Working for birds in Africa

Gabon

News

Wed, 02/06/2013 - 11:48 -- abc_admin

The following largely unconfirmed records are taken from bulletins of the African Bird Club and are for information only.

from ABC Bulletin 21.1

In July 2013, c.60 Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus roseus (a recent addition to the Gabon list) and c.50 Lesser Flamingos Phoeniconaias minor were observed at the Moka River on 13th. A male Verreaux’s (=Gabon) Batis Batis minima was nest-building along the Bélinga Road on 21st; the nest is hitherto undescribed.

from ABC Bulletin 18.2

A leucistic Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus was regularly seen north-east of Libreville in October - December 2010; it was always accompanied by a bird with a normal plumage.

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A Wilson’s Phalarope Phalaropus tricolor was photographed at Cape Lopez on 10 October 2009.

The following records from the south-west, all outside the range indicated on the distribution maps in Borrow & Demey (2004. Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa), are from late December 2009–January 2010. An adult Allen’s Gallinule Porphyrio alleni was observed near Moupia, south of Franceville, on 11 January and a juvenile at Gare de Moanda on 14th. A Black-collared Lovebird Agapornis swindernianus, perhaps loosely associated with numerous Red-headed Lovebirds A. pullarius, was seen in Moanda town on 6 January. About 250 African River Martins Pseudochelidon eurystomina were perched on wires in Bakoumba, south-west of Moanda, on 3 January, whilst singles, in the company of other hirundines, were seen at Moyabi, near Moanda, on 7th, at Mounana on 8th, and at Lekoni bridge, on the Franceville–Okondja Road at Onvouri-Oulinga, on 10th. Several Mountain Wagtails Motacilla clara were on a stream just west of Kessala along the Franceville–Kessala road on 9 January. A pair of Violet-tailed Sunbirds Anthreptes aurantium was observed at Eaux Claires near Lekoni on 29 December and several Reichenbach’s Sunbirds Anabathmis reichenbachii in swamps at the outskirts of Moanda on 3 January and at Franceville on 9th. Several Yellow-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus africanus were seen on African Buffalos Syncerus caffer near Moupia, south of Franceville, on 11 January. On 31 December, a small flock of Zebra Waxbills Sporaeginthus subflavus was recorded outside Lekoni town.

A Broad-billed Sandpiper Limicola falcinellus was observed on a sand bar at the Moka River mouth on 3 August 2007. At Mikongo, Lopé National Park, a Brown Nightjar Caprimulgus binotatus was found on 24–25 July; this is apparently the first record for this site. Also there, some unidentified swifts Apus sp. were once again encountered; they are blacker and smaller than Common Swift A. apus and frequently fan their tail whilst gliding - they are possibly Fernando Po Swifts A. sladeniae, although this form is supposed to be as large as Common Swift. A small flock of at least six Red-billed Queleas Quelea quelea frequented the grounds of Ipassa research station on 27 - 29 July; these appear to be the first for the area.

A Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus was seen on a sandbar at the mouth of the Moka River on 22 July 2006; the species was first recorded in Gabon in 2000 and appears to be a regular vagrant at this locality. A juvenile Yellow-throated Cuckoo Chrysococcyx flavigularis was being fed by a pair of Grey-throated Flycatchers Myioparus griseigularis in the Ipassa Reserve, Makokou, on 13 October; this is the first record of a host species for this cuckoo. A Uganda Woodland Warbler Phylloscopus budongoensis was seen well along the Bélinga Road, in the Makokou area, on 30 July; the precise status and distribution of this species in the country is poorly understood.

A White Stork Ciconia ciconia was seen near Port Gentil in November 2005. A remarkable record is that of two males and a female Pennant-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx vexillarius captured on video as they were flying around an oil platform, 10 miles west off Pointe Iguele, on the Gabon coast, at 02°35’S, in mid-July.

Four European Nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus were on the outskirts of Lambaréné on 30 November 2004. A male Eastern Wattled Cuckoo-Shrike Lobotos oriolinus was seen foraging in a small tree along the Bélinga road in September 2004; this is a rarely seen species throughout its range. At least two Dja River Warblers Bradypterus grandis were singing daily in Langoue Bai, Ivindo National Park, on 15-18 October 2004.

The following records are from September 2003. Five Broad-billed Sandpipers Limicola falcinellus were foraging on the mudflats at the Moka River mouth on 5th. The identity of some medium-sized black swifts Apus sp. seen well en route to Ndjolé and whose habit of fanning their tails whilst gliding was notable, remains unknown; they may have been Fernando Po Swift A. (barbatus) sladeniae. A group of at least three Grey Waxbills Estrilda perreini were seen at Lékoni on 1st; this is a new locality for the species in Gabon and apparently only the third record for the country; it was first collected in the south-west in 1952 and two were reported from Tchibanga in 1992.

An exploratory visit to the Omboué area and the newly established Iguéla National Park, Ogooué Maritime Province, from 13 to 18 September, produced hundreds of Rosy Bee-eaters Merops malimbicus and 300+ African River Martins Pseudochelidon eurystomina. The waterways held White-crested Tiger Heron Tigriornis leucolopha, Hartlaub’s Duck Pteronetta hartlaubii, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis (common) and both Pel’s Scotopelia peli and Vermiculated Fishing-owls S. bouvieri. Black-headed Bee-eaters Merops breweri were seen on the savanna edges. A Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush Cichladusa ruficauda in the gardens at Omboué represents an extension of the known range along the coast from the Gamba area. Also in Omboué, Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus was found breeding.

Two Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinereus were seen at Mondah Bay on 3 March 2003. A Spotted Sandpiper Actitis macularia was claimed from Libreville on 14 March; the bird, which appeared to be exhausted, was found at night in the car park of a supermarket in the city centre; this would be the first record of the species in Gabon. A Zenker’s Honeyguide Melignomon zenkeri was reported from M’Passa reserve on 6 March.

Verreaux's Batis Batis minima was tape-recorded in the Gamba area in the south-west in March 2002. What was thought to be this species was also tape-recorded in Moukalaba-Doudou National Park, on the north-eastern shore of Ndogo Lagoon in April 2003; these are new sites for this scarce species.

Records from August 2001 include the following.

A Black Egret Egretta ardesiaca, a rare species in Gabon, was seen on the Moka River mudflats on 31st. A Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus was at the Moka River mouth on 31st; the species appears to have been encountered several times in the last two years and these sightings would constitute the first records for the whole of western Africa. Also there were nine Terek Sandpipers Xenus cinereus. A single Böhm's Spinetail Neafrapus boehmi was seen flying past the edge of Ipassa Reserve just before dusk on 25 August; there are only a few records of this species in Gabon, all from the Makokou area in the north-east, and its status remains unclear. At the same locality, a Black Dwarf Hornbill Tockus hartlaubi had white tips to the coverts typical of the race granti, whereas it is the nominate form, which lacks white which supposedly occurs here. A pair of Black-backed Barbets Lybius minor were seen at Lékoni on 27th; they resembled the supposedly extra-limital race macclounii, with white head-sides and a white V on the blackish upperparts, although only nominate minor, with head and mantle typically grey-brown, or hybrids supposedly occur in Gabon.

A flock of c50 South African Cliff Swallows Hirundo spilodera was seen at Lékoni on 26 August; this is a rare intra-African migrant to Gabon. A pair of Red-chested Swallows H. lucida was found breeding in a culvert at Ndjolé on 18 August and a single was seen in the Lopé area; this species has only recently been discovered in the country. A party of four Fiery-breasted Bush-Shrikes Malaconotus cruentus, presumably two pairs, observed in the Réserve de la Lopé on 18th, were apparently involved in territorial display, with much hooting, bill-snapping and head pointing upwards. Two pairs of the little-known Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus were seen at the Moka River. A pair of Yellow-capped Weavers P. dorsomaculatus was observed at the nest at Ipassa reserve, Makokou, on 21st; the nest, which has not been previously described, consisted of a ball-shaped structure with a short, loosely woven entrance tunnel below the sphere and was built around a fork of a hanging branch of an isolated tree at a height of c33 m.

A pair of Black-throated Apalis Apalis jacksoni, found on 27 August 2000 along the Franceville road 55 km from Makokou, constitutes a range extension and the third site for the species in country. Three Red-capped Crombecs Sylvietta ruficapilla were seen at Lékoni. A singing Uganda Woodland-Warbler Phylloscopus budongoensis was recorded 9 km east of the Booué junction along the N4 on 21 August; a new site for this species.

Map

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:52 -- abc_admin

References

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:51 -- abc_admin

ANGEHR, G.R., SCHMIDT, B.K., NJIE, F. & GEBHARD, C. (2005) Significant records and annotated site lists from bird surveys in the Gamba Complex, Gabon. Malimbus 27(2) pp 53-76.

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

BROSSET, A. & ERARD, C. (1986) Les oiseaux des regions forestieres du nord-est du Gabon. Vol. I. Ecologie et comportement des especes. Societe Nationale de Protection de la Nature, Paris.

BUIJ, R. (2008) The lowland raptor community of the Gamba Complex of Protected Areas, Gabon. Malimbus 30(1) pp 55-64.

CHRISTY, P. (1990) New records of palaearctic migrants in Gabon. Malimbus 11 pp 117-122.

CHRISTY, P. Gabon chapter pp 349-356 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).

CLARK, W. S. & CHRISTY, P. (2006) First record of Oriental Honey Buzzard Pernis ptilorhynchus for Gabon and sub-Saharan Africa. ABC Bulletin 13 (2) pp 207-210.

FAURE, C., MAISELS, F. & CHRISTY, P. (2008) Great Blue Turacos Corythaeola cristata eating filamentous algae in Gabon. Malimbus 30(1) pp 65-70.  

MACAULAY, L. & SINCLAIR, J. C. (1999) Perrin's Bush-Shrike Telophorus viridis, new to Gabon. Malimbus 21 pp 110-111.

MALBRANT, R. & MACLATCHY, A. (1949) Faune de l'Équateur Africain Français, Vol. 1. Lechevalier, Paris.

MIBAMBANI, S., ENGOUANG, M.O., MAISELS, F. and JEFFERY, K. (2009) Nest defence by Senegal Lapwings Vanellus lugubris against Night Adder Causus maculatus, in Gabon. Malimbus 31(1) pp 55-56.  

SARGEANT, D. (1993) A birders guide to Gabon. Privately published. This guide provides site information, systematic checklist, sections on travel, visas, money, climate, health, references and suggested itineraries.

Contacts

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:50 -- abc_admin

African Bird Club representative

The African Bird Club is seeking to appoint a representative in this region. If you are interested in supporting and promoting the Club, have any queries or require further information relating to the ABC representatives scheme, please contact the Membership Secretary at membership@africanbirdclub.org.

Bird recorder and checklist compiler

Patrice Christy
BP 2240 Libreville
Gabon

Clubs

We know of no clubs in Gabon.

Conservation

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:49 -- abc_admin
Logging_truck_Gabon

One of many logging trucks on the roads of Gabon

Image Credit: 
Ron Hoff

Gabon has established a network of national parks to protect some 26,000 km2 of wildlife habitat. These include Lopé, Batéké plateau, Ivindo and other areas covered in the hotspots section. These are all prime areas for a number of uncommon bird species as well as mammals.

Gabon has a logging industry and there are sometimes trains of logging lorries on the roads. At Léconi, a large new highway is being constructed purportedly as a route for logging trucks from the Congo Republic through Gabon to the coast. The logging industry appears to operate a policy of selective logging although this still requires wide tracks to be created through the forests in order to provide access.

The standard of living is low in many parts of Gabon despite the fact that the country is one of the wealthiest in sub-Saharan Africa. It is not surprising that people support their subsistence living by hunting for forest creatures such as Duiker and Guineafowl. Gabon however, still has one of the highest percentages of forested areas in west Africa if not the whole of Africa.

Oil has been a principle resource in Gabon for some 40 years and the town of Gamba and much of the surrounding area has been developed to support the production of oil. The Gamba area is still excellent for wildlife however as described in the hotspots section.

Gabon has ratified the following international conventions: Biological Diversity; Ramsar; Desertification and Climate Change.

Five categories of protected area are recognised legally: National Park; Faunal Reserve; Strict Nature Reserve; Hunting Area and Wildlife Sanctuary.

Books & Sounds

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:48 -- abc_admin

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, include 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: 
Book image: 
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: 

Visiting

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:46 -- abc_admin
Congo_Serpent_Eagle_Gabon

Congo Serpent Eagle Dryotriorchis spectabilis Gabon

Image Credit: 
Callan Cohen, Birding Africa

Birding tours

Birding AfricaBirding Ecotours, Birdquest, and Rockjumper operate tours to Gabon.

Guides

We know of no bird guides in Gabon.

Trip reports

The websites of Birding Africa and Birdquest have Gabon trip reports. The trip report of the ABC Conservation Tour for 2006 can be downloaded here

Logistics

Last update: 30th November 2006

General: several operators run birding tours to Gabon and you may wish to use one of these and travel in an organised tour. However, it is feasible to organise your own trip to Gabon but if so, a working knowledge of French is necessary. We should also point out that it is an expensive country which has a policy of high priced tourism and does not encourage camping and backpacking. The road system is such that you would be well advised to hire a car with driver and / or consider the alternative of train and plane for some of your travel.

Flights: there are regular flights from Paris to Libreville, the political and business capital of Gabon. There are also flights from other west African countries such as Cameroon and Benin. There are flights to and from South Africa but these are infrequent. São Tomé and Príncipe have good connections from Libreville and if you have time, it makes sense to combine a visit to these islands with a trip to Gabon. There are a number of internal flights and it is necessary to fly to some destinations such as the Gamba area which do not have road connections from Libreville.

Visas: visas are necessary for nearly all visitors and must be obtained in advance through your local embassy since it is not possible to obtain visas upon arrival in Gabon. Our advice is to check with your local embassy and / or its website and get your visa early as it can be a complicated process which may require letters of introduction from contacts in Gabon. Visas are also expensive and multiple entry visas will be needed if you choose to travel to São Tomé and Príncipe as well.

Vaccinations: your local doctor should obviously be consulted about health matters and the range of inoculations which is advised. A Yellow Fever certificate is essential as proof of vaccination at the time of writing and this may be checked thoroughly on arrival and before the immigration desk is reached.

Driving: you would be well advised to use a local person to drive a hired vehicle. There are a few metalled roads in the vicinity of Libreville but these soon become metalled roads with potholes and in most of the country, unmettalled roads which can be very dusty when dry and very muddy in the rainy season. Roads can be slippery and rutted so you will need to take plenty of time and be extremely careful.

Train: There is a railway route which runs from Libreville to Franceville in the south-east of the country. It may be possible to use this route to visit some of the prime birding hotspots as it runs through the Lopé National Park and close to the Lopé hotel. From Franceville, one would need to travel by road to Léconi and the The Batéké plateau.

Currency: The local unit of currency is the CFA Franc and this is pegged to the Euro at the time of writing at an exchange rate of about 656. Euros are widely accepted but it is useful to carry CFAs for small purchases and tips etc. There are few cash machines if any outside of Libreville and credit cards are not accepted in the hotels where we stayed. It is necessary therefore to carry significant cash resources.

Timing: Based on our experience in 2006, October is a good time to visit Gabon for birding, although travel is probably easier during the dry season. October is in the wet season and the weather is not too hot but there was some cloud and heavy rain at times. It is a good time to visit the Gamba area particularly as the Rosy Bee-eaters and African River Martins are starting to breed at their colonial nest sites.

Travel Guide: the Bradt Travel Guide to Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe by Sophie Warne contains considerable detailed  information on the above and many other topics. This is published by Bradt Travel Guides Ltd, UK and The Globe Pequot Press Inc, USA.

Safety

Gabon is a relatively safe country to travel in. The main dangers are likely to be associated with disease, road travel and, to a far lesser extent, animals. Elephants occur in many areas, so when walking on foot you need to be particularly wary.

Immunisation against several diseases is recommended, as are all precautions against Malaria although it is not especially common. Immunisation against Yellow Fever is compulsory for visiting Gabon and you have to show your Certificate on arrival. Acute Haemorrhagic Fever / Ebola outbreaks have occurred in the Zadie District in the north-east of Gabon near the border with the Republic of Congo.

You should always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification. 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. Be aware of the risk of AIDS and ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles.

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

Hotspots

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:44 -- abc_admin
Bird_Hotspots_Map_Gabon
Speckled_Tinkerbird_Gabon

Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus nest site north of Libreville, Gabon

Image Credit: 
John Caddick
Orange_Weaver_Gabon

Male Orange Weaver Ploceus aurantius, Lopé Hotel, Gabon

Image Credit: 
John Caddick
African_Skimmer_Gabon

African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris, Sette Cama, near Gamba, Gabon

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

Gabon is a relatively small country with a host of species and many areas to watch birds. A few sites are becoming well known and those birders wishing to make the greatest contribution would do well to visit new areas which are likely to be just as rewarding. The following sites were visited during the African Bird Club sponsored tour to Gabon in October 2006 and some of the birds seen are documented below.

The majority of foreign visitors will fly into the capital city, Libreville and this can be a good place to begin birdwatching. The scrubby coastal areas near the airport have Reichenbach’s Sunbird Anabathmis reichenbachii and Vieillot’s Black Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus. Degraded forest habitat about 20 km north of Libreville holds Grey-throated Barbet Gymnobucco bonapartei, Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus, Green-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra rubescens, Forest Chestnut-winged Starling Onychognathus fulgidus and Purple-headed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis purpureiceps. Somewhat rarer, a pair of Black Spinetail Telacanthura melanopygia circled low over the forest and small groups of Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus were moving southwards in the same area in October 2006.

Lopé National Park is a spectacular forest site which has a healthy population of primates. The Park and its surrounding areas are rich in bird diversity and host the sought after Dja River Warbler Bradypterus grandis. The northern section of this National Park has tall-grass savannas scattered with stunted trees. The National Park can be reached by rail connection from Libreville but many people will make the journey by road in which case, N’Djoué is a good place for a lunch stop. The banks of the Ogooué River are places to look for both Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis and Grey Pratincole G. cinerea, White-headed Lapwing Vanellus albiceps, Cassin’s Flycatcher Muscicapa cassini and Black-bellied Seedcracker Pyrenestes ostrinus.

The Lopé Hotel is surrounded by open grasslands in which Forbes’s Plover Charadrius forbesi, Blue-breasted Bee-eater Merops variegatus, Long-legged Pipit Anthus pallidiventris, Pectoral-patch Cisticola Cisticola brunnescens, Siffling Cisticola C. brachypterus and Black-chinned Quailfinch Ortygospiza gabonensis may be found. Nearby, the gallery forest holds Square-tailed Saw-wing Psalidoprocne nitens, Purple-throated Cuckoo-Shrike Campephaga quiscalina, Brown-throated Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea, Velvet-mantled Drongo Dicrurus modestus and the more difficult to find Black Dwarf Hornbill Tockus hartlaubi and Violet-tailed Sunbird Anthreptes aurantium. The hotel gardens themselves have nesting Copper Sunbirds Cinnyris cupreus and an Orange Weaver Ploceus aurantius colony.

It is necessary to enter the Lopé National Park with a guide to find Dja River Warbler Bradypterus grandis in its preferred swampy habitat. Grey Parrots Psittacus erithacus, Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala, African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus, Piping Hornbill Bycanistes fistulator, Black-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata, Whistling Cisticola Cisticola lateralis, Compact Weaver Pachyphantes superciliosus and Yellow-mantled Widowbird Euplectes macroura can all be found en route to the area which holds the warblers. Forested areas also have interesting and difficult to find species such as Blue-headed Wood Dove Turtur brehmeri, Green-tailed Bristelbill Bleda eximius and the delightful Chestnut-capped Flycatcher Erythrocercus mccallii.

Outside the National Park itself, many species can be found along the roadside forests in the area. Noteworthy species include Scaly Francolin Francolinus squamatus, Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata, Green Turaco Tauraco persa, Swamp Nightjar Caprimulgus natalensis, the much-sought after Chocolate-backed Kingfisher Halcyon badia, Naked-faced Barbet Gymnobucco calvus, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus, Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsuta, Yellow-crested Woodpecker Dendropicos xantholophus, White-chinned Prinia Prinia leucopogon, Fraser’s Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata, Sooty Flycatcher Muscicapa infuscata, Black-and-white Flycatcher Bias musicus, Fiery-breasted Bush-Shrike Malacanotus cruentus, Red-eyed Puffback Dryoscopus senegalensis, Sooty Boubou Laniarius leucorhynchus, Luehder’s Bush-Shrike L. luehderi, Rufous-bellied Helmet-Shrike Prionops rufiventris, Western Black-headed Oriole Oriolus brachyrhynchus and Shining Drongo Dicrurus atripennis.

The Batéké plateau situated on the country’s south-eastern border with Congo is Gabon’s most important grassland site with habitats ranging from rolling, grassy hills to dense, stunted, broad-leaved woodland. In all areas these habitats are juxtaposed to forests, with a rich diversity of bird species occurring within a small area. Many of these species are at the northern limit of their range and will be difficult to find elsewhere.

The town of Léconi is a good base from which to explore the plateau. The more forested areas hold Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo Cercococcyx olivinus, Green-backed Woodpecker Campethera cailliautii, Petit’s Cuckoo-Shrike Campephaga petiti, Black-collared Bulbul Neolestes torquatus, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha niveicapilla, Salvadori’s Eremomela Eremomela salvadorii, Green-capped Eremomela E. scotops, Yellow-bellied Hyliota Hyliota flavigaster, Yellow-browed Camaroptera Camaroptera superciliaris, Johanna’s Sunbird Cinnyris johannae, Square-tailed Drongo Dicrurus ludwigii and the hard to find Black-chinned Weaver Ploceus nigrimentus. Finsch’s Francolin Francolinus finschi, Red-throated Wryneck Jynx ruficollis, Red-capped Crombec Sylvietta ruficapilla and Souza’s Shrike Lanius souzae can also be found with difficulty.

The more open areas are the favoured haunt of a few White-bellied Bustard Eupodotis senegalensis and Black-bellied Bustard E. melanogaster, Temminck’s Courser Cursorius temminckii, Long-tailed Nightjar Caprimulgus climacurus, Malbrandt’s Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana malbranti, Short-tailed Pipit Anthus brachyurus, Congo Moor-Chat Myrmecocichla tholloni and Dambo Cisticola Cisticola dambo, not known from anywhere else in western Africa, and Fawn-breasted Waxbill Estrilda paludicola.

The Ivindo River Basin in the north-east of the country holds the most species rich lowland forests in Africa. At the small Ipassa Research Station, an Important Bird Area a couple of kilometres from the large town of Makokou, 190 Guinea-Congo Forest biome-restricted species have been recorded, the highest total for any IBA.

The bridges over the rivers at Makokou is a good place to start finding birds such as Bristle-nosed Barbet Gymnobucco peli, Gabon Woodpecker Dendropicos gabonensis, Elliot’s Woodpecker Dendropicos elliotii, White-throated Blue Swallow Hirundo nigrita, Purple-throated Cuckoo-Shrike Campephaga quiscalina, Banded Prinia Prinia bairdii and Gosling’s Apalis Apalis goslingi. Secondary scrub holds Rufous-crowned Eremomela Eremomela badiceps, Black-capped Apalis Apalis nigriceps, Buff-throated Apalis A. rufogularis, Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus and Western Bluebill Spermophaga haematina.

Evening boat trips from Makokou provide an opportunity for sightings of a number of species which are difficult to see on land. These include Spot-breasted Ibis Bostrychia rara, Hartlaub’s Duck Pteronetta hartlaubii, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, two rarely seen nightjars, Bates’s Caprimulgus batesi, and Brown Nightjar C. binotatus, Bates’s Swift Apus batesi, Leaf-love Pyrrhurus scandens and White-browed Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens.

Patches of forest towards the Congo border some 25 km from Makokou are worth exploring to try and find Latham’s Forest Francolin Francolinus lathami, Blue-headed Bee-eater Merops muelleri, White-crested Hornbill Tockus albocristatus, Black Dwarf Hornbill Tockus hartlaubi, Blue Cuckoo-Shrike Coracina azurea, Eastern Bearded Greenbul Criniger chloronotus, Forest Robin Stiphrornis erythrothorax, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush Neocossyphus fraseri, Uganda Woodland Warbler Phylloscopus budongoensis, Violet-backed Hyliota Hyliota violacea, Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia concreta, Bioko Batis Batis poensis, Sabine’s Puffback Dryoscopus sabini, Narrow-tailed Starling Poeoptera lugubris and Crested Malimbe Malimbus malimbicus.

The quality of forest birding is even better along the main trails of the Ipassa Research Station and several days can be spent here productively. Additional species in this area include Afep Pigeon Columba unicincta, Yellow-billed Turaco Tauraco macrorhynchus, Bare-cheeked Trogon Apaloderma aequatoriale, the diminutive African Dwarf Kingfisher Ceyx lecontei, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill Tockus camurus, Rufous-sided Broadbill Smithornis rufolateralis, African Piculet Sasia africana, Brown-eared Woodpecker Campethera caroli, Sjöstedt's Honeyguide Greenbul Baeopogon clamans, Ansorge’s Andropadus ansorgei, Icterine Phyllastrephus icterinus, Xavier’s Phyllastrephus xavieri and White-bearded Greenbuls Criniger ndussumensis, Yellow-throated Nicator Nicator vireo, Yellow Longbill Macrosphenus flavicans, Grey Longbill M. concolor, Yellow-footed Flycatcher Muscicapa sethsmithi, Tit-Hylia Pholidornis rushiae, Lemon-bellied Crombec Sylvietta denti, Grey-throated Tit-Flycatchers Myioparus griseigularis, White-spotted Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia tonsa, Brown Illadopsis Illadopsis fulvescens, Fraser’s Sunbird Deleornis fraseri, Bates’s Sunbird Cinnyris batesi and Pale-fronted Negrofinch Nigrita luteifrons. Black Guineafowl Agelastes niger are present in the forests but will require significant patience and a good slice of luck to see well.

The more open areas on the track back towards Makokou are also worth exploring for Chestnut-flanked Sparrowhawk Accipiter castanilius, Verreaux’s Batis Batis minima, Bates’s Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone batesi, Forest Penduline Tit Anthoscopus flavifrons, Mackinnon’s Shrike Lanius mackinnoni, Cassin’s Malimbe Malimbus cassini and Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch Nigrita bicolor.

Perhaps the most varied part of Gabon is along its coast, such as in the Gamba complex, where forest and scrub habitats are supplemented by large coastal lagoons, mangroves, sandy shorelines and thickets with numerous palms. This area is not connected by road to the rest of Gabon and can only be reached by air. The sandy areas in the village of Sette Cama are a good place to find a range of exciting and unusual birds including Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus, African River Martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina, Rufous-tailed Palm-Thrush Cichladusa ruficauda and  Loanga Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus.

A boat trip on the lagoon could produce Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens, White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus, Goliath Heron Ardea goliath, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris, Royal Sterna maxima, Common S. hirundo, Arctic S. paradisaea and Black Tern Chlidonias niger, Shining-blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys, Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima, Brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus and Slender-billed Weaver Ploceus pelzelni.

The savannah edge is the best place to look for Cassin’s Spinetail Neafrapus cassini, the uncommon Black-headed Bee-eater Merops breweri, Grey-rumped Swallow Pseudhirundo griseopyga as well as large colonies of Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus and African River Martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina in their breeding seasons. A walk through a forest may produce Plumed Guineafowl Guttera plumifera, Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis, Red-tailed Neocossyphus rufus and White-tailed Ant-Thrush N. poensis and Blue-billed Malimbe Malimbus nitens.

Species

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African_River_Martin_Gabon

African River Martins Pseudochelidon eurystomina, Sette Cama, near Gamba, Gabon

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

Country checklist and status

You can download and print a checklist for Gabon.

Over 670 bird species have been recorded in Gabon, including over 430 in the Ivindo Basin, a small region in the north-east making this, arguably, the richest area for birds in the whole of Africa.

Endemic species

There are no endemics in Gabon.

Near endemic species (found in 3 or less African countries)

African River Martin Pseudochelidon eurystomina
Pale-olive Greenbul Phyllastrephus fulviventris
Dja River Warbler Bradypterus grandis
Bubbling Cisticola Cisticola bulliens
Verreaux's Batis Batis minima
Black-chinned Weaver Ploceus nigrimentus
Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus

Threatened species

Cape Gannet

Sula capensis

Vulnerable
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Vulnerable
Grey-necked Picathartes Picathartes oreas Vulnerable
Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus 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 Gabon’s threatened species, see BirdLife International.

Important Bird Areas

Mon, 01/14/2013 - 22:40 -- abc_admin
Loango_Weaver_Gabon

Male Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus, Sette Cama, near Gamba, Gabon

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

The Cameroon and Gabon lowlands Endemic Bird Area (EBA) covers much of central Gabon. The distribution of Loango Weaver Ploceus subpersonatus defines the Gabon-Cabinda coast secondary EBA.

The Guinea-Congo Forests biome covers much of the country and 201 species of this biome occur. In addition, 5 species of the Zambezian biome are found in the savannas in the south.

The coastal mangroves and mudflats are important for a large number of Palearctic waders and a few tern species.

The list of 7 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) designated by BirdLife International follows:-

Akanda

Gamba Protected Areas Complex

Ipassa Strict Nature Reserve

Léconi grasslands

Lopé Faunal Reserve

Minkébé Forest Reserve

Ogooué delta and Mandji island

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

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