In a country as underwatched and under-recorded as the Congo, birdwatching can begin just about anywhere. Any of the IBAs mentioned in Section 3 would be likely to provide a good list of species.
Kouilou has a remarkable diversity of habitats The main part of the site is occupied by the 900 km2 marsh of the Kouilou basin which includes 15 km2 of mangrove, 20 km2 of lakes, 65 km2 of papyrus, 30 km2 of wet grassland, 170 km2 of flooded thickets and about 600 km2 of seasonally flooded forest. The coastal strip is occupied by sandy beaches, evergreen thickets and dry evergreen forest moving to a forest-savanna mosaic further inland with about 100 km2 of dry grassland. From this mosaic to the foothills of the Mayombe, semi-evergreen forest covers 500 km2. This diversity of habitat supports a remarkable range of butterfly, fish and reptile species as well as birds.
With over 400 bird species in the region, a very high proportion of the national avifauna and approximately two thirds of which are endemic to the Guineo-Congolian Region, only a few of the characteristic species for each habitat can be recorded here. The dry grassland holds Kurrichane Buttonquail Turnix sylvaticus, African Crake Crex egregia, Black-bellied Bustard Eupodotis melanogaster, Blue-breasted Bee-eater Merops variegatus, Yellow-throated Longclaw Macronyx croceus and Black-chinned Quailfinch Ortygospiza gabonensis. The taller, rank grass has Streaky-breasted Flufftail Sarothrura boehmi, Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura, Brown Twinspot Clytospiza monteiri and Compact Weaver Pachyphantes superciliosus. Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus, Winding Cisticola Cisticola galactotes and Red-headed Quelea Quelea erythrops are all characteristic of seasonally flooded grassland. Common species of the open marsh include Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides, Palm-nut Vulture Gypohierax angolensis, Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata and in particular in the clumps of thickets Yellow-throated Leaf-love Chlorocichla flavicollis, Olive-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris chloropygius and Sooty Boubou Laniarius leucorhynchus. About 40 species are likely to breed in the coastal thickets between Bas-Kouilou and Tchissanga with Andropadus spp. especially numerous with other characteristic species such as Simple Greenbul Chlorocichla simplex, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha niveicapilla and Brown-throated Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea. A combination of rank grass and thicket clumps is the favourite habitat of another dozen species which include Whistling Cisticola Cisticola lateralis, White-winged Widowbird Euplectes albonotatus and Black-faced Canary Serinus capistratus. Taller and denser forests hold nearly twice as many species as neighbouring dry thickets including 12 species of bulbuls. Mangrove forest holds no special bird fauna and the species seen are more common elsewhere. The extensive seasonally flooded forests are very rich with some 120 species (75% of which are common with nearby dry land rain forest) recorded in the sublittoral zone between 12 km and 22 km inland. Species truly characteristic of flooded forests and often quite numerous include White-crested Tiger Heron Tigriornis leucolopha, Grey-throated Rail Canirallus oculeus, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, Maned Owl Jubula lettii, Vermiculated Fishing-owl Scotopelia bouvieri, Bates’s Nightjar Caprimulgus batesi, Shining-blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys and White-browed Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens. Rainforest is best developed in the hills of the Mayombe with some 190 bird species recorded in this area including a number which are common or can be easily detected but which are absent in the sublittoral zone including Yellow-throated Cuckoo Chrysococcyx flavigularis, Yellow-throated Nicator Nicator vireo, Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax, Yellow-footed Flycatcher Muscicapa sethsmithi and Crested Malimbe Malimbus malimbicus. Buildings and cliffs provide sites for several species of swallows and swifts. The seashore and mudflats are of limited interest to Palearctic waders although five tern species can be seen. DOWSETT, R.J. and DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, F., eds. (1991) contains a very comprehensive review of the flora and fauna of the Kouilou Basin and their exploitation.
An area of 3,866 km2 of undisturbed forest within the basin of the Nouabalé and Ndoki rivers was set aside as the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in 1993. It is situated at an altitude of 300-400 m above sea level and comprises three types of forest: swamp forest along the main rivers; closed canopy forest often in narrow strips bordering the swamp forest; and dry land forest which is by far the most extensive. In a 20 day survey in 1996 in the south-west corner of the park and buffer zone, 273 species were recorded. This visit coincided with the beginning of the protracted rainy season and the birds were vocally very active. Some of the more common species recorded during this visit include Spot-breasted Ibis Bostrychia rara, Hartlaub’s Duck Pteronetta hartlaubii, African Harrier Hawk Polyboroides typus, Long-tailed Hawk Urotriorchis macrourus, Latham’s Forest Francolin Francolinus lathami, White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra, Blue-headed Wood Dove Turtur brehmeri, Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata, Red-chested Cuckoo Cuculus solitarius, African Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx cupreus, African Wood Owl Strix woodfordii, Sabine’s Spinetail Rhapidura sabini, Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica, African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus, Red-rumped Tinkerbird Pogoniulus atroflavus, Blue Cuckoo-Shrike Coracina azurea, Little Greenbul Andropadus virens, Spotted Greenbul Ixonotus guttatus, Red-tailed Greenbul Criniger calurus, Lemon-bellied Crombec Sylvietta denti, Green Hylia Hylia prasina, Buff-throated Apalis Apalis rufogularis, Shrike-Flycatcher Megabyas flammulatus, Red-bellied Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer, Chestnut Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia castanea, Brown Illadopsis Illadopsis fulvescens, Johanna’s Sunbird Cinnyris johannae, Sabine’s Puffback Dryoscopus sabini, Purple-headed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis purpureiceps, both Vieillot’s Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus and Village Weaver P. cucullatus breed in villages, and Grey-crowned Negrofinch Nigrita canicapillus. DOWSETT, R.J. and DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, F., eds. (1997) contains a detailed checklist of 320 species which have been recorded in the area.
Odzala National Park was established in 1935 and is an area of diverse habitats in which over 400 species have been recorded. Nearly 50 species inhabit wooded grassland and at least 36 are widely distributed in all the Park savannas including Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata, Long-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus climacurus, Banded Martin Riparia cincta, Black-collared Bulbul Neolestes torquatus, Yellow-bellied Eremomela Eremomela icteropygialis and White-winged Black Tit Parus leucomelas. A few species only inhabit wooded grassland in the vicinity of larger thickets and these include African Pygmy Kingfisher Ceyx pictus, Green-backed Woodpecker Campethera caillautii and White-chinned Prinia Prinia leucopogon. About 50 species inhabit areas with small thickets and these include Scaly Francolin Francolinus squamatus, Green Turaco Tauraco persa, Slender-billed Greenbul Andropadus gracilirostris, Western Nicator Nicator chloris, Angola Batis Batis minulla, Sooty Boubou Laniarius leucorhynchus and Luhder’s Bush-Shrike L. leuhderi. Wet grasslands or dambos being devoid of trees are rather poor in bird species although several species are confined to dambos: Black-rumped Buttonquail Turnix hottentottus, African Grass Owl Tyto capensis, Black-backed Cisticola Cisticola eximius and Marsh Widowbird Euplectes hartlaubi. Broad-tailed Warbler Schoenicola brevirostris and Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta are more common in dambos than in wooded grassland and Fawn-breasted Waxbill Estrilda paludicola is more numerous in dambos than other types of marsh. Most of the 50 species encountered in marshes and salt-pans are Palearctic or intra-African migrants. Common species include Little Egret Egretta garzetta, Hamerkop Scopus umbretta, Hadeda Ibis Bostrychia hagedash, African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer, Green Sandpiper Tringa ochropus and Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava. Only three species are confined to wet thickets which border salt-pans or some dambos: Yellow-throated Leaf-love Chlorocichla flavicollis, Chattering Cisticola Cisticola anonymus and Reichenbach’s Sunbird Anabathmis reichenbachii. The forest avifauna comprises about 230 resident species of which at least 143 are common between swamp and dry land forests. Some 22 species are confined to swamp forests and these include White-bellied Kingfisher Alcedo leucogaster, Leaf-love Pyrrhurus scandens and Blue-billed Malimbe Malimbus nitens. 45 species of dry land forest are not found in swamp forest and these are mostly birds of the upper strata which include Cassin’s Honeybird Prodotiscus insignis, Gabon Woodpecker Dendropicos gabonensis, Rufous-crowned Eremomela Eremomela badiceps, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher Erythrocercus mccallii, Red-bellied Malimbe Malimbus erythrogaster and Yellow-mantled Weaver Ploceus tricolor. Dusky Tit Parus funereus and Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis often lead canopy mixed bird species. In the more open sections of the Ikessi Forest, the most regular members of mixed parties are the warblers and Chestnut-capped Flycatcher Erythrocercus mccallii. The presence of Dusky Tit Parus funereus often induces many other species to join in such as Blue-headed Bee-eater Merops muelleri, Golden Greenbul Calyptocichla serina, Ashy Flycatcher Muscicapa caerulescens, Bioko Batis Batis poensis, Green Sunbird Anthreptes rectirostris and Cassin’s Malimbe Malimbus cassini. Where the canopy is denser, other species appear such as Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill Tockus camurus, Yellow-spotted Barbet Buccanodon duchaillui, Fraser’s Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata and Red-billed Helmet-Shrike Prionops caniceps. Several species occur only in the more humid regions near the western limits of the park: African Piculet Sasia africana, African Broadbill Smithornis capensis, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat Cossypha cyanocampter, Tit-hylia Pholidornis rushiae, Red-eyed Puffback Dryoscopus senegalensis and Grey-throated Barbet Gymnobucco bonapartei is widespread throughout Marantaceae forest as well as in secondary forest near villages. A few thrushes of the genera Neocossyphus and Alethe feed mainly around swarms of army ants. The few species confined to secondary habitats near villages include Barn Owl Tyto alba, Falkenstein’s Greenbul Chlorocichla falkensteini, African Thrush Turdus pelios, Black-headed Waxbill Estrilda atricapilla, Green Twinspot Mandingoa nitidula and two Gymnobucco barbets. Although there are a large number of swift and swallow species, these are dominated in the period from September to April by Common Swift Apus apus and Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica which constitute some 90% of aerial feeders. DOWSETT, R.J. and DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, F., eds. (1997) contains a detailed checklist of 435 species which have been recorded in the area and gives their status, ecology and level of abundance, with dates of passage for migrants.
Léfini Faunal Reserve, Téké Plateau is an extensive area of undulating grassland where most forest is restricted to galleries along rivers, but some patches of dry forest persist on high ground. The Téké stretches over 58,000 km2 from Brazzaville to Gamboma in the north, and west through Djambala and Okoyo to Ewo and just inside the Gabon border where it comes to an end near Lékoni, east of Franceville. A total of 187 species were recorded in a one week survey carried out in April 1996 between Mah, the Lac Bleu and the Lésio River. The habitats covered include rank grassland and dry forest on top of the escarpment, gallery forest, wooded grassland, thicket, open Loudetia grassland and rocky outcrops over an altitudinal range of 350 to 700 m. Some of the more common species are Yellowbill Ceuthmocares aereus, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus, African Pygmy Kingfisher Ceyx pictus and Collared Sunbird Hedydipna collaris in forest and thickets, Green Turaco Tauraco persa, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo Cercococcyx mechowi, Klaas’s Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas, Narina’s Trogon Apaloderma narina, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher Halcyon badia, African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus, Grey-throated Barbet Gymnobucco bonapartei, Green Hylia Hylia prasina, Fraser’s Sunbird Deleornis fraseri, Forest Chestnut-winged Starling Onychognathus fulgidus and White-breasted Negrofinch Nigrita fusconotus in forest, Spotted Eagle Owl Bubo africanus near cliffs, Red-throated Wryneck Jynx ruficollis, White-winged Black Tit Parus leucomelas, Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus, Yellow-throated Petronia Petronia superciliarius in wooded grassland and Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys, Pectoral-patch Cisticola Cisticola brunnescens and Black-chinned Quailfinch Ortygospiza gabonensis in short grassland. DOWSETT, R.J. and DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, F., eds. (1997) contains a detailed checklist of 239 species for the Mah region.
In addition to the IBAs, there is a Ramsar site no 950 in the Congo, Réserve Communautaire du Lac Télé / Likouala-aux-Herbes. Région de la Likouala; 438,960 ha; 01º05’N 017º15’E. The site comprises a swamp forest and inundated savannas. The vegetation is a mixture of wetland forest species and wooded savanna. Several mammal species exist in the area and these include primates, Duikers and Wild Boar as well as bird species such as herons and egrets. The site is owned by the local communities who depend upon it for various natural resources, and subsistence agriculture and fishing takes place around the firm ground of the wetland area.