Working for birds in Africa



Wed, 02/06/2013 - 15:06 -- abc_admin

Little Green Bee-Eater Merops orientalis, Segou, Mali

Image Credit: 
Lionel Sineux, April 2011

The following largely unconfirmed records were published in the Bulletins of the African Bird Club and are for information only.

from ABC Bulletin 24.1

A probable Wahlberg’s Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus was observed at Narina farms, Koulikoro, north-east of Bamako, on 25 October 2016; the species was photographed in the same area in January 2010 (MCr).

from ABC Bulletin 23.2

An Iberian Chiffchaff Phylloscopus ibericus was singing in Bamako from 9 January 2016 until at least 15th (sound-recorded: www.xeno-canto. org/299401); the winter quarters of this Palearctic migrant are still poorly known and there are just a few records from Mali (BP)

from ABC Bulletin 22.2

A Freckled Nightjar Caprimulgus tristigma was singing in Bamako’s hippodrome neighbourhood, probably from a flat rooftop, before dawn on 14 - 21 February 2015; houses there are c.1.4 km from large rocky hills. At least one pair of Mali Firefinches Lagonosticta virata was encountered in Bamako National Park, on 11 April, where there were also two Mocking Cliff Chats Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris and many Neumann’s Starlings Onychognathus neumanni; all three species are no doubt regular at this site, but the first two can be hard to find. 

from ABC Bulletin 20.2

A group of three House Sparrows Passer domesticus, one male and two females, was observed on a small building in Nampala, near the south-eastern corner of Mauritania, on 15 June 2013. The security situation in the country does not permit field outings at present, but a nightjar heard singing in the Sokolo area in June and December 2005 is now known to have been a Golden Nightjar Caprimulgus eximius, rather than Red-necked Nightjar C. ruficollis, as initially thought. 

from ABC Bulletin 20.1

A Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica was observed in the outskirts of Bamako on 29 September 2012; the species reaches the northern edge of its range in Mali and there are few records for the country, with this apparently being the first from the Bamako area.

from ABC Bulletin 19.2

In February - March 2012, a flock of 44 African Skimmers Rynchops flavirostris was seen repeatedly on the same sandbank in the Niger River c.25 km south of Kangaba, towards the Guinea border. Also there were an immature Yellow-billed Stork Mycteria ibis and a Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferrugineus on 11 March. In early March, a Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus was photographed at Kangaba. In the capital Bamako, the old Arboretum (103 ha within a forest reserve of 2,100 ha) was given national park status, with new paths and facilities. The park, which was officially opened in September 2010, includes a semi-circular forested canyon that lies below the terraced outcrops of the Koulouba plateau. Koulikoro Firefinch Lagonosticta virata occurs; 6 - 8 were seen during a visit in March.

from ABC Bulletin 19.1

A Lesser Jacana Microparra capensis was photographed at Kangaba, south-west of Bamako (11°55’30”N 08°23’52”W) on 2 July 2011; this is a new locality for the species. An Osprey Pandion haliaetus was also present on the same date.


Mocking Cliff Chat Myrmecocichla cinnamomeiventris was found on rocky outcrops at the village of Missirikoro, near Sikasso, in April and June 2011. This is a new locality for this patchily distributed species.

In January 2010, three Wahlberg's Honeybirds Prodotiscus regulus were observed and photographed in a small valley 30 km south-west of Bamako. These are the first sightings in Mali of the species, for which there are few records in West Africa; full details will be published in this journal.

A Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala was observed near Bougini, east of Tombouctou (16°49’10”N 02°02’52”W), on 1 February 2009. Detailed field notes made in May 1999 and June 2008 by two observers suggest that Splendid Sunbird Cinnyris coccinigastrus is present in Bamako.

During a waterbird census of the Inner Niger Delta using a light aircraft, on 6–21 January 2008, counts included 3,275 Long-tailed Cormorants Phalacrocorax africanus, 10,570 Squacco Herons Ardeola ralloides, 98,960 Cattle Egrets Bubulcus ibis, 3,780 Little Egrets Egretta garzetta, 10,945 Intermediate Egrets E. intermedia and Great Egrets E. alba, 2,605 Purple Herons Ardea purpurea, 11,800 Grey Herons A. cinerea, eight Black Storks Ciconia nigra, 3,644 White Storks C. ciconia, 2,707 Glossy Ibises Plegadis falcinellus, 331 Sacred Ibises Threskiornis aethiopica, 5,815 Fulvous Whistling Ducks Dendrocygna bicolor, 64,804 White-faced Whistling Ducks D. viduata, nine Egyptian Geese Alopochen aegyptiaca, 5,854 Spur-winged Geese Plectropterus gambensis, 1,902 Knob-billed Ducks Sarkidiornis melanotos, 213,355 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 540,865 Garganey A. querquedula, 9595 Northern Shovelers A. clypeata, 25,365 Ferruginous Ducks Aythya nyroca, 34,712 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa, 40 Pied Avocets Recurvirostra avosetta, 177,435 Ruff Philomachus pugnax, and 10,900 Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus; 40,980 egrets Egretta ssp. and herons Ardea ssp. were too distant to be specifically identified.

Other January records include a Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufinus north of Sévaré on 17th, two Arabian Bustards Otis arabs on 13th (seen from the aircraft), and 23 Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis at a waterhole near Sandou on 19th. European Turtle Doves Streptopelia turtur were well represented this year with flocks numbering tens or hundreds of individuals observed in the Inner Niger Delta, and the species was also encountered near Konna and in south Gourma. House Buntings Emberiza striolata were found in the hills south-east and east of Sévaré on 16th and 19th.

On 7-8 March 2007, five Seebohm’s Wheatears Oenanthe oenanthe seebohmi were observed or trapped in the vicinity of Nioro, near Mauritania’s southern border; the only previous records are from the Tombouctu / Gossi area.

During a waterbird census of the Inner Niger delta using a light aircraft, on 9-21 January 2007, the highest numbers since at least 1991 were recorded for several species, including Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides (13,700 individuals, against 12,532 in 2006, which was already a record: Bull. ABC 14: 100), Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (121,100; 69,690 in 2006), Little Egret Egretta garzetta (19,133), Intermediate Egret E. intermedia and Great Egret E. alba (11,445; 6,500 in 2006), Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (9,831; 8,145 in 2006), and Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (15,066; 13,590 in 2006). Additional counts included 2,856 Purple Herons Ardea purpurea, 507 White Storks Ciconia ciconia, 2,338 Glossy Ibises Plegadis falcinellus, 6,450 Spur-winged Geese Plectropterus  gambensis, only 10,612 Northern Pintails Anas acuta, 226,250 Garganey A. querquedula (815,800 in 2006), 11,775 Black-winged Stilts Himantopus himantopus, 337 Egyptian Plovers Pluvianus aegyptius, 2,930 Spur-winged Lapwings Vanellus spinosus, 98,265 Ruff Philomachus pugnax and only 5,990 Black-tailed Godwits Limosa limosa; 22,170 egrets Egretta ssp. and herons Ardea spp. were too far to be specifically identified. Two Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia were observed c.10 km north of Mopti on 18th.

During a waterbird census of the inner Niger delta using a light aircraft from 9-23 January 2006, the highest numbers since at least 1991 were recorded for several species, including Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides (12,532 individuals), Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis (69,690), Intermediate Egret Egretta intermedia and Great Egret E. alba (6,500), Grey Heron Ardea cinerea (8,145), Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis (7,895), Garganey Anas querquedula (815,800), Northern Shoveler A. clypeata (13,940), Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca (13,590) and Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus (12,190). Other interesting records include nine Black Storks Ciconia nigra observed on 21st (apparently the third record for the inner Niger delta), three male Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope on 19th, 35 Common Teal A. crecca (this species has been almost certainly seriously underestimated until now), a Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris on 18th and 250 Common Pochards Aythya ferina.

Noteworthy observations made in August 2006 at Agoufou, c.35 km north of Hombori (15°35’N 01°47’W), include Quail-plover Ortyxelos meiffrenii (regular), Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis (a few), Alpine Swift T. melba (one), Cricket Warbler Spiloptila clamans (common) and Desert Cisticola Cisticola aridulus (common, though not marked for the area on the map in Borrow & Demey, 2004, Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa).

On 2-3 January 2006 at least six small Sylvia warblers that were identified as Spectacled Warblers Sylvia conspicillata were observed in the Sokolo area. Distinctive features included pink underparts with a contrasting white throat, a very distinct whitish eye-ring and grey-brown upperparts in males, whilst females had a weaker eye-ring and paler, duller underparts. There is only one previous record for Mali.

Noteworthy records from the Sokolo area on 12-14 January 2005 include a Yellow-breasted Barbet Trachyphonus margaritatus and two Lesser Whitethroats Sylvia curruca. Records new for the area of Sadiola, south of Kayes, in the little-visited extreme west of the country, near the Senegalese border, include Egyptian Nightjar Caprimulgus aegyptius, Neumann's Starling Onychognathus neumanni and Common Waxbill Estrilda astrild.

The following records are from field work by Robert Dowsett and Francoise Lemaire in 2004 and were published in the Bulletin of the African Bird Club 12(1).

A five-week expedition, from 21 May to 23 June 2004, mainly prospected the poorly-known south and south-west. Additions to the country list were Forbes's Plover Charadrius forbesi (one on a laterite pan near Sagabari), Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti (heard near Madina Diassa and Farako, near Sikasso), Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird Pogoniulus bilineatus (heard at the Woroni waterfalls, south of Sikasso), and Spotted Creeper Salpornis spilonotus (seen near Kalana, south of Yanfolila).

Very few species of Guineo-Congolian rainforest were found at all, and then only in the far south, i.e. Green Turaco Tauraco persa and White-bellied Kingfisher Alcedo leucogaster in the Farako gallery and, most surprisingly, a pair of Buff-spotted Woodpeckers Campethera nivosa in the wide gallery on the Baoulé-sud near Madina Diassa. A number of species characteristic of dry gallery forest elsewhere appear far more widespread in Mali than hitherto known, including African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, Narina's Trogon Apaloderma narina and Adamawa Turtle Dove Streptopelia hypopyrrha (the last two discovered as recently as in 2002), Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica, Oriole Warbler Hypergerus atriceps and Yellow-breasted Apalis Apalis flavida. White-backed Night Herons Gorsachius leuconotus were seen and heard at three sites (Kouoro bridge on the Banifing, east and south of Kangaba). A group of 7–8 Magpie Mannikins Spermestes fringilloides was feeding on the seeds of the wild bamboo Oxytenanthera abyssinica south of Sagabari; the ecology of this species has not been studied in West Africa, but in south-eastern Africa it is well known to feed almost exclusively on bamboo seeds. A Dorst's Cisticola Cisticola dorsti was in full song in open woodland near Kalana, next to a pair of Red-winged Warblers Heliolais erythroptera; the latter species is rare in Mali. Whistling Cisticola Cisticola lateralis, almost unrecorded in Mali, was found commonly in the far south-west (Madina Diassa and Nalla) north to the Baoulé crossing west of Négala. Near Madina Diassa still, a pair of Mottled Spinetails Telacanthura ussheri and Pied-winged Swallows Hirundo leucosoma were breeding in the same baobab, albeit using different entry holes. The extensive grass plains of the south-west (Ouassoulou Balé, Fié rivers) were home to substantial populations of Croaking Cisticola Cisticola natalensis, Black-backed Cisticola C. eximius, Orange-breasted Waxbill Sporaeginthus subflavus and other grassland specialists like Swamp Nightjar Caprimulgus natalensis for which there are few records in Mali. The little-known Mali (Kulikoro) Firefinch Lagonosticta virata was found to be particularly common in dry thicket on the large rocky mountain north-west of Kita, and was also noted near Siby and in Bamako Botanic Gardens.

A five-day tour in the Sahel, from Douentza to Gao, on 14–19 June, produced many records of interest. Pharaoh's Eagle Owls Bubo ascalaphus were heard at the cliffs near Douentza and Hombori (a significant south-westward range extension) and a pair was seen on a small rocky escarpment 6 km east of Gao. Golden Nightjars Caprimulgis eximius were found closely associated with rocky hills, from Douentza to Gao; their churring song was tape-recorded and positively identified for the first time, as dawn playback brought the birds into view within 6–10 m of observers until it was almost full daylight. Hundreds of Pallid Apus pallidus and Mottled Swifts Tachymarptis aequatorialis were feeding noisily around all large cliffs from Douentza to Hombori and also came to drink in pools a long way from water, as in the Gourma. Several Kordofan Larks Mirafra cordofanica were in song in sand dunes south-west of Gao, where the spiky grass Schoenefeldia gracilis was dominant. Species of interest in the Gourma, between Douentza and Benzéma, included Quail-plover Ortyxelos meiffrenii and Fulvous Babbler Turdoides fulva; the latter was, as expected, far more common in arid woodland near Gao. A River Prinia Prinia fluviatilis was seen at Gao on the edge of the Niger; this constitutes only the second record for the country. An Olivaceous Warbler Hippolais pallida seen as late as on 17 June in an Acacia hedge in Gao might belong to the Afrotropical population from Nigeria / Niger not yet proven to breed in Mali).

The following observations by Mary Crickmore were published in the Bulletins of the African Bird Club Volume 11 2004 (CRICKMORE, M. 2004) . These records are from the Sokolo area, 14°44'N 06°00'W, in July and September 2003: Savile's Bustards Eupodotis savilei were heard frequently making their advertisment call day and night. Ten Egyptian Plovers Pluvianus aegyptius were observed at Pont Alatoona on 22 September. In July, a Singing Bush Lark Mirafra cantillans, at least four Zitting Cisticolas Cisticola juncidis and two Desert Cisticolas C. aridulus were seen displaying. On 7 December 2003, an Orphean Warbler Sylvia hortensis and an albino Woodchat Shrike Lanius senator were seen in the Sokolo area; the albino was almost entirely dirty white, with a grey wash on mask, wings and tail, where the normal adult, of which several wintered in the area, is black.

Noteworthy records from the north, from February 2004, some of which represent slight range extensions as compared to the maps in Birds of Western Africa (Borrow & Demey 2001), include a Eurasian Griffon Vulture Gyps fulvus south of Tombouctou on 20th, a Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata also in the Tombouctou area on 19th, 350 Spotted Sandgrouse Pterocles senegallus in the Gao area on 16th, two African Palm Swifts Cypsiurus parvus in Gao town on 18th, a female Sardinian Warbler Sylvia melanocephala at Gao on 17th (apparently the first record for Mali), six Yellow-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus africanus in the Hombori area on 18th, and six Yellow-crowned Bishops Euplectes afer along the Niger River at Gao on 18th.

The following records are from field work by Robert Dowsett and Francoise Lemaire in February 2002. They were published in the Bulletin of the African Bird Club Volume 9 Number 2 August 2002 (DOWSETT, R. & LEMAIRE, F. 2000) .

Adamawa Turtle Doves Streptopelia hypopyrrha were singing and displaying at the confluence of the Bafing and Balé Rivers on the border with Guinea, as well as on the Manding Plateau. Singing Black-shouldered Nightjars Caprimulgus nigriscapularis were found on the Manding Plateau and in the south. Narina's Trogon Apaloderma narina was found near the Guinea border at the Bafing-Balé confluence, and Simple Greenbul Chlorocichla simplex was on the Baoulé Sud River, near Madina-Diassa. A Spectacled Warbler Sylvia conspicillata was observed on the delta near Sari-Mama on 1 March. Dorst's Cisticola Cisticola dorsti was found to be common in the south and Bafing area, thus records of Red-Pate Cisticola C. ruficeps from this area are doubtless erroneus. Brown Sunbird Anthreptes gabonicus and Tropical Boubou Laniarius aethiopicus were recorded from gallery forest on the Baoulé Sud. Dybowski's Twinspot Euschistospiza dybowskii was seen on the Manding Plateau and Black-bellied Firefinch Lagonosticta rara at several southern localities. In addition, several species rarely recorded previously were found to be not uncommon, including Great Bittern Botaurus stellaris (Yanfolila and Delta), Blue-breasted Kingfisher Halcyon malimbica and Yellow-breasted Apalis Apalis flavida (throughout gallery forest in the south).


Mon, 01/21/2013 - 13:34 -- abc_admin


Mon, 01/21/2013 - 13:33 -- abc_admin

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

BIJLSMA, R. G., VAN MANEN W., VAN DER KAMP J, (2005) Notes on breeding and food of Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans parasitus in Mali. ABC Bulletin 12 (2) pp 125-133.

BIJLSMA, R. G. & VAN DER KAMP J. (2013) Sunbathing in Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans parasitus. ABC Bulletin 21(2) pp 212-215.

CLOUET, M., GOAR, J.-L. and BOUSQUET, J.-F. (2009) Note sur l’avifaune des massifs d’Hombori et Douentza (Mali). Malimbus 31(1) pp 47-54.

CRICKMORE, M. (2004) Recent Reports. ABC Bulletin 11 (1) pp 70-79.

DOWSETT, R.J. & LEMAIRE, F. (2000) Recent Reports. ABC Bulletin 9 (2) pp 146 - 147.

DOWSETT, R.J. & DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, Fr., (2005) Additions to the avifauna of Mali. ABC Bulletin 12 (2) pp 119-124.

DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, Fr. and DOWSETT, R. J. (2005) The avifauna of the dry evergreen forests of Mali. Malimbus 27(2) pp 77-111.

DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, Fr. and DOWSETT, R. J. (2006) First reliable sound recording of Golden Nightjar Caprimulgus eximius, in the rocky hills of central Mali. ABC Bulletin 13(1) pp 49-55.

GIRARD, O., THAL, J. and NIAGATE, B. (2006) Dénombrements d'oiseaux d'eau dans le delta intérieur du Niger (Mali) en janvier 1999, 2000 et 2001. Malimbus 28(1) pp 7-17.

GIRARD, O., NIAGATE, B., THAL, J. and BOUTIN, J.M. (2009) Les limicoles au Mali, en particulier dans le Delta intérieur du Niger. Malimbus 31(1) pp 1-19.

GIRARD, O. & BOUTIN, J.M. (2009) Nouvelles données sur la Cigogne noire Ciconia nigra dans le delta intérieur du Niger (Mali). Malimbus 31(2) pp 117-118.

GUITARD, J.J. & REYNAUD, P.A. (2008) Concentration de Nauclers d’Afrique Chelictinia riocourii près de Niono, Mali. Malimbus 30(2) pp 170-172.

PAYNE, R. B. (2005) Little known African bird: Mali Firefinch Lagonosticta virata. ABC Bulletin 12(2) pp 168-169.

ROBERTSON, P. Mali chapter pp 557-566 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).

STRANDBERG, R. and OLOFSSON, P. (2007) Bird observations in Mali. Malimbus 29(2) pp 123-125.

THOMA, M. (2012) First record of Neumann's Starling Onychognathus neumanni breeding in an urban area, with notes on semi-colonial breeding. ABC Bulletin 19(1) pp 47-51.

THOMA, M. (2012) First records of Wahlberg's Honeybird Prodotiscus regulus for Mali and its status in Western Africa. ABC Bulletin 19(1) pp 65-68.


Mon, 01/21/2013 - 13:32 -- abc_admin

African Bird Club representative

Mary Crickmore

Bamako Bird Club
℅ Mary Crickmore
Mission Protestante au Sahel
BP 2210


Report from Mary Crickmore 2012

Bird recorder and checklist compiler

Mary Crickmore

Bamako Bird Club
℅ Mary Crickmore
Mission Protestante au Sahel
BP 2210



Association Ornithologique Malienne
Ibrahima Diabate, professeur de biologie au Lycée Cabral
quartier Angoulème


Note: It can be difficult to contact M. Diabate because the entire school uses just one e-mail address.

Bamako Bird Club
c/o Mary Crickmore
Mission Protestante au Sahel
BP 2210

same e-mail as above

The Bamako Bird Club is an informal group that began in 2003 and organises outings whenever more than one birder is in town and has free time. Our species lists are available on Excel spreadsheet.


Mon, 01/21/2013 - 13:31 -- abc_admin

Namaqua Dove Oena capensis adult male, Sokolo, Mali

Image Credit: 
Mary Crickmore

Drought in Mali since the early 1970s has exacerbated environmental degradation. Population pressures have led to depletion of many wooded areas to supply fuel for cooking and forage for goats. Malian law bans the cutting of live trees without special use permits, but the government has been unable to enforce this. Much wood is collected by subsistence farmers who sell it or make it into charcoal for transport to the cities. Furthermore, it is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 hectares per year are cleared for cultivation.

Hunting was traditionally the profession of a guild of initiates, but with advent of firearms everyone can hunt. The taking of animals, birds, and fish is regulated by law on paper but in practice happens without control. Both antelope and large birds such as bustards and ostriches have been extirpated in many areas. Bush fires also are prohibited, but are intentionally set in numerous places.

The Malian government has a system of classified forests in which use is specially regulated. These areas do seem to fare much better in comparison to others. There are also many tree-planting projects supported by various international organisations, and stands of Eucalyptus are visible near many villages. In addition, many development aid agencies in the country are trying to promote sustainable agro-forestry and use of wood-conserving stoves.

The African Bird Club made an award in 2004 for the study of the dry evergreen forests of Mali. The study was aimed at exploring in detail the riparian forests of the south to examine the status of a number of globally threatened and other species.

Conservation News

12th January 2006: Mali trade flitting away as ban looms

For these caged Senegalese Parrots, chirping away their morning in captivity, a European ban to combat an Asian virus may mean freedom or starvation.

In late October, a quarantined parrot from South America died in the United Kingdom from H51N strain of the avian bird influenza, prompting the European Union to impose a blanket prohibition on the importation of all exotic birds.

The temporary ban has shuttered the bird export industry in some of Africa's poorest countries, forcing traders here in Bamako to choose between feeding birds they might never sell, or letting their investment fly away.

The temporary ban was set to expire Jan. 31, and European experts were to meet today to discuss extending it. "A permanent ban is not foreseen for the moment," Haravgi-Nina Papadoulaki, a European Commission press officer, said this week.

Along the banks of the Niger River, the birds are so thick that dozens can be captured in a morning with nothing more than a simple net and the patience and quick wrists of men who have been catching birds for several generations.

Wending its way from a coastal jungle to a fertile savannah and finally to the Sahara before dipping south again, the Niger River makes Mali one of the most bio-diverse and bird-rich countries in Africa.

Mary Crickmore, a development officer with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee in Bamako, said the import ban had an immediate impact on the livelihood of both the urban exporters and the men in the field who catch the birds.

"From a development standpoint, you never want to do something this abrupt. There's a ripple effect, and all their families are hurt," she said.

However, as an active member of the African Bird Club who has identified over 500 birds in Mali, she said she supported the ban, although she doubted the trade had much effect on the bird population.

Books & Sounds

Mon, 01/21/2013 - 13:29 -- 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.


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.

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.

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.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 20:14 -- abc_admin

Grasshopper Buzzard Butastur rufipennis, Bankoumana, Mali

Image Credit: 
Lionel Sineux, January 2011

Chestnut-bellied Starling Lamprotornis pulcher gathering nesting material from a grass bundle intended for hut roofing. Sokolo area, Segou region, Mali

Image Credit: 
Mary Crickmore

Birding tours

Ashanti and Birding Africa operate tours to Mali.


There are many official tourist guides who know something about birds, but that is not to say they can help in bird identification. One highly recommended guide who speaks English and is trying to learn bird ID is Yaya Keita at Tam Tam Tours, BPE 2495 Bamako. His email is

Mamadou Keita is an experienced guide for birders who speak French.  He is based in Segou but willing to travel, and often works out of the eco-lodge at Teriyabougou.  His phone number is country code 223, 7608 5234.  Unfortunately he does not speak English.

The following are French-speaking contact persons for some of the birding hotspots noted above.

Bamako/Torokorobougou: Mahamane Cissé, known as "Bengué" or "Sosso," Rue 351, Porte 15 Torokorobougou. He knows how to find birds on the islands in the Niger river.

Segou: three biology teachers at the Cabral Lycée have training in bird identification: Ibrahim Diabaté, Famahan Nomoko, and Adama Samogo. They know Konodimini and Soninkora farm and other sites.

Konna: Alhousseyni Sarro, Veterinarian at Konna. Tel : 246 10 01 or 246 10 02 ask for "Sarro le Veto"

Yanfolila: Souleymane Sidibé, at the camp.

Trip reports

For Mali trip reports covering some of the sites on the hotspots page, visit Surfbirds. For site species lists, contact Mary Crickmore - see contacts section.

This trip report to the Bamako area in 2010 is written in French and can be downloaded. ( Vous pouvez transférer ce compte-rendu en français d’une visite aux alentours de Bamako en 2010.)


Foreign nationals from countries outside of West Africa need a visa to enter Mali. You get it in advance from any Malian embassy, but it is complicated if you live in the UK which has no embassy.

Mali is a difficult country to navigate if you do not speak French or Bambara. Hardly anyone knows English. A non-french speaker really needs a bilingual companion or else should hire an English-speaking guide - see under guides for more details.

There are daily flights from Paris to Bamako with Air France and a couple of other minor airlines. There are Air Maroc flights that connect Bamako to the US and Europe via Casablanca. Good tourist class hotels and restaurants are available in Bamako, Segou, and Mopti. Most supplies that you would need can be purchased in one of several supermarkets in Bamako. Some form of caravansary or cheap hotel is available in most large towns and cities on the main roads. The visitor should be tolerant of third-world standards at these, including the latrines. Street food is available everywhere, but amoeba, giardia, and shigella are commonly spread through food and water. In general it is safe to eat food that is served steaming hot. Meningitis, typhoid, and yellow fever vaccines are needed for travelers to Mali, and malaria prophylaxis is a must.

Vehicle rental is available, including drivers, although if you get a four-wheel drive it is expensive. Taxis can be rented by the hour. Public transport (buses and vans) are uncomfortable because the vehicles are packed to overflowing. Another disadvantage is that public transport can get you (slowly) to cities and towns along the main paved road, but service is not regular to outlying areas.

The IBAs in the Niger delta cannot be reached by vehicle during the flood season July - January. There is a system of public transport by boat in the delta around Mopti. Essentially, travelling in Mali can work for you if you have little time but lots of money, or little money with lots of time and patience. It's the people who try to do Mali on a tight schedule and $10 a day that can have a difficult time.

The ideal month to visit Mali is November. It is not too hot, migrants have arrived, and Euplectes and Vidua species are in breeding plumage. The major tourist season happens from December to February because the weather is usually very pleasant. April is uncomfortably hot and May is miserable. In June in a normal year the rainy season is beginning and there is periodic relief from the heat. In July and August many breeding birds are displaying, but the disadvantage is that it is difficult to drive off-road without getting stuck in mud. There are also severe thunderstorms with monsoon-like rain. In September-October the heat returns but the whole country is beautifully green.

Safety and Security

Mali has minimal violent crime and the people are reputed to be the most polite and friendly in West Africa. Bamako, the capital city, is quite safe overall, although there are pickpockets in the markets. There are interesting tourist and birding destinations in Segou and south of Bamako (Kangaba, Siby, Sikasso).

For all of 2012 the northern regions of Tombouctou, Kidal, Gao, and Mopti were insecure due to the advance of jihadist groups and retreat of the Malian army after a coup d’etat. In January 2013 French and West African troops entered and destroyed many of the jihadists while driving others over the border into Algeria. Some suicide and insurgent attacks still took place in Tombouctou and Gao regions during 2013, and two French journalists were killed in Kidal in November 2013. Presidential elections were held peacefully in July and August 2013. A large force of UN peacekeepers remains in the country.

Travel to Segou and in the areas south of Bamako, including the Sikasso region, is quite safe. Visitors should check with their embassies for current information about travel in the Mopti region (Dogon cliffs, Niger interior delta).  

You should refuse to travel on the main roads in the countryside at night. There have been many tragic accidents that have happened at night because outside of towns the roads are neither marked nor lit. There are plenty of vehicles without any working lights as well as donkey carts and animals on the roads; they are invisible in the dark until it is too late. At low speeds on the dirt roads it is safe to travel at night; although it is also easy to get lost.

See the following 2 websites or your own embassy website for the latest safety and travel information: US Travel and UK FCO.


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Kulikoro (Mali) Firefinch Lagonosticta virata, Nando, Mali, February 2010

Image Credit: 
Arne Møller

The descent into Nongoburu


Habitat prefered by Kulikoro (Mali) Firefinch


There are more species on the descent to Ireli. Rock Doves Columba livia and Speckled Pigeon C. guinea are on the cliff face. Several species of swifts are here including Mottled Swift Tachymarptis aequatorialis which is larger than the others.


The walk along the bottom of the escarpment gives a chance to see many other species that live in the Sahel zone such as Little Green Bee-eater Merops orinetalis, Rose-Ringed Parakeet Psittacula krameri and Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus. Many Pied Crows Corvus albus soar on the updrafts, but watch for Brown-Necked Ravens C. ruficollis as well.


Koulikoro Firefinch Lagonosticta virata and White Helmet-Shrike Prionops plumatus photographed in March 2012 at Mali's National Park, Bamako.

Image Credit: 
Paul Robinson

Koulikoro Firefinch Lagonosticta virata and White Helmet-Shrike Prionops plumatus photographed in March 2012 at Mali's National Park, Bamako.

Image Credit: 
Paul Robinson

Kanadjiguila NW, Mali


Kanadjiguila NW stream, Mali


Kanadjiguila SE stream, Mali


Kanadjiguila SE, Mali

Finding the Endemic Kulikoro (Mali) Firefinch in Dogon Country

Article and photographs by Mary Crickmore.

The Dogon Cliffs are the primary tourist attraction in Mali, for cultural experience and scenic views. A major tourist destination is the town of Sanga, although the accommodations are basic and public transport does not run there daily. Most tourists going to Sanga travel with a commercial tour operator in 4 wheel drive vehicles. Tourist season is November - February when the temperatures are relatively mild (high 20s and low 30s Celsius).

Hiking through the cliffs and villages around Sanga should always be done with a guide in order to avoid misunderstandings with the local people, most of whom speak only their Dogon language. Even with a guide it is inevitable in villages that you will accumulate a string of children following you and asking for gifts. Be sure to take plenty of drinking water and snacks; a couple of villages do have stands that sell beer and soft drinks.

There is a six-and-a-half hour hike down the escarpment and back up again which includes an area where it is easy to find the endemic Kulikoro (Mali) Firefinch Lagonosticta virata. The starting point is Sanga and the walk goes through the Nongoburu valley on the way to the village of Ireli. The valley is where I have seen the Firefinch.

Starting from Sanga at sunrise, you will get into the valley before the sun is very high. Kulikoro Firefinches prefer rocky areas protected from the sun where there are trees and shrubs.

I have not been able to find any Malian guide in Dogon country who is skilled in bird identification. Fortunately, almost all of the species that prefer the cliff habitat are conspicuous and easy to view. Neumann’s Starling Onychognathus neumanni, Cinnamon-breasted Rock Bunting Emberiza tahapisi and House Bunting Emberiza striolata are both noisy and abundant; Rock Martins Ptyonoprogne fuligula are overhead; Fox Kestrel Falco alopex is common; Cliff Chat Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris is not shy. Stone Partridge Ptilopachus petrosus is the one species that you will hear but probably not sight - its sound is loud, unique and echoes on the cliff face.

A good option for accommodation in Sanga is at the “Mission Protestante” which used to be a house for missionaries but was turned over to the local church and is operated as a guest house for income generation. It costs just 5,000 CFA per person, roughly $11 US. It is screened, there is solar lighting, and an indoor bathroom and shower with running water. There are three bedrooms that can sleep a total of 6 or 7, a collection of books left by previous residents and visitors, a living room with an ancient out-of-tune piano, and a dining room with enough plates, cups and silverware to serve four people. There is a water filter and a kerosene freezer that can be used as a fridge, but we were not able to cook except to heat water for coffee in the morning when Samuel Dougnon the caretaker brought over a gas burner. For reservations call Samuel (he speaks French but not English) at country code (223) 504 3202. He can also arrange a guide. One pleasant and competent guide that I can recommend is Azariah Kodio, a student who is home in Sanga during holiday breaks. His number is country code (223) 603 9279.

Eating in Sanga is challenging; if not with an organized tour, there are no fast food places, no grocery stores, and the three rustic hotels are oriented to serving meals that were arranged in advance for their guests. They might show you a menu which is completely meaningless because they don’t have any of the items listed. The system is “sur commande” which means: place your order many hours in advance and hope for the best. To avoid the hassle and uncertainty you can travel with your own food that does not require cooking (bread and sandwich spread and the like), or with a camping stove and mess kit.

Other Hotspots

In Bamako and its vicinity:

Mali’s National Park at Bamako and the Kulikoro Firefinch: Mali has converted the old Arboretum, between the National Museum and the Zoo in the capital Bamako, into a national park. There are playgrounds, a botanical garden with medicinal plants, three restaurants, and many walking paths. The park is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (Unfortunately not early enough to enjoy the coolest hours of the early morning).  Access is limited to those buying tickets at the entrance, so the park is not crowded, and there are plenty of security staff.

The most birds are on the “Parcours Jogging” and “Parcours VTT” paths that are close to the cliffs and where the vegetation has been left in its natural state.  Look for Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens and Koulikoro Firefinch Lagonosticta virata in this area. Both may come right up by the path. Other species easy to see in rainy season (June to September) are Scarlet-chested Sunbird Chalcomitra senegalensis, African Thrush Turdus pelios, Yellow White-eye Zosterops senegalensis and Vitelline Masked Weaver Ploceus vitellinus.

Kanadjiguila: This area of mango groves and farms alongside a stream is one kilometer outside of the Bamako city limits on the road to Guinea. You pass through the Sebenikoro neighborhood, at a sign showing a turnoff to Kangaba go straight, and pass a large electric transfer station on the left (the Guinea road goes under the powerlines). Here you will see the mango groves and there are dirt roads to the right and the left where you can turn off and park.

If you take the dirt road to the right (northwest side of the Guinea road) you will cross the stream on a bridge and you can walk through cultivated fields with a large number of shea butter trees to the cliffs. Here we have seen Red-throated Bee-eater Merops bullocki, Fox Kestrel Falco alopex, and Senegal Parrot Poicephalus senegalus. The Malian farmers do not mind birders if you stay on the paths; to be polite, when you pass by you should always say a greeting (“Bonjour”).

On the southeast side of the Guinea road there are many footpaths through the mango grove and one that parallels the stream. Here we have seen Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii, Black-necked Weaver Ploceus nigricollis, White-Crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha albicapilla, and African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis.

The following photos by Heidi Scherrer are from August, which is the peak of rainy season. The area is much dryer during October-May.

The Niger River at Kabala: 18 kilometers from Bamako’s New Bridge is a location with easy access to the Niger river, but many houses are now being constructed there. The amount of good wooded, grassland, and seasonal wetland habitat is decreasing as the city grows; although the waterbirds on the Niger are not so much affected. Following signs for “Le Cactus” hotel-campground, continue straight on the paved road until it turns to laterite and then turn right following the sign to “Fleuve Kabala.” This laterite road ends at the river, and Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius is regularly present on the banks and small islands, as is Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata. Slightly downstream (follow the dirt road used by sand trucks) is a grove of trees where African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis and Bearded Barbet Lybius dubius have been observed.

The Sotuba Research Station is at the end of the paved road that runs through the “Zone Industriel”. This is a large government agriculture research station that has many large broad-leafed trees. African Bird Club has permission to bird on the grounds, and the manager Mr. Cisse desires that birders call him ahead of their visit so that he can arrange for the guard to let your vehicle through the gate. There are hundreds of fruit bats in the trees at the main entrance, but working eastwards you are likely to find African Golden Oriole Oriolus auratus, Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis, Bearded Barbet Lybius dubius, and abundant Senegal Parrots Poicephalus senegalus and Rose-ringed Parakeets Psittacula krameri. Right by the Sotuba Research Station is the Niger river and what is called the “Chaussée” or submersible bridge which is used only when the water level is low. This is an extensive area of rocks and rapids, and attracts migratory shorebirds and terns during the northern winter (although not in the large numbers found in the interior Delta near Mopti.) From  the Research Station it is just a few hundred meters to go to the river and walk on the rocks to view waterbirds and Crested Larks Galerida cristata.

Kabalakoro rocks Just twenty minutes drive out of Bamako are some gorgeous balancing rock formations where Mali's only endemic species Mali Firefinch Lagonosticta virata can usually be found by a persistent observer. The striking Lavender Waxbill Estrilda caerulescens and Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes are very common here. Neumann's Starling Onychognathus neumanni, Cliff Chat Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris and Cinnamon-breasted Bunting Emberiza tahapisi are readily seen, and with luck you might observe Fox Kestrel Falco alopex.

To get to this area, take the road to Segou out of Bamako. Pass the Nyamana "douane" stop where many trucks and public transport vehicles are stopped. After a few kilometers you pass a hotel on the left called "TiziMizi." If you want, stop for birding in the wooded areas near the hotel. After a few more kilometers you reach an area of rocky outcrops where we have seen Mali Firefinch Lagonosticta virata.

A good option to park is by Club Farafina, right underneath some of the most impressive rock formations. A bit farther on there is a dirt road by a sign that says "Vie Autonome-Internat." Turn off on this little road and park, and look in the fields, trees, and mango grove for savanna species such as Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis. To find the firefinches and other birds that frequent the rocky habitat, hike through the hills listening for bird calls and looking for leafy shrubbery that is in the shade. It is best to go for the side of the hills that is protected from the sun.

Torokorobougou is a neighborhood of Bamako near the new bridge that gives easy access to islands in the Niger river. It is not expensive to hire a pirogue and boatman to take you onto the river. There are many herons, kingfishers, lapwings, jacanas, and in the winter, many species of waders.

Around Segou:

Konodimini is 11 km before Segou when coming from Bamako. It is an area of rice fields. Notable species are Hamerkop Scopus umbretta, African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii, Egyptian Plover Pluvianus aegyptius, and Osprey Pandion haliaetus during the northern winter. Gull-billed tern Sterna nilotica and many herons and waders are also present.

Ferme de Soninkora is a farm in Segou with many representative Sudan savanna species of doves, glossy starlings, weavers, shrikes, etc.

Around Mopti:

Mopti-Sevaré: There are many birds to be seen in the immediate vicinity of Mopti and even on the grounds of Hotel Kanaga. Areas to explore: the rocky hills around Sevaré; the waterways around Mopti (in a pirogue), the dikes around Mopti (in car and on foot). The Mopti market, waterfront, and mosque are must-see tourist attractions as well.

Lac Débo and Korientze: From Mopti it is possible to rent a boat to take you up into these lakes in the interior Niger delta. There are also large boats called "pinasses" that offer public transport on regular routes and also transport freight. The delta wetlands host tens of thousands of wintering waterbirds from Europe.

Konna: This is a town on the main paved road 70 km north from Mopti-Sevaré. It is on the river and a predominant ethnic group is the Bozo fishing people. A big open fish market is held here on Thursdays. For the best birding one should rent a pirogue to go on the river as well as explore the area on foot. Lapwings, herons, egrets, and cormorants are abundant here.

Dogon Country (pays Dogon): This encompasses the Bandiagara IBA and the main tourist routes will take you through the towns of Bandiagara, Bankass, and Sanga. Species that frequent this habitat include: Brown-rumped Bunting Emberiza affinis, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting E. tahapisi, Northern Anteater Chat Myrmecocichla aethiops, Stone Partridge Ptilopachus petrosus, Speckle-fronted Weaver Sporopipes frontalis, Cliff Chat Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris, and Yellow-billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus.

In the South (Region of Sikasso):

Waterfall "Chutes de Farako": This is a few minutes drive from the city of Sikasso. Drive to the site and park, then walk around the area of the falls. Many species of sunbirds are here and White-crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha albicapillus has been observed.

Yanfolila: A three-hour drive from Bamako by way of Bougouni. Yanfolila is a large village close to the border with Guinea, in the area called "Wassoulou," a heartland of Malian music and culture. Both a swamp and woodland are near the village. Yellow Penduline Tit Anthoscopus parvulus, Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus, and Northern Carmine Bee-Eater Merops nubicus are among many species here. On excursions from Yanfolia many forest species can be seen.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 20:01 -- abc_admin

Northern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicus, Yanfolila, Mali

Image Credit: 
Lionel Sineux, February 2011

Greater Blue-eared Starling Lamprotornis chalybaeus, Sokolo area, Segou region, Mali

Image Credit: 
Mary Crickmore

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 Mali 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.​​​​​​​

ABC and other checklists

You can download and print an ABC / Dowsett checklist for Mali. The ABC lists follow the taxonomic sequence and names of Birds of Africa Volumes I-VII and are kept up to date with published and peer-reviewed records.

Work was underway as of May 2004 to produce an accurate list. All records are welcome that could contribute to a better knowledge of the occurence of birds in Mali. Send records to Mary Crickmore at the address noted in the contacts section.

Endemic species

Mali Firefinch Lagonosticta virata

Threatened species

Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris Vulnerable
Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus Vulnerable
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga Vulnerable
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Vulnerable
Corncrake Crex crex Vulnerable
Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola Vulnerable

Source: BirdLife International.

Important Bird Areas

Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:59 -- abc_admin

Sahel Paradise Whydah Vidua orientalis adult male in breeding plumage - a Mali speciality, Sokolo, Mali

Image Credit: 
Mary Crickmore

There are 17 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) and one secondary Endemic Bird Area (EBA) designated by BirdLife International in Mali. From north to south, these are as follows:

Three IBAs are in the desert in the regions of Timbuktu (Tombouctou), Gao and Kidal: Tombouctou, Ag Oua - Ag Arbech, and Aguelhok.

Four IBAs are semi-permanent wetlands on the edge of the Sahara near Timbuktu: Lakes Fati, Faguinbine, Télé, and Horo. Of these Lake Horo was designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 1987.

Five IBAs are within the Niger delta and contain signficant breeding colonies and / or wintering grounds: Lac Débo where over 500,000 waterfowl wintered in 1994, Koumbé Niasso, Kouakourou, Séri, and Timisobo-Képagou, where 20,000 pairs of herons and cormorants of 10 species bred in 1986. Of these Lac Débo and Séri are designated as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention.

Mare de Gossi is a semi-permanent wetland near Gao, where 21,000 wintering Garganey Anas querquedula were observed in 1984.

The Falaise de Bandiagara cliff area not only has birds but the Dogon villages on the escarpment are Mali's foremost tourist destination.

A proposed National Park is in the area of the Bafing river in western Mali near the Manantali dam.

A Biosphere Reserve that includes Sahelian bushland, Sudan-Guinea savanna, and riverine forest is north-west of Bamako along the Baoulé River: Boucle du Baoulé.

Sirakoroni-Tyènfala is an area of rocky outcrops along the Niger river north-east of the capital Bamako. This IBA is also an EBA secondary area for the endemic Mali Firefinch Lagonosticta virata.

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


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