Working for birds in Africa

Species

Fri, 01/11/2013 - 12:48 -- abc_admin
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.

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