Country checklist and status
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The state of birding in Niger Ornithological knowledge of Niger up until 1986 was summarised by Giraudoux et al. (1988), in their 'Avifaune du Niger'. Historical information cited by them includes the following pre-World War II sources: Hartert (1921 and 1924, on Capt. Buchanan's expedition in 1920); Bannerman (1931); Bates (1933 and 1934); Paludan (1936, on Olufsen's expedition in 1927); and Rousselot (1947).
Given that Niger is land-locked and mostly arid, its avifauna is remarkably rich. Giraudoux and colleagues listed a total of 473 species for the country. Dowsett and Dowsett-Lemaire (1993) mentioned a further 9 species for a total of 482. The unofficial list for Niger has since grown to approximately 530 species. Of these 367 species (69%) are thought to be at least partially resident, 84 (16%) are thought to be at least partially intra-African migrants and 171 (32%) are at least partially Palearctic migrants. As the percentages indicate, some species have resident as well as migratory populations. Under the harsh and variable conditions that prevail in most of Niger, many of the species usually considered to be fully resident probably also show at least some mobility in response to changes in seasonal or local conditions but much remains to be discovered about that. By and large, migratory bird species in Niger can for now be divided into the following groups: Afrotropical species coming north to spend the wet season in Niger, either to breed or following breeding further south; Afrotropical species breeding near the edge of the Sahara and spending the dry season in the Sahelian and / or Sudanian zones; Palearctic species coming to spend the northern winter in various parts of Niger; and Palearctic species passing through once a year on a loop migration, or twice a year on their way to and from wintering quarters further south.
Paleotropical and Afro-tropical bird families that are represented in Niger include Hamerkop Scopus umbretta, Secretary Bird Sagittarius serpentarius, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, parrots, turacos, mousebirds, bee-eaters, rollers, wood-hoopoes, hornbills, barbets, honeyguides, sunbirds, bush-shrikes, oxpeckers, weavers, waxbills, indigobirds and whydahs. Giraudoux and colleagues mention breeding evidence for only 135 species, a little over one-third of the number of species thought to be at least partially resident in Niger. Again, bird-wise much indeed remains to be discovered in this country!
One habitat in Niger that much more has become known about recently is its more than one thousand wetlands, a pleasantly surprising feature in this low-rainfall country. Regular bird counts have been carried out at these wetlands since 1992, mostly during fieldwork for the African Waterbird Census in January and February of each year. More than 100 species of waterbird and almost forty species of raptor have been recorded during these counts. Slightly over half of the waterbird species are (partial) migrants from Eurasia. The average total number of waterbirds on Niger's wetlands in January and February is estimated to be 1.1 million (Brouwer and Mullié 2001).
Additional monthly waterbird counts have been organised by the US Peace Corps, along the Niger and Mékrou Rivers in Parc National du W (Ambagis et al. 2003). The Parc du W is perhaps the best birded area in Niger, with more than 350 species recorded so far (Crisler et al. 2003). In terms of birding effort it is only rivalled by nearby Makalondi off the main road to Burkina Faso: Pierre Souvairan lived there for thirty years and recorded 310 species.
There are no endemic or near endemic species in Niger.
Five species of global conservation concern are known or thought to occur in Niger. Of these, three are seasonal migrants from the Palearctic. Ferruginous Duck Aythya nyroca occurs in small numbers on several wetlands (a flock of 26 is the maximum reported). Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus is seen during the northern winter in ones and twos over natural vegetation throughout Niger. Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni has a similar distribution to C. macrourus, though it is less common and perhaps remains slightly further north. The remaining two species of global conservation concern are presumed to be resident. Nubian Bustard Neotis nuba has strongholds in the Aïr and in the Dilia de Lagané. The status of the River Prinia Prinia fluviatilis is unclear. The species was described by Chappuis (1974) from 'south of Gao, Niger' while in Urban et al. (1997) the relevant locality information is given as 'Mali (Niger R. between Tillabéri and Gao)'. Since Gao is in Mali and Tillabéri is in Niger, it remains uncertain whether the species has been recorded from Niger. Even if not, it is, however, likely that it does occur as there is plenty of suitable habitat particularly in the Ayorou area, between Tillabéri and international frontier with Mali. River Prinia Prinia fluviatilis may also be found to occur along the Komadougou Yobé River near Lake Chad.