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Wed, 02/06/2013 - 09:57 -- abc_admin
Water_Thick_knee_Benin

Water Thick-knee Burhinus vermiculatus, Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 5 June 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier
Buff_breasted_Sandpiper_Benin

Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 17 October 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier
Indian_House_Crow_Benin

Ship-assisted Indian House Crow Corvus splendens Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 06 April 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier
Grey_Pratincole_Benin

Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea Cotonou, western harbour, southern Benin, 25 September 2010

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier

The following records are largely unconfirmed and were published for interest only in the Recent Reports section of the Bulletin of African Bird Club (Bull. ABC).

from ABC Bulletin 23.1

The following records are based on nearly three months spent in the field between late August and mid- December 2015. On an island of mangroves in the Mono River at Avlo, near Bouche-du-Roy, local protection of roosting birds led to six species now breeding: Long-tailed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus, Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca, Western Reef Egret E. gularis, Intermediate Egret Ardea intermedia and African Openbill Stork Anastomus lamelligerus (October). Intermediate Egret is not known to breed on the West African coast any nearer than Guinea-Bissau, and this is the first confirmation of coastal breeding for Openbill Stork; by 31 October it was estimated that >15 pairs of Openbills were breeding, with at least one still incubating, while others had young of different sizes. In Pendjari National Park (=NP), a nest of Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis contained two small young on 28 November; two African Spoonbills Platalea alba at a pan on the same date represent the first record for Benin. New localities for Red-chested Flufftail Sarothrura rufa (only discovered in March 2015, cf. Bull. ABC 22: 236) include Lake Toho near Lokossa, Bassila and Nikki dams (which have permanent water), while a male was singing persistently at Plaine du Sô on 4 October. Stripe-breasted Flufftail S. boehmi, already known from several localities in the north-west, was heard in a grassy hollow in the Pendjari, a first for the park. An African Finfoot Podica senegalensis with a small chick was observed in the Mékrou River west of Kérou on 9 September. Savile’s Bustard Lophotis savilei was frequently singing in the rains and was identified not only in ‘W’ NP, but in any dense bush throughout the north-east, from Guéné to Karimama and Loumbou- Loumbou, reaching its southern limit south of Banikoara at 11°13’N. A Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea, a rare vagrant to Benin, was at Nikki dam on 25 September. An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull Larus fuscus, seldom reported, was at Bouche-du-Roy on 31 October. A begging juvenile African Cuckoo Cuculus gularis was attended by a group of Yellow-billed Shrikes Corvinella corvina in farmland near Gogounou on 29 August. The range of Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus was extended north to Affon, on the Ouémé River, while a vagrant was singing on the Alibori River in ‘W’ NP on 5–6 September. An immature Pel’s Fishing Owl Scotopelia peli was calling at Chutes de Koudou, ‘W’ NP, on 17–18 November, confirming the species’ presence in the park. An African Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense was heard in forest in Pénessoulou Forest Reserve on 13–14 October, a first for Benin. A Finsch’s Flycatcher Thrush Stizorhina finschi was calling in swamp forest on the Iguidi River, south of Pobè, on 11 December; this is only the second locality for Benin. A Heuglin’s Wheatear Oenanthe heuglini was in a burnt boval in ‘W’ NP on 16 November (a first for the park), while several were singing and defending territories in burnt plains in Pendjari NP later that month. Singing Olivaceous Warblers Iduna pallida or opaca were discovered in the far north-east, in riparian vegetation on the Sota River near Malanville and on the Niger near Karimama at Bello Tounga, as early as August–September, but their specific identity was not confirmed. The area was invaded by undoubted Western Olivaceous Warblers I. opaca in mid/late November. Moltoni’s Warbler Sylvia (cantillans) subalpina was identified (and photographed) in the far north-east at Kandi, Kargui and Karimama (Bello Tounga) on 18–21 November, with singing individuals producing the characteristic rattle call—this is another new species for Benin. A singing Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita was watched at close range at Mare Yangouali, Pendjari NP, on 29 November—yet another new species for the country. A group of Capuchin Babblers Phyllanthus atripennis was located in thickets along the Ouémé River west of Savé on 9 December; this is just the second locality for Benin. A Sahel Paradise Whydah Vidua orientalis, a species with a very limited distribution in the far north-east, was displaying at Point Triple, ‘W’ NP (next to several Exclamatory Paradise Whydahs V. interjecta), on 16–17 November. Barka Indigobirds V. larvaticola were located at several new sites, from ‘W’ NP (Point Triple) south to Bétérou, and Wilson’s Indigobirds V. wilsoni at c.10 new sites, being especially common south of 9°N, but also found north to 10–11°N (Oli and Mékrou rivers).

Noteworthy records of migrants include the following. Passage of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster started as early as 6 September (‘W’ NP and surroundings) and continued until the end of October, all the way to the coast. White-throated Bee-eaters M. albicollis crossed the country throughout November, whilst African Grey Hornbills Tockus nasutus were still returning in numbers in mid November (e.g. 43 flying south at Alibori on 14 November). Thousands of Common House Martins Delichon urbicum appeared over water on 10 November (Ndali to Nikki). The first Whinchats Saxicola rubetra were noted on 22 September in Pendjari NP (two), Common Redstarts Phoenicurus phoenicurus on 13 November on the Alibori River at Alibori (several), the first Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus on 29 September at Bétérou, the first Garden Warbler Sylvia borin on the exceptionally early date of 6 September on the Alibori River, ‘W’ NP, while small groups of Willow Warblers Phylloscopus trochilus appeared in ‘W’ NP on 5–6 September, and the first Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca on 24 September at Béléfoungou. Great Reed Warblers occurred in substantial numbers in some damp sites in the north in November, e.g. in green thickets on the Sota River near Malanville and in the marsh below Tanguiéta dam. Common Nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos also appeared to have autumn quarters in the north, with many singing on the Sota River near Malanville, on the Alibori River at Alibori and in ‘W’ NP, in November.  

Additional records from late 2015 include the following. On 9–11 November, large mixed flocks of Alpine Swifts Tachymarptis melba and Mottled Swifts T. aequatorialis passed the north-western town of Cobly, Atacora. A Greater Blue-eared Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus was photographed in a garden in Cobly on 25 November; this is the first confirmed record for the country, earlier records now being considered very doubtful. A male Cut-throat Finch Amadina fasciata was observed at Yangou, north-west of Cobly, on 29 November. Finally, a group of >25 Anambra Waxbills Estrilda poliopareia, including at least two juveniles, was observed and tape recorded (http://www.xeno-canto. org/species/Estrilda-poliopareia) at the now well-known site near Sô-Ava in Plaine du Sô on 31 October. 

from ABC Bulletin 22.2

Nearly three months of field work covering most of the country from the coast to the north-east (but not the north-west), in March - May 2015, produced the following records of interest. White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus was observed in ‘W’ National Park (=NP; Mékrou River), Alibori River (Alibori) and Ouémé River (Bétékoukou), all range extensions from Pendjari NP, where the species was found in 2010 (Bull. ABC 17: 240). Red-chested Flufftail Sarothrura rufa was heard (territorial song kuah-kuah-kuah...) and reacted to playback in three permanent marshes, near Aplahoué (Gbakpodji), Monoto (lower Mono River) and Okpara Dam (Parakou); this is a new species for the country. An African Finfoot Podica senegalensis was seen feeding on dry land, under riparian thickets, next to the nearly dry Alibori River in ‘W’ NP (16 May). In the same park, Savile’s Bustards Lophotis savilei were observed (15 - 16 May); there is only one previous Benin record (Bull. ABC 18: 150), but they appear common at this site. A pair of Rock Pratincoles Glareola nuchalis was seen on the Ouémé River (Bétékoukou, 25 March) for the first time. Guineo- Congolian forest remnants in Pénessoulou Forest Reserve (=FR), at 09°15’N, apparently hold the northernmost populations of several forest species, including Ahanta Francolin Pternistis ahantensis, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus, Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis, Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni, Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapillus, Western Nicator Nicator chloris, Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax and Puvel’s Illadopsis Illadopsis puveli. Mottled Swifts Tachymarptis aequatorialis migrated over Kouandé hill late on 10 May, still calling into the night. A Standard-winged Nightjar Caprimulgus longipennis was still in full display in ‘W’ NP on 16 - 17 May. Plain Nightjars C. inornatus were still singing in the north-east (Gbérouboué, Sota FR and ‘W’NP) on 16 - 21 May. White-throated Bee-eaters Merops albicollis started crossing the north-east in mid May, including many feeding in ‘W’ NP after the first rains on 16 May. A Wahlberg’s Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus watched at close range in short-stature woodland in Sota FR (10°59’N) on 21 May represents another first for the country. A Least Honeyguide Indicator exilis was sound-recorded in Lama FR on 24 May, confirming previous observations from Lama and Niaouli FR. The poorly known Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni was heard on the upper Mékrou at Gbéba and upper Alibori near Tobré, both north of 10°N. Sun Lark Galerida modesta was found in short grassland on Banté hill, apparently at its southern range limit. Several Fanti Saw-wings Psalidoprocne obscura were prospecting potential nest sites in low cliffs of red earth in Sota FR on 20 - 21 May. Leaflove Phyllastrephus scandens seems to reach its northern limit on the upper Mékrou at Gbéba, at 10°15’N, and Tropical Boubou Laniarius aethiopicus on the Bouli River, in Trois Rivières FR, at 10°26’N. Baumann’s Greenbul, first discovered in 2009 at Lama FR, was found to be widespread, including on the Ouémé River (Bétékoukou), Okpara River (on the Nigerian border) north and south of 8°N, and in Bassila FR, north to Pénessoulou. Rufous Scrub Robins Cercotrichas galactotes were in full song in dry thickets in ‘W’ NP on 15 - 16 May. Dorst’s Cisticola Cisticola guinea was located only in Sota FR (10°59’N) on 21 May, whereas Rufous Cisticola C. rufus was widespread in woodland, from Monts Kouffé and the Okpara River, north of 8°N, to Sota FR at 11°04’N. Rock-loving Cisticola C. aberrans appears to reach its southern range limit on Savalou hill. An Ashy Flycatcher Muscicapa caerulescens was singing as far north as the Bouli River (10°26’N, Trois Rivières FR), on 22–23 May, whilst a White-browed Forest Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens was found in riparian forest on 11 April on the Okpara River at Igbodja - only its second locality in Benin. A group of Capuchin Babblers Phyllanthus atripennis was observed in Ouémé- Boukou FR, Bétékoukou, on 26 March - yet another first for the country. Yellow Penduline Tit Anthoscopus parvulus was found to be locally common in woodland, from Toui-Kilibo FR north to Sota FR, being especially numerous in Ouémé Supérieur FR (Affon). Brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus was discovered inland on rivers, including the Okpara (at Igbodja) and the Ouémé (at Bétérou), feeding on nectar of Syzygium guineense flowers. Brown-rumped Bunting Emberiza affinis was found only in the far north, e.g. in Sota FR and ‘W’ NP, where it was common.

The most noteworthy Palearctic species included a late Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus on the Alibori River (at Alibori) on 19 May; an immature Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus in ‘W’ NP on 16 May; a heavy passage of Red-footed Falcons Falco verspertinus near Djougou, Kopargo, on 10 May, with c.80 feeding on flying ants, and north of Péhonko on 12 May, where c.100 flew west-northwest, with a few also near Kouandé on 11 May; three single Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus during 22 March - 14 April; c.50 Pallid Swifts Apus pallidus at Togbin, on the coast, on 9 March, with a few over Banté on 28 March; Common Swifts A. apus still passing in large numbers between Savalou and Kouandé on 10 May, and in smaller numbers later in the north, until at least 23 May (two over the Bouli River); a heavy passage of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster throughout the centre-north from March until 19 April; a Blue-cheeked Bee-eater M. persicus at Bétékoukou on 26 March; a late Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava (female, apparently thunbergi) on the Alibori River, in‘W’ NP, on 16 May; a late Whinchat Saxicola rubetra near Kouandé on 11 May; a late Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus on the Sota River on 20 May; several Melodious Warblers Hippolais polyglotta (some calling, none singing) on 11 - 12 May near Kouandé and Gbéba (upper Mékrou), and one on the Alibori River on 19 May; and several late Spotted Flycatchers Muscicapa striata on 10 - 11 May, from Kopargo to Kouandé.

from ABC Bulletin 22.1

In the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, a Marsh Owl Asio capensis and at least five singing Little Rush Warblers Bradypterus baboecala were observed on 30 November 2014; both species have been recorded at this site before and are probably regular there.

from ABC Bulletin 21.1

Two Lesser Moorhens Gallinula angulata were observed at Mare Bali in Pendjari National Park on 29 June 2013.

from ABC Bulletin 20.2

The following records are from December 2012 to early June 2013. During an offshore fishing trip on 4 June, a single Brown Booby Sula leucogaster was observed around abandoned oil platforms c. 10 km off the coast. An adult European Hobby Falco subbuteo, a species seldom recorded in the south of the country, was seen in a small forest near Zinvié on 18 December.

In the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l'Ouémé, several Great Snipes Gallinago media were regularly seen in the inundated fields (up to seven together on 12 January), with a noteworthy flock of 360 Common Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula also there on 9 December. A Marsh Owl Asio capensis and a non-breeding male Cuckoo Finch Anomalospiza imberbis, first encountered on 1 December were seen again on 9 December. At least two pairs of Greater Swamp Warblers Acrocephalus rufescens were also heard and photographed and two Black-bellied Seedcrackers Pyrenestes ostrinus were observed on 24 December.

At Bouches du Roy, at the mouth of the Mono River, two Long-legged Pipits Anthus pallidiventris were photographed on 26 - 27 January; this constitutes the second record for the country. On 17 May, 17 Damara Terns Sternula balaenarum were seen at the same site. On 12 January, the largest known congregation of Anambra Waxbills Estrilda poliopareia was also found in the area, with a flock of at least 100 birds, mixed with Bronze Lonchura cucullata and Black-and-white Mannikins L. bicolor; the species was tape-recorded for the first time and more photographs were obtained. In a small privately owned forest in Abomey-Calavi, only a few kilometres from Cotonou, two singing male Black-shouldered Nightjars Caprimulgus (pectoralis) nigriscapularis and a noisy group of four Leafloves Pyrrhurus scandens was observed on 3 January 2012, like the year before.

from ABC Bulletin 20.1

The following records are from June - December 2012, with a few from earlier in the year. Three species have been added to the country’s list: Wilson’s Storm-petrel Oceanites oceanicus, with at least three photographed during a pelagic trip c.20 km off Cotonou on 16 September; Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, with up to six photographed on ‘l’Île aux Oiseaux’ on the Niger River, in the extreme north, on 1 March; and Little Rush Warbler Bradypterus baboecala, with up to 12 singing in the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, in December. Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis, a species awaiting confirmation for the country, was also photographed on ‘l’Île aux Oiseaux’ on 1 March, with another observed in the south on a pool along the Zou River on 28 June.

A pale-morph Wahlberg’s Eagle Hieraaetus wahlbergi, an inadequately known species in Benin, was mobbed by a Pied Crow Corvus albus over Cobly on 9 Sepember. Single White-throated Francolins Peliperdix albogularis were calling at Nanakade, east of Cobly, on 7 July and at Yangou, north-west of Cobly, on 21 July. A Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata was calling from a flooded plain north of Tanguiéta on 19 August. North of Porto Novo, a pair of Egyptian Plovers Pluvianus aegyptius was noted by the roadside north of Affamè, near the Ouémé River, on 23 May.

Among unusually large numbers of Sanderlings Calidris alba at Cotonou in September (with groups of up to 200), two individuals that had been colour-ringed in Ghana up to two years earlier were observed. At Togbin, c.10 km west of Cotonou, five Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus flew west along the beach on 25 November. Single Damara Terns Sternula balanearum headed west off Cotonou on 30 June and 11 September; a group of >60 was reported from the ‘Bouche du Roy’ on 14 October, among Royal Thalasseus maximus and Sandwich Terns T. sandvicensis.

In the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, six Curlew Sandpipers Calidris ferruginea and a Little Stint C. minuta were noted on 15 December, with a Marsh Owl Asio capensis and a Parasitic Weaver Anomalospiza imberbis also there on 1 December. 

Two Bronze-winged Coursers Rhinoptilus chalcopterus were observed near Sini, Atacora region, on 29 December. A juvenile Jacobin Cuckoo Clamator jacobinus was being fed by a Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus at Datori, west of Cobly, on 5 August; this appears to be the first breeding record of the species for Benin. Near Bantè, in the central Département des Collines, three Piping Hornbills Bycanistes fistulator were observed in a degraded riverine forest on 13 June; the species is seldom recorded outside protected forest sites. In the adjacent wooded savanna White-breasted Cuckooshrike Coracina pectoralis and Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster were seen. Black-backed Cisticolas Cisticola eximius were identified in floodplains south of Cobly on 29 July, 12 August and 1 September, and north of Tanguiéta on 19 August. More records of Zebra Waxbill Amandava subflava and Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia were reported from Sô-Ava with 15 and six individuals, respectively, on 3 June. On 20 September, adult and juvenile Wilson’s Indigobirds Vidua wilsoni were photographed at Abomey-Calavi, near Cotonou, next to their host, Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta.  

from ABC Bulletin 19.2

Records from the period November 2011 - May 2012 include the following. In the north, a late male Garganey Anas querquedula was observed on Djougou Lake on 13 March and a male Common Teal A. crecca on Mare Fogou, in Pendjari National Park, on 14 March; the latter represents confirmation of the species for the country’s list, as previous claims have been rejected. Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio madagascarensis, for which there are few confirmed records, was seen regularly in March - May on three Typha-bordered ponds in or around Cotonou, where two large chicks with two adults on 30 March confirmed breeding. Two Rock Pratincoles Glareola nuchalis were incubating two eggs on an isolated rock in the Mono River near the Chutes d’Adjarala, on the south-west border with Togo, on 24 March; two birds were seen there again on 29 April.

Cotonou harbour, visited on a weekly basis during the period, produced waders seldom reported previously, such as Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres and Red Knot Calidris canutus. Late records include two Whimbrels Numenius phaeopus migrating west on 18 April, a Ruddy Turnstone in full breeding dress on 1 May, a Wood Sandpiper Tringa glareola on 5 May, four Common Ringed Plovers Charadrius hiaticula until 13 May, four Grey Plovers Pluvialis squatarola until 27 May and a few late Sanderlings Calidris alba, with ten until 14 May and one still present on 27 May. A Great Snipe Gallinago media was photographed at Sô-Ava on 22 January and two were seen at Djeregbé, c.06°25’N 02°38’E, on 1 April. The second record of Slender-billed Gull Larus genei for the country was an adult at Bouches du Roy, east of Grand-Popo, on 12 December, at exactly at the same place where one was found a year previously. In Cotonou, an immature Lesser Black-backed Gull L. fuscus was reported on 13 November. An aggregation of c.200 Black Terns Chlidonias niger was observed in front of the Hôtel du Lac, Cotonou, on 10 April, with numbers progressively decreasing in the following days until the 16th.

At Grand-Popo, a Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius was seen on 31 December. In Abomey-Calavi, in a small privately owned forest near Cotonou, two singing males and a female Black-shouldered Nightjar Caprimulgus nigriscapularis were observed on 24 January, with a noisy group of four Leafloves Pyrrhurus scandens also there. Two White-rumped Swifts Apus caffer were seen near Dassa on 12 March and a European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur in Pendjari National Park on 14 March. An Abyssinian Roller Coracias abyssinicus observed on 1 May in Cotonou may represent the first coastal record.

A brief visit to Niaouli Forest on 17 May produced a male Narina’s Trogon Apaloderma narina, a Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis, several singing Yellow-throated Tinkerbirds Pogoniulus subsulphureus, 1–2 pairs of Black-winged Orioles Oriolus nigripennis, a pair of Forest Chestnut-winged Starlings Onychognathus fulgidus and a female Thick-billed Weaver Amblyospiza albifrons. In the Lower Ouémé River basin, Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus was seen at Azowlissé on 23 February, and near Djérégbé on 6 May.

A flock of c.50–60 Anambra Waxbills Estrilda poliopareia, including at least three individuals with dark bills presumed to be juveniles, was encountered at Sô-Ava on 22 January; this is the largest flock recorded for the species. Zebra Waxbill Amandava subflava was noted for the first time in Cotonou, with six birds in the western harbour area on 2 March, and was encountered more regularly at Sô-Ava, north of Nokoué Lake, in May - early June.

Over the period extending from June 2011 to November 2011, the following noteworthy records are reported from southern Benin.

Cotonou harbour (c. 06°21’N 002°25’E) was again a very productive hotspot with interesting records. Damara Tern Sterna balanearum, a near-threatened species breeding on the south-western African coasts (Namibia, Angola and South-Africa) was noted at sea on 30 August, 5 and 8 September with respectively 2, 1 and 2 birds migrating eastwards. Several Caspian Terns Sterna caspia, usually an uncommon species in the south, were seen in Cotonou and neighbouring lagoon west of the city on 29 October, 13 and 20 November with respectively 1, 1 and 2 birds. Many Black Terns Chlidonias niger were present in Cotonou in late August, with a maximum of at least 242 individuals counted above the ‘old bridge’ just in front of Hotel du Lac (06°21'27''N 02°26'42''E), while entering the Nokoué Lake at high tide. Good numbers of waders were encountered on beaches and mudflats of the harbour during the migration months with three new records of Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres (discovered in Benin only in 2010) and large groups of Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula (up to 50 on 14 November) and Sanderling Calidris alba (up to 81 on 25 October). Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea, a species awaiting confirmation in the country, was seen and photographed on two occasions with one juvenile on 17 September and subsequently three adults on 17-21 October together with a Little Stint Calidris alpina and a Redshank Tringa totanus, both seldom recorded in the country. The highlight of the period is doubtless the exciting discovery of two Buff-breasted Sandpipers Tryngites subruficollis found in Cotonou harbour on 16 October 2011 by Wouter Plomp and photographed by Bruno Portier the next day. One bird was still present on 20 October. This near-threatened nearctic vagrant is new to Benin and this finding has to be considered in the context of a massive influx of American vagrants in Europe in fall 2011, among which a remarkable flock of 23 Buff-breasted Sandpipers seen together on 25 September 2011 in Tacumshin, County Wexford, Ireland, is the largest ever congregation of this species in the Western Palaearctic Region (Source: Rare Bird Alert – UK and http://www.netfugl.dk).

Water Thick-knees Burhinus vermiculatus, first discovered in the country in May 2011, were seen again regularly in Cotonou harbour, with up to 8 birds on 26 October and some young (immature) birds photographed on 30 August and 26 October, bringing breeding proof for the species.

Just outside Cotonou, another addition to the country list was the Swamp Nightjar Caprimulgus natalensis with one adult female flushed from Paspalum vaginatum wet grassland in the Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé on 19 June 2011 (06°29'34''N 02°23'31''E).

In the “Département des Collines” in the centre of the country, several African Rock Martins Hirundo fuligula were seen on escarpments of Kpataba cliff (c. 08°04’N 01°58’E) and Dassa-Zoumè (c. 07°47’N 02°11’E) with respectively 6 on 7 June and 8 on 28 October. On top of Dassa-Zoumè hill, a pair of White-crowned Mocking Chat Myrmecocichla cinnamomeiventris coronata was also seen on 28 October.

Other noteworthy records include an interesting flock of c. 30 Zebra Waxbills Amandava subflava in Sô-Ava on 19 June 2011 (06°29'34''N 02°23'31''E). Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia, a near-threatened species discovered in the country in August 2010, was found near Zinvié, an additional locality for this species in the Basse Vallée de l’Ouémé, with 6 birds seen on 9 October 2011.

Records from the period November 2010 to May 2011 are as follows. At least 40 - 50 Black Herons Egretta ardesiaca occurred at Ganvié on 22 - 23 November. On a small pond surrounded by dense Typha beds in the suburbs of Cotonou, an adult Purple Gallinule Porphyrio porphyrio feeding two large chicks was seen on 30 January; this appears to be the first certain record for the country as the species has been widely confused with Allen's Gallinule Porphyrula alleni in the past. One or two Little Grebes Tachybaptus ruficollis and up to 1,200 White-faced Whistling Ducks Dendocygna viduata were also present. A Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta was photographed at Bouche du Roy, east of Grand Popo, on 12 November. A pair of Water Thick-knees Burhinus vermiculatus, well seen in low vegetation behind the beach at Cotonou on 8 May, with several other thick-knees, probably all of this species, calling at night during the same month, constitutes the first record for Benin. A calling Forbes's Plover Charadrius forbesi flew over Houndodji lagoon near Togbin, c.12 km west of Cotonou, on 28 November. An American / Pacific Golden Plover Pluvialis fulva / dominica was foraging with two Grey Plovers P. squatarola at Bouche du Roy on 12 November; it was first seen from a dugout, but unfortunately could not be found again when the observer went ashore. A pair of Lesser Black-winged (=Senegal) Lapwings Vanellus lugubris north of Ganvié on 22 November would be an addition to the Benin list.

In the vicinity of Cotonou harbour, two adult Red Knots Calidris canutus were seen on 30 November; this appears to be the first country record. Subsequently, a first-winter was seen at the same site from 27 April to 5 May. In the same area, a Little Stint C. minuta was seen on 14 November and a Common Redshank Tringa totanus on 21 - 26 November. A Dunlin C. alpina was at Bouche du Roy on 12 November; there are very few records from Benin. Great Snipes Gallinago media were found in Pendjari National Park on 19 November (one), Plaine du Sô on 10 January (one) and near Domè (c.07°03'N 002°19'E) on 17 April (two). An adult Slender-billed Gull Larus genei photographed at Bouche du Roy on 12 November is a first for Benin. At Cotonou, two immature Lesser Black-backed Gulls L. fuscus were seen on 30 November and 1 December, with a second-calendar year there on 9 May. An African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris was in front of the Hotel du Lac, at Nokoué Lake, on 4 May, while on the same day an Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea moulting from first-winter plumage, rested for a few hours on the beach west of the harbour. A late Arctic Tern, an adult in full breeding dress, flew west on 22 May. Four Damara Terns S. balaenarum were photographed at Bouche du Roy on 12 November.

A Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti was seen again in Gbadagba Game Ranch on 15 April (c.07°36'N 001°58'E) where it was found in April 2009; the species was also heard in the Domè area (c.07°03'N 02°19'E) on 17 April. Four Pallid Swifts Apus pallidus with Little Swifts A. affinis and African Palm Swifts Cypsiurus parvus were claimed from Abomey on 13 November. At least 40 Mottled Swifts Tachymarptis aequatorialis were seen within a large group of c.700 Alpine Swifts T. melba above Bali pond, Pendjari National Park, on 17 November. An adult female Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni was well seen on 18 May in the Forêt classée d'Atchirigbé (c.07°33'N 02°07'E); this is the southernmost record in the country. On 6 March, a male Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster was observed in a mixed-species flock south-west of Cobly. Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta, for which there are only two previous records in Benin, was found at a few locations in the south and appears not uncommon in suitable habitat. The ship assisted Indian House Crow Corvus splendens found in the Cotonou harbour area in February 2010 was seen again on several occasions. Forest Chestnut-winged Starlings Onychognathus fulgidus were noted at the southern localities of Ouidah, Pahou and Covè; there are few previous records for Benin. Four colonies of 4 - 6 pairs of Slender-billed Weavers Ploceus pelzelni were found at Grand Popo on 10 - 13 November, with a female at Ganvié on 22nd; this species appears far commoner than previously thought. A male Black-bellied Seedcracker Pyrenestes ostrinus was observed in a riparian forest near Domè on 13 April. Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia, discovered in Benin in August 2010, was found at some additional localities in the Basse Vallée de l'Ouémé, even in Sô-Ava,<10 km from Cotonou, and 10 - 20 were seen at Ganvié on 22 - 23 November. A four-day visit to Monts Kouffé and Tobé forest, respectively north and south-west of Banté, in mid-April 2011 produced many species of interest, including Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus (one failing to catch a Rock Hyrax Procavia ruficeps on Tobé rock), White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra (Tobé; current northern limit), Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis (Tobé; current southern limit), Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster (both sites; current northern limit), Verreaux's Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus (Kouffé), Narina's Trogon Apaloderma narina (Kouffé), Piping Hornbill Bycanistes fistulator (common at both sites), Baumann's Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni (common in transition woodland at Tobé), Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapillus (both sites; current northern limit), Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax (Tobé; northern limit), Green Crombec Sylvietta virens, Rock-loving Cisticola Cisticola aberrans (Tobé rock), Rufous Cisticola C. rufus (common at Kouffé; current southern limit), and Puvel's Illadopsis Illadopsis puveli (Tobé; current northern limit).

On the coast, exploration of Pahou, the last remnant of coastal forest, on 10 April produced several Sabine's Puffbacks Dryoscopus sabini (previously known only from Niaouli) together with Leaflove Pyrrhurus scandens and Square-tailed Drongo Dicrurus ludwigii (the latter two absent from Niaouli-Lama, to reappear further north). At Grand-Popo a Buff-spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa was seen in a thicket, and at least two male Wilson's Indigobirds Vidua wilsoni were in full breeding dress and singing, feeding with their host Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta, on 28 - 29 April. A female or immature Cuckoo Finch Anomalospiza imberbis near Domè on 17 April is only the second record for the country. Both Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensis and Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster were found to be common in thicket along the lower Mono River on the Togo border. On 11 - 26 April, a Western Bronze-naped Pigeon Columba iriditorques was singing at Niaouli, with a few also in Lama forest.

Migrants observed in April include the following. Flocks of Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus were near Dan and Tobé on 11 - 15 April, including c.100 hunting termites at dusk around Tobé rock on 14th. Several Common Cuckoos Cuculus canorus were seen between 13 and 26 April, from Kouffé to the Lama. At least six African Black Swifts Apus barbatus, a new species for Benin, flew over Tobé rock, calling, on 15 April. Mottled Swifts passed north to north-west in large numbers from the 12th (Kouffé) to the 19th (Niaouli), often in flocks of c.50. There was sustained passage of European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster until 19 April over Niaouli, with up to thousands daily over Kouffé and Tobé mid month. The last Rosy Bee-eaters M. malimbicus (two) flew east over Niaouli on 10 April. White-throated Bee-eaters M. albicollis started passing north over Kouffé and Tobé on 13 and 16 April. Exceptional numbers of Wood Warblers Phylloscopus sibilatrix were grounded in woodland and dry forest at Kouffé and Tobé on 13 - 16 April.

Records from October 2009 - June 2010 include the following. A visit to the 'W' National Park on 3 - 10 February 2010 produced the following new records for the W complex: Ovambo Sparrowhawk Accipiter ovampensis (one near Mare 25), White-throated Francolin Francolinus albogularis (one seen at close range in the Mékrou Reserve), African Moustached Warbler Melocichla mentalis (Mare Boni), Yellow-breasted Apalis Apalis flavida (riparian forest on the Mékrou River), Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca (regularly encountered in riparian vegetation), Yellow Penduline Tit Anthoscopus parvulus (southern woodland), Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei (Mékrou River at Mékrou), Emin's Shrike Lanius gubernator (a female in open wooded grassland, Mékrou Reserve), Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes melanotis (two nests near Kérémou), Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus (flocks near Mare 25 and Point Triple), Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta (in riparian woodland at Chutes de Koudou), Barka Indigobird Vidua larvaticola (in breeding dress, near Mare 25).

New species for Pendjari National Park recorded on 10 - 17 February 2010 include: White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus (two on the edge of Mare des Canards), Ovambo Sparrowhawk (one displaying near Mare Yangouali), Green Turaco Tauraco persa (present in evergreen riparian forest on the Atakora escarpment at Batia, likely to be the northern limit of its range), Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus (one c. 5 km west of the park entrance at Batia), Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis (one drinking in Mare Sacrée is a first record for Benin), Preuss's Cliff Swallow Hirundo preussi (Mare Bali), Black-backed Cisticola Cisticola eximius (a pair in grassland, Circuit Fogou, first definite record for Benin) and Togo Paradise Whydah Vidua togoensis (a male at Camp des Eléphants, moulting out of dress on 14 February). Additional new species, observed on 3–5 April are White-fronted Black Chat Myrmecocichla albifrons (a male and several females along the track from Porga to the Batia entrance) and Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalcurus (one on Circuit Fogou).

Other records from the north include Melodious Warblers Hippolais polyglotta at Didani (4 km west of Cobly, Atakora), Cobly and Touga in late November - early December, a singing Rufous Cisticola Cisticola rufus on a treetop at Didani on 6 June, and an Ortolan Bunting Emberiza hortulana in the mountains east of Cobly on 14 November.

Records from the south include the following. On Nokoué Lake, a Ramsar Site north of Cotonou, 11 heron species were observed in noteworthy numbers, including c. 90 Black Herons Egretta ardesiaca on 17 February. A flock c.100 African Openbills Anastomus lamelligerus was seen on 25 October and c. 200 on 14 March; groups usually comprise 30–35 birds. On 17 February, a Great Snipe Gallinago media and a Marsh Owl Asio capensis were flushed at Plaine du Sô, Basse Vallée de l'Ouémé. Another Marsh Owl was seen near the Hotel Germain at Ganvié on 23 January. On 14 and 21 March, three Forbes's Plovers Charadrius forbesi were observed at Plaine du Sô, with two Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis also there on 24 April; an African Crake Crex egregia was present on 1 - 14 May. Collared Pratincoles Glareola pratincola are common in the area, with a maximum of c.100 on 15 November. Black Chlidonias niger and Whiskered Terns C. hybridus are also frequent, with maximum of 30 Black on 25 October and at least ten Whiskered on 24 April. Flocks of Whiskered Terns were also observed on Ahémé Lake, with 21 birds on 26 February and 35 two days later; most were moulting into summer plumage, with one already in full breeding dress. A flock of up to 200 first-summer Black Terns was in Cotonou at the mouth of Nokoué Lake from 6 May 2009 until at least mid September. On 24 April, a group of 6–7 Sooty / Bridled Terns Sterna fuscata / anaethetus was seen close to the beach at Cotonou. On 21 March, two Banded Martins Riparia cincta (possibly the first for Benin) were seen amongst a flock of other hirundines. A Greater Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus rufescens was heard and seen well at Plaine du Sô on 17 February. A presumably ship-assisted House Crow Corvus splendens was discovered in Cotonou harbour on 6 February and seen again on 12 May amongst a group of Pied Crows C. albus; this appears to be the first record for Benin of this invasive species. Groups of Zebra Waxbills Amandava subflava were seen in April - May at Plaine du Sô, with up to 52 together on 14 May. Slender-billed Weaver Ploceus pelzelni was frequent at Ouidah, where birds were photographed on 4 - 5 February and at Plaine du Sô, where several pairs were regularly seen.

The following records are from 2009. Two Streaky-breasted Flufftails Sarothrura boehmi were heard and a female flushed in rice fields east of Cobly, Atacora department, on 5 September; the next day a female and two juveniles were seen at close range. These are apparently the first records for Benin. The following species were found outside the range indicated in Borrow & Demey (2004. Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa). A Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti was observed at Gbadagba Game Ranch, north of Djidja, Zou, on 11 February and 30 April 2009. Zitting Cisticolas Cisticola juncidis were observed at several localities in the communes of Cobly, Tanguiéta and Boukoumbé, Atakora, in the north-west, and also at Cotonou, in June - September. Two Whistling Cisticolas Cisticola lateralis were photographed and their song tape-recorded 8 km east of Tchaourou, Borgou, on 22 August 2009. Two male indigobirds with a greenish gloss and uttering a call similar that of Black-faced Firefinch Lagonosticta larvata near Didani, west of Cobly, on 30 August, were thought to be Barka (Baka) Indigobirds Vidua larvaticola.

Observations in the forest remnants of the south, from 20 January to 2 March 2009, with also a few days in Ouari Maro Forest Reserve, near Bétérou, in the north, produced many records of species new for the country or very rarely reported previously: White-crested Tiger Heron Tigriornis leucolopha (two heard at dawn in Lokoli swamp forest), Long-tailed Hawk Urotriorchis macrourus (one, probably a vagrant, wandering through Lokoli swamp forest; tape-recorded), Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus (a wanderer calling over Lama forest is a first record for the area), Cassin’s Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus africanus (one calling over Lama), Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster (common everywhere in forest; surprisingly hitherto overlooked), Vermiculated Fishing-owl Scotopelia bouvieri (at least four heard and tape-recorded in Lokoli swamp forest), Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsuta (a small population in Lokoli swamp forest and also in Pobè; tape-recorded), Willcocks’s Honeyguide Indicator willcocksi (seen in Niaouli and also observed in riparian forest in Ouari Maro, where tape-recorded), Green-backed Woodpecker Campethera cailliautii (in Lokoli swamp forest; tape-recorded), Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni (a large population discovered in thickets in Lama forest; mist-netted and tape-recorded), Finsch’s Flycatcher Thrush Stizorhina finschi (rare in Lokoli, where tape-recorded), Red-cheeked Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia blissetti (locally common in thickets in Lama forest; mist-netted and tape-recorded), Little Green Sunbird Anthreptes seimundi (several seen at close range on Combretum flowers at Niaouli), Tiny Sunbird Cinnyris minullus (several singing and tape-recorded in Pobè forest), Pale-fronted Negrofinch Nigrita luteifrons (seen and tape-recorded in Elaeis palms and forest at Pobè).

Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus appeared to be the common forest tinkerbird in Niaouli, not Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird P. bilineatus as previously reported (P. subsulphureus was also heard in Pobè, where rare). The observers were able to confirm Purple-headed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis purpureiceps from Lama (where rare) and especially from Lokoli, where small flocks (tape-recorded) were feeding on figs. The common forest oriole is Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis (especially common in Niaouli, Lokoli and Pobè, where many were seen and tape-recorded), not Western Black-headed O. brachyrhynchus, as previously reported (this species is apparently absent). Also of interest are a Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis on a lagoon west of Cotonou, Greater Swamp Warblers Acrocephalus rufescens heard in Typha and mangrove near Ouidah and Cotonou, where Little Weavers Ploceus pelzelni were also seen (in swamps), and Zebra Waxbills Amandava subflava encountered in grassland near Lokoli. In the north, Rufous Cisticola Cisticola rufus, watched at close range in woodland at Ouari Maro, near Agbassa, is possibly the first record for the country. Whilst the forest remnants at Niaouli, Pobè and especially the larger Lama forest are well protected, the swamp forest at Lokoli is being cut down for gardens, and the future of several bird species in Benin confined to Lokoli, such as Vermiculated Fishing-owl and also Western Bearded Greenbul Criniger barbatus, is very uncertain.

In January 2007, a pale-morph Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus was observed in savannah woodland north of Kountori, Atacora, on 23rd. A Shining-blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys was noted on the stream below Tanougou waterfalls, Pendjari National Park, on 27th.

Belated reports from August - October 2003 include the following. A Dwarf Bittern Ixobrychus sturmii flew over the university at Abomey-Calavi on 4 August, one was at the Kota waterfalls on 9 October, and several were near Malanville on the shores of the River Niger on 11-13 October. An Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensiswas was seen between the villages of Hlagba Dénou and Démé on 16 September. Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata was seen a few times near Malanville on 11-13 October. A few Caspian Terns Sterna caspia were at Djacquot beach on 27 August and two were at Ouidah on 24 October. Two Speckled Tinkerbirds Pogoniulus scolopaceus were observed in the southern part of the forest of Lokoli on 8 September, and one in the northern part on 30 September.

Other records from Lokoli include a Red-winged Warbler Heliolais erythropterus, a pair of Buff-throated Apalises Apalis rufogularis on 2 October and a Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer on 26 September 2003; these species are widespread in small numbers. A male Buff-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra adelberti wasseen well on 1 September. A male Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta with a begging juvenile Black Cuckoo Cuculus clamosus was observed near Lokoli on 3 September 2003. Grosbeak Weavers Amblyospiza albifrons were seen a few times at Lokoli and a small flock was at the edge of the forest near Démé.

More belated reports include African Openbill Storks Anastomus lamelligerus, found to be common around Cotonou and Ganvié in October 2004, a Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio at Bymin, near Porto Novo, also in March 1999.

A belated report was received of a Dunlin Calidris alpina at Guézin marshes, near the Togolese border in the south, on 6 February 2003; this is the second (and possibly the first certain) record for Benin, following an unsubstantiated and rather odd claim of an exceptional 26 birds at the same locality in 1996. A male Parasitic Weaver Anomalospiza imberbis, a first record for Benin, was observed by Patrick Claffey on 1 July 2002 along the main Cotonou-Lomé road, 9 km east of the Mono River in south Benin.

Additions to the Benin list in 2001 include Yellow-whiskered Greenbul Andropadus latirostris, mist-netted in Pobé forest, c. 3 km from the border with Nigeria, on 23 March and 1 June, Western Bearded Greenbul Criniger barbatus caught on 29 September, and White-browed Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens trapped on 30 March, 13 April and 15 September.

A Red-thighed Sparrowhawk Accipiter erythropus, a species for which there are few records in Benin, was mist-netted and photographed in Niaouli forest, 60 km from Cotonou, on 5 October 2000. It did not have any white spots on the tail and its wings measured 174 mm. According to the literature, these measurements only accord with the female of the race zenkeri. This race, however, is only known to occur in the Lower Guinea forest block, westwards to south Cameroon.

A record from 1999 concerns two Grey Pratincoles Glareola cinerea on the beach in front of the Sheraton Hotel, Cotonou.

 

Map

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 13:21 -- abc_admin

References

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 13:18 -- abc_admin
Benin_Yellow_billed_Kite

Yellow-billed Kite Milvus parasitus
Cotonou, Southern Benin, 13 November 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier

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THONNERIEUX, Y. (1985) Notes complémentaires sur l’avifaune des parcs nationaux de l’Arli (Burkina) et de la Pendjari (Benin). Malimbus 7: 137-139.

URBAN, E.K., FRY, H., KEITH, S. and WOODCOCK, M. Birds of Africa Vols I - VII. Vols I - VI published by Academic Press, Vol VII published by new owners Christopher Helm / A & C Black.

van den AKKER, M. (2000), Red-tailed Greenbul Criniger calurus and Chesnut-breasted Negrofinch Nigrita bicolor, new to Benin, ABC Bulletin 7 (2) p 133.

van den AKKER, M. (2003), Birds of the Niaouli Forest, southern Benin. ABC Bulletin 10 (1), pp 16-22 [Corrigenda p. 74].

van den AKKER, M. (2003), First records for Benin of Yellow-Whiskered Greenbul Andropadus latirostris, Western Bearded Greenbul Criniger barbatus and White-browed Forest Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens, ABC Bulletin 10 (2), pp 123-124.

van den AKKER, M. & CLAFFEY, P.M. (2004) Further records from the remnant forests of Benin: White-tailed Ant-Thrush Neocossyphus poensis and Bioko Batis Batis poensis, ABC Bulletin 11 (1), pp 30-31.

VAN MUYEN, B. (2005) First record of Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus for Benin. ABC Bulletin 12 (2) pp 164-165.

VAN MUYEN, B. (2006) First record of Dunlin Calidris alpina for Benin. ABC Bulletin 13 (2) pp 210-211.

WALTERT, M. and MUHLENBERG, M. (1999) Notes on the avifauna of the Noyau Central, Forêt Classée de la Lama, Republic of Benin, Malimbus 21: 82–92.

Contacts

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ABC representative

Fatai Aina amafbenin@yahoo.fr

Bird recorder and checklist compiler

Bruno Portier, c/o DFS GMBH, 06 BP 1725 – Akpakpa, Cotonou, Benin.
e-mail: brunoportier@yahoo.fr

Clubs

There are no addresses for clubs in Benin at present.

Conservation

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Benin_Black_Egret

Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca
Ganvié, Lower Ouémé basin, southern Benin
23 November 2010

Image Credit: 
Julien Gonin
Benin_Waterbirds

Waterbirds caught by children, to be sold less than 1€/individual!
Sô-Ava, Lower Ouémé basin, southern Benin
19 June 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier

Conservation measures

As in many countries facing the challenge of fast growing populations, Benin has serious conservation issues particularly from slash and burn farming which destroys natural habitats and causes uncontrolled erosion and loss of soil fertility, non-sustainable use of wood and illegal cutting for charcoal production which causes a threat to the forests, and from water and air pollution leading to serious public health issues.

Conservation in Benin is under the responsibility of the central government. The Ministry of Environment, Habitat and Urbanism is in charge of nature, wildlife, forests, environment, wastes, pollution issues … a huge never-ending task. The “Service des Eaux et Forêts” and the “Centre National de Gestion des Réserves de Faune” (CENAGREF) operate with the limited means at their disposal.

Benin has a vast network of protected areas, the most important being the two northern parks: Penjari National Parks (2,755 km2) and the National W Park of Benin (5,020 km2). These parks belong to the transboundary Complex WAP (W, Arli and Pendjari Parks) recognized as a ‘World Heritage Site of UNESCO’. An international agreement between the three countries involved (Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger) has protected fauna and flora since 2002. The challenge to maintain this huge area in its pristine state is enormous and the pressure on land is high.

In addition, there is a list of 45 state-owned Classified Forests, all classified under the French occupation (over 50 years ago!). Measures have been taken to protect these Classified Forests, but application is patchy, management plans are not properly applied, large parts of these forests are burnt by local population for farming or invaded by cattle herders, and often only small central parts remain under natural forest. Wari Maro forest has for instance been considerably reduced despite the fact that international co-operation projects for its protection had been initiated. Nowadays, dozens of farmers and poachers on motorbikes come in and out of the reserve all day long; some carrying guns and others chain-saws or axes. The sound of chain-saws is continuous. Large lorries come out full of logs and forest guards appear to be very selective in what they do, most of the “poachers” having the support of foresters, those arrested being only those who have not obtained (or paid for?) their permits from officials. Poaching of wood and animals in the reserve could be controlled with political willpower, but this is obviously lacking for the moment and the current level of poaching is extremely worrying.

Further south, the Lama Classified Forest (4,777 ha), with its central natural forest (1,900 ha) surrounded by teak plantations, is a stunning exception, being fairly well managed and protected, however poaching control and fund raising to support conservation expenses are still major concerns. The same is true for the forests of Niaouli (150 ha) and Pobè (150 ha), which are situated within national agriculture research stations (See ‘Hotspots’).

The only remaining coastal forest at Ahozon (Pahou Classified Forest) (c. 70 ha) also at risk to disappear completely, while the communal forest of Lokoli (c. 300 ha), the largest swamp forest in the country, is threatened by tree cutting for vegetable growth and palm wine production.

In addition to these officially protected forests, thousands of tiny forests (often < 1 ha, but sometimes up to 20-50 ha) are protected by traditional culture. Particularly in the south, these sacred forests, home of Voodoo cults, are the only remnants of natural vegetation. They may host interesting wildlife, however traditional restrictions strongly limit their access and you should never enter alone without asking the local people for permission.

Finally, some coastal sands, swamps, lakes and natural grassland are protected by the Ramsar international agreement but in the field, they enjoy no effective protection or management by national environment authorities.

NGOs' initiatives have not yet proved to be more efficient. Nature Tropicale ONG is a local conservation NGO which aims to help protect the nature, the wildlife and wild habitats of Benin and to encourage a greater awareness, appreciation and participation in all aspects of environment, biodiversity, its conservation and sustainable use, by the Beninese youth. Beyond that commendable mission, the seriousness and the quality with which actions are led by the NGO is unfortunately not yet adequate.

There is no single "right answer" to conservation and a wide range of approaches that recognise that conservation needs to have definable economic benefits if it is to be successful have to be supported. Much remains to be done in Benin however!

Neuenschwander et al. (2011) Nature Conservation in West Africa: Red List for Benin provides a much more detailed review of the current conservation status of the fauna and flora in Benin.

International agreements

Benin has ratified several international conventions and agreements regarding environment and nature conservation including CITES, Bonn (migratory species), UNESCO World Heritage, Bern, Ramsar Humid Zones, Biodiversity Conservation, African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Organisation of African Unity), Convention on Climatic Change, Desertification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection and Ship Pollution.

Books & Sounds

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The western and central parts of Africa now have an excellent guide in the Birds of Western Africa by Borrow and Demey. It is a fantastic reference work and thoroughly recommended. It covers 23 countries south of the Sahara, from Mauritania in the northwest, to Chad and Central African Republic in the east, and Congo Brazzaville in the southeast, including the Cape Verde and Gulf of Guinea Islands. The paperback version is much more portable than the hard cover edition and it is ideal for the field, although there is less detail.

Birds of Africa south of the Sahara also covers the same countries except the Cape Verde Islands.

You can purchase these and other books from WildSounds, one of the largest specialist UK mail-order companies, via our book and media sales page. Many birdwatchers are not only interested in birds, so we have added the most useful books for other taxa on this page.

*** Wildsounds donates 5% of each order generated via these links to the ABC Conservation Fund. Please order here, get a good price and support ABC! ***

Book image: 
Book info: 
Birds of Western Africa, Nik Borrow & Ron Demey, Helm, Hardback.
Book description: 

Helm Identification Guide. 147 plates depicting over 1280 species in 2800 individual figures. Covers Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Rio Muni, Gabon, Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, part of Mauritania and the islands of Sao Tome, Principe and Bioko (Fernando Po). All the species described are illustrated in colour apart from a few vagrants, which are depicted in black-and-white in the text. Distribution maps are provided for the majority of species (except vagrants). 832 pages.

Media type: 
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Book info: 
Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa, Nik Borrow & Ron Demey, Helm, Softback.
Book description: 

Helm Field Guide. Utilises all the plates from the Helm ID Guide by the same authors, with a concise, authoritative text on facing pages, to create a guide covering all 1,304 species found in the region. The guide also contains an updated colour distribution map for each species and a number of new images have been painted just for this guide. Covers Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, Rio Muni, Gabon, Congo, Central African Republic, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, part of Mauritania and the islands of Sao Tome, Principe and Bioko (Fernando Po). 512 pages.

Media type: 
Book image: 
Book info: 
Birds of Africa South of the Sahara, Ian Sinclair & Peter Ryan, New Holland, Softback.
Book description: 

Second edition, including 500 new images and 400 updated distribution maps. Unrivalled coverage of African birds in a single volume. 2129+ species covered with an additional 101 vagrants briefly described. Revised to reflect the latest changes in taxonomy. Species descriptions give precise identification features highlighting differences between similar species as well as briefly reporting habitat, status and call. Annotated illustrations portray distinctive plumages as well as diagnostic flight patterns and major geographic variants where applicable.

Media type: 
Book image: 
Book info: 
Agnès Giannotti's book about birds in Benin
Book description: 

A short review by Caroline Caddick

Oiseaux d’Afrique les plus belles histoires is written by Agnès Giannotti, a general practitioner in Paris who spends part of each year in a fishing village in Benin on the banks of the Niger. She is a keen wildlife photographer and the book evolved from her growing interest in the birds she was photographing and the local folklore relating to them. Agnès believes that in order to conserve the natural world, it is very important to understand the spiritual and historical significance of each species to the local people.

The introduction describes the region from an ecological viewpoint, as well as the people who live there and their belief that the world consists of the visible and the invisible: each tree, animal, utensil is in touch with a parallel world which is very real to these people in their everyday lives. The story of the God of Thunder, who visited the earth to help the Goddess of Water who was under attack illustrates the importance of this. In local folklore, the God of Thunder was only able to return to the heavens after finding and emulating the calls of the Cranes. As a result of this story, the local people are strictly forbidden to kill Cranes. These stories are evocative of fables of La Fontaine and Aesop.

This beautiful book, abundantly illustrated with Agnès’ own photos, evoke a people and a landscape which are evidently very close to her heart.

Media type: 

Visiting

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Benin_White_throated_Bee_eater

White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis
Sô-Ava, Lower Ouémé basin, southern Benin
19 November 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier

Birding tours

There are no true birding tours organized at present in Benin but a number of recent initiatives aiming at developing local birdwatching ecotourism are worth mentioning.

Eco-Benin NGO aims at “Working for Nature and Communities Welfare” and offers a wide range of eco-touristic and community tours across the country. They provide, with professionalism and a high ethical standard, community-based tours between tradition, culture and nature. By increasing local capacities and employment opportunities, ecotourism is an effective vehicle for empowering local communities to fight against poverty and to achieve sustainable development. With an emphasis on enriching personal experiences and environmental awareness, ecotourism promotes greater understanding and appreciation for nature, local society, and culture.

Eco-Benin works with international tour-operators as well as with individual travellers. Their website provides all you need to know: www.ecobenin.com/.

Benin Environment and Education Society (BEES ONG) works for people and nature and aims at biodiversity conservation and community development through ecotourism. They are currently developing a very promising ornithological tour in Sô-Ava, where most of the water birds from Nokoué Lake are likely to be found and with a bit of luck the rare Anambra Waxbill. A pirogue is available, a watchtower has been built and guides are trained. They also intend to develop a ‘Benin Bird Route’ on the model of Costa Rica. We wish them success wih this venture. More information is available at www.bees-ong.org .

The local NGO Nature Tropicale provides several ecotourist activities. In Grand-Popo, they offer Sea Turtle activities during the laying season. From August to November, they offer whale-watching pelagic trips off Cotonou to observe Humpback Whales Megaptera noaveanglia which are quite common in the waters off Benin at that period. This is an excellent opportunity to find seabirds. In September 2012, several Wilson’s Storm Petrels Oceanites oceanicus were observed offshore during one of these trips.

Benin_Humpback_Whales

Humpback Whales Megaptera noaveanglia and Wilson’s Storm Petrels Oceanites oceanicus, c. 20 km off Cotonou, Photo: Bruno Portier, 16 September 2012

Trip reports

A small number of reports have been submitted in recent years. Two are available here in PDF format but they may include unconfirmed records and are provided for information only.

Benin Bird Trip Report (Jan - Feb 2010) by Alain Fossé (in French). 14 pages: full birding trip report, with checklist of 223 species, detailed itinerary, accommodation information, phone numbers of hotels and drivers, sites GPS coordinates and daily lists including Cotonou and coast, Nokoué Lake, Camp Numi, Pendjari National Park, Forêt de la Lama, Hlan / koussoukpa (= Lokoli Forest), Grand Popo and Bouches du Roy. A PDF copy is available to download here (344 Kb).

Benin Bird Trip Report (Nov 2010) by Julien Gonin (in French). 33 pages: full birding trip report, with annotated checklist of 270 species, selection of pictures, accommodation information, phone numbers of hotels and guide, detailed itinerary including Cotonou and coast, Grand Popo and Bouches du Roy, Lokoli Forest, pays Somba, Pendjari National Park, Tanougou waterfalls, Nokoué Lake and Sô River. A PDF copy is available to download here (4.2 Mb).

Benin_Abdims_Stork

Abdim’s Stork Ciconia abdimii
Niger River, northern Benin
Photo: Agnès Giannotti, 23 July 2006

 

Guides

There are no professional birding guides known in Benin. In the two northern parks and in the Lama Classified Forest, the services of a professional guide, available at the entrance, are necessary. Some may have excellent identification skills but others may just know the name of 10 birds or so. If the choice is possible, let them know you would strongly prefer a guide with advanced birding abilities. Anywhere else, independent birders may well be able to obtain the services of local people or off-duty forest rangers for local trips. Maarten van den Akker notes that there are several local guides at the Niaouli Forest.

Logistics

Independent birders can fly into Cotonou from Paris with Air France, from Brussels with SN-Brussels Airlines and from many other European capitals with Royal Air Maroc via Casablanca. There are also a number of cheap intra-African connections, via Lagos, Dakar or Abidjan. Travelling from Cotonou to Parakou, Malanville or Nattintingou either needs a private car or requires the use of local taxis. These can be negotiated and for two people would be quite cheap. An alternative is to wait and share and pay less. A typical trip to Parakou with hire car should cost around 50€, and to Grand Popo probably around 15€. The local currency is the CFA Franc at 656/€. Note that credit cards are not widely accepted and getting cash from automatic bank walls is virtually possible and only in Cotonou, but even then you might experience frequent and frustrating ‘out of use’ messages; be prepared!

French is the official language and up to 40 African languages are spoken. English is fairly widely spoken because of the proximity of Nigeria.

Further information can be found at Lonely Planet.

Safety

Safety and health issues are no different from those in many African countries. Guidebooks, travel companies and websites provide much of the advice one needs, but key points warrant repetition here: (1) be aware of the risk of malaria and seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended; (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling); (3) do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun for too long, ensure you use sun-block, drink plenty of water and wear a hat; (4) be aware of the risk of AIDS; (5) ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles; (6) do not walk around the city after dark, and take particular care to avoid the beach and isolated areas near the beach after dark; (7) remember also that the ocean currents along the coast are extremely strong and treacherous, with rough surf and a strong undertow, and several people drown each year.

See the following 2 websites for the latest safety and travel information: US Travel and UK FCO.

Traffic safety and road conditions

The information below concerning Benin is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

With the exception of the road linking Cotonou in the south to Malanville on the border with Niger in the north, from both Parakou and Savalou in central Benin to Natitingou and Burkina Faso border in the north-western part of the country, roads in Benin are generally in poor condition and are often impassable during the rainy season. Even the above-mentioned sealed roads to Burkina and Niger have deep potholes. Benin's unpaved roads vary widely in quality; deep sand and potholes are common. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, dirt roads often become impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with full spare tyres and emergency equipment are recommended.

Traffic moves on the right and an international driving licence is necessary for drivers.

Most of the main streets in Cotonou are paved, but side streets are often made of dirt and have deep potholes. Cotonou has no public transportation system; many Beninese people rely on bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, and zemidjans (moto-taxis). Travelers using zemidjans, particularly at night, are much more vulnerable to being mugged, assaulted or robbed. Buses and bush taxis offer service in the interior but we strongly recommend not to travel long distances by car at night as roads are much more dangerous after dark and most of lethal accidents or car jacking happen at night.

Benin-Black-Crake

Black Crake Amaurornis flavirostra, Malanville, north Benin
Photo: Agnès Giannotti, 13th November 2010

 

Hotspots

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Benin_Yellow_throated_Longclaw

Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus
Cotonou, airport beach, southern Benin
1st October 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier
Benin_Royal_Terns_Cotonou

Royal Terns Sterna maxima
Cotonou harbour, southern Benin
9 September 2010

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier

The IBAs section should be consulted as well because it lists key sites for conservation classified as Important Bird Areas by Birdlife International. These areas are of course always worth a visit for birdwatchers but the details given in the IBAs section will not be repeated here.

Additional areas that are known to offer good birding opportunities are listed below from south to north. A brief site description is given, as well as key species and possible accommodation where known.

1. Cotonou harbour and surroundings

Although natural ecosystems are shrinking quickly following recent works to extend the harbour terminals, the very narrow area of wet sand dropping into the sea and the few remaining acres of wet salty vegetation provide an unexpected number of surprises. Resident Cotonou birders found no fewer than 7 new species for the country from 2009 to 2011: Water Thick-knee (Dikkop) Burhinus vermiculatus (regularly seen / heard in the area), American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica (a vagrant on 24 September 2010), Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres (uncommon, a handful records since 2010), Red Knot Calidris canutus (uncommon, three records since 2010), Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis (two vagrants, 17-20 September 2011), Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus (one chasing Royal Terns on 6 October 2010) and Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis (two on 9 September 2010).

The commonest species usually encountered here are terns and waders. Royal Tern Sterna maxima is seen all the year round and groups up to 200-300 may sit on the beach at the base of the new dyke built west of the harbour entrance (06°20’30’’N 02°25’42’’E), often with Sandwich Tern S. sandvicensis. Occasionally, other terns may join them, such as Arctic S. paradisaea, Common S. hirundo, Caspian S. caspia, the rare Damara S. balaenarum and Little S. albifrons. Laridae are rare and only a few Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus were recently reported. Among the waders, several palaearctic migrants are seen in small numbers from September to May. Sanderling Calidris alba and Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula are by far the most common with groups up to 60-80 individuals. Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos are also seen daily with numbers sometimes up to 10-15. All others species recorded are occasional, usually in low numbers and for one or just a few days.

In the salty vegetation, Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava can be abundant on passage, while a few Plain-backed Pipits Anthus leucophrys and a single or a pair of Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus can be found as well. Winding and Zitting Cisticolas Cisticola galactotes and C. juncudis are encountered in humid vegetation.

Despite its location in the heart of the industrial activities of the city, the western harbour is still a productive birding destination as well as providing beautiful natural scenery. The harbour beach can be accessed from the westernmost harbour entry on the Boulevard de la Marina (on the right after “Obama Beach” when coming from the airport). The salty grass areas situated between Hotel Marina garden and the beach or on the airport beach further west near Fidjrossé are also of interest. Further east, the Hotel du Lac offers good views of the mouth of Nokoué Lake (06°21'27''N 02°26'42''E) where good numbers of terns may occasionally be seen flying above the three bridges. Up to 200 1st summer Black Terns Chlidonias niger oversummered here from May to September 2009, while the rare African Skimmer Rhynchops flavirostris was seen for no more than five minutes on 4 May 2011 before it flew north entering Nokoué Lake.

2. Togbin – Houndodji lagoon

Situated c. 12 km west of Cotonou, along the famous “Route des pêches” (Fishing Road) leading along the beach from Cotonou to Ouidah, Togbin – Houndodji lagoon is an easily reachable birding spot from Cotonou. Accommodation is available year-round at ‘Jardin Helvetia’ (sea side along “Route des pêches). During week-ends, the famous Bab’s Dock, an eco-touristic resort situated just behind ‘Jardin Helvetia’ (lagoon side), offers great food, cold drinks, beautiful scenery and pleasant nautical activities on the lagoon (canoeing, sailing, swimming, sunbathing on the beautiful wooden deck …). Access by boat through the mangrove (2.500 CFA per pers.) provides an appreciable wild and off the beaten track taste to the place. A perfect place for a family stay (c. 06°21' N 02°16' E).

Coastal habitats include a belt of coconut plantations up to 200-300 m wide growing immediately behind the sand road. Very little natural coastal shrubland remains underneath the coconuts, the biggest clump (about 2 ha) of low thicket near Togbin is dominated by Syzygium guineense littorale and Chrysobalanus icaco 1-2 m tall, with also Zanthoxylum zanthoxyloides. Behind this, small lagoons, marshes, patches of Avicennia mangrove and open water will be found.

Although a lot of species will be encountered (kingfishers, jacanas …), a few typical ones are to highligh aret: Levaillant’s Cuckoo Clamator levaillantii (a non breeding dry season visitor), Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus, Yellow-throated Leaflove Chlorocichla flavicollis, Simple Greenbul Chlorocichla simplex, Greater Swamp Warbler Acrocephalus rufescens (rare and recently discovered in Benin), Oriole Warbler Hypergerus atriceps (widespread but much more often heard than seen), Common Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea, Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus, Brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus (recently discovered in Benin, where it is apparently restricted to coastal lagoons and coconut plantations), Green-headed Sunbird Nectarinia verticalis, Carmelite Sunbird Nectarinia fuliginosa (a typical coastal scrub species) and Orange Weaver Ploceus aurantius.

Benin_Brown_Sunbird

Brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus
Bab’s Dock, Houndodji lagoon, southern Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 7 November 2010

3. Pahou Classified Forest (Ahozon forest)

Despite what its name may indicate, the state-owned forest of Pahou is closer to Ouidah than to Pahou, being west of the village of Ahozon. It is the last remnant of coastal semi-evergreen rain forest in Benin. Today, this classified forest consists mainly of plantations (especially Acacia auriculiformis, a fast-growing Australian species appreciated as full-wood) and the remnant of natural forest is in the shape of a triangle covering about 100 ha. Situated just to the north of the RNIE-1 road (Cotonou-Ouidah), the natural forest is easily accessible by taking the track heading north at 06°22'45’’N, 02°09'47’’E. Park your car near the forest station (400 m further, on the right of the track) and follow the signpost “sentier écotouristique” to enter the natural forest (left of the track). Within the forest, the canopy is occasionally closed in undisturbed sections, thus with sheltered understorey. Although no complete inventory of the avifauna is available for Pahou forest, several interesting species are worth mentioning: African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro, Tambourine Dove Turtur tympanistria, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus, Buff-spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa, Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus, Little Greenbul Andropadus virens, Cameroon Sombre Greenbul A. curvirostris, Simple Greenbul Chlorocichla simplex (edges), Leaflove Pyrrhurus scandens, White-throated Greenbul Phyllastrephus albigularis, Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapilla, Western Nicator Nicator chloris, Grey Longbill Macrosphenus concolor, Brown IlladopsisIlladopsis fulvescens, Olive Sunbird Nectarinia olivacea, Olive-bellied Sunbird N. chloropygia (edges), Sabine’s Puffback Dryoscopus sabini, Square-tailed Drongo Dicrurus ludwigii, Forest Chestnut-winged Starling Onychognathus fulgidus and Red-headed Malimbe Malimbus rubricollis.

More species, for instance Compact Weaver Ploceus superciliosus, are recorded in the nearby Acacia plantation and small thickets, and along the lake situated north-east of the forest.

Benin_Compact_Weaver

Compact Weaver Ploceus superciliosus
Edges of Pahou Classified Forest, southern Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 4 September 2011

4. Pobè Forest

Pobè lies 50 km north of Porto-Novo on the RN-3 road to Ketou. It is close to the Nigerian border, and the forest is indeed crossed by a sand track used daily by hundreds of pedestrians and motorcycles carrying goods from Nigeria to sell in Benin. The forest is about 150 ha and is protected within the Pobè Agricultural Research Station (“Station de Recherche sur le Palmier à huile de Pobè”), which carries out research on the genetics of Elaeis palms (6°58’N, 2°40’E). Palm plantations are rather bare here so as to make access to study plants as easy as possible; grass and shrubs are regularly cut back and also grazed by cattle. There are several watchmen’s huts scattered around the plantations and along one side of the forest reserve; they are manned day and night, but mostly to protect the plantations. The forest itself is somewhat disturbed by illegal wood collecting; hurricanes have been responsible for the felling of several large trees recently. The forest is surrounded by a well-marked trail, and there are two other main paths crossing the forest in addition to the much used track from the border. A stream crosses the forest and spreads into a small area of swamp forest itself crossed by the track from the border. Other patches of secondary forest can be seen in two places beyond the confines of Pobè station, some planted with Acacia auriculiformis and mixed with native plants.

The main part of the forest is very open, with large scattered trees reaching heights of 40-50 m or even 55 m. The densest fragment of forest (with also more lianes) is in the swampy section and covers a few ha, but disturbance by the almost incessant traffic is a problem in that area.

Insufficiently known until now, the avifauna of Pobè holds a good number of interesting species: Red-thighed Sparrowhawk Accipiter erythropus, African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro, White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, African Wood Owl Strix woodfordii, Black-shouldered Nightjar Caprimulgus (pectoralis) nigriscapularis, Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus (non-breeding visitor), Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis (rare), White-crested Hornbill Tropicranus albocristatus (uncommon), African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus, Naked-faced Barbet Gymnobucco calvus (extinct?), Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsute, Buff-spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul Andropadus latirostris (rare), Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapillus, Buff-throated Apalis Apalis rufogularis, Buff-throated Sunbird Nectarinia adelberti, Tiny Sunbird Nectarinia minulla (only know spot in the Dahomey Gap), Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis, Northern Red-billed Helmet Shrike Prionops caniceps, Forest Chestnut-winged Starling Onychognathus fulgidus, Yellow-mantled Weaver Ploceus tricolor, Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus and Grey-crowned Negrofinch Nigrita canicapillus (widespread in the forest zone).

5. Niaouli Forest

Niaouli, situated c. 50 km north-west of Cotonou (06°44’N 02°09’E), is perhaps the most studied site in Benin from an ornithological point of view. It has been extensively covered by van den Akker from 2000 to 2003 and Dowsett & Dowsett-Lemaire further contributed in 2009 and 2011.

The forest belongs to the national agricultural research station of Niaouli, situated in the village of Attogon, about an hour's drive from Cotonou. It consists of a plateau (dry) forest and a wetter bas-fond (humid) forest covering c. 150 ha in total. Heading north on the RNIE-2 sealed road, 5 km after Allada, near Attogon, follow on the sign on the left side of the road for the Centre Régional de Recherche Agricole de Niaouli. Pass the tall communication relay antenna and follow the track for c. 3 km. The research station is on the left. Register at the gate or at the small visitors centre. Reliable guides are available and it is possible to stay overnight (camping or accommodation is available in a rest house with 3 bedrooms and electricity). A forest trail runs through the plateau forest, allowing a nice birding walk. A watchtower provides a good canopy view but it was in such poor condition recently (attacked by termites) that we can only recommend climbing with much care. To reach the bas-fond forest, do not enter the research station itself but follow the main track for c. 2 more kilometres.

Many interesting forest species were recorded here and we may just cite a few: Black Goshawk (Sparrowhawk) Accipiter melanoleucus, Red-thighed (Western Little) Sparrowhawk Accipiter erythropus, White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra, Tambourine Dove Turtur tympanistria, Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, Narina’s Trogon Apaloderma narina, Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus (non-breeding visitor), Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis, African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus, Naked-faced Barbet Gymnobucco calvus (now extinct, the known breeding tree fell down), Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus, Willcocks’s Honeyguide Indicator willcocksi, Fire-bellied Woodpecker Thripias pyrrhogaster, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike Campephaga quiscalina, Honeyguide Greenbul Baeopogon indicator (only known site in Benin), Swamp Palm Bulbul Thescelocichla leucopleura (at bas-fond), Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax, Grey Longbill Macrosphenus concolor, Green Hylia Hylia prasina, Yellow-browed Camaroptera Camaroptera superciliaris, Rufous-crowned Eremomela Eremomela badiceps, Shrike-flycatcher Megabyas flammulatus, Chestnut Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia castanea, Brown Illadopsis Illadopsis fulvescens, Tit-hylia Pholidornis rushiae (only known site in Benin), Little Green Sunbird Nectarinia seimundi (only known site in Benin), Northern Red-billed Helmet Shrike Prionops caniceps, Yellow-mantled Weaver Ploceus tricolor, Blue-billed and Red-headed Malimbe Malimbus nitens and M. rubricollis, Black-bellied Seedcracker Pyrenestes ostrinus and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch Nigrita bicolor.

Benin_Speckled_Tinkerbird

Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus Photo: Maarten van den Akker

 

Benin_Black_bellied_Seedcracker

Black-bellied Seedcracker Pyrenestes ostrinus
Mist-netted female, Photo: Maarten van den Akker, 10 February 2001

 

An old record of White-crested Tiger Heron Tigriornis leucolopha (Anciaux, 1996) is from the bas-fond forest but today the area is probably too heavily disturbed by people for this species to survive there.

Interestingly, note that unlike other forest sites in the country, the common tinkerbird in Niaouli is Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus and not Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird P. bilineatus. Also the common oriole to be found in the dry forests of the south is Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis and not Western Black-headed Oriole O. brachyrhynchus as it has been confusingly stated by several authors in the past. In addition, one should note that several species mentioned by van den Akker (van den Akker, M. 2003a. Birds of Niaouli forest, southern Benin. Bull. ABC 10: 16–22 [Corrigenda p. 74] and van den Akker, M. & Claffey, P. 2004. Further records from the remnant forests of Benin: White-tailed Ant Thrush Neocossyphus poensis and Bioko Batis Batis poensis. Bull. ABC 11: 32–33) were later rejected by Dowsett & Dowsett-Lemaire (2011).

Benin_Niaouli_Forest

The very open canopy can be seen well from the watchtower, Niaouli Forest, southern Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 13 February 2010

6. Lokoli Swamp Forest

Situated on a tributary of the Ouémé river (the Hlan), the Lokoli swamp forest is only about 12 km north-east of the Lama forest. The exact size is unknown but the width of the forest is between 500 and 800 m, perhaps on a few km long north-west to south-east, but it may narrow down to a strip of Raphia or secondary growth to the south of Lokoli village. Although it is officially under the management of a local conservation NGO (Nature Tropicale ONG), it is not protected in any way, and farmers are busy cutting down patches of forest to grow vegetables. The local village communities have apparently decided to clear the wetter forest on the western bank near Dèmè, while preserving (for the time being) the closed-canopy forest on the eastern bank. The river itself is only a few metres wide and very twisty.

On the western bank the forest is flooded at all times, and it is difficult to walk, although one can try to hop around roots or raised mounds at the basis of trees. The understorey is rather open, with pools of water and a modest scattering of saplings and tall herbs. The forest on the eastern bank is much less wet; although the ground is spongy it is possible to walk in the dry season without sinking in too much. The canopy is taller (from 25-30 m near the edge to 30-35 m further inside) and more closed, with cover around 80 to 90%. On the western side, the edges are less clearly defined, but there is also much encroachment by gardens, and the path to the embarcadère crosses an area of low bush and thicket. The crossing from the Dèmè embarcadère to the other side takes about 15 minutes. It is also possible to explore the stream but it would be preferable to book a small pirogue prior to coming as the main large pirogue is busy all day long transporting people, motorbikes and an amazing variety of goods.

As nothing is really organised, the best to do if you plan a visit to Lokoli is to arrange with Eugène, the manager of the Auberge d’Abomey (+229 97.89.87.25). He can organise the car, the pirogue, the meals and even an overnight in a neighbouring village if you want to be in the forest at sunset (very much recommended for early songs). Another option is to stay in Abomey (1 hour drive from Lokoli), in the heart of the old administrative district of the historic capital of the kingdom Fon. The Auberge is a very convivial and welcoming place and Eugène particularly hospitable. ‘Chez Monique’ is another very recommended place in Abomey, with affordable rooms and food, while it is worth avoiding staying in Bohicon as the city is noisy with traffic through the night.

The avifauna of this particular habitat is unique in Benin and Lokoli hosts a number of species that are unlikely to be encountered elsewhere in the country: White-crested Tiger Heron Tigriornis leucolopha, Long-tailed Hawk Urotriorchis macrourus (one record, first for Benin but perhaps no more than an unsettled wanderer), Vermiculated Fishing Owl Scotopelia bouvieri, Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsuta (also discovered in Pobè forest), Little Spotted Woodpecker Campethera cailliautii, Western Bearded Greenbul Criniger barbatus, Finsch’s Flycatcher Thrush Stizorhina fraseri finschi and White-browed Forest Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens.

Also common here are Red-tailed Greenbul Criniger calurus, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer, Coppery, Splendid and Superb Sunbirds Nectarinia cuprea, N. coccinigaster and N. superba, Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis, Blue-billed and Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus nitens and M. scutatus.

Benin_Lokoli_Swamp_Forest

Lokoli Swamp Forest, southern Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 17 November 2010

7. Atchirigbé Classified Forest

The Forêt Classée d’Atchirigbé lies along the RNIE-2 road heading north between Bohicon and Dassa-Zoumè in the central-south of the country at c. 07°33’N 02°07°E. It is easy to find and to access as it starts westward from the macadam (just 200 m before the railway crosses the main road). Tall Khaya senegalensis trees (commonly known as African mahogany) planted under the French occupation and old neglected teaks Tectona grandis plantations occupy a small ravine down to the Zou river.

A brief visit in May 2011 provided the following unexpected surprises: Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni, Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster and Black-bellied Firefinch Lagonosticta rara and it might well be worth a visit for anyone with a few hours to spend in the area.

8. The Collines’ escarpments (Dassa hill, Kpataba cliff)

In the centre of the country, the numerous inselbergs, escarpments, cliffs, rocky hills and outcrops situated in the Departement des Collines are not included in IBAs. Stretching along the main Dassa-Zoumè – Parakou road or along the Savalou – Bantè road (en route to Pendjari NP), they are often easy to access and home to a number of particular species. A brief visit might be of interest for fulfilling a trip list as well as to enjoy great views after achieving a healthy climbing effort. Remember that sunhat and water are essential under the local heat.

The particular species to be encountered here include the African Rock Martin Hirundo fuligula, Mocking Chat Myrmecocichla cinnamomeiventris, Rock-loving Cisticola Cisticola aberrans. There has also been one tentative report of Red-winged Starling Onychognathus morio, a species "strongly stenotopic to inselbergs and rocky outcroppings" that has been recorded in Nigeria and Burkina Faso. Confirmation of its presence would make a welcome addition to the Benin list.

Most of these spots are little (or not at all) investigated and probably most of them may turn out to be productive. The two main sites we would recommend are Dassa hill (situated in town of Dassa-Zoumè at c. 07°47’ N 02°11’E) and Kpataba cliff, further north-west just along the main road between Savalou and Bantè (at c. 08°04’N 01°58’E),which peaks at 540 m above sea level, while the plain downwards is at c. 210 m height. Numerous inselbergs from Savè to Ouèssè (on the road to Parakou) may also be very productive. Additionally, the area to the east of Dassa-Zoumé has some interesting bush, while the area to the north-west towards Savalou and beyond (Forêt d’Agoua) is also of interest and very poorly known. Brief stops in these open landscapes can produce a wide variety of birds, including many raptors and other savannah-centered species.

Note that some of these places may be sacred and have traditional restriction access. As far as possible, try to ask local people or children if access on your own is permitted or if you need to be accompanied.

In Dassa-Zoumè, the Auberge de Dassa, which belongs to the same group as the Auberge d’Abomey, is a very suitable location for exploring interesting sites in the area. More hotels are available in Dassa from the high-standing Jeco Hotel to the very affordable accommodation offered by the Sisters of the Mariale Cave (right from the Basilica). The city of Dassa is indeed famous as a place of pilgrimage; the Virgin Mary said to have appeared in “La Grotte Mariale Notre Dame d'Arigbo”, around which a basilica has since been built. In Savalou, 35 km further to the north-west, the Auberge de Savalou is also very affordable and welcoming.

Benin_Kpataba_Cliffs

Kpataba cliff peaks at 540 m, Collines Department, central Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 10 October 2011

9. Tobé Forest

The pleasant Tobé Forest (08°19’30’’N 01°50’30’’E) is protected privately, by Alain Ratié and his collaborators. It aims to conserve natural resources based on local traditions and at local development through honey production, ecotourism and other income generating activities. Situated 6 km south of the village of Koko, itself a few km south-west of Bantè, in the Département des Collines, the property consists of some 800 ha of transition woodland (woodland returning in part to dry forest), with some riparian forest on a spring below Tobé Rock (a round granite hill) and along a stream (the Zou) forming the boundary with Agoua Classified Forest. Villagers at Koko can advise visitors on the route from there to Tobé but remember that the camp is not permanently open and a visit must be arranged in advance with Alain.

CENTRE ENERGETIQUE DE TOBE,
Association de Développement (Apiculture, nature et traditions …), Alain Ratié & Ghislaine Winckler: algiratie@hotmail.com or vogue.creation@yahoo.fr
Tel.: (+229) 97 64 41 22 or (+229) 67 41 73 21

The bungalows and rest camp are built at the base of the rocky hill, which affords wonderful views over the forest. It is obvious from the hill that Anogeissus leiocarpus is the most common tree locally. Pleasant walks and easy birding are possible in the forest thanks of some 20 km of trails opened in the understorey.

The site is not yet extensively studied from an ornithological point of viewpoint but, situated in the transition zone, it is clear that is hosts both northern species at the southern edge of their distribution range, as for instance Fox Kestrel Falco alopex, Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis and Yellow White-eye Zosterops senegalensis, as well as several species associated with rain forest or transition woodland reaching their northern known range limit: White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, Yellowbill (Green Malkoha) Ceuthmochares aereus, Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni, Leaflove Pyrrhurus scandens and Pulvel’s Illadopsis Illadopsis puveli.

Among other interesting species reported from Tobé, we may highlight the following: Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus with one record of a bird attempting to catch a Rock Hyrax (Procavia) on the hill, suggesting that this big raptor could survive in large reserves of transition woodland and not just rain forest, Freckled Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma often noisy around the hill, easily attracted with playback and sometimes found sitting on top of the rock during the day, Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensis, Green and Violet Turacos Tauraco persa and Musophaga violacea, Spotted Eagle Owl Bubo (cinerascens) africanus and African Wood Owl Strix woodfordii both heard around the rest camp at night, Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima, Piping Hornbill Bycanistes fistulator still remarkably common here in riparian forest but also in transition woodland, Western Nicator Nicator chloris common in riparian forest and transition woodland, Grey-headed Bristlebill Bleda canicapillus in riparian forest and Rock-loving Cisticola Cisticola aberrans in low scrub on Tobé Rock.

Several remarkable migrants were recorded here in April 2011, of which about 100 Red-footed Falcons Falco vespertinus, some Mottled Swifts Tachymarptis aequatorialis and 6 African Black Swifts Apus barbatus (the first record for the country) were seen around the hill.

Benin_Freckled_Nightjar

Freckled Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma
Tobè Rock, central Benin,
Photo: Bruno Portier, 25 February 2012

 

Species

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Benin_Anambra_Waxbill

Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia, Vulnerable
Sô-Ava, Lower Ouémé basin, southern Benin, 26 February 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier
Benin_Turnstone

Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres
Cotonou airport beach, Southern Benin, 1st October 2011

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier
Benin_Damara_Terns

Damara Terns Sterna balaenarum, Near Threatened
Cotonou harbour, Southern Benin, 11 September 2010

Image Credit: 
Bruno Portier

Benin has a large variety of habitats from coastal to sahelian ecosystems through to a wide range of forests and savannahs. This range of habitats supports a broad avian diversity and most of the species and families which can be found in the country will be listed in the categories below:

Ubiquitous species: commensal species like Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus, Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Ethiopian Swallow Hirundo aethiopica and Piacpiac Ptilostomus afer;

Savannah-centered species: many raptors, rollers and bee-eaters;

Forest-centered species: with for instance Fire-bellied Woodpecker Dendropicos pyrrhogaster, Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax, Fraser's Forest Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata and many more;

Marsh / wetland-centered species: herons and allies, pratincoles, rails, waders and allies;

Outcrop / escarpment species: Rock Martin Ptyonoprogne fuligula, Mocking Cliff Chat Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris, Lazy Cisticola Cisticola aberrans, Freckled Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma etc;

Seabirds: mainly terns and gulls but this group is poorly known and many more seabirds species are likely to occur offshore. While the warm waters of the Bay of Benin are poor in phytoplanktons and consequently relatively poor in birdlife, it is still worth observing the birdlife.

This is especially true from April to October when the Bay of Benin may be subject to stormy conditions brought about by the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITZC) when wind blowing from the sea may bring pelagic species close to the shore line.

One may find West African residents, Palearctic migrants as well as intra-African migrants from central or south Africa. Two rare Nearctic vagrants were even found recently in Cotonou: American Golden Plover Pluvialis dominica and Buff-breasted Sandpiper Tryngites subruficollis.

Country checklist and status

Excel macro-enabled spreadsheets including the full country list, the coordinates of major birding sites and a template to facilitate fulfilling and submitting of bird records is available for download in either English or French. These were loaded onto the website on 8th November 2012.

For the purpose of studying bird distribution across the country, Benin has been dissected into 48 half-degree squares as for some neighbouring countries (see NiBDaB for Niger at www.nibdab.org). See the 'readme 1st' sheet in the Excel spreadsheet available at this website to see how the squares are labelled. We would like to encourage anyone submitting bird records from Benin to use this geographical convention.

While it is difficult to speculate on exactly how many species might be found in the country, it seems probable that it is well over 600. With a current total of 565, the list is certainly beginning to take shape, but there is a lack of detail and work remains to be done to establish its full extent and to fill in the larger picture: breeding, migration, status etc. Trips or studies by competent birders would clearly add a substantial amount of knowledge. Manners (2010) for instance discovered the first Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres for Benin in Cotonou in February 2011 but singles have been regularly encountered since and the species is doubtless annual in small numbers on the coast.

Endemic species

There are no true endemic species in Benin however since the recent discovery of the Vulnerable Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia, formerly endemic to Nigeria, Benin shares with its eastern neighbour this species as a near-endemic.

Threatened species

The table below lists the species at threat at a global (international) level. More species face conservation issues at national level. See Neuenschwander et al. (2011) for more details.

White-backed Vulture

Gyps africanus

Near Threatened

Rüppell's Vulture

Gyps rueppellii

Near Threatened

Lappet-faced Vulture

Torgos tracheliotus

Vulnerable

White-headed Vulture

Trigonoceps occipitalis

Vulnerable

Beaudouin's Snake Eagle

Circaetus beaudouini

Vulnerable

Bateleur

Terathopius ecaudatus

Near Threatened

Pallid Harrier

Circus macrourus

Near Threatened

Crowned Eagle

Stephanoaetus coronatus

Endangered

Martial Eagle

Polemaetus bellicosus

Near Threatened

Red-footed Falcon

Falco vespertinus

Near Threatened

Denham's Bustard

Neotis denhami

Near Threatened

Black Crowned Crane

Balearica pavonina

Vulnerable

Great Snipe

Gallinago media

Near Threatened

Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa

Near Threatened

Buff-breasted Sandpiper

Tryngites subruficollis

Near Threatened

Damara Tern

Sterna balaenarum

Near Threatened

African Skimmer

Rynchops flavirostris

Near Threatened

Anambra Waxbill

Estrilda poliopareia

Vulnerable

Reference: BirdLife International (2010) The BirdLife checklist of the birds of the world, with conservation status and taxonomic sources.

Important Bird Areas

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 12:45 -- abc_admin
Benin_Slender_billed_Gull

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei, with Royal and Sandwich Terns Sterna maxima and S. sandvicensis
Bouches du Roy, southern Benin
12 November 2010

Image Credit: 
Julien Gonin

These pages have undergone a major revision in March 2012 with newly available information.

BirdLife International has identified six Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Benin, covering 14,900 km2.

IBA code Site name Department
BJ001 W du Bénin National Park Borgou
BJ002 Pendjari National Park Atacora
BJ003 Ouémé river basin Borgou
BJ004 Lower Ouémé - Lake Nokoué - Porto - Novo Lagoon complex Atlantique, Ouémé
BJ005 Lake Ahémé and Aho complex Atlantique, Mono
BJ006 Lama forest Zou

1. W du Bénin National Park (BJ001): The W National Park covers a vast trans-boundary area of which 598,000 ha are in Benin in the extreme north of the country. It has been much less investigated than Pendjari National Park. The landscape is mainly flat and the habitat is much more wooded than in Pendjari, ranging from woodland with Bombax costatum, Crossopteryx febrifuga, Isoberlinia doka, Parkia biglobosa, Terminalia laxiflora and Anogeissus leiocarpus, to wooded or scrub savannahs. The area is drained by several seasonal rivers northward into the Niger, notably the Mekrou and the Alibori, bordered with rich riparian forests. A few water holes (Mare 25, Mare Barabou, Mare Boni) attract many mammals and birds such as Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, Abdim's Stork Ciconia abdimii which is common on passage, may breed in small numbers but is usually absent in the dry season (a “black-and-white” stork in November - March is more likely a Black Stork Ciconia nigra) and Hadada Bostrychia hagedash but large periodically inundated plains are missing and species associated with this habitat, notably African Openbill Stork Anastomus lamelligerus, Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis and Northern Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina, are less common here than in Pendjari National Park.

As often in the open landscapes of West-African savannahs, a wide variety of raptors occur: Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus, Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus, Brown Snake Eagle Circaetus cinereus, Western Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus cinerascens, African Harrier Hawk Polyboroides typus, Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates, Gabar Goshawk Micronisus gabar, Red-necked Buzzard Buteo auguralis, African Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus spilogaster, Grey Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus, Red-necked Falcon Falco chicquera, African Hobby Falco cuvierii, Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus and many more are all common though in small numbers. Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus is not uncommon. Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis is a common dry season intra-African migrant, while Ovambo Sparrowhawk Accipiter ovampensis is on the other hand an uncommon resident. Among night birds, the secretive Pel's Fishing-owl Scotopelia peli, is known to occur along the rivers, although challenging to find.

Benin_White_backed_Vulture

African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus and African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer
W du Bénin National Park, northern Benin
Photos: Agnès Giannotti 28 December 2006:

Four-banded Sandgrouse Pterocles quadricinctus are very common in the dry season and can be seen every evening when they come to drink along rivers and pools. Red-throated Bee-eaters Merops bulocki are common near rivers (where they breed at the end of the dry season), and Little Green Bee-eaters Merops orientalis are common throughout the park. Black-headed Lapwing Vanellus tectus is widespread and easily seen from a vehicle. Red-billed Hornbill Tockus erythrorhynchus is also a common feature of the park, while the three common Glossy Starlings are Long-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis caudatus, Purple Glossy Starling L. purpureus and Lesser Blue-eared Starling L. chloropterus.

Speckle-fronted Weaver Sporopipes frontalis and African Silverbill Euodice cantans occur commonly, while the rare Emin’s Shrike Lanius gubernator has been found in the Mékrou river area. There are also a few records of African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris on the Niger and several possible observations of River Prinia Prinia fluviatilis from Karimama area. The species has been recorded on the Niger side of the river however, so far, no certain records were made on the southern (Benin) bank of the river. This is worth further investigation.

Benin_Black_headed_Heron

Black-headed Herons Ardea melanocephala with Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis
Ile aux oiseaux, Niger River, northern Benin
Photo: Agnès Giannotti, 23 February 2012

The W du Bénin Park is undoubtedly of great interest for birds and wildlife. The “piste régionale” is open all the year round but the gravel roads and tracks inside can be rather rough during the dry season and nearly impassable during the wet season when the park is closed to visitors anyway. In the park itself a 4WD is pretty much a necessity. There are a number of small hotels in Kandi and one or two in Malanville. Within the park, the “Campement des Chutes de Koudou” has the only accommodation on the Benin side. Alternatively, it is also possible to camp in many places with a guide, and camping is free of charge. The Niger IBA page can also be consulted for more information on birds and accommodation on the Niger side of the park.

There are also a number interesting places and villages to visit around the park, including l'Ile aux Oiseaux (Birds Island) and Karimama area along the Niger River, where eco-touristic and community tours are developed under the incentive of Eco-Benin NGO. The eco-guides will warmly welcome you and invite you to discover the region. Information is available at http://www.tour-communautaire-parcw.net/ and http://www.ecobenin.org/ .

The park’s official website also provides a lot of useful information and advice. With the lack of international funding since 2010, the conservation situation is however very worrying.

Benin_Blue_bellied_Roller

Blue-bellied Roller Coracias cyanogaster and Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis
Near Karimama, northern Benin
Photos: Agnès Giannotti, 26 and 27 July 2007

2. The Pendjari National Park (BJ002) is an area of 275,500 ha in the far north-west of Benin. The park is contiguous with the Arli-W-Singou complex which is a vast protected area in Benin-Burkina-Niger. The hills and cliffs of the Atakora range make the north-west one the most scenic areas of Benin. They provide a wonderful backdrop to the Pendjari National Park which, in its isolation, remains one of the most interesting in West Africa. The rocky cliffs of the area are sparsely wooded with Burkea africana, Detarium microcarpum, Lannea acida, Sterculia setigera and Combretum ghasalense. On the deep soils of some of the summits and the Atakora escarpment one finds a greater variety of plant species with Isoberlina doka and Afzelia africana. The Pendjari River has an interesting gallery forest. The park mainly comprises open savannahs, with areas of periodically inundated grassland dominated by Acacia sieberiana and Mitragyna inermis or Terminalia macroptera, and some dry clear forests. There are also large stocks of game including Elephant, Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Roan Antelope, Western Hartebeest, Topi, Buffon’s Kob, Waterbuck, Hippopotamus etc. There is a high annual rainfall of c1,100 mm. Even though the Park is open all year round, it is not very accessible from mid-August to October during which time it is partly flooded.

Benin_Tanougou_Waterfalls

Tanougou Waterfalls, northern Benin
Photo: Johannes & Sharon Merz, 12 June 2011

The Pendjari is remote and even though the roads were repaired in 2011, a 4WD is strongly recommended. It can be arranged from Natitingou, where several hotels are available. Hotel Bourgogne (+229 90.04.17.55) is for instance highly recommended and can also arrange room or bungalow bokings within the park. There is an hotel in the remote part of the park along the Pendjari River, one at the Porga Gate and another two small hotels near the Batia Gate and at Tanougou Waterfalls. The park’s website, available in both French and English, provides a lot of useful information.

The park was first studied in the 1970s when a preliminary list of 225 species was established. This was not exhaustive, however, and it has now extended to over 300 species. It includes many raptors of which African White-backed Vulture Gyps africanus is common here, Rüppell’s Vulture Gyps rueppellii and White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis are encountered in small numbers and there are a few isolated records for Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus. Fox Kestrel Falco alopex is a not uncommon resident, while African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii is a rare dry season visitor. Tawny Eagle Aquila rapax, Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus, Secretary Bird Sagittarius serpentarius, Western Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus cinerascens and Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle Circaetus beaudouini are occasionally recorded. The Pendjari is also notable for large conspicuous species such as Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis, African Openbill Stork Anastomus lamelligerus, Saddle-billed Stork Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, Northern Crowned Crane Balearica pavonina, African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer, Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus.

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Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus
Pendjari National Park, northern Benin
Photo: Johannes & Sharon Merz, 7 January 2011

Additional interesting species recorded (although some of these might be found across the whole country) include White-faced Owl Ptilopsis leucotis, Spotted Eagle Owl Bubo africanus, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl Bubo lacteus, Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum, White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus, Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus, Kurrichane Buttonquail Turnix sylvaticus, Spotted Dikkop Burhinus capensis, Bronze-winged Courser Rhinoptilus chalcopterus, Temminck’s Courser Cursorius temminckii, Plain, Freckled, Long-tailed and Standard-winged Nightjars Caprimulgus inornatus, tristigma, climacurus and Macrodipteryx longipennis, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus, Pied-winged Swallow Hirundo leucosoma, White-crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha albicapillus, Heuglin’s Wheatear Oenanthe heuglini, Familiar Chat Cercomela familiaris, White-fronted Black Chat Myrmecocichla albifrons, Pallid Flycatcher Bradornis pallidus, Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii, Red-winged Pytilia Pytilia phoenicoptera, Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes, and Togo Paradise-Whydah Vidua togoensis. Bush Petronia Petronia dentata is the most abundant bird species with hundreds encountered.

Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis is occasionally encountered on passage. Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens, and especially Brown-backed and Fine-spotted Woodpeckers Picoides obsoletus and Campethera punctuligera are normally common in woodland, while Golden-tailed Woodpecker Campethera abingoni is much less common and found exclusively in dense riparian forest. Among passerines, you may wish to train your identification abilities on the several cisticolas, at least Short-winged Cisticola Cisticola brachypterus, Red-faced Cisticola C. erythrops, Singing Cisticola C. cantans, Black-backed Cisticola C. eximius, Zitting Cisticola C. juncidis, Winding Cisticola C. galactotes, Rufous Cisticola C. rufus and Croaking Cisticola C. natalensis are to be found in grasses and scrubs and Rock-loving Cisticola C. aberrans have been reported in the more rocky areas. Alternatively, you may, or prefer looking for the brilliant but uncommon African Blue Flycatcher Elminia longicauda (more likely to be found only in Bondjagou forest).

The areas around Camp Numi at Batia and around Tanougou waterfalls, down the Atacora escarpment, are worth a visit, especially since they are easily accessible on foot. Several interesting species are to be found: Freckled Rock Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma, Yellow-throated Leaflove Chlorocichla flavicollis, White-crowned and Snowy-crowned Robin-Chats Cossypha albicapillus and niveicapillus, Familiar Chat Cercomela familiaris, Mocking Chat Myrmecocichla cinnamomeiventris, Rock-loving Cisticola Cisticola aberrans, Oriole-Warbler Hypergerus atriceps, Red-winged Warbler Heliolais erythropterus, African Blue Flycatcher Elminia longicauda, Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii, Green-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis and Cabanis's Bunting Emberiza cabanisi.

There is an interesting gallery behind Camp Numi in Batia, in which Green Turaco Tauraco persa is resident and where Red-chested Cuckoo Cuculus solitarius has been reported during early rainy season. Other species to look out for are Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser superciliosus and Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps.

The stream at Tanougou is more important than the one in Batia and especially above the waterfalls. It offers regular sightings of African Finfoot Podica senegalensis and Shining Blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys. Tanougou is also a good place to look out for Estrildid finches such as Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens, Black-bellied and Black-faced Firefinches Lagonosticta rara and L. larvata seen often, and the occasional White-cheeked Oliveback Nesocharis capistrata has been reported. Other species to look out for include Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis, White-breasted Cuckoo-shrike Coracina pectoralis, and Tit-Flycatcher Myioparus plumbeus. White-throated Francolin Francolinus albogularis, a rare resident, has been recorded in farmland south of Natitingou.

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Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle Circaetus beaudouini
Pendjari National Park, northern Benin
Photo: Alain Fossé, 28 January 2010

3. The Ouémé River Basin (BJ003) is a vast and very diverse site of 465,343 ha covering three contiguous forest reserves: the Forêt Classée de l'Ouémé Supérieur, which lies north of the Forêt Clasée de Ouari-Maro, itself north of the Forêt Classée des Mont Kouffés. The area has not been extensively investigated but Dowsett & Dowsett-Lemaire already set up quite a long list from a recent visit in 2009.

The main vegetation type around Bétérou is Sudanian Isoberlinia-Pterocarpus woodland. Close to the village of Ouari Maro the landmark is the rocky hill of Soubakpérou, rising to 620 m above a plateau lying at 300-400 m. The hill is still a tourist attraction, although the project that tried to protect the patches of forest and develop ecotourism in the reserve is now defunct through lack of funding. The tourist path is well marked, and a number of trees still bear signs with names on, while others have been cut down. Rocky woodland is characterized by Bombax costatum, Burkea africana, Pterocarpus erinaceus, Vitellaria paradoxa, etc. The woodland in the part of the reserve near Agbassa is less damaged than around Ouari Maro. The vegetation between Agbassa and the river is mostly dry woodland, some Anogeissus deciduous forest, with narrow strips of riparian forest along tributaries, where Green and Violet Turaco Tauraco persa and Musophaga violacea are present. Much of the savannah stretching out from this area is also of interest. African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer occurs on the river, Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus, Brown and Beaudouin’s Snake Eagles Circaetus cinereus and C. beaudouini have also been recorded here. Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus has been recorded in the Ouémé Supérieur. Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensis still occur in small numbers. Allen's Gallinule Porphyrio alleni probably breeds here while Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata is an uncommon wet season visitor. Grey Pratincole Glareola cinerea has been recorded at Bétérou where African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus was also recorded. Red-headed Lovebird Agapornis pullarius is an uncommon resident of riverine forest and remote areas of savannah woodland. Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti has been recorded in the Ouémé Supérieur near Bétérou as has Black Cuckoo Cuculus clamosus. Pel's Fishing-owl Scotopelia peli still occurs on the river where it is said by fishermen to be not uncommon. Pearl-spotted Owlet Glaucidium perlatum is not uncommon, while the sound of Northern White-faced Owl Otus leucotis is one of the nocturnal features of the area. Shining-blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys has been recorded in deep shade on small streams in the area. Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus is not uncommon in undisturbed areas of savannah woodland. Piping Hornbill Bycanistes fistulator is common near Ouari Maro, with concentrations of up to 10 birds feeding on figs. Spotted Honeyguide Indicator maculatus was seen in dense riparian forest on the Ouémé, while the rare Willcocks’s Honeyguide Indicator willcocksi usually associated with Guineo-Congolian secondary forest was found near Agbassa. Red-shouldered Cuckoo-Shrike Campephaga phoenicea and African Blue Flycatcher Elminia longicauda are not uncommon in riparian forests while White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike Coracina pectoralis is encountered in undisturbed woodlands. Oriole Warbler Hypergerus atriceps occurs in the gallery forest. Rufous Cisticola Cisticola rufus appears common in Kouffé, while Whistling and Singing Cisticolas Cisticola lateralis and C. cantans are more local in woodland. Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster occurs in the Ouari-Maro Forest and is not uncommon in all the savannah woodlands and Ashy Flycatcher Muscicapa caerulescens was recorded once in thin riparian forest down the Agbassa escarpment, where Square-tailed Drongo Dicrurus ludwigii was also present. Western Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes longuemarei was also recorded in riparian forest on the Ouémé river (near Agbassa) and in rich woodland in Kouffé, while the rare Emin's Shrike Lanius gubernator has been recorded in the dry season in the bush between Ouari Maro and Bassila. This area can be visited easily from the attractive town of Parakou and Bétérou or from Bantè.

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African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus
Sô-Ava, Lower Ouémé basin, southern Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 19 June 2011

4. The Lower Ouémé–Lake Nokoué–Porto-Novo Lagoon complex (BJ004) covers an area of 91,600 ha, with an extensive lagoon / lake of c. 16,000 ha lying just north of Cotonou and with an opening to the sea in the middle of the city, near Hotel du Lac. The Ouémé River flows from northern Benin south to the Gulf of Guinea and is the largest river in Benin. The lower part of the river expands into a large delta with floodplains that flood seasonally receiving most of the water from the Ouémé River and its northern tributaries. The western arm discharges into Lake Nokoué and the eastern part into Porto-Novo Lagoon. The delta extends north of Lake Nokoué for c.70 km, decreasing in width from 31 to c.7 km.

The lake itself is only accessible by boat, from either Cotonou (Hotel du Lac), Abomey-Calavi (the well-known embarcadère to Ganvié, mentioned in all travel guides) or Akassato-Sô-Ava, a little further north to Abomey-Calavi (ask for the “embarcadère de Sô-Ava” along the main road heading north after Abomey-Calavi). Interesting floodplains, mainly the Plaine du Sô, can be easily accessed from Sô-Ava, Zinvié or Sedjè-Dénou. The Plaine du Sô near Akassato is a mixture of fields, small tree clumps and marsh, mainly flooded with Paspalum grassland and some open water. The area, lying at no more than half an hour drive from downtown Cotonou, is of course heavily disturbed by cultivators, fishermen, children … but birdlife is really astonishing here and the number of surprises may be beyond what you expected. Lying about 15 km north of Cotonou, the Plaine du Sô is perfectly situated for birding from the city, either in the morning or in the afternoon. BEES-ONG organises ornithological guided tours in Sô-Ava and on Nokoué Lake.

The interesting species regularly encountered around here include: African Openbill Stork Anastomus lamelligerus usually in flocks of 20-30 birds but occasionally up to 100-200, African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus, African Crake Crecopsis egregia, Lesser (Allen’s) Gallinule Porphyrula alleni, Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata, Common Pratincole Glareola pratincola sometimes in good numbers exceeding a few hundred, Forbes's Plover Charadrius forbesi, African Black and Blue-headed Coucal Centropus grillii and C. monachus, White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis, Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys, Winding (Greater Black-backed) Cisticola Cisticola galactotes (very abundant), Slender-billed and Black-headed (Yellow-backed) Weavers Ploceus pelzelni and P. melanocephalus capitalis, Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes afer, Zebra Waxbill Amandava subflava and Pin-tailed Widow Vidua macroura.

There are also a number of exciting rarities that you still have a good chance of seeing here as well, among which Great Snipe Gallinago media (several records), Marsh Owl Asio capensis (several records), Swamp Nightjar Caprimulgus natalensis (one record to date), Banded Martin Riparia cincta (two records) and the recently discovered Anambra Waxbill Estrilda poliopareia, which is usually found in small flocks of up to 5-20 birds, but up to 50 together were witnessed recently, although the total world population was estimated at no more than 1,000 birds by Birdlife International prior to the discovery of the species in Benin.

Birding on the lake itself is also very interesting and offers beautiful scenery. The noise of the motor is however somewhat tiresome after a few hours. Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca, Little Egret E. garzetta, Western Reef Heron (Egret) Egretta gularis and Great White Egret Egretta alba are often fishing around or gathered in busy and noisy roosts. During the northern winter, there is an important population of wintering Black Tern Chlidonias niger and Whiskered Tern C. hybrida is present in small numbers. Osprey Pandion haliaetus is also present but is apparently uncommon. Scores of Barn Swallows Hirundo rustica and Sand Martins Riparia riparia often occur and Ethiopian Swallow Hirundo aethiopica is almost always mixed in these flocks. Pied, Senegal and Malachite Kingfishers Ceryle rudis, Halcyon senegalensis and Alcedo cristata offers good photo opportunities.

A wide range of accommodation is available in Cotonou and consulting recent travel guides might be the best option to have up-to-date information. In the city, the Hotel du Lac (mid prices class) is to be recommended, offering a good view over the mouth of Nokoué Lake and holding a few nesting pairs of Mottled Spinetail Telacanthura ussheri. If you would like to stay in Ganvié and overnight on the lake, Hotel Germain is a perfect place for an early morning birding walk along the lake. In a delightful coconut grove, at about 10 km from the centre of Cotonou, the Village Vacances Assouka offers a wonderfully chilled ambiance with spacious rooms and well-equipped bungalows. The Hotel offers direct access to a waterway that leads to Lake Nokoué, and pirogue trips can easily be arranged. In Akassato, a little further north on the same road heading to Abomey and Parakou and very close to Sô-Ava, and surrounded by a secondary growth forest of c. 10 ha, the recent Palm Royal Hotel (06°31’41’’N 02°21’35’’E, Tel.: (+229) 21.38.58.66 / 97.39.70.11) offers the opportunity to see some forest species in a quiet and relaxing place very close to Cotonou. Black-shouldered and Long-tailed Nightjars Caprimulgus (pectoralis) nigriscapularis and C. climacurus both sing here during the dry season. Leaflove Pyrrhurus scandens and Snowy-headed Robin-Chat Cossypha niveicapillus can also be heard or seen in the hotel’s forest.

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Black Tern Chlidonis niger on fishing nets (traditional ‘Acadja’ fish farming)
Nokoué Lake, southern Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 13 September 2011

5. Lake Ahémé and the Aho complex (BJ005) is an extensive area of marsh and lake covering 45,000 ha in the lower Kouffo river and Lake Ahémé. It runs from Ouidah to Grand Popo, where the Mono River drains into the sea in a delta named “Bouches du Roy”. The main attractions at Bouches du Roy are the open shallow estuary, relicts of mangroves and patches of flooded reedbeds which between September and April can support hundreds of waders and an impressive list of estuarine related birds. On the seaside, Royal Tern Sterna maxima is common, while Damara Tern S. balaenarum has been recorded as “wintering” (during the northern summer). Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Great White Egret E. alba, Purple Heron Ardea purpurea, Black Crake Amaurornis flavirostris, and Pied Kingfisher Ceryl rudis are all more or less common features of the marshes. White-fronted Plover Charadrius marginatus is not uncommon on the beach at Grand Popo and probably breeds along the shoreline here. Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis also occurs and Osprey Pandion haliaetus and Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus are regular Palaearctic visitors. Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus is seasonally abundant here.

Along the road from Ouidah to Grand-Popo and Togo, the southern end of Lake Ahémé at Guézin (c. 06°23’44”N 01°55’41”E) hosts interesting numbers of waders: Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis, Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula, Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus, Common Redshank T. totanus, Marsh Sandpiper T. stagnatilis, Green Sandpiper T. ochropus and Wood Sandpiper T. glareola are not uncommon in the same area. Forbes's Plover Charadrius forbesi is an occasional visitor. White-throated Bee-eater Merops albicollis is very common during the dry season, while the less common Rosy Bee-eater M. malimbicus has been also recorded near the Mono River. There is a possible record for Parasitic Weaver Anomalospiza imberbis in this area.

This is a very interesting and one of the most accessible birding areas in the country. Many shorebirds will be encountered as well as a good number of savannah species to be found in the hinterland. The Auberge de Grand Popo is a particularly pleasant place to stay (hotel and restaurant on the beach is very reasonable but booking is necessary. Brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus (recently discovered in Benin, where it is apparently restricted to coastal lagoons and coconut plantations) is present around bungalows in the Auberge’s garden. Access to the mangroves, as well as to the Bouches du Roy, is possible from here. Organise your boat as soon as you arrive, bearing in mind that tides will determine when you can go across. Boats are best negotiated with the assistance of the staff of the Auberge.

A little further north, in Possotomè, on the east side of Ahémé Lake, Eco-Benin NGO provides eco-touristic and community tours on and around the lake.

6. The Lama Classified Forest (BJ006) situated 75 km north-west of Cotonou is the largest remnant of dry semi-evergreen forest in the whole of Benin and is without doubt the forest site of greatest interest in the country. It can be reached by taking the RNIE-2 sealed road heading north from Cotonou to Bohicon, and turning left onto a gravel road in the village of Massi, where a yellow sign indicates the entrance of the Forêt Classée de la Lama. Unfortunately, the gate at the entrance does not normally open until 08.00 am and this obviously restricts the birdwatchers somewhat! It is worth checking to see if an early entrance can be arranged in advance of your visit. 

Although the classified area covers 16,250 ha, only about 11,950 ha are effectively covered with forest consisting of 7,169 ha of teak plantations and 4,777 ha of remnants of original habitat known as “le Noyau Central”, an ecological island at the core of the forest for conservation purposes. The “Noyau Central” has been regenerated with native species and a reforestation program run with German funds set up large teak plantations in the perimeter area. It is now completely and efficiently protected within the limits of the “Station Forestière de la Lama”, itself surrounded by a very wide firebreak. The Lama has no streams or swamp forest sensu stricto, but the soil gets water-logged in the rainy season, and small depressions and many ditches fill up with water in the shade of the forest. The natural forest is in one block crossed by 7 parallel trails or “layons”, numbered 9 to 15, and evenly spaced 900 m apart and there are some perpendicular paths in places, for research purposes. The longest trails are between 7-8 km (layons 14 & 15) or just under 7 km (layons 11, 12 & 13). If your time is limited, the best forest section to visit is along layon 12.

This forest has been the subject of some investigation from 1999 to 2011 and that has allowed the identification of many species for which there had been no previous records in Benin. Getting used to vocalisations is pretty much a necessity in order to obtain a good bird list in the dense ecosystem of the Lama. Given the richness of the local avifauna, one can find a few species that are likely to be encountered on a single visit. These include African Cuckoo Hawk Aviceda cuculoides, Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensis (common but more often heard than seen), Crested Guineafowl Guttera pucherani which is not uncommon, White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra (skulking but in forest understorey), Tambourine Dove Turtur tympanistria, Black-throated Coucal Centropus leucogaster, Narina’s Trogon Apaloderma narina, Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus (a non-breeding visitor), White-crested Hornbill Tropicranus albocristatus (in dense forest), Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus, Purple-throated Cuckoo-shrike Campephaga quiscalina, Little Greenbul Andropadus virens (the most widespread forest bulbul), Cameroon Sombre Greenbul Andropadus curvirostris, Baumann’s Greenbul Phyllastrephus baumanni (common on all layons in transition woodland), White-throated Greenbul Phyllastrephus albigularis (common in dense forest and the larger thickets in transition woodland), Grey-headed Bristlebill B. canicapillus, Western Nicator Nicator chloris, Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax, Green Crombec Sylvietta virens, Grey Longbill Macrosphenus concolor, Buff-throated Apalis Apalis rufogularis, Chestnut Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia castanea, Brown and Puvel's Illadopsis Illadopsis fulvescens and I. puveli, Northern Red-billed Helmet Shrike Prionops caniceps and several species of sunbirds.

Among the rarer species recorded here, a few are worth mentioning: Black Goshawk (Sparrowhawk) Accipiter melanoleucus, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk Accipiter erythropus, Cassin’s Hawk Eagle Hieraaetus africanus, Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus (a rare wanderer), Western Bronze-naped Pigeon Columba (delegorguei) iriditorques, Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti, Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis, Buff-spotted Woodpecker Campethera nivosa, Fire-bellied Woodpecker Thripias pyrrhogaster, Fraser's Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata and Ashy Flycatcher Muscicapa caerulescens. During Dowsett & Dowsett-Lemaire’s field work in 2009, a local forest guard gave them a convincing description of African Pitta Pitta angolensis, both in plumage and display noise, the birds becoming noisy with the first heavy rains and formation of pools, usually not before late April or May (Dowsett & Dowsett-Lemaire, in litt.).

At dusk, Black-shouldered Caprimulgus nigriscapularis, Plain Caprimulgus inornatus and Long-tailed Nightjars Caprimulgus climacurus can be seen or heard on roads and at the edge of teak plantations. Standard-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx longipennis can be seen on the firebreaks while African Wood Owl Strix woodfordii is also often heard.

The forest is also a refuge for a rich mammalian wildlife. Forest antelopes and bushpigs may be very difficult to see but with a bit of luck monkeys such as Mona Monkey Cercopithecus mona or, if you are particularly fortunate, the endemic Red-bellied Monkey Cercopithecus e. erythrogaster or an elusive flying-squirrel could be seen in the canopy. Olive Colobus Procolobus verus is also recorded from the Lama. The Lama forest is thus of immense importance for the survival of several species but in particular this monkey endemic to the Dahomey Gap, the Red-bellied Monkey, locally known as ‘Zinkaka’.

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A typical clear forest portion on layon 13 in the Lama Classified Forest, southern Benin
Photo: Bruno Portier, 16 November 2010

For further details, download the country IBAs from BirdLife International.

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