Working for birds in Africa



Wed, 02/06/2013 - 13:36 -- abc_admin

The following largely unconfirmed records have appeared in recent Bulletins of the African Bird Club and are for information only.

from ABC Bulletin 21.1

The second Pied Crow Corvus albus for the country was photographed at Tajura, near Tripoli, on 7 June and was still present on 17 June; the first was collected in April 1931.

from ABC Bulletin 20.1

A Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor was photographed off the coast of Libya on 18 July 2011 and a Stone-curlew Burhinus oedicnemus was also observed at sea the next day.

Tripolitania (North West Libya) including the coastal plain and Jebel Nafusa

Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis was found to be a common breeder at Taurgha, Tripolitania, on 27–28 April 2010. A flock of 15 Tree Sparrows Passer montanus was observed at Al Khums on 26 April and up to 12 Red Avadavats Amandava amandava near Lake Bu Tesira on 30 April–6 May; these species probably also breed in the country.

Records from July - November 2005 include the following. Off the coast at Janzour, 13 km west of Tripoli, a marked eastwards passage of Cory's (Scopoli’s) Shearwaters Calonectris (diomedea) diomedea occurred from c.25 September till 22 October, when it ceased abruptly. Regular counts of 20-50 were made during this period, with a maximum count of 83 birds visible at one time. A dark-morph Arctic Skua Stercorarius parasiticus flew eastwards past Janzour, Tripolitania, on 17 August.

Single European Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus were observed at Janzour, on 8 and 23 September. Also there was an Eleonora’s Falcon Falco eleonorae on 29 August. A group of five Ring-necked Parakeets Psittacula krameri was seen flying towards Tripoli on 9 September representing the first record for Tripolitania. A late European Roller Coracias garrulus was at Janzour on 15-16 October. A migrating flock of c.10 Red-rumped Swallows H. daurica was observed flying westwards 400 m out to sea at Janzour on 13 October.

During a visit to Libya from 1 to 29 April 2005 the following notable records were logged. In Tripolitania, a flock of 12 Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus flew over Gharyan at dusk on 2nd. A strong northerly passage of harriers Circus spp. was observed north of the Gebel Nafusa both at the start and the end of the month, with Montagu’s Harrier C. pygargus seeming to predominate. During a trip offshore from Bukamash to Farwa Island on 28th, seven Common Cranes Grus grus were seen wading in the sandy shallows at the western end of the island, close to the Tunisian border. A Wryneck Jynx torquilla was at Abugrin on 20th.

In April 1988, ABC received a report of Sooty Falcon Falco concolor, and Little Owl Athene noctua east of Tripoli. In July 1994, Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis was seen at Wadi Ka'am.

Cyrenaica (North East Libya) including the coastal plain and Jebel Akhdar

Two nests of Little Bitterns Ixobrychus minutus, one with four eggs and the other with egg shell fragments, were found near Lake Bu Tesira, Benghazi, on 30 April and 1 May 2010; this is a new breeding species for Libya. Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola was also discovered to be a local breeder: at least eight pairs and a nest with one egg were found at Al Marj, Cyrenaica, on 10 May.

Records from May 2008 include the following. Two occupied nests of Eurasian Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus at Cyrene apparently constitute the first breeding records for the country, whilst at least four pairs of Collared Pratincoles Glareola pratincola at old Al Marj are the second breeding record for Libya. Species not mentioned on the ABC Checklist for the country and thus apparently firsts for Libya are a Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus observed at Benghazi Lake on 30th, two calling Egyptian Nightjars Caprimulgus aegyptius on 24th and an Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola at old Al Marj on 27th.

During a waterbird census held in January 2006, c.20,000 gulls were counted at the Benghazi refuse dump, on 28th, among which were 2,500 Caspian Gulls Larus (cachinnans) cachinnans. Records from July to November 2005 include a first-summer Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii photographed in flight at Benghazi harbour on 4 July which is the first record of the species in Cyrenaica. A total of 6,047 Lesser Crested Terns Sterna bengalensis was counted during a census in eastern Libya in the first week of August 2006, with 3,102 adults and 1,950 young on Gizeret Ghara and 42 adults and 18 young on Gizeret Al Elba.

During a visit in April 2005 to Cyrenaica, a pair of Egyptian Vultures Neophron percnopterus was seen in Wadi al-Khuff on 26th, along with Crag Martin Hirundo rupestris, Blue Tit Parus caeruleus of the subspecies cyrenaica and Common Raven Corvus corax. Common Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs africana was abundant alongside smaller numbers of European Serin Serinus serinus and Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina at the ancient site of Cyrene on 22nd-24th. A European Goldfinch C. carduelis was at Qasr Libya on 22nd.

A survey of the Libyan coast in July 1994 found two breeding colonies of 40 and 1,700 pairs of Lesser Crested Terns Sterna bengalensis respectively. The colonies at Geziret al Elba and Geziret Garah are the only known sites in the Mediterranean. This was the first survey since 1937.

In addition, an expedition in July 1994 discovered four new breeding species for the country: BIack-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola at Ayn Zayanah; Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus with 15 Greater Sand Plover Charadrius leschenaultii at Geziret al Elba. Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans was seen at 4 sites in eastern Libya.

Fezzan (desert areas of southern and central Libya)

On 28 March 2009, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, probably a male, flew over Wadi Ash Shati, Fezzan, and on 30 March an immature female was observed there; these are apparently the first records of this species for this region.

Records from July to November 2005 include an adult and an immature Barbary Falcon F. pelegrinoides observed hunting over allotments on the outskirts of Sabha, Fezzan, on 25 October. Rock Martins Hirundo fuligula were observed collecting mud at Sabha and Germa in Wadi al Hayat (formerly known as Wadi Ajal) in late October. A first-winter Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius at Sabha on 26 October was the third record for the Fezzan. A distant thrush photographed on a rocky outcrop in Wadi al Hayat, Fezzan, on 30 October was almost certainly the same species. On 27 October, a Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis of the race elegans was observed at 25°43'N in Wadi Matkhandush, which separates the Ubari and Murzuq 'sand seas' in the south-west of the country. A little further north, the species was found to be common in allotments on the edge of Sabha. During 25-29 October, small flocks of ‘Italian’ Sparrows Passer hispaniolensis x domesticus were observed at Sabha and Germa in Wadi al Hayat; they were identical, except for noticeably yellow-white bills, to those observed 600 km further north in Tripolitania. A single Ring-necked Parakeet Psittacula krameri was seen going to roost at Sabha on 29 October; this is the first record in the Fezzan.

In April 2005 in the south-west of the Fezzan, a Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus was seen at Mavo Lake on 14th. Laughing Doves Streptopelia senegalensis were common in Ghat, Germa and at Ubari lakes on 10-16th. A Tristram’s Warbler Sylvia deserticola was around the camel trough in the Akakus on 11th. A Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator was observed in Ghat on 12th and a Masked Shrike L. nubicus in Wadi Mathkendoosh next day. Seven Fulvous Babblers Turdoides fulva frequented the grounds of Germa Hotel on 14th. Desert Sparrows Passer simplex were nesting at Ghat campsite on 10th and were present in Akakus and at the Ubari lakes. Spanish Sparrows P. hispaniolensis were nesting at Germa camp on 14th and were present at Umm al Maa and Mandala lakes.


Interesting observations during a visit in April 1998 included a pair of displaying Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos in suitable breeding habitat (the species is not known to breed in Libya) and the first confirmation in the country of breeding Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata and Corn Bunting Miliaria calandra. It also appears likely that Barn Owl Tyto alba and Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina breed in Libya, although these species still require confirmation.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:38 -- abc_admin


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:37 -- abc_admin

AZAFZAF, H., BACCETTI, N., DEFOS du RAU, P., DLENSI, H., ESSGHAIER, M.F.A., ETAYEB, K.S., HAMZA, A., and SMART, M. (2006) Wetlands and wintering water birds in Libya in January 2005 and 2006. Wildfowl 56 pp 172-191.

AZAFZAF, H., BACCETTI, N., DEFOS du RAU, P., DLENSI, H., ESSGHAIER, M.F.A., ETAYEB, K.S., HAMZA, A., and SMART, M. (2005) Wintering Cormorants in Libya. Wetlands International Cormorant Resarch Group Bulletin No. 6. pp 46-48.

AZAFZAF, H., ETAYEB, K. and HAMZA, H. (2006) Report on the census of Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis in the Eastern coast of Libya. (1-7 August 2006). EGA, RAC/SPA-MAP-UNEP. pp 31.

BAKER, N.E. (1984) Counts of Greater Flamingos in eastern Libya. Flamingo Working Group. Newsletter No. 2.

BAKER, N.E. (1982) Notes on some Libyan Birds. Bull. Orn. Soc. Middle East. 8 p 4.

BAKER, N.E. (1980) The diurnal raptors of Cyrenaica: Eastern Libya. Cyclostyled Report to ICBP.

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

BOURASS, E., BACCETTI, N., BASHIMAM, W., BERBASH, A., BOUZAINEN, M., De FAVERI, A., GALIDAN, A., Al MOKHTAR SAIED, YAHIA, J. and ZENATELLO, M. (2013) Results of the seventh winter waterbird census in Libya, Jan-Feb 2011. ABC Bulletin 20(1) pp 20-26.

BREHME, S., HERING, J. & FUCHS, E. (2009): Nachtaktivität von Fahlseglern Apus pallidus im Zentrum von Tripoli/Libyen. Ornithol. Mitt. 61 pp 266-268.

BREHME, S., HERING, J. & FUCHS, E. (2010): Beginnende Ausbreitung der Türkentaube Streptopelia decaocto im Westen Libyens. Vogelwelt 130 pp 195-199.

BREHME, S., HERING, J. & FUCHS, E. (2010): Zum Vorkommen der Sumpfohreule Asio flammeus in Libyen. Vogelwelt 130 pp 189-194.

BUNDY, G. (1976) The Birds of Libya. British Ornithological Union Checklist 1.

COWAN, P.J. (1981) Birds in West Central Libya. Bull. BOC 102 pp 32-35.

DE FAVERI, A. and BACCETTI, N. (2010) Correction of three historical bird records from Libya. ABC Bulletin 17(1) p. 85.

ETAYEB, K. S. and ESSGHAIER, M. F. A. ( 2007) Breeding of marine birds on Farwa Island, Western Libya. Ostrich 78 (2) pp 419-421.

ETAYEB, K., ESSGHAIER, M. F., HAMZA, A., SMATR, M., AZAFZAF, H., DEFOS du RAU, P. and DLENSI, H. (2007) Report on an Ornithological Survey in Libya from 3 to 15 February 2007. EGA-AEWA-RAC/SPA-MAP-UNEP pp 46.

DE LIEDEKERKE, R.(2001) Precisions on the avifauni of Western Libya. Alauda 69 pp 553-554.

GASKELL, J. (2005) Recent changes in the status and distribution of birds in Libya. Sandgrouse 27(2) pp 126-138.

HAMZA, A. & YAHIA, J. (2014) First documented record of Semi-collared Flycatcher Ficedula semitorquata for Libya. ABC Bulletin 21(1) pp 83 - 85.

HERING, J. (2008): Duschende Störche und Fütterung bei 50° C: Weißstörche in der Zentralsahara entdeckt! Falke 55 pp 390-394.

HERING, J. (2009): Beitrag zur Wintervogelwelt Libyens. Vogelwarte 47 pp 5-22.

HERING, J. (2010): Ein Überwinterungsplatz in der Sahara: Kormorane in der Wüste. Falke 57, Sonderheft pp 42-44.

HERING, J. (2010): Leukistischer Schwarzhalstaucher Podiceps nigricollis auf einem Gewässer in der Zentralsahara. Ornithol. Mitt. 62 p 25.

HERING, J. (2012): First record of Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus for Libya. ABC Bulletin 19(1) pp 71-72.

HERING, J.& HERING, H. (2009): Der Wüstenvulkan Wau an Namus – ein unbekanntes Überwinterungsgebiet in der Zentralsahara. Falke 56 pp 27-29.

HERING, J. & FUCHS, E. (2008): Später Fund eines Seggenrohrsängers in Libyen. Falke 55 p 483.

HERING, J. & FUCHS, E. (2010): Mixed breeding colony of Little Egret Egretta garzetta and Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis in Benghazi, Libya. Alauda 78 pp 149-152.

HERING, J. & FUCHS, E. (2011): First breeding record for Little Bittern Ixobrychus minutus in Libya. ABC Bulletin 18(2) pp 218-220.

HERING, J. & FUCHS, E. (2012): First breeding record of Little Ringed Plover Charadrius dubius in Libya. ABC Bulletin 19(1) pp 59-60.

HERING, J., FUCHS, E. and BREHME, S. (2009): Weißstörche (Ciconia ciconia) in der Zentralsahara – abseits bekannter Brut- und Rastplätze. – Vogelwarte 47 pp 309-310.

HERING, J., FUCHS, E. and BREHME, S. (2010) First breeding record and passage of Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus in Libya. ABC Bulletin 17(1) pp. 82-84.

HERING, J., BREHME, S. & FUCHS, E. (2009): Abseits bekannter Brut- und Rastplätze: Weißstörche (Ciconia ciconia) in der Zentralsahara [Kurzfassungen der Vorträge und Posterbeiträge]. Programm 142. Jahresversammlung der DO-G p 41.

HERING, J., BREHME, S., FUCHS, E. & WINKLER, H. (2009): Zimtrohrsänger Acrocephalus baeticatus und „Mangroverohrsänger“ A. scirpaceus avicenniae erstmals in der Paläarktis – Irritierendes aus den Schilfröhrichten Nordafrikas. Limicola 23 pp 202-232.

HERING, J., BREHME, S., FUCHS, E. & WINKLER, H.(2010): African Reed Warblers and Mangrove Reed Warblers in Libya & Egypt – both new to the Western Palearctic. – Birding World 23 pp 218-219.

MEININGER, P. L., WOLF, P. A., HADOUD, D. A. & ESSGHAIER, M. F. A. (1996) Notes on the coastal birds of Libya, July 1993. Sandgrouse 18 (1) pp 53-60.

ROBERTSON, P. and ESSGHAIER, M. Libya chapter pp 481-487 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).


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:35 -- abc_admin

Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis at Gara island at the Gulf of Sirte in Libya in 2009

Image Credit: 
Abdulmaula HAMZA

The African Bird Club helped fund a project to survey the tern colonies along the Libyan coast in 2007. These colonies include significant populations of Lesser Crested Terns Sterna bengalensis.

Libya is party to a number of international treaties e.g. Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification and Wetlands. There are several conservation issues such as desertification and very limited natural fresh water resources. The Great Manmade River Project, the largest water development scheme in the world, is being built to bring water from large aquifers under the Sahara to coastal cities.

Legislation is in place for the protection of both land and sea with the following designations: Fishing Zone; Forest Reserve; Hunting Reserve in which hunting or shooting may be prohibited; Nature Reserve and Protected Area.

Books & Sounds

Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:34 -- abc_admin

If you are planning to bird in North Africa then a good Western Palearctic guide will suffice. The Collins guide, in any of its forms, or the Lars Jonsson guide are probably the most comprehensive.


Book image: 
Book info: 
Collins Bird Guide (2nd edition), Lars Svensson, Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterström, HarperCollins, Softback, Hardback and Large format hardback.
Book description: 

The most complete field guide to the birds of Britain, Europe, North Africa, most of the Middle East, the Canaries and Madeira. Written by one of Europe's leading ornithologists Lars Svensson (with a translation by David Christie) and illustrated by two of the world's finest bird illustrators - Killian Mullarney and Dan Zetterström. This book provides all the information needed to identify any species at any time of year, with detailed text on size, habitat, range, identification and voice.

Accompanying every species entry is a distribution map and colour illustrations (over 3500 in all) to show the species in all the major plumages (male, female, immature, in flight, at rest, feeding). The book is fully integrated, so that all this information appears on one spread, the ideal structure for use in the field. Each group of birds has an introduction, which covers the major problems involved in identifying or seeing them: how to organise a sea watching trip, how to separate birds of prey in flight, which duck hybrids can be confused with which species, etc.

The combination of definitive text, up-to-date distribution maps and superb illustrations, all in a single volume, makes this book the ultimate field guide, essential on every bookshelf and birdwatching trip.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Birds of Europe with North Africa & The Middle East, Lars Jonsson, Helm, Softback and Hardback.
Book description: 

Still one of the better field guides. Covers all but a few of the Western Palearctic's breeding birds. 400 superb colour plates by the author Lars Jonsson.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Bird Songs of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, Andreas Schulze & Karl-Heinz Dingler, Edition Ample, 2 MP3 Discs.
Book description: 

2,817 sound recordings of the songs, calls and other sounds of 819 bird species. The birds are systematically arranged so similar species can be easily compared.

MP3 Tags include the French, German, English and scientific name although this information is not easily accessible and it is difficult to navigate through the sounds using this information. The MP3 product still requires the use of the booklets for indexing and explanatory notes. A printed index in German, English and French is provided (although the English index uses the complete name so "Long-tailed Duck" is indexed under "L" and not "D" as in "Duck, Long-tailed"). A booklet providing details of the recordings is available on the DVD in PDF format.

Each bird species has one to five separate, consecutive tracks or MP3 files. This enables you to choose the calls separately from the songs, for example, which in practice brings obvious advantages.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Bird Sounds of Europe & North-west Africa, Jean C. Roché & Jérôme Chevereau, WildSounds, Boxed 10 CD Set.
Book description: 

Reprinting due to popular demand! Songs and calls of 483 species and sub-species, with longer and more extensive vocalisations than previous CD publications. Species are in systematic order and are indexed by track number only and not interrupted by announcements. Each CD is fully indexed on the sleeve by track/species order as well as by species name (common and alternative). Accompanying 48 page booklet is fully indexed by scientific, common and alternative names and provides details of the type and duration of the sounds. Plays for almost 12 hours!

Book info: 
Field Guides
Book description: 

The field guides for Europe such as Collins Bird Guide 2nd edition and Lars Jonsson's Birds of Europe cover all the bird species that one is likely to encounter. You should be aware that the distribution maps are unlikely to be accurate for Libya. This is mostly down to under-recording in Libya and is no fault of the various authors. You should not be surprised to see a bird that the maps suggest is not present. This can be true of residents such as Hoopoe Upupa epops as well as passage birds such as Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos.

Source: Comments from a correspondent.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Oiseaux de Libye / Birds of Libya. Paul Isenmann, Jens Hering, Stefan Brehme, Mohamed Essghaier, Khailed Etayeb, Essam Bouras and Hichem Azafzaf. SEOF EDITIONS.
Book description: 

This North African country is mostly a Saharan country and its avifauna belongs to the Palearctic. It gives information on the geography and climate, a comprehensive list of all the recorded bird species of wild origin, a biogeographical analysis of the breeding species and the place of Libya in the Mediterranean and Palearctic Afrotropical migration systems. The annotated checklist provides data on the species’ status, phenology, distribution, habitat, nesting and the origin of migrants and winter visitors. A list of references and a gazetteer close the book. The book is the result of cooperation between ornithologists from Libya, France, Germany and Tunisia. 

Ce pays d'Afrique du nord est surtout saharien et son avifaune appartient au Paléarctique. L’ouvrage fournit des informations sur la géographie et le climat, une liste complète de toutes les espèces d’oiseaux observés d’origine sauvage, une analyse biogéographique des oiseaux nicheurs et la place de la Libye dans le système des migrations en Méditerranée et entre Eurasie et l’Afrique. La liste commentée donne des informations sur le statut des espèces, leur phénologie, la distribution, les habitats, la reproduction et l’origine géographique des migrateurs et des hivernants. Une liste de références et un index des localités géographiques terminent le livre qui est le fruit d’une coopération entre ornithologues de Libye, France, Allemagne et Tunisie


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:30 -- abc_admin

Inland Plain, Tripolitania, Libya with distant Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor

Image Credit: 
Rob Tovey

Birding tours

There are irregular tours to Libya which are usually combined with visits to heritage sites such as Cyrene (North East Libya) and Leptis Magna (North West Libya).

Birding Guides

There are no birding guides known in Libya.


General: no local tour operator runs birding tours. However several local companies will tailor-make a tour to the areas you require. You may want to specify that you only want a car and a driver and hotel accommodation or you may decide you want them to arrange everything. Irrespective of your package, they will send you the all important letter of invitation (see visas and passes) and can arrange desert passes to allow you to travel in desert areas.

Flights: there are a large number of direct flights from major European and African cities including Johannesburg to Tripoli, the capital of Libya. International entry into Benghazi is much more restricted. The most useful routes to Benghazi are via Istanbul and Cairo. There are no flights from Benghazi to western Europe.

Two airlines – Libyan and Buraq have a reasonable network of internal flights. They are very cheap and mostly reliable. Unsurprisingly, the most popular route is from Tripoli to Benghazi. This costs 120 dinars (60 pounds) return. You can fly from both cities to Sebha which is the gateway to other parts of the Libyan desert.

Visas and passes: passports and visas are required and holders of passports that contain no Arabic must have their passport details transcribed into Arabic and inserted into their passports. It is generally not possible to travel independently in Libya though there are exceptions. Most travellers book a package with a tour company (see general logistics above). The tour company arranges a letter of invitation which allows you to visit your local Libyan embassy to apply for a visa.

If you have a friend or family in one of a small number of foreign embassies or affiliated organisations (e.g the British Council is affiliated to the British Embassy) you can obtain a visa in a different way and have more independent travel. A friend or family can sponsor your application through the Libyan Foreign Ministry’s protocol department. The Ministry will send your friend a serial number and a letter of invitation (the friend will send it on to you) which you show on arrival at Tripoli or Benghazi airport. You will be given a visa on arrival. You are free to book your own hotels and travel without using a tour company if you wish.

If you want to travel outside the northern coast you need a desert pass. If you are with a tour company this is done by them. If you travel independently it is usually possible to find a local guide who can obtain a desert pass, at low cost for the area you wish to travel, on the same day that you request it.

Vaccinations: your local doctor should obviously be consulted about health matters and the range of inoculations which is advised. No special injections are required.

Driving: Libya has a total road network of 83,200 km of which 47,590 km is paved. Roads in the coastal north are of a high quality. A few main roads in the southern desert areas are also surprisingly good. The road from Tripoli to Sebha via Houn is paved all the way. The road from Tripoli to Ghadames is also paved. Many tourists hire a driver directly or through a tour company before arrival. The cost of a saloon car rental is about 50 dinars a day without driver and 80-100 dinars with a driver.

Train: there are no trains in Libya. However a network is being built. The future network will run in a T-shape. There will be a route across the coast from near the Tunisian border through Tripoli to Benghazi via Sirt. From Sirt, trains will also run south to Sebha in the Sahara. Building of this route is now well underway in the Tripoli area. The original target date for completion was 2012.

Currency: The local unit of currency is the Libyan dinar. There are currently 1.95 dinars to the pound sterling. It is not a convertible currency and you must bring hard currency with you and exchange it within the country. There are relatively few official places where you can change money. One is at Tripoli airport and another at Benghazi airport. Unoffically most supermarkets in Tripoli will change money too. The exchange rates are very fair. The spread between buying and selling is fixed by government and is observed well.

If changing money at banks outside the airport, be aware that bank opening hours are normally 8am until 2pm Sunday to Thursday and 9am until 12am on Saturday. Banks are closed on Fridays.

You can withdraw Libyan dinars from your foreign bank accounts using ATM machines. However they only support Visa and not Mastercard. They are also very scarce. There are about 10 in Tripoli and 7 in Benghazi. There are none in the rest of the country. Visa cards themselves can only be used in 5 star hotels and a few satellite restaurants and shops.

Timing: in the north, the best times of year to visit Libya are from mid September until late April. This is when you can see the winter migrants and / or passage birds. There are very few summer breeders which go south for the winter. Those that do can be seen arriving or departing with the other passage birds. One exception is Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin Cercotrichas galactotes.

There is a dilemma for bird watchers who want to go south. The only comfortable time of year is from November until early March. You can see wintering birds then but you miss the passage. This is part of the reason that the passage is so under-reported in the oases’ towns.

Travel Guide and maps:  the most common and probably most useful guide is Libya (Lonely Planet country guide) by  Lonely Planet Publications; 2nd Revised edition (1 Aug 2007) ISBN-13: 978-1740594936.

It is not easy to find good maps of Libya. Many on sale in the country are poor quality. The best is called “Map of Libya: 1 300 000” It doesn’t appear to have an ISBN. It was printed by Vinos Print in 2007. It can be found for sale in the gift shops opposite the entrance to Leptis Magna and at Fergani’s bookshop in Tripoli.


Libya is one of the safest countries in Africa. The main danger is likely to be traffic accidents and drivers are particularly bad in Ramadan.

Very few people travel to the far south but if you travel below the 24 degree parallel in the Deep South you are required to have a police presence presumably because of the potential of banditry. However incidents are almost non-existent. The only places that this restriction could potentially affect bird watchers are Uweinat on the border with Sudan and the Tibesti mountains on the border with Chad. Here there is a second danger of land mines. However, as far as is known no bird watcher has ever made a trip to Tibesti!  It is one of the great unknowns.

No special immunisations are necessary. Most years Libya is designated completely free from Malaria. In other years there is an extremely small risk at Ghat Oases in the far south west of the country.

It is worth consulting your national foreign office websites such as US Travel and UK FCO for the latest safety and travel information before travelling. It is vital that you do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun too long and it is worth using a sun-block and wearing a hat. You should also drink plenty of water, certainly a few litres a day. Safe bottled water is available in virtually every local shop in the country.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:28 -- abc_admin

Karabolli IBA, Tripolitania, Libya

Image Credit: 
Rob Tovey


This area is in the north west of Libya centred on the capital city of Tripoli. It can conveniently be divided into three sub-zones with quite different habits and birds. The zones are Tripolitania’s coastal strip, its inland plain and the Jebel Nafusa hill range further south. These zones are discussed in more detail on the geography page.

There is one IBA in Tripolitania’s narrow coastal strip with its Medditerranean climate. This is at Karabolli which is a park about 30 kilometres east of Tripoli. See the IBA page for more details on this place. There are three other major sites near the coast which are just as interesting for birds. These are:

  • the wetland, scrub and tidal water complex at Farwa Island which is on the border with Tunisia
  • Wadi Kaam reservoir and valley which is near Al Khum and is 100 kilometres east of Tripoli
  • and the Taourgha Springs salt marsh which is much further east between Misratah and Sirt.


Farwa Island

The area around Farwa Island is at the most westerly part of Libya on the border with Tunisia. It is a 2 hour drive on the Tunis road from Tripoli. The area around Farwa Island and Boukammesh is one of the most important coastal wetlands in Libya. There are extensive tidal areas and mudflats in the lagoon south of the island and seagrass on the northern part of the island. This type of habitat is quite common in Tunisia but much rarer in Libya. The lagoon to the south of Farwa Island is very shallow. It is well protected from the elements by the island too.

Fishing boats and tourism cause disturbance. There is a new up-market resort in the middle of the island facing north. Luckily much of bird activity is to the south of the island away from the open sea – and the resort. The disturbance particularly from tourists is less in winter.

Three kilometres south of the lagoon is a large salt pan (Sebkhet) called Abou Kammesh. It is flooded in winter but the degree of flooding varies greatly from year to year.

The surrounding area is equally interesting. There is a thin coastal strip between the lagoon and the main road, the land south of the main road but north of the salt pans, and also inland scrub south east of the lagoon. The inland scrub to the south east of the lagoon is salty semi desert which grades to low level scrub further south east.

Despite disturbance the Island and lagoon still provide good nesting grounds for Little Tern Sterna albifrons and Common Tern Sterna hirundo. This is also the only recorded breeding place for Caspian Tern Sterna caspia in Libya. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus and Common Redshank Tringa totanus almost certainly breed on the mainland coast in side pools.

The lagoon winters large numbers of water birds most of which are émigrés from Europe. The most common are Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus, Black- necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Anas ducks, Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata, Bar-tailed Godwit Limosa lapponica, Eurasian Oystercatcher Haematopus ostralegus and Dunlin Calidris alpina. There are Common Redshank Tringa totanus and Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia too. In the winter Common Crane Grus grus can occasionally be seen wading or even in the local fields. Eurasian Wryneck Jynx torquilla has also been recorded then. The winter gulls are mostly Common Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus with some Slender-billed Gulls L. genei and Lesser Black-backed Gulls Larus fuscus are also present. A few Lesser Crested Terns Sterna bengalensis linger throughout the winter. In autumn there are plenty of Grey Heron Ardea cinerea and Little Egret Egretta garzetta and again some stay into the winter.


South of the lagoon, the heathland either side of the Tunis road is a diverse habitat. Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis is found all around. The larger thorn bushes house Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva. Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala and Streaked Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta are also resident right up to the coast. Little Owl Athene noctua is here too. Each bird has a habitat niche. It is not known whether Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina which is observed in winter is also resident. The heathland gains many wintering species which have come over the sea from Europe or down from the mountains of North Africa. Flocks of Eurasian Skylark Alauda arvensis are regularly seen in late autumn onwards. Moussier’s Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri are relatively common all winter, large numbers of Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis, European Greenfinch Carduelis chloris and even the occasional Song Thrush Turdus philomelos or Eurasian Blackbird T. merula can be seen then too.

Provided Sebkhet (salt pan) Abou Kammesh is flooded it houses up to 1,500 Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus (ruber) roseus as well as large numbers of Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Little Stint Calidris minuta and Sanderling C. alba. Many White Wagtail Motacilla alba can be found on the mud flats.

The area of low level inland scrub, south east of the lagoon, is very attractive to a variety of Sylvia warblers in winter. These include Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala, Spectacled Warbler S. conspicillata, Blackcap S. atricapilla and Marmora’s Warbler S. sarda. Some of the Sardinian Warblers are resident. Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti is perhaps surprisingly also resident in the salty semi desert. European Serin Serinus serinus and Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus both breed near by on the coastal road to the east.


Wadi Kaam Libya. Photo: Rob Tovey

Wadi Kaam

Between Al Khoms and Misratah there is a Wadi called Kaam which can be divided into three distinctly different areas all with interesting birding opportunities. All the areas are relatively green compared with much of the rest of Libya and so encourage wildlife diversity including birds.

The southern most part is a dammed reservoir. This has created a large lake which is sometimes vast. It has a theoretical capacity of 111 million cubic metres. Most of the water comes from wadis connecting into Wadi Kaam in the upland (300m) Tarhunah area.

The second section of the valley is directly north. This section is mostly turned over to agriculture but it is not supplied from the reservoir but by underground water which comes closer and closer to the surface.

Further north still, the water meets the surface creating a wetland with an “Ain” or springs surrounded by reeds. This stretch is called Ain Kaam. This section is a 1 to 2 kilometres long river and estuary. The water is provided by the springs and incoming tide. The estuary flows thorough a sandy beach.

Travel from Tripoli towards Misratah on the main road and you reach a turn off left for the tourist world renowned attraction Leptis Magna after about 120 kilometres.  This is at Al Khoms. Carry on the main road for 18 kilometres. Turn right towards the reservoir which is a further 18 kilometres up this side road or turn left towards the coast and Ain Kaam.

At the reservoir, resident birds include European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis, Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis, Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva and Thekla Lark Galeria theklae. In the scrub adjacent to the lake, Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura is resident. This is near the eastern extremity of its range in Libya.

In the winter the reservoir supports a very large variety of water birds. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Great Crested Grebe P. cristatus, Grey Heron Ardea cinerea, large numbers of Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata and Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo are found on the water. Eurasian Coot Fulica atra are found in smaller numbers. Occasionally Common Kingfisher Alcedo atthis can be spotted. Long- legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus roam the area. Many non water bird migrants are present. European Robin Erithacus rubecula is plentiful. Others include Common Reed Bunting Emberiza schoeniclus, Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus, White Wagtail Motacilla alba on mud flats and Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros. Sandwich Tern Sterna sandvicensis can be seen flying over. Little Egretta garzetta and Great Egret E. alba are common passage birds.

In the area immediately below (north of) the dam, Desert Lark Ammomanes deserti can be seen on the slopes. In the more vegetated “mini” wadis cascading down to the main wadi valley there are Streaked Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta all year round and Moussier’s Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri, Blue Rock Thrush Monticola solitarius and Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus in the winter. Further down (north) the valley widens out. There are plenty of Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara. The meadows house Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis. European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis and local European Serin Serinus serinus are noticeable. As elsewhere on this coast, Desert Grey Shrike Lanius (meridionalis) elegans frequent many local vantage points all year round. Occasionally you will see a Little Owl Athene noctua too. This is the only place in Tripolitania where you can see local race of Chaffinch Fringella (coelebs) africana. In winter it is outnumbered by nominate migrants from Europe. Flocks of Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris of huge size also roam and Meadow Pipit Anthus pratensis is recorded regularly in the meadows.

There are resident breeding warblers in Ain Kaam. These are Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis, Reed Warbler which is probably African Reed Warbler Acrocephalus baeticatus (as suggested by research on reed warblers elsewhere in Libya) and Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus breed here too. Several Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus fly all round. In winter the warbler population is reinforced at Wadi Kaam by large numbers of Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita which can be found in all sections of the wadi. Occasionally a Water Pipit Anthus spinoletta can be seen at Ain Kaam too. In the winter, the river (Ain Kaam) typically has smaller numbers of Great Crested Grebe Podiceps cristatus, Black-necked Grebe P. nigricollis, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, Eurasian Coot Fulica atra, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis and the occasional Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca.

The mud flats and beach at the Wadi mouth support a few waders in winter. Typically you might see the occasional Dunlin Calidris alpina, Grey Plover Pluvialis squatorola, Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia or Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula.

Taourgha Springs

South east of Misratah and on the western side of the Gulf of Sirt is an extremely large tract of salt marshes. These are centred on Taourgha Springs. The turning to Taourgha Springs is left off the main trans-country coast road which runs nearly 2000 kilometres from the Tunisian to the Egyptian border. The turning is half way between the cities of Misratah and Sirt. It is over 200 kilometres east of Tripoli.

The salt marshes are much more numerous and larger in winter. This area is relatively little investigated because it is so remote. However it is known that Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus winter every year along with Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus (ruber) roseus and Common Crane Grus grus. It is a confirmed wintering location for small numbers of Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris.Little Stint Calidris minuta and Dunlin C. alpina are common in winter. Significant numbers of Western Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus and large flocks of Skylark Alauda arvensis can be found at the same time. Residents include White Stork Ciconia ciconia, Common Quail Coturnix coturnix, Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta, Desert Wheatear O. deserti, Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto and Little Owl Athene noctua. The White Stork Ciconia ciconia population is swollen in winter by migrants.


Jadu Spring, Jebel Nafusa, Libya. Photo: Rob Tovey

Jadu Spring

The second sub zone in Tripolitania is the Jebel Nafusa. It is a hill range which runs west to east 70 kilometres south of Tripoli. The eastern section near Gharyan is an IBA called “Nefhusa IBA”.  It is particularly important for wheatears all year round and for water birds at its reservoirs in winter. See the IBA page for more information. However there are other interesting hotspots on the Jebel Nafusa apart from the IBA. The best is probably Jadu Spring (Ain Jadu) towards the west of the hill range.

Jadu Spring is a permanent fresh water spring and lake on the western side of the Nefusa plateau between Yefren and Nalut. It is a classic migrant trap. In spring, it is the first fresh water many birds will see. In autumn it is the last water before a long Saharan crossing. In spring a typical cross section of migrants near the water includes: European Pied Flycatcher Ficedula hypoleuca, Collared Flycatcher Ficedula albicollis, Common Nightingale Luscinia megarhynchos, Lesser Whitethroat Sylvia curruca and Common House Martin Delichon urbicum.  Resident birds include House Bunting Emberiza (striolata) sahari and Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura. It is not known whether the Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis which can be seen is a short distance migrant or resident.

The spring is a good base to visit the surrounding area. Migrants seen within a few kilometres include Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator, European Bee-eater Merops apiaster and Montagu’s Harrier Circus pygargus as well as more flycatchers. The land south of Jadu Spring towards Zintan grades to semi-desert. Residents here include Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor, Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta, Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus, Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus and at least three types of lark – Thekla Lark Galerida theklae, Crested Lark Galerida cristata and Temminck’s Lark Eremophilia bilopha.

Zuwia to Yefren road

The third sub zone of Tripolitania is inland plain. It is semi desert and lies between the coastal strip and Jebel Nafusa hill range. It is flat.and quite homogeneous.  The density of birds is understandably low so patience and alertness are required. The best area to bird is probably close to the Zuwia to Yefren road. The main reason for choosing this part of inland plain is because it is the most accessible part from Tripoli.

Near the Zuwia to Yefren road, as well as Crested Lark Galerida cristata and Desert Wheatear Oenanthe deserti which might be expected there is a large population of Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor. This is one of the best places in Libya to see this bird. Near the settlements the Eurasian Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto is rapidly colonising this area. Otherwise this is still a rare bird in the country. They join the resident Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis and Feral Pigeon Columba livia. Contrary to some guide books Black Wheatear cannot be seen in this area. However, the flat plains are ideal terrain for White Wagtail Motacilla alba to winter. Although there are large waves of migrants passing through Libya in Spring and Autumn not many chose to stop here. However, you can see large numbers of Northern Wheatear Oenanthe oenanthe, Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris and Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans. The first and second can be seen mostly on the ground, the last in the few greener areas with bushes.


There are four IBAs. These are at Ain Zayanah – a sea inlet near Benghazi, Jebel Akhdar – a hill range 150 kilometres north east of Benghazi, Geziret Garah – an island in the Gulf of Sirt, 120 kilometres south of Benghazi and Geziret al Elba-Ayn – an island and its nearby coast 200 kilometres north east of the city. For more details on these locations see the IBA page.

There are four other places in Cyrenaica which are arguably just as interesting for birds. These are the Juliana wetlands in the city, the Al Marj plain, the farm at Jardinah south of the city and the Keroura saltpan 100 kilometres south of Benghazi on the coast.

Juliana wetlands

This is the largest permanent wetland in Libya though it is surpassed in size by a few other sites in winter. It is very close to the centre of the city of Benghazi and is suffering from intense development pressure. It can probably best be reached by taking a taxi to Gar Younis tourist resort and then walking up the beach for 600 metres. The south west corner of the wetlands is there. It is sometimes called Benghazi lagoon possibly because it can link to the sea when the water levels are high.

Breeding birds include Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus. These birds are found all year round. Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus probably breeds here too. Summer records are few and almost certainly many other birds breed there. Little Egret Egretta garzetta  and Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides have been seen in numbers in late May. It is possible that they are among the breeders.

Winter records are much more systematic. It is still an excellent place to see ducks. Very large numbers of Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata, Common Pochard Aythya ferina and Eurasian Coot Fulica atra winter here. Other birds include Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus (ruber) roseus, Dunlin Calidris alpina, Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope, Common Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus, Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Common Redshank Tringa totanus, Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres and Little Stint Calidris minuta. Remarkably there have been a few wintering Whiskered Tern Chlidonias hybrida and Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. Some Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola stay here until the end of May.

On the drier land, Meadow Pipit Anthus pratenis, Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus and White Wagtail Motacilla alba can be found all winter.


White Stork Ciconia ciconia at Al Marj, Libya. Photo: Rob Tovey

Al Marj plain

This area is directly east of Benghazi. It is a plateau at 300 metres and can be reached in two ways from Benghazi. Either drive north east up the coast road and turn inland after 70 kilometres at Tulmaythah or take the airport road out of Benghazi, drive past the airport and on up to the plain. It is prime farming country.

The Al Marj plain is worth visiting for the colonies of breeding White Stork Ciconia ciconia alone. There are two main clusters known. One is near Old Al Marj and the other is near Al Abyar. A small number of Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola also breed near Old Al Marj.

The tree cover also encourages Chaffinch Fringella (coelebs) africana. House Sparrow Passer domesticus and European Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis are common. The area has many Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis and Feral Pigeon Columba livia all year round and European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur in the summer.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus and Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus are the main birds of prey. Common Raven Corvus corax can be seen on the plateau’s slopes towards the sea.

There are also Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (probably aucheri), Desert Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis elegans all year round and Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator in the summer. Hoopoe Upupa epops is also resident. Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala is found on the coastal edges of the plateau.

Jardinah farm

The farm at Jardinah is massive and has only been in operation since January 2010. It is watered from the great man made river project. It is one of a dozen or so similar projects throughout the country. These highly irrigated farms are all on marginal land or have desert locations. Research and observations have shown that all of them have a rich variety and number of birds, many of which are not found elsewhere in their surrounding area or sometimes even elsewhere in the country.


Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava have been found in Libya in summer at Jardinah. Photo: Rob Tovey

Jardinah farm is the most accessible of these projects. It is 40 kilometres south of Benghazi. Permission for access must be obtained.

Outside the farm in the tree avenue on the approach there are literally hundreds of House Sparrow Passer domesticus. There are also Hoopoe Upupa epops and Southern Grey Shrike Lanius meridionalis (probably aucheri).

Inside the farm there are many larks. There are Lesser Short-toed Lark Calandrella rufescens, Greater Short-toed Lark C. brachydactyla, Calandra Lark Melanocorypha calandra and Crested Lark Galerida cristata but not surprisingly none of the desert species. However round the edge of the farm you can spot Cream-coloured Courser Cursorius cursor .

The fields are always full of White Stork Ciconia ciconia which presumably have flown from the Al Marj plain because the pickings are richer here. There are also usually plenty of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis.This appears to be the only place where Grey Heron Ardea cinerea and Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava have been found in Libya in summer.

The abundance of small birds and water life particularly frogs have attracted birds of prey. You can at least see Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus and Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus all year round.

Sebkhet Keroura

This is a fairly accessible but largely undisturbed and extensive coastal saltpan which is filled by winter rains. It is 100 kilometres south of Benghazi and can be reached by turning off the main trans-country (runs from the Egyptian to Tunisian border) coastal road.

Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus breed and are present all year round at Keroura. However this is a winter birding place. Dunlin Calidris alpina is commonly seen. Occasionally very large flocks of Ruff Philomachus pugnax and Ruddy Turnstone Arenaria interpres can be seen at the same time of year. Audouin's Gull Larus audouinii and a few Caspian Gull L. cachinnans cachinnans also winter here. This is another site where there is an excellent chance of seeing Common Crane Grus grus from October until March.


Germa lakes

There are two IBAs in this area, Zallaf and Ghat oases. They are both based on oases. They are described in detail on the IBA page. The Germa lakes which are a string of oases south west of Sebha are equally interesting. They are also on most tourist itineraries when they visit the Libyan desert and so are more accessible than the relatively close Zallaf IBA.

On the Germa lakes, three types of sparrow can be found all year round. Desert Sparrow Passer simplex is locally common but nomadic. Small flocks of Italian Sparrow P. (domesticus) italiae live permanently at Germa in Wadi al Hayat. Spanish Sparrow P. hispaniolensis also breeds widely near the lakes. White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga and Bar-tailed Lark Ammomanes cinctura are widespread residents too. Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus can be seen at Mavo Lake all year and probably at other lakes too. Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis is a common resident at Germa and Ubari lakes. Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva is found resident close to man including in the grounds of Germa Hotel. Desert Grey Shrike Lanius (meridionalis) elegans can be seen all along the Germa Lakes corridor as far west as the middle of wadi Mathkendoosh.

The Germa lakes are very important as a trans-Saharan migrant stop. This seems to be more important in spring than in autumn. While there is more information on breeding birds for the Zallaf IBA, there is a little bit more information on the Germa Lakes than Zallaf concerning migration.

Hundreds of Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica and Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava which are both diurnal migrants can be found at the Germa lakes in spring taking advantage of huge numbers of brine flies and their larvae. These birds are not present during the autumn migration presumably because there are many fewer insects. Smaller numbers of Common House Martin Delichon urbicum, Red-rumped Swallow Cecropis daurica and Common Sand Martin Riparia riparia are found mixed with Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica in the spring. Several Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula and Common Sandpiper Actitis hypoleucos have been seen at Germa in April on the sandy borders of Gabron Lake feeding presumably on migration. A Masked Shrike Lanius nubicus has been seen at Wadi Mathkendoosh in the same month. There are almost certainly many more species which stop off at the lakes on migration but they have gone unreported.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:18 -- abc_admin

Moussier’s Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri, Wadi Kaam, Libya

Image Credit: 
Paul Bowden

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 Libya 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.

Endemic species

There are no endemic species in Libya.

Near endemic species (found in a few North African countries only)

Moussier’s Redstart* Phoenicurus moussieri
Tristram’s Warbler Sylvia deserticola

* scarce winter visitor

Threatened species

Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Vulnerable
Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris Critical

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 Libya’s threatened species, see BirdLife International

Important Bird Areas

Fri, 01/18/2013 - 15:17 -- abc_admin

Streaked Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta, Wadi Ghan Reservoir, Libya

Image Credit: 
Rob Tovey

Desert Grey Shrike Lanius (meridionalis) elegans, Karabolli Libya

Image Credit: 
Paul Bowden

Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator, Cyrene, Libya

Image Credit: 
Rob Tovey

White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga, Mizdah, Libya

Image Credit: 
Paul Bowden

No species of restricted range are known but there are a number of species which are restricted to two particular biomes. The Mediterranean North Africa biome extends in a narrow strip along the Libyan coast and holds 12 of 17 species restricted to this biome. The area in the north-west of the country within this biome is often called Tripolitania. The area in the north-east in this biome is commonly called Cyrenaica.  The Sahara-Sindian biome covers the rest of the country and holds 14 of the 22 species of this biome. This area is usually called the Fezzan.

A total of 8 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified covering 2,865 km2. This low total reflects the lack of available ornithological data. 4 of the IBAs have protected area status, one is partially protected and 3 are unprotected. However, protection is not always fully observed.

North-west Libya (Tripolitania)

2 IBAs are in the north-west of the country, Nefhusa (Jebel Nafusa) and Karabolli. These hold Mediterranean North Africa biome species such as Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara (very common) and Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala (breeds at Karabolli).

Nefusa is the name of the hill range inland and south of Tripoli. The Nefusa IBA straddles the lower slopes as well as the higher plateau of the eastern part of the range. The IBA is in the wettest part of the hill range though even here the annual rainfall is only 300-325 mm. This IBA is much better protected than Karabolli probably because there is no commercial pressure for development.

The Nefusa IBA is easiest to approach by taking the main Gharyan road south out of Tripoli and turning off either left OR right onto smaller roads just before the Gharyan road rises up to the town.

This IBA is a good place to see wheatears – Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucura and Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta all year round, Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica in the summer, Magreb Wheatear Oenanthe (lugens) halophilia in winter and Northern Oenanthe oenanthe and Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina on passage.

There are three reservoirs in or near the IBA. These are based on Wadi Zaret, Wadi Ghan and Wadi Mejenin. They attract some water birds in winter such as Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata , Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca. A few Moussier’s Redstart Phoenicurus moussieri winter here and are sometimes found near the reservoirs but are more likely to be in more remote sloping wadi valleys. Wadi Ghan is one of the easiest places in the country to see Streaked Scrub Warbler Scotocerca inquieta and Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githagineus.

Karabolli, is a coastal park 30 kilometres east of Tripoli which mostly consists of garrigue but has some citrus and olive groves as well as cypress woods. It is only 2 kilometres north of the main Tripoli - Misratah road. This is a stretch of the main west-east coast road which crosses the whole country. The park at Karabolli is under some development pressure particularly for recreational use. It is very accessible to day trippers from Tripoli.

Despite its developmental pressure, with a little effort, it is possible to walk or drive away from the haunts of the day trippers. It is still an excellent place to see European passerine winter migrants as well as spring and autumn passage birds such as redstarts, warblers, chats and nightingales.

Like much of the north west coast there are plenty of resident Eurasian Thick-knee Burhinus oedicnemus, Hoopoe Upupa epops, Desert Grey Shrike Lanius (meridionalis) elegans and Fulvous Babbler Turdiodes fulva. It is one of the best spots to see breeding Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator and European Bee-eater Merops apiaster in the summer too. The semi-permanent wadis in the park have resident Reed Warbler which recent research from other parts of Libya suggests are probably African Reed Warbler Acrocephalus baeticatus.

North-east Libya (Cyrenaica)

The largest city in this area is Benghazi and it is usually the start point for bird watching expeditions in Cyrenaica. There are four IBAs in this region and one of them is only 15 kilometres from the city centre. This IBA is called “Benghazi” but this is a bit of a misnomer. It is actually Ain Zayanah. There are other birding sites within the city for which the name Benghazi would be more appropriate. The IBA can easily be seen on the left when you take the main coast road out of Benghazi towards the north-east.

Benghazi IBA is an inlet from the sea which is also fed by fresh water aquifers under the ground. Like other IBAs it is under development pressure. On the positive side, there are still no buildings close to the inlet but on the negative side, the natural banks have been replaced by concrete (albeit discretely). Despite all this, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola breed here in significant numbers. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus probably breeds here too and can be seen all year round.

Although there is significant breeding activity, the site is primarliy a winter birding site which is very important for wintering and passage waterbirds. In winter, there are very large numbers of Common Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus, Little Stint Calidris minuta and Dunlin Calidris alpina. Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus (ruber) roseus are nearly always present in the winter in varying numbers. There can also be dozens of Slender-billed Gull Larus genei and Northern Shoveler Anas clypeata. Black-necked Grebe Podiceps nigricollis, Common Shelduck Tadorna tadorna, Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo, three types of egret, Grey Plover Pluvianus squatorola, Common Redshank Tringa totanus and Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia are also possible. Among non-water birds Common Stonechat Saxicola torquatus are a common sighting in the fields nearby.

Possibly the most surprising sight in winter though is the presence of Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica. This is one of two sites in eastern Libya where they are known to over-winter. Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis have also been reported to over winter here in small numbers.

Unusually Geziret Garah IBA is designated an IBA on the strength of just one bird - Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis. The site is an island 125 kilometres south-west of Benghazi, 12 km offshore in the Gulf of Sirt, some 20 km west-south-west of the town of Azzuwaytinah (Zuwaytinah). It is thought to hold 90% of the breeding population of all Lesser Crested Terns in the Mediterranean. Another 5% are at other sites on the north-east Libyan coast. Only one other bird, Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans is believed to breed on the island.

The third IBA in Cyrenaica is Jabal al Akhdar (Green Mountain in English). The Jebel Akhdar is a hill range centred on the town of Al Bayda. It  also contains the town of Shahat which in ancient times was called Cyrene. The highest point of the range is 850m. The range is north and east of Benghazi. Al Bayda itself is about 150 km north-east of Benghazi but the hill range covers over 100 km2. The area gets the highest rainfall in Libya. For example, Shahat at a height of 625 m receives 570 mm which is approximately twice that of Tripoli and Benghazi.

The area is mainly dense highland maquis and Cypress trees are very common. However there is also a major gorge called Wadi Al Kouf  and this is protected. There is also a narrow coastal section next to the hills with sandy beaches interspersed with rocky outcrops and coastal cliffs. On this coast there are two main salt marshes called Sebkhet Ashagiga and Sebkhet Azzarga.

The area with its temperate climate and relatively high rainfall has more in common with southern Europe than anywhere else in Libya and its bird life reflects this. Possibly the most common bird is Chaffinch Fringilla (coelebs) africana. Even the most amateur birdwatcher who is visiting the ancient site at Cyrene as a cultural tourist will notice this bird. There are smaller numbers of Common Linnet Carduelis cannabina and in winter there are European Serin Serinus serinus too. European Goldfinch C. carduelis breed here and are especially common around Qasr Libya which is another tourist site. Jebel Ahkdar is also the only place in Libya where you can find African Blue Tit Parus (caeruleus) cyrenaicae.

Adding to the Southern European feel, Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala is a common resident in the less densely vegetated areas. It’s the only place in Libya where the Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator is the most abundant shrike.

As is typical for upland areas, Jebel Akhdar attracts birds of prey. There are healthy populations of Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni and it is the only part of the country with breeding Eurasian Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. In contrast to the health of other birds of prey, Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus is now a very rare bird in this area. Common Raven Corvus corax is a common bird.

In the drier, more eastern, parts of the range Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara, different sandgrouse species and Houbara Bustard Chlamydotis undulata breed. The brackish lagoons on the coast are important in winter for herons, ducks and waders as well as Black Stork Ciconia nigra and White Stork Ciconia ciconia.

The final and most easterly IBA in Cyrenaica is Geziret al Elba-Ayn al Ghazalah Bay. It is situated in the south of the Gulf of Bumbah (Bomba), between the towns of Darnah (annual rainfall is 277mm) and Tubruq (annual rainfall is 117 mm). It is a small island just off the coast. Both the island and the nearby coast have salt marshes. For its size the island has a wide vaiety of habitat. As well as salt marsh there is some raised ground with garrigue leading to small cliffs.

The island is important for a large number and type of breeding birds. The following birds are known to breed there: Barbary Partridge Alectoris barbara, Red-rumped Wheatear Oenanthe moesta, Lesser Crested Tern Sterna bengalensis, Little Tern S. albifrons, Yellow-legged Gull Larus cachinnans, Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus  and Crested Lark Galerida cristata.

However the rarest birds (for the region) which can be found on the island are Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus and Greater Sand Plover C. leschenaultii.

Central and Southern Libya (Fezzan)

There are two IBAs in the desert areas. These are Zallaf – a string of oases in the centre of the country and Ghat oases is in the far south-west. Like most places in the southern and western desert, the entry point for most people is to fly to Sebha (the largest town in the Libyan Sahara) and then travel on from there. For Zallaf this is usually by road to Brak which is a relatively simple journey. Brak is at the start of the Zallaf chain of oases. In the case of Ghat oases most people undertake a land trek which takes at least two days or they can fly using an infrequent local plane service.

Both Zallaf and Ghat oases contain many of the resident Sahara-Sindian biome species including Sooty Falcon Falco concolor, Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus, Greater Hoopoe-Lark Alaemon alaudipes, Pale Crag Martin Hirundo (fuligula) obsoleta, White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga and Desert Sparrow Passer simplex. Many migrant birds stop over at the oases to rest. A few stay all winter.

White-crowned Black Wheatear Oenanthe leucopyga is possibly the most common bird of the Libyan Sahara. It also doesn’t inhabit areas away from the desert. So you know you are in the Sahara when you see this bird.

In the Zallaf area most of the observations have been close to the town of Brak. In addition to the species mentioned above Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva, Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis, Desert Grey Shrike Lanius (meridionalis) elegans and Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis are all resident and Black-eared Wheatear Oenanthe hispanica breeds. Close to the water, populations of African Reed Warbler (probably) Acrocephalus baeticatus Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis, Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca and Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus are resident .Several of these birds may have populations reinforced in winter with migrants.

Wintering birds include Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala, Common Chiffchaff Phylloscopus collybita, White Wagtail Motacilla alba and Common Snipe Gallinago gallinago.

Ghat oases has relatively few breeding birds. Most are mentioned in the list above of Sahara-Sindian residents of Zallaf and Ghat. Two other Saharan-Sindian birds which are resident at Ghat are Bar-tailed Desert Lark Ammomanes cinctura and Desert Lark A. deserti.

This IBA is the least reported of the eight IBAs in Libya. The best birding is at the time of passage: Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni, Tristram’s Warbler Sylvia deserticola and Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator has been observed then but they almost certainly represent only a small proportion of the number and variety of passage birds.

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


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