Working for birds in Africa

South Sudan


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:16 -- abc_admin

Birding tours

We know of no organised birding tours to Southern Sudan.


We know of no birding guides in Southern Sudan.


Several airlines fly to Juba and there are international flights from Khartoum, Addis Ababa and Cairo. There are buses daily between Juba and Kampala, Uganda. Most of the roads are little more than dirt tracks made impassable after heavy rains. Travel is likely to be difficult and requires preparation in terms of permits and security checks. Care should be taken with the use of binoculars (permit not necessary) and cameras (for which a permit is required) near Government and sensitive sites such as bridges and airports.

Visas are required for most people entering South Sudan. In theory, visas are available on arrival at Juba airport for $100. However the rules surrounding their issue are unclear. Immigration officials will often invent rules to suit their own needs. At the very least, you should have an invitation letter from a local company / organisation and you will need someone with local connections to be sure of getting a visa. It is better to obtain one in London, Nairobi or Addis Ababa before arrival.


Travel in some of the border areas with Sudan is still risky even though there has been a cease-fire in the long-running civil war and a peace agreement is being discussed. The best advice is to check with your embassy before travelling to or around Sudan.

Other safety and health issues are no different from those in many African countries. Guidebooks, travel companies and websites provide much of the advice one needs, but key points warrant repetition here: (1) be aware of the risk of malaria and seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended; (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling); (3) do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun for too long, ensure you use sun-block, drink plenty of water and wear a hat; (4) be aware of the risk of AIDS; (5) ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles.

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


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:15 -- abc_admin

Country checklist and status


We are delighted that our Corporate Sponsor iGoTerra has made its country checklists, including subspecies (IOC or Clements) as well as all other species groups like mammals, butterflies etc. available through the ABC website. The only thing required is a Basic membership / registration which is free of charge. Go to South Sudan 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.

A checklist of birds of south Sudan can also be found at NIKOLAUS, G. (1989) and a distribution atlas of Sudan’s birds at NIKOLAUS, G. (1987). This latter reference shows sightings for each species on a map of Sudan with associated comments and remarks.

Endemic species

Cinnamon Weaver Ploceus badius

There is significant interest from international bird watchers in this species. We understand however from the Khartoum Birdwatchers' Group that no one has been able to find a good description of it.

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

White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis
Jackson’s Hornbill Tockus jacksoni

Threatened species

Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus Vulnerable
Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga Vulnerable
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Vulnerable
Corncrake Crex crex Vulnerable
Spotted Ground Thrush Zoothera guttata Endangered

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.


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:15 -- abc_admin

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

de BONT, M. (2009) Bird observations from south-east Sudan. ABC Bulletin 16(1) pp 37-52.

MALLALIEU, M. (2013)First records for South Sudan of African Cuckoo Hawk Aviceda cuculoides, Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina and White-winged Widowbird Euplectes albonotatus, and first sighting of Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae. ABC Bulletin 20(1) pp 71-74. 

MALLALIEU, M. (2013) Bird observations around Juba, South Sudan. ABC Bulletin 20(2) pp 156-176.

NIKOLAUS, G. (1989) Birds of South Sudan. Scopus Special Supplement Number 3. Nairobi: Ornithological Sub-Committee, EANHS.

NIKOLAUS, G. (1987) Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds with notes on Habitat and Status. Bonner Zoologische Monographien, Nr. 25. Zoologisches Forschungsinstitut und Museum Alexander Koenig, Bonn.

ROBERTSON, P. Sudan chapter pp 877-890 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).


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:14 -- abc_admin

The following largely unconfirmed records have been published in recent Bulletins of the African Bird Club for information only.

from ABC Bulletin 25.1

In July–December 2017, the following species not mapped for the area by Nikolaus (1987. Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds) were recorded from Unity State. A Grey Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus was observed at Ganyliel (07°24’00”N 03°28’12”E) on 11 July and at Nyal (07°43’12”N 30°14’24”E) in October. Blackbilled Barbet Lybius guifsobalito (Fig. 38) and Little Green Bee-eater Merops orientalis (Fig. 39) were common at both localities. At Nyal, male Pygmy Sunbirds Hedydipna platura in breeding plumage were seen frequently in November– December (Fig. 40), whilst Chestnut Sparrows Passer eminibey were found breeding in a cluster of trees on 31 October (Fig. 41). Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes was recorded at Ganyliel in July and at Nyal in October (FR).

from ABC Bulletin 24.2

Noteworthy records from February– May 2017 in the Nyamlell area, northern Bahr el Ghazal, at the border with Sudan, include the following. A Secretary-bird Sagittarius serpentarius was observed at Chelkou on 15 May (Fig. 44), a Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos at Nyamlell on 10 February (Fig. 45) and an African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii at Nyimboli on 4 April (Fig. 46); none of these species is mapped for the area by Nikolaus (1987. Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds). Based on the same reference, a few House Sparrows Passer domesticus at Nyamlell in April (Fig. 47) would be the westernmost in the country (FR).

from ABC Bulletin 24.1

Noteworthy records from 2016 in the Nyamlell area, Northern Bahr el Ghazal, at the border with Sudan, include the following. A Chestnutbellied Starling Lamprotornis pulcher photographed at Nyamlell in April (Fig. 45) is apparently the first record for South Sudan (cf. the ABC checklist for the country and Nikolaus’ 1987 Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds); the species is common further north, in Sudan. Fifty Eurasian Spoonbills Platalea leucorodia, of which six had been ringed in the Camargue, France, were counted on the Lol River in November (Fig. 46). Several Whiteheaded Lapwings Vanellus albiceps remained at Majak Bai, Lol River, in May, September and October (Fig. 47); the presence of this species, considered to be rare in the country, is marked in just three onedegree squares, all further south, by Nikolaus (1987) (FR) Noteworthy records from February– May 2017 in the Nyamlell area, northern Bahr el Ghazal, at the border with Sudan, include the following. A Secretary-bird Sagittarius serpentarius was observed at Chelkou on 15 May (Fig. 44), a Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotos at Nyamlell on 10 February (Fig. 45) and an African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii at Nyimboli on 4 April (Fig. 46); none of these species is mapped for the area by Nikolaus (1987. Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds). Based on the same reference, a few House Sparrows Passer domesticus at Nyamlell in April (Fig. 47) would be the westernmost in the country (FR).

from ABC Bulletin 21.2 South Sudan

What appears to be a Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum was photographed flying north over Juba on 31 October 2013; this would constitute the first for South Sudan, where the congeneric Black Crowned Crane B. pavonina is common. 

from ABC Bulletin 19.2 South Sudan

The following sightings were made in the Juba area in March–June 2012. Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis, marked as rare or vagrant in Nikolaus (1987. Distribution Atlas of Sudan’s Birds), was found to be common in early March. Other March records include a Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, an African Cuckoo Hawk Avecida cuculoides, a Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus, and an adult Common Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus (few previous records in South Sudan and / or new one-degree square), as well as a Spot-flanked Barbet Tricholaema lacrymosa (possibly the first record away from the Didinga Mountains). On 29 April, more than 12 European Honey Buzzards Pernis apivorus moved north along the White Nile, with an estimated 6,000 White-winged Terns Chlidonias leucopterus passing in three hours during the afternoon. Several Black Herons Egretta ardesiaca were present in June, whilst a Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulata was seen on 16th and an African Crake Crex egregia on 22nd; all three species are considered rare by Nikolaus (1987).


During a short stay in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, in late June 2009, two species were observed that are not marked for the relevant square in Nikolaus (1987. Distribution Atlas of Sudan's Birds): Striated (Green-backed) Heron Butorides striata (one on 27th) and Short-winged Cisticola Cisticola brachypterus (a few singing on 29th). Other records included a Harlequin Quail Coturnix delegorguei flushed on 29th; a male Pennant-winged Nightjar Macrodipteryx vexillarius in breeding plumage on 26th and 29th, with two females on 29th; and a Black-breasted Barbet Lybius rolleti on 26th.

On 18 July 2010, another four species were added to the same Juba square, all seen on or beside the Nile: Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca (one), Osprey Pandion haliaetus (two), Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus (one) and Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis (three), whilst two Striated Herons were also noted.

Notable species observed near Juba in October 2008 include an adult Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle Circaetus beaudouini on 25th, a Steppe Buzzard Buteo buteo vulpinus on the same date, with two the next day and another single on 28th, a Eurasian Hobby Falco subbuteo on 26th, and several European Bee-eaters Merops apiaster and a Great Reed Warbler Acrocephalus arundinaceus on 25th.


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:13 -- abc_admin

The above map shows that the great divide across Sudan is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. Southern Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Source: BBC News

Important Bird Areas

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:12 -- abc_admin

22 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) with a total land area of 18,040 km2 were designated by BirdLife International. Of these, 13 are legally or partly protected on paper at least. Of the 22, the 9 listed below are in Southern Sudan and the other 13 in Sudan following the split into the 2 countries. There have been few ornithological surveys in recent years and much of the data on which the selections have been made is out of date and possibly inaccurate.

Sudd (Bahr-el-Jebel system) The Sudd swamps of southern Sudan are among the most important wetlands for birds in Africa. Three protected areas exist within the Sudd: Shambe National Park and Fanyikang and Zeraf Game Reserves, all within the Bahr-el-Jebel system of the Sudd, the part of the swamps that will be most affected by the Jonglei canal, as and when completed. For current purposes, the core of the Sudd is treated as a single site; this includes the three protected areas and covers much of the Bahr-el-Jebel system between the towns of Malakal to the north and Bor to the south. The Sudd swamps hold by far the largest population of Shoebill Balaeniceps rex.

Boma The site includes Boma National Park and the adjacent Boma hills. The area is located in the south-east of Sudan close to the Ethiopian border, south-east of the town of Pibor Post. It lies between the rivers Kangen to the west and Oboth in the north-east and from the Kurun river and the provincial boundary in the south to the Guom swamps in the north. Two-thirds of the park is flat flood-plain, punctuated by a number of isolated hills, rising to undulating terrain in the east to reach the Boma plateau at c.1,100 m. The site is located a little way south of Gambella National Park in Ethiopia.

Southern National Park is situated on an ironstone plateau in the south-west of the country, south of the town of Wau and west of Bor. The park is bounded to the west by the Sue river and to the east by the Maridi river, while the Ibba river bisects it north–south. It consists of gently undulating country with low ranges of hills separated by the three parallel northward-flowing rivers and mostly covered with savanna woodland. It is in an area of low human population, poor soils and a high incidence of tsetse fly. 

Bandigilo is located between the towns of Bor in the north and Juba in the south, to the east of the White Nile. The park is centred on a swamp c.40 km east of the town of Mongalla which provides a dry season refuge for mammal populations. It also includes the large surrounding area of mostly waterless plains.

Bengangai is a small forested Game Reserve on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo, west of the town of Yambio. The site is bounded to the west by the Biki river and to the east by the Ogo river, to the south by the border with DR Congo and to the north by the road linking Yambio with the international frontier of the Central African Republic, immediately to the north-west. The vegetation of the site is principally Guinea–Congolian forest.

Juba This reserve, comprising Juba Nature Reserve and Jebel Kujur Forest Reserve, lies immediately south-west of the town of Juba in southern Sudan. The terrain is hilly, dominated by the rocky outcrops and sheer cliffs of Jebel Kujur.

Imatong Mountains The Imatong Central Forest Reserve lies in the Imatong mountain range 190 km south-east of Juba on the Ugandan border. The mountains are sharply faulted and many perennial rivers arise within this upland region.

Kidepo is located to the east of the Imatong mountains (site SD020) on the Ugandan border, and is contiguous with the Kidepo Valley National Park in Uganda (IBA UG030). It includes the Dongotona mountains to the west and the southern part of the Didinga hills to the east, between which lies the Kidepo Game Reserve, in the valleys of the Kidepo and the Omoro rivers, and which extends north to the Torit - Kapoeta road.

Nimule Nimule National Park is located in the extreme south of the country on the border with Uganda. The White Nile forms the eastern border of the park for c.48 km. Beyond it, on the eastern bank, there is a buffer zone, bounded by the Assua river to the north and by the Juba - Nimule road to the east. The Kayu river flows through the park from the Uganda
border to the White Nile. The topography is hilly and most of the park is covered with savanna woodland.

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


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:11 -- abc_admin

Most visitors to South Sudan are likely to go to Juba, the capital. There are certainly plenty of good birding opportunities around Juba as described in a recent article by Mark Mallalieu - see ABC Bulletin 20(2) pp 156 - 176. In total, 323 species were identified over a two year period within a radius of 50 km of Juba. These included 8 species of conservation concern and 27 biome-restricted species. Juba lies on the west bank of the White Nile, some 127 km north of the Uganda border. The areas visited include the Juba Game Reserve within which is an IBA, Jebel Kujur. A further IBA, Badingilo is 60 km north-east of Juba, and just outside the survey area. 

A host of interesting species were recorded which include the following: African Cuckoo Hawk Aviceda cuculoides; Ruppell's Griffon Vulture Gyps rueppellii, Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus; Eleonora's Falcon Falco eleonorae; Lesser Moorhen Gallinula angulae; Rock Pratincole Glareola nuchalis; Meyer's Parrot Poicephalus meyeri; White-crested Turaco Tauraco leucolophus; Icterine Warbler Hippolais icterina; Emin's Shrike Lanius gubernator; Yellow-billed Oxpecker Buphagus africanus and Red-winged Pytilia Pytilia phoenicoptera.

An article by Marc de Bont documents bird observations in the extreme south-east of South Sudan over a two year period - see ABC Bulletin 16(1) pp 37 - 52. 310 species were identified which included 9 species of conservation concern and 47 biome-restricted species. Interesting species recorded included the following: Egyptian Vulture;Neophron percnopterus; Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus; Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga; Denham's Bustard Neotis denhami; White-cheeked Turaco Tauraco leucotis; Gambaga Flycatcher Muscicapa gambagae and Hunter's Sunbird Nectarinia hunteri.

Abyei is located on the border between Sudan and South Sudan and has been an area witnessing lots of political unrest. (Abyei is claimed by South Sudan but currently controlled by the northern Sudanese government.) The area is however rich in bird species including Hamerkop Scopus umbretta, Woolly-necked Stork Ciconia episcopus, Knob-billed Duck Sarkidiornis melanotos, African Pygmy Goose Nettapus auritus, Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus, White-Headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis, Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus, Denham's  Bustard Neotis denhami, Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis, Great Spotted Cuckoo Clamator glandarius, Woodland Kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis, Grey-headed Kingfisher H. leucocephala, Northern Carmine Bee-eater Merops nubicus, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill Bucorvus abyssinicus, Vieillot's Barbet Lybius vieilloti, Lesser Honeyguide Indicator minor, Pale Flycatcher Bradornis pallidus, the beautiful Silverbird Empidornis semipartitus, Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes afer and Little Weaver Ploceus luteolus.

The Sudd must hold vast concentrations of waterbirds and the highest population of Shoebill Balaeniceps rex but access is presumably extremely difficult. 

The following description from Samuel Baker’s trip to discover the source of the Nile in 1863 might be of interest. "There is no more formidable swamp in the world than the Sudd. The Nile loses itself in a vast sea of papyrus ferns and rotting vegetation, and in that foetid heat there is a spawning tropical life that can hardly have altered very much since the beginning of the world; it is as primitive and hostile to man as the Sargasso Sea. Crocodiles and hippopotamuses flop about in the muddy water, mosquitoes and other insects choke the air, and the Balaeniceps rex and other weird waterbirds keep watch along the banks — except that here there are no ordinary banks, merely chance pools in the forest of apple green reeds that stretches away in a feathery mass to the horizon".

Read the ABC feature article about the Shoebill


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:07 -- abc_admin

Southern Sudan voted overwhelmingly for independence from Sudan in January 2011. It was confirmed that nearly 99% of the voters in the referendum were in favour of dividing Africa's biggest country. The formal declaration of independence was made on 9 July 2011 - six years after the peace deal, which led to the referendum, took effect.

The above map shows that the great divide across Sudan is visible even from space, as this Nasa satellite image shows. The northern states are a blanket of desert, broken only by the fertile Nile corridor. Southern Sudan is covered by green swathes of grassland, swamps and tropical forest.

Source: BBC News


South Sudan is in east central Africa with a land area of over 0.6 million km2 and an estimated population of 12 million. The capital city is Juba. It is dominated by the River Nile and borders the Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sudan, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is a landlocked country and Its land borders total 5,431 km. The climate is hot with seasonal rainfall influenced by the annual shift of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone; rainfall is heaviest in the upland areas of the south and diminishes to the north. The terrain gradually rises from plains in the north and centre to southern highlands along the border with Uganda and Kenya; the White Nile, flowing north out of the uplands of Central Africa, is the major geographic feature of the country supporting agriculture and extensive wild animal populations.

The Sudd is a vast swamp in South Sudan, formed by the White Nile, comprising more than 15% of the total area of the country; it is one of the world's largest wetlands. Its name is derived from floating vegetation that hinders navigation. The land elevation is from sea level to the highest point Kinyeti at 3,187 m close to the Uganda border.

The official language is Arabic and some English is spoken. More details can be found at CIA Factbook.


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:06 -- abc_admin

African Bird Club representative

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

Bird recorder and checklist compiler

Gerhard Nikolaus

Clubs / contacts

The BirdLife International contact is Dawi Musa Hamed, Tel: 00249 11 81873.


Thu, 08/28/2014 - 12:05 -- abc_admin

Sudan signed a number of international treaties including Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species and Ozone Layer Protection. It is not clear if these have been ratified by South Sudan. 

South Sudan has a large number of environmental issues which include inadequate supplies of drinking water, wildlife populations threatened by excessive hunting and soil erosion. 

Although there are a number of designated National Parks and Nature Reserves, the long running civil war may mean that there is inadequate protection for these.


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