrowned Shrike
760 Wattled Starling
761 Violet-Backed Starling
762 Burchell’s Starling
764 Cape Glossy Starling
770 Palewinged Starling
779 Marico Sunbird
787 Whitebellied Sunbird
788 Dusky Sunbird
791 Scarletchested Sunbird
792 Amethyst Sunbird
798 Redbilled Buffalo Weaver
799 Whitebrowed Sparrowweaver
801 House Sparrow
802 Great Sparrow
803 Cape Sparrow
804 Southern Greyheaded Sparrow
806 Scalyfeathered Finch
812 Chestnut Weaver
814 Southern Masked Weaver
815 Lesser Masked Weaver
821 Redbilled Quelea
826 Yellow-Crowned Bishop
834 Green-Winged Pytilia
844 Blue Waxbill
845 Violeteared Waxbill
846 Common Waxbill
847 Blackfaced Waxbill
856 Redheaded Finch
861 Shafttailed Whydah
862 Long-Tailed Paradise-Whydah
870 Blackthroated Canary
878 Yellow Canary
879 Whitethroated Canary
884 Goldenbreasted Bunting
885 Cape Bunting
886 Cinnamon-Breasted Bunting
887 Larklike Bunting