Working for birds in Africa



Wed, 02/06/2013 - 11:42 -- abc_admin

Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris, Eritrea

Image Credit: 
Jugal Tiwari

from ABC Bulletin 24.2

An exploratory visit to Eritrea in April 2017 resulted in several interesting observations in this rarely visited country. Ring-necked Doves Streptopelia capicola were found to be fairly common in the Gahtelai-Demas area on 27th, between Asmara and Massawa, confirming the presence of the species in Eritrea; Ash & Atkins (2009. Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea) show only ‘uncertain records’ on their map, and it is not mapped for Eritrea in Redman et al. (2011. Birds of the Horn of Africa). A Montane Nightjar Caprimulgus poliocephalus was seen and heard at Medhanit Recreation Centre in Filfil Rainforest on 26th—this is apparently the first sighting of the species for Filfil, and extends its known range in Eritrea northwards; the species was only recently discovered in the southern highlands and is not listed in either Ash & Atkins (2009) or Redman et al. (2011). Marsh Warblers Acrocephalus palustris were observed at Elabered, near Keren (two on 22nd and one on 23rd), with one at Filfil Rainforest on 26th; the species is apparently very rare (or under-recorded) in Eritrea, with only three autumn records listed by Ash & Atkins (2009), and none in spring. An Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina at Elabered, near Keren, on 24th is apparently the first spring record. Two Eastern Orphean Warblers Sylvia crassirostris were seen at Elabered, near Keren, on 23rd—a late date for the species, with no previous records in April and just one in May. White-headed Babblers Turdoides leucocephala were common in mature woodland along the Barka River, Agordat, on 25th, but elsewhere only the more widespread White-rumped Babbler T. leucopygia was encountered (in Eritrea, the local form of the latter also has a white head). The status of Red-winged Onychognathus morio and Somali Starlings O. blythi in Eritrea is confused, with apparently no recent records of Red-winged for Eritrea. Red-winged was observed frequently in April 2017, notably in Asmara, Elabered and Filfil, yet not a single Somali Starling was identified. A Red-breasted Wheatear Oenanthe bottae—surprisingly rare in Eritrea— was noted near Asmara on 20th. Finally, a vagrant Black-winged Pratincole Glareola nordmanni was seen at Elabered, near Keren, on 24th; this is the first confirmed record for Eritrea of this Central Asian breeder, whose migration route to its wintering grounds in southern Africa lies to the west of the region (NR).

from previous ABC Bulletins

In late December 2001, an exhausted Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris was captured in the Massawa area by a local fisherman and released at freshwater ponds, where it survived for ten days. Bluethroats Luscinia svecica were observed and photographed at Massawa, Asmara and Akwar hot water springs during November 2000 to February 2001.

Three species that would appear to be new for the country were observed. Seven Black-necked Grebes Podiceps nigricollis, first seen on 26 November 2002, stayed for almost two months at the Seawater Farms, Massawa. One dead specimen was subsequently collected. A Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus was photographed at the same locality on 20 October. Also there, a Long-toed Lapwing Vanellus crassirostris was seen on 28 July. In October, 60 Ospreys Pandion haliaetus were counted along 550 km of coastline from Massawa to Asseb; two nests were found in January 2003. The White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus photographed at the Seawater Farms, Massawa (cf. Bull. ABC 10: 55, Fig. 4), stayed from 9 September until 25 November 2002. An albino Marsh Sandpiper Tringa stagnatilis was photographed at the Seawater Farms on 20 December 2002. Eight White-collared Kingfishers Halcyon chloris were seen at Harena mangrove on 6 December 2002; this species is rare in Eritrea.

A trip from 3-26 February 1998 yielded the following interesting records. Three Demoiselle Cranes Anthropoides virgo were in the Cieffà plain near Sen'afe on the 7th. At Adi Quala, a White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis was seen on the 9th in the company of Eurasian Griffon Vultures Gyps fulvus. Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca and a Booted Eagle Hieraaetus pennatus were also seen. On 15 February, more than 100 Steppe Eagles Aquila nipalensis were at the Asmara rubbish dump. Four Pacific Golden Plovers Pluvialis fulva were observed at a high-tide roost at Massawa saltpans on 24 February and single Dunlin Calidris alpina in mixed wader flocks on 23 February at Green Island, Massawa. A few Armenian Gulls Larus armenicus and Great Black-headed Gulls L. ichthyaetus were at Massawa around 20 February. Also there were up to 33 Slender-billed Gulls L. genei with 23 more at Desset River mouth. A pair of Caspian Terns Sterna caspia was breeding at Enteara islet, Dahlak archipelago, on 21 February. House Sparrows Passer domesticus were commonly seen in inland towns from Keren to Akurdat on 11-13 February; great numbers of Brown Noddies Anous stolidus were seen around the Dahlak Islands on 2 May. Upcher’s Warblers Hippolais languida were recorded at the Gash River, Shemshemya, on 22 April, and near Hirghigo on 29 April.

A visit to the Massawa area from 31 December 1994 to 2 January 1995 produced a number of interesting records from this exciting and little-known semi-desert area. These included Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti, Greater Short-toed Lark Calandrella brachydactyla, Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti and Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis. A White-collared Kingfisher Halcyon chloris was seen on nearby Green Island. Five adult Northern Bald Ibis Geronticus eremita were at Massawa in February 1997. A Demoiselle Crane Anthropoides virgo was seen at a small wetland near Asmara on 26 October and again on 9 and 13 November and this record apparently constitutes the first for Eritrea. Four White-tailed Lapwing Vanellus leucurus were at Sembel Dam near Asmara from 5 to 19 October with one bird still there on 9 November. This is apparently only the second record for the country.


Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:10 -- abc_admin


Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:09 -- abc_admin

ANDERSON, J. and BEHANE, D. (2011) Recent observations of Abyssinian endemic bird species in Eritrea. ABC Bulletin 18(1) pp 31-39.

ANDERSON, J. (2010) First records of eight bird species for Eritrea. ABC Bulletin 17(1) pp 66-70.

ANDERSON, J. (2013) Correction to Anderson (2010): First records of eight bird species for Eritrea (Bull. ABC 17: 66–70). ABC Bulletin 21(2) pp 221-222.

ASH, J. and ATKINS, J. (2009) Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Published by Christopher Helm, London.

BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

CHIOZZI, G., G. De MARCHI and D. SEMERE (2012) Additions to the avifauna of Eritrea and further records of rare species. ABC Bulletin pp 189-193.

COULTHARD, N.D. Eritrea chapter pp 273-290 in FISHPOOL, L.D.C. and EVANS, M.I. editors (2001) Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands: Priority sites for conservation. Newbury and Cambridge, UK. Pisces Publications and BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No.11).

HILLMAN, J. C. (1992) The birds of Eritrea: records from the Dahlac Islands. For Zoological Society / Wildlife Conservation.

G. and DE MARCHI, G. (2008) The status of breeding seabirds and waterbirds on the Eritrean Red Sea islands. ABC Bulletin 15(2) pp 228-237.

SMITH, K. D. (1957) An annotated check list of the birds of Eritrea. Ibis 99: 1-26, 307-337.

VIVERO, J.L. (2001) A Guide to Endemic Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: Shama Books. 80 pp, 40 colour photographs. Paperback. Available from the publishers at PO Box 8153, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia or New Line Press, USA. A review of this book by Roger Safford appears in the Bulletin of the African Bird Club, Vol 10, No.2, September 2003.

ZINNER, D. (2001) Ornithological notes from a primate survey in Eritrea. ABC Bulletin 8(2) pp 95-106.


Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:08 -- abc_admin

African Bird Club representative

Russom Teklay

c/o Anderberhan Teklay


Maekel sub-zone: south-east

PO Box 4618



February 2010 a report from Russom Teklay

Bird recorder and checklist compiler

Dr John Ash
Godshill Wood
Hampshire SP6 2LR


There are no addresses for clubs in Eritrea at present.

There is however an email forum to discuss birding in Eritrea at and the moderator of this group is Jugal Tiwari at email


Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:08 -- abc_admin

In common with many African countries, Eritrea has a number of environmental and conservation issues; most of the original forest cover has been removed perhaps from 30% of the land area to 1% during the last century; areas of permanent water are often dammed for cattle or domestic purposes; there is a lack of information about the natural resources of the country and a lack of trained staff.

With proposals for new National Parks and Biodiversity Conservation areas, Eritrea is in the process of developing an entirely new conservation infrastructure and system of protected areas independent of that inherited from Ethiopia. Progress is slow however and many other activities continue to take priority over conservation.

Eritrea has ratified a number of international agreements including the Convention on Biological Diversity; CITES; the Convention on Climate Change and the Convention to Combat Desertification. 

The African Bird Club made a conservation award in 2003 for the study of Black-crowned Crane Balearica pavonina in Eritrea and to prepare inventories for several Eritrean IBAs.

Books & Sounds

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:07 -- abc_admin

Birds of the Horn of Africa is an extremely useful field guide which covers Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Socotra and Somalia. The first edition was published in 2009 and the second edition in 2011.

Birds of Africa south of the Sahara also covers all the species found in the Horn of Africa region.

It may also be possible to use a combination of east African and Palearctic field guides. These will cover many of the species found in this region but will miss those which are endemic to the region.


Book image: 
Book info: 
Birds of the Horn of Africa (2nd edition 2011), Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe, A&C Black, Softback.
Book description: 

This is the first field guide to the birds of this fascinating region, and a companion to Birds of East Africa by two of the same authors. Over 200 magnificent plates by John Gale and Brian Small illustrate every species that has ever occurred in the five countries covered by the guide (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Socotra), and the succinct text covers the key identification criteria. Special attention is paid to the voices of the species, and over 1000 up-to-date colour distribution maps are included. This long-awaited guide is a much-needed addition to the literature on African birds and an essential companion for birders visiting the region.

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.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Birds of Ethiopia and Eritrea, John Ash & John Atkins, A&C Black, Hardback.
Book description: 

Ethiopia and Eritrea have a fascinating and unique avifauna. Poorly known in comparison to many parts of Africa, knowledge on bird distribution in the two countries is scattered throughout the literature. For more than 35 years, the authors have been painstakingly collecting bird records in the region and plotting them on half-degree maps, including published records, data from museum specimens, sightings from their own extensive travels and, more recently, records from the many birdwatchers that now visit Ethiopia.

The resulting atlas provides, for the first time, an accurate assessment of the distribution of each of the 870 species known from the two countries, including valuable information on breeding. The succinct text summarises the results and discusses distribution to subspecies level. Extensive introductory chapters cover topics such as topography, geology, vegetation, climate, habitats, conservation, migration, breeding seasons, bird ringing, and the history of ornithology in the region. This groundbreaking book fills a large hole in the literature for one of the most diverse and least known areas of Africa. 416 pages.


Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:04 -- abc_admin

Birding tours

We know of no organised birding tours to Eritrea.


Contact Haile Amanuel in Massawa for birding in Eritrea.


See the Bradt Guide to Eritrea ­ 2002 edition. Further details are available at


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

Safety issues encountered are no different from those met in many other African countries. Guidebooks, travel companies and websites provide much of the advice one needs, but some key points warrant repetition here. (1) be aware of the risk of malaria, 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 too long. Ensure you use sun-block and drink plenty of water, and wear a hat. (4) The incidence of Aids is high. (5) Ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles.


Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:03 -- abc_admin

Asmara The capital of Eritrea is surrounded by grassland and cultivated fields. The road connecting it to the Red Sea port of Massawa passes through diverse terrain and there is some interesting birding close to Asmara including the possibility of Rouget`s Rail Rougetius rougetii and Abyssinian Longclaw Macronyx flavicollis.

Semenawi Bahri The village of Weki-Zager is the gateway to Semenawi Bahri, Eritrea`s Green Belt. Interesting birds in this region include Rosy-patched Shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus, Erckel's Francolin Francolinus erckelii, White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis and White-headed Babbler Turdoides leucocephala. The route to Filfil offers the possibility of Black-billed Barbet Lybius guifsobalito and White-billed Starling Onychognathus albirostris. The route over Mt. Solomuna holds Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta, the rare Banded Barbet Lybius undatus and Abyssinian Woodpecker Dendropicos abyssinicus.

Massawa - the Red Sea Coast The area between Gahtelay to Massawa has been found to be very good for Sandgrouse including large flocks of Yellow-throated Pterocles gutturalis, Chestnut-bellied P.exustus and Black-faced P.decoratus as well as smaller numbers of Lichtenstein's P.lichtensteinii and Spotted P.senegallus. Massawa is a delightful port where Abdim's Stork Ciconia abdimii is reportedly common. It has many waders and seabirds including Crab-plover Dromas ardeola and Western Reef Heron Egretta gularis. Other birds in the vicinity include Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes, Thekla Lark Galerida theklae, Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva and Speckle-fronted Weaver Sporopipes frontalis.   

Ghinda is almost half way between Massawa and Asmara and is a good destination for birders, with hotels and guest houses. The area has a good variety of species which include Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris, African Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis,  Red-billed Oxpecker Buphagus erythrorhynchus as well as mousebirds and sunbirds.   

Hargigo ­ Foro-Zula From Massawa towards Irafayle is about a 70 km drive on a dirt road along the Red Sea coast. In this area, it is possible to see a number of desert adapted species including Ostrich Struthio camelus, Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates, Erckel's Francolin Francolinus erckelii, as well as quails, mousebirds, bee-eaters, kestrels, oxpeckers etc. Along the coast you are sure to encounter Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens, Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor and Crab-plover Dromas ardeola in the mangroves of Hargigo.

Green Island From Massawa Bay (Central or Dahalak Hotel in Massawa), you can take a 20 minute boat ride to Green Island. This beautiful mangrove island is an ideal place for watching Goliath Heron Ardea goliath, Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Crab-plover Dromas ardeola and Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus.


Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:02 -- abc_admin

Country checklist and status


We are delighted that our Corporate Sponsor iGoTerra has made its country checklists, including subspecies (IOC or Clements) as well as all other species groups like mammals, butterflies etc. available through the ABC website. The only thing required is a Basic membership / registration which is free of charge. Go to Eritrea checklists. If you are already a member of iGoTerra, you will be taken directly to the country page. In case you are not a member, you will be redirected automatically to the registration form and from there can go straight to the country page.

See also SMITH, K. D. (1957).

Endemic species

Some authorities consider Blue Saw-wing Psalidoprocne pristoptera which is only found in Eritrea to be a separate species rather than a sub-species as recorded currently by the African Bird Club.

Near endemic species (only found in Ethiopia and Eritrea)

Wattled Ibis Bostrychia carunculata
Rouget's Rail Rougetius rougetii
Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta
Banded Barbet Lybius undatus
Abyssinian Woodpecker Dendropicos abyssinicus
Ruppell's Black Chat Myrmecocichla melaena
White-winged Cliff-Chat Thamnolaea semirufa
Abyssinian Black-headed Oriole Oriolus monacha
Ethiopian Siskin Serinus nigriceps

Threatened species

Socotra Cormorant Phalacrocorax nigrogularis Vulnerable
Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus Vulnerable
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga Vulnerable
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Vulnerable
Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius Vulnerable

The lists of endemic, near endemic and threatened species have been compiled from a number of sources including the African Bird Club, BirdLife International, and Birds of the World Version 2.0 ® 1994-1996, Dr. Charles Sibley and Thayer Birding Software, Ltd. For further information on Eritrea's threatened species, see BirdLife International.

Important Bird Areas

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:01 -- abc_admin

Ruppell's Weaver Ploceus galbula, A species typical of the Somali-Masai biome

Image Credit: 
Jugal Tiwari

Because of the long-running war, recent ornithological records for Eritrea are limited and large areas of the country have never been surveyed. In addition, many of the older records do not differentiate between Ethiopia and Eritrea. Eritrea, however, has a large diversity of habitats, altitude and climatic extremes which are reflected in its high biodiversity. These habitats include desert, montane forest, grassland, coastal wetlands and islands.

Five biomes are found in Eritrea and each holds significant species only found in that biome: Sahara-Sindian in which Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus and White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga are found; Sahel with Yellow-breasted Barbet Tachyphonus margaritatus and Black Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas podobe; Sudan-Guinea Savanna with Bush Petronia Petronia dentata and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver Plocepasser superciliosus; Afrotropical Highlands with Black-winged Lovebird Agapornis taranta and White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis and Somali-Masai with Hemprich’s Hornbill Tockus hemprichii, Rosy-patched Shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus and Ruppell’s Weaver Ploceus galbula.

Of particular significance are large congregations of breeding and wintering seabirds on the Dehalak Archipelago, at other offshore islands and along the coast. There are also large concentrations of breeding and wintering waders including Crab-plover Dromas ardeola. Its geography and range of habitats make Eritrea an important stop-over location for many species of Palearctic migrants including warblers, waterbirds and raptors.

14 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified in Eritrea. For 10 of these, it has not been possible to estimate the area because of insufficiency of data to define the boundaries. The remaining 4 IBAs cover 4,690 km2 or some 3.7% of the total land area of the country.  The list of IBAs is as follows: Western Plain, Barka river; Dehalak archipelago and offshore islands; Semenawi Bahri; Central plateau, Keren; Massawa coast; Ghinda; Asmara escarpment; Arboroba escarpment; Gulf of Zula; Western Plain, Gash-Setit; Southern plateau, Furrus; Mareb escarpment; Senafe and Danakil lowlands.

The Central Ethiopian Highlands which span both Ethiopia and Eritrea is an Endemic Bird Area (EBA).

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


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