The avifauna of the Congo is still incompletely documented and large parts of the country including the Chaillu massif and the Likouala swamp-forests remain unexplored. Wetlands are mainly in the form of seasonally flooded forests which are not attractive to migratory waterbirds, while coastal and inland mudflats are very small. In general, the position of the country on the southern edge of the Guinea-Congo forest block means that it is of little importance as a refuge for migratory species. By contrast, the resident avifauna has a large and varied forest component similar to that of neighbouring Gabon and Democratic Republic of Congo and some 200 species of the Guinea-Congo forests biome occur. In addition, the southern savannas bring grassland and woodland species including Grey Cisticola Cisticola rufilata, Sousa’s Shrike Lanius souzae and the Téké Plateau holds several species of interest including Finsch’s Francolin Francolinus finschi, Congo Moor-Chat Myrmecocichla tholloni and Black-chinned Weaver Ploceus nigrimentus.
Six Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified with an area of 30,060 km2 or some 8.8% of the land area of the country. These represent all the major habitats for birds including the semi-evergreen rainforest of the north with two sites and the south-west with three sites, and the extensive open savannas on the Téké Plateau with one site. Five of these have some measure of legal protection, three as National Parks, one as a Faunal Reserve and one as a Biosphere Reserve.
Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park complex is located in the far north of the country and occupies an area of 386,600 ha plus some peripheral zones. It is contiguous with the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the Central African Republic. The whole park area comprises undisturbed swamp forest, closed canopy forest and dry land forest. 314 bird species have been recorded of which 260 are proven or suspected breeders. Species of special interest include Sandy Scops Owl Otus icterorhynchus, Olive Ibis Bostrychia olivacea, African Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense, Bates’s Nightjar Caprimulgus batesi, Brown Nightjar C. binotatus, Forest Wood-hoopoe Phoeniculus castaneiceps, Zenker’s Honeyguide Melignomon zenkeri, Yellow-capped Weaver Ploceus dorsomaculatus and Preuss’s Weaver Ploceus preussi.
Odzala National Park complex comprises the National Park itself with an area of 1,266 km2, the Lékoli-Pandaka Faunal Reserve at 682 km2 and the Mboko Hunting Reserve at 900 km2. These areas and a large area of forest to the north, west and east of the original complex were included in an enlarged National Park in 2001. The north is continuous forest and the southern section comprises a forest-savanna mosaic. Some 440 bird species have been recorded of which 330 are proven or thought to breed. Species of interest include Forest Wood-hoopoe Phoeniculus castaneiceps, Grey-headed Broadbill Smithornis sharpei, Eastern Wattled Cuckoo-Shrike Lobotos oriolinus, Uganda Woodland-Warbler Phylloscopus budongoensis, Black-backed Cisticola Cisticola eximius, Black-throated Apalis Apalis jacksoni, and Yellow-capped Weaver Ploceus dorsomaculatus.
Léfini Faunal Reserve represents a good sample of the Téké Plateau in the south-east of the country. 239 species have been recorded but this is based on a short survey only and the area almost certainly holds many more species. The forested parts hold Spot-breasted Ibis Bostrychia rara and Vermiculated Fishing-owl Scotopelia bouvieri and the grasslands hold Finsch’s Francolin Francolinus finschi, Congo Moor-Chat Myrmecocichla tholloni and Black-chinned Weaver Ploceus nigrimentus. Other common grassland birds include White-bellied Bustard Eupodotis senegalensis, Lesser Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus lugubris, Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana and Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys. Two species of the Zambezian biome, Sousa’s Shrike Lanius souzae and Red-capped Crombec Sylvietta ruficapilla occur in wooded grassland and Brazza’s Martin Phedina brazzae is found in neighbouring localities.
Dimonika Biosphere Reserve covers a section of the 11,000 km2 Mayombe massif in an area of rather steep hills. The main forest type is evergreen or semi-evergreen rainforest with a very mixed canopy. The southern edge of the reserve coincides with the main road, and for part of its length, the railway which connects Brazzaville to Pointe-Noire. A total of 275 species, of which 266 are likely to breed, have been recorded in this part of Mayombe including the little known Shelley’s Eagle Owl Bubo shelleyi, and a small relict population of two montane species in the region of Mont Mbamba, Crossley’s Ground-Thrush Zoothera crossleyi and Pink-footed Puffback Dryoscopus angolensis.
Lower Kouilou basin lies a little to the west of Dimonika and is bordered to the south-west by the Atlantic coast. The main part of the site comprises 900 km2 of the Kouilou basin which includes mangroves, lakes, papyrus, grassland, thickets and permanently or seasonally flooded forest. Species of special interest are Damara Tern Sterna balaenarum, Black-headed Bee-eater Merops breweri and Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus recently discovered in coastal bush. The swamp-forests and thickets hold little known species such as White-crested Tiger-Heron Tigriornis leucolopha, Grey-throated Rail Canirallus oculeus and Vermiculated Fishing-owl Scotopelia bouvieri with African River Martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina being a visitor from September to November. Two Zambezian biome species, Black-backed Barbet Lybius minor and Red-throated Cliff Swallow Hirundo rufigula have been recorded.
Conkouati National Park is situated on the coast in the extreme south-west of the country and adjacent to the international frontier with Gabon. It has the same range of habitat, with lagoons but less swamp-forest as the previous IBA which lies immediately to the south-east. A total of 288 species were recorded in two brief surveys including Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus and African River Martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina which were found breeding there - see reference (iv).
For further details, download the country IBAs from BirdLife International.