Working for birds in Africa



Wed, 02/06/2013 - 11:31 -- abc_admin

Slender-billed Gull Larus genei, Djibouti

Image Credit: 
Charles Davies

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

from ABC Bulletin 19.2

Re-examination of the photograph of the claimed first Greater Frigatebird Fregata minor for the country revealed that it actually was a Lesser Frigatebird F. ariel, the second record for Djibouti, the first being from 1986.

from ABC Bulletin 19.1

A Greater Frigatebird Fregata minor was photographed at the ‘plage du héron’, Djibouti town, on 27 September 2011; this species would be new for the country

Some Serinus seedeaters photographed near Day village, on 1 June 2010, have raised interesting questions. Although they were initially identified as Yellow-throated Seedeaters S. flavigula, they appear to have noticeably less yellow on the throat than the Yellow-throated Seedeaters in Ethiopia and some seem not to have any yellow at all, thus being similar to (and possibly being) White-throated Seedeaters S. xanthopygius. More research is clearly needed to establish the identity of these birds. At the same site, Bonelli's Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus, Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus and Gambaga Flycatcher Muscicapa gambagae were observed; all these species were also present on 23 - 24 September. At least one Sombre Rock Chat Cercomela dubia was photographed there on 25th; this appears to be the first record for the country. The yellow-tailed form of Green-winged Pytilia Pytilia melba was found near Dittilou on 2 June. Several Arabian Golden Sparrows Passer euchlorus were seen near Djibouti City on 4 June and at least 20 were there on 5 September, with smaller numbers the following day; this is a well-known haunt of this localised bird. Four Black Herons Egretta ardesiaca were seen in Djibouti City on 5 September.

Five Djibouti Francolins Francolinus ochropectus - a Critically Endangered Djibouti endemic - were seen on the escarpment at Forêt du Day on 20 February 2010. Somali Starling Onychognathus blythii was common there. About 60 Arabian Golden Sparrows Passer euchlorus, including many males in full breeding plumage were at the railway embankment in Djibouti City on 7th and another 30+ north of the town on 20th.

Two Slender-billed Gulls Larus genei were photographed at the entrance to Djibouti’s harbour on 20 March 2008.

The most recent documented ornithological survey was between 4 and 12 February 2001 which carried out a count of the waterbirds wintering on the coastal mudflats from Djibouti city east to the Somali border to assess the area’s potential as a Ramsar site. This survey recorded 10,072 waterbirds of 66 species, including a first for Djibouti Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris, and regionally important numbers of Crab Plover Dromas ardeola (352 with higher numbers occurring on passage), Lesser Sand Plover Charadrius mongolus (1,368) and Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus (861). Other notable Djibouti records from this survey were a single Masked Booby Sula dactylatra, up to 8 Black Egrets Egretta ardesiaca, a single Great Black-headed Gull Larus ichthyaetus, up to 20 Slender-billed Gulls L. genei, 3 Whiskered Terns Chlidonias hybrida and a female Citrine Wagtail Motacilla citreola.


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Mon, 01/14/2013 - 15:14 -- abc_admin

HERING, J. (2013) Melanistic Striated Heron Butorides striata in Djibouti. ABC Bulletin 21(2) pp 234-238.

HERING J., HERING H. and RAYALEH H. A.  (2015) First records for Djibouti of Hottentot Teal, Yellow Bittern, Savi’s Warbler and Mangrove Reed Warbler. ABC Bulletin 22(1) pp 78-82.

MAGIN, G. Djibouti pp 233 - 239 in FISHPOOL, L. D. C. and EVANS, M. J. eds (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).

McGRADY, M.J., RAYALEH, H.A., DARA, A.M. & ABDILLAHI, E. (2014) Migration of raptors across the Bab el Mandeb Strait, Djibouti, March 2013. ABC Bulletin 21(1) pp 64-71.  

MILLS, M.S.L. and COHEN, C. (2015) Are Yellow-throated Seedeater Crithagra flavigula and White-throated Seedeater C. xanthopygia conspecific? Observations of seedeaters from Djibouti. ABC Bulletin 22(2) pp 190 - 195.

PORTER, Richard, CHRISTENSEN, Steen and SCHIERMACKER-HANSEN, P (1996) Field Guide to the Birds of the Middle East. London, Poyser. 460 pages, ISBN 0-8566-1076-3.

STATTERSFIELD, A. J., CROSBY, M. J., LONG, A. J and WEGE, D. C. (1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the World: Priorities for Biodiversity Conservation Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No. 7)

WELCH, G.R. and WELCH, H.J. (1998) Mystery birds from Djibouti African Bird Club Bulletin 5(1) pp 46-50.

WELCH , H. J. and WELCH, G. R. (1999) A report on the birds of Djibouti and the Bankoualé Palm Livistona carenensis Biodiversity Report No. 4. Privately published.

WELCH, G.R., WELCH, H.J. and RAYALEH, H.A. (2003) Waterbird monitoring and birdwatcher training in Djibouti, February 2001. African Bird Club Bulletin 10(1) pp 30-32.


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African Bird Club Representative

Houssein A. Rayaleh
Executive Secretary
Djibouti Nature / BirdLife in Djibouti
P. O. Box 3088 - Djibouti, Djibouti
Tel: +253 35 26 67(office)
      +253 83 37 68 (mobile)
Fax: +253 35 95 49
Email: [email protected]

Feb 2011 report from Houssein Rayaleh

Previous reports and photos

Feb 2010 report from Abdi Jama

Feb 2009 report from Abdi Jama

Bird recorders and checklist compilers

Geoff Welch,

c/o RSPB - International Division
The Lodge
SG19 2DL


Email: [email protected]


There are no birding clubs in Djibouti.


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Djibouti, Vultures

Image Credit: 
Abdi Jama

Djibouti, Gerenuk

Image Credit: 
Abdi Jama

Djibouti faces a wide range of conservation problems, principally over-grazing of most areas, deforestation, desertification and industrial and urban spread around Djibouti city. Two areas of coral reef around the islands of Moucha and Maskali are designated as protected areas and the Forêt du Day was formerly listed as a National Park but this designation no longer appears to be valid. Enforcement of conservation and environmental legislation is largely non-existent.

The African Bird Club made an award in 2004 for survey and research work on the rare and endangered Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus by Djiboutian Houssein A Rayaleh, with technical assistance from the World Pheasant Association and the Partridge, Quail and Francolin specialist group of BirdLife.

The African Bird Club partly funded waterbird counts in the country in February 2001. The awards were made in order to train staff from the Djibouti government in survey techniques so that these surveys would become self-sustaining WELCH, G.R., WELCH, H.J. and RAYALEH, H.A. (2003).

Conservation News

25th February 2011: Update from Houssein Rayaleh

The major conservation concern in Djibouti is the rapid expansion of two invasive species Prosopis juliflora and Indian House Crow Corvus splendens which are causing increasing amounts of damage to biological diversity. Further, the status of many migratory raptors particularly scavenger species such as Griffon Gyps fulvus and Rüppell's Vulture Gyps rueppelliimay be an important concern because of a growing decline in their distribution ranges.

In addition, many globally threatened species have never or rarely been surveyed to evaluate their status at national level. Such vulnerable species are Greater Spotted Eagle Aquila clanga, Eastern Imperial Eagle Aquila heliaca, Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni and Egyptian Vulture Neophron percnopterus.

Furthermore, there is growing concern in Djibouti that its natural fauna and flora are under increasing threat. There is continued degradation of important ecosystems such as temporary wetlands, coastal wetlands and the very few forested areas.

Currently, the data on the status of Djibouti’s natural habitats is lacking or limited and has not been updated within the past two decades. This is particularly so in the case of many globally threatened species apart from the critically endangered Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus. Djibouti’s confirmed IBAs are of urgent need of review.

The level of environmental awareness and appreciation of nature remains very low but an upcoming number of enthusiastic young groups are being established. Djibouti continues to have limited national capacity in the field of ornithology (one person) and there are no local birders at all, limiting our capacity to carry out significant studies, implement environmental management programs and / or develop nature based tourism programs.

17th January 2008: Bald Ibis jigsaw falling into place

Efforts to save the Middle East’s rarest bird have been boosted by two chance sightings of the species 1,500 miles apart. Northern Bald Ibises were seen last month in the Jordan Valley for the first time in 13 years, and in Djibouti, east Africa, for the first time ever, raising hopes that numbers of this species are not as low as scientists fear.

The bird was thought extinct in the Middle East in the 1990s before a colony of just six birds was found in Palmyra, Syria in 2002. Since then, adult and young birds have been fitted with satellite tags by the RSPB and BirdLife Middle East, to try to discover and protect their migration routes and wintering sites. The tagged adult birds are currently in Ethiopia for the winter.

Dr Jeremy Lindsell, a Research Biologist at the RSPB (BirdLife in the UK), said: “These sightings are great news. They were entirely unexpected and in some ways deepen the mystery of where they go on migration. The fact that the birds are in three different sites away from their breeding grounds reflects the little we know of their numbers and where they go. It also shows how essential it is that we keep tracking the birds so that we can protect them throughout their range.”

Two adult Northern Bald Ibises were spotted on the Yardena cliffs on the Israel / Jordan border early last month. They were seen by a researcher surveying black storks and had disappeared when he returned the following day. Two weeks later, a young Bald Ibis was found on the beach at Tadjoura, eastern Djibouti, by a group of Swedish birdwatchers. The bird was searching for food and its appearance astonished the visitors.

Dr Henrik Lind was amongst the visiting group from the Swedish bird organisation Club300. He said: “We knew about the Syrian birds and our first thought was that this bird was from Palmyra. When a young boy from the village saw the bird, he told us there were others nearby. We didn’t find the others but it was fantastic to see one Bald Ibis so far from where they breed.”

Tracking adult birds was successful in 2006 when three birds flew a total of 3,700 miles to the Ethiopian highlands and back last spring. But readings from the satellite tag fitted to a young bird last summer failed in August and the fate of that bird is unknown.

The Djibouti find is more significant for scientists because the bird was a juvenile and very few of the 25 birds fledged in Syria since 2002 have returned.

Conservationists fear the missing birds are being shot on migration but until they know the young birds’ migration route, they cannot alert hunters to their rarity.

Scientists hope to tag more young birds in Syria this summer in a second bid to reveal their migration route. The also hope to agree steps to protect the species from hunters, with colleagues from Ethiopia, Yemen and other countries on the adult birds’ migration route.

The only other known population of Northern Bald Ibises is in south-west Morocco but it is thought that the birds in the Jordan Valley and Djibouti flew from Syria.

Sharif Al Jbour of BirdLife said: “Unless there is another colony we know nothing of, it seems young Bald Ibis are strong enough to fly as far as Djibouti which is nearly 1,700 miles from Palmyra. “We are gradually piecing the jigsaw together but it is a long process fraught with problems. How we alert hunters in remote areas to just how rare this bird is, is something we must urgently resolve.”

Source: BirdLife International

Books & Sounds

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Birds of the Horn of Africa is an extremely useful field guide which covers Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Socotra and Somalia. The first edition was published in 2009 and the second edition in 2011.

Birds of Africa south of the Sahara also covers all the species found in the Horn of Africa region.

It may also be possible to use a combination of east African and Palearctic field guides. These will cover many of the species found in this region but will miss those which are endemic to the region.


Book image: 
Book info: 
Birds of the Horn of Africa (2nd edition 2011), Nigel Redman, Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe, A&C Black, Softback.
Book description: 

This is the first field guide to the birds of this fascinating region, and a companion to Birds of East Africa by two of the same authors. Over 200 magnificent plates by John Gale and Brian Small illustrate every species that has ever occurred in the five countries covered by the guide (Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Socotra), and the succinct text covers the key identification criteria. Special attention is paid to the voices of the species, and over 1000 up-to-date colour distribution maps are included. This long-awaited guide is a much-needed addition to the literature on African birds and an essential companion for birders visiting the region.

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.


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Djibouti, travel by camel

Image Credit: 
Abdi Jama

Birding tours

Birding AfricaBirdquest and Rockjumper organise bird tours to Djibouti.


E-mail- [email protected]

Trip reports

Hugh Buck of Buckbirds sent us this trip report in 2010 of one of the first trips in recent years to explore Djibouti and Somalia. A number of unusual and rarely seen endemic and near endemic species were found on this tour.


All international flights arrive at Ambouli International Airport on the outskirts of Djibouti city. For efficient travel a 4 wheel-drive is essential but daily hire rates are extortionately high as is the general cost of living, the majority of items being imported. A ferry runs regularly from Djibouti city to Tadjoura; in the past it also ran to Obock but the current position is unknown. This is cheap and provides an opportunity for seawatching en route. Bush taxis operate from Tadjoura to Randa and the Forêt du Day and are reasonably priced (haggling necessary) but very basic.


During the civil war in the early 1990s, the majority of the north of the country was off-limits to all foreigners. The Forêt du Day is now accessible again though there are periodic reports of mines being found along the road. Areas south of the Gulf of Tadjoura may be safer but it is essential to seek up to date information before a field trip from sources such as US Travel and UK FCO


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Musha Island mangroves, Djibouti

Image Credit: 
Abdi Jama

Forêt du Day is located 25 kilometres due west of Tadjoura on the northern side of the Gulf of Tadjoura. This is the main location for Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus but other species of interest include Verreaux’s Eagle Aquila verreauxii, Bonelli’s Eagle Hieraaetus fasciatus, African Scops Owl Otus senegalensis, Hemprich’s Hornbill Tockus hemprichii, African Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis plus the unidentified finch and sunbird mentioned in the species section. See also the IBA page for further details.

Musha and Mskali Islands (potential Ramsar Site) about 15 km from Djibouti City in the Tadjoura Gulf bay. Two ancient coral reef islands and several satellite islets are located at around 15 km to the north of Djibouti city in the Gulf of Tadjoura. The larger Island, Musha, supports extensive stands of mangroves and sueada sp.

The islands and particularly the satellite islets are known as one of the breeding areas for Red-billed Tropicbird Phaeton aethereus, White-eyed Gull Larus leucophthalmus, Bridled Tern Sterna anaethetus, Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Osprey Pandion haliaetus, Goliath Ardea goliath, Striated Butorides striata and Western Reef Herons Egretta gularis, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse Pterocles exustus and possibly mangrove warblers such as Clamorous Reed Warbler Acrocephalus stentoreus. The site is colonized by Indian House Crow Corvus splendens and its presence has significant negative impacts on the breeding success of all species.

Ras Siyan / Doumera are located between 50 and 80 km north of Obock on the coastal plain and are the two main sites for observing raptor migration. The site where the maximum numbers of birds tend to arrive in autumn varies with wind direction - when it is from the north birds arrive at Ras Siyan, when from the south the movement shifts to Doumera. As well as the spectacular number and variety (28 species noted), a great attraction of these sites is that the birds arrive at an average height of 60 metres giving stunning views. In addition to the migrant raptors, Sooty Falcons Falco concolor breed locally, and seawatching can produce Flesh-footed Shearwater Puffinus carneipes, Red-billed Tropicbird Phaeton aethereus and regular sightings of Brown Booby Sula leucogaster and Greater Sterna bergii and Lesser Crested S. bengalensis, White-cheeked S. repressa and Bridled Terns S. anaethetus plus good numbers of European Merops apiaster and White-throated Bee-eaters M albicollis.

South-eastern strip – Doraleh / Djibouti city / Haramous Islands to Loyada (Potential IBA and Designated Ramsar Site).

This area consists of two main wetland habitats but for simplicity is designated as one site and part of it was declared as the first and only Ramsar site in the country when Djibouti ratified the Wetlands Convention in 2003. The site supports large intertidal mudflats with mangrove patches in several areas. The eastern coastal terrestrial part of the site forms a low sandy plain intersected by well vegetated wadis and covered with sparse acacia and shrubs.

The area supports large populations of passage and wintering shorebirds some of them are estimated as more than 1% of global population e.g. Crab Plover Dromas ardeola, Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus, Lesser Charadrius mongolus and Greater Sand Plover C. leschenaultii as well as more than ten species of heron, Sacred Ibis Threskiornis aethiopicus, Yellow-billed Mycteria ibis and Abdim’s Stork Ciconia abdimii, Greater Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor. In addition, Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs and Arabian Golden Sparrow Passer euchlorus flocks occur.

The mudflats extend for approximately 25 kms from Doraleh, west of the capital, to Loyada on the Somali border. At low tide birds are widely dispersed over the area and difficult to observe due to heat haze. At high tide birds become more concentrated and three main locations were found in 2001 - west of the Route de Venise, on the Salines Est and at four closely linked points between Loyada and Haramous. Of these, the Route de Venise is the most accessible being on the main coast road around the city, west of the port.

Lac Abhé is approximately 120 km south-west of Djibouti city and is a regular weekend destination for people working in the capital as it is comparatively accessible. Although large numbers of Greater Flamingos Phoenicopterus ruber still occur, the decreasing water level of the lake makes viewing them extremely difficult. However, the hot springs bordering the former margins of the lake can be good for migrants in spring and also have breeding Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecurarius. This is also one of the two sites where Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githaginea has been recorded.

The site is a salt lake situated at the mouth of the Awash River forming a chain of six interconnected lakes positioned in the centre of the Afar Depression including Afambo, Bario, Gargori, Gummare and Laitali. Lake Abhé is the largest permanent inland wetland ecosystem in Djibouti and is well-known for its landscapes. The site is important for other threatened wildlife such as Spotted Hyena, Somali and Eritrean Warthogs and Dorcas Gazelle. It also contributes to the livelihoods of the nomadic Afar people who live in the surrounding arid areas.

Hanlé and Galafi Plains have a large alluvial depression with extensive acacia scrub, shallow wadis and vast sandy areas with scattered low hills bordered by steep-sided mountains. The area supports permanent fresh water that holds denser vegetation such as palm trees and patches of marshland.

There is a small breeding population of Ostrich Struthio camelus and the freshwater areas support small numbers of breeding water birds such as Spur-winged Lapwing Vanellus spinosus, Three-banded Plover Charadrius tricollaris, Black Crake Amaurornis flavirostra and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca. Reed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus, Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata and White-browed Coucal Centropus superciliosus have all been found here - the only know records in Djibouti.

Ali-Sabieh / Assamo is about 120 km from the capital city of Djibouti. It is an area bordering Ethiopia and Somalia and includes low hills and medium altitude mountains. It is intersected by wadis and has large zones of sparse acacia, mixed shrubs and some small gardens developed in the broader wadis where ground water is accessible.

Because of its geographic location on the border with Ethiopia and Somalia, diversity of bird species at this site shows a mix which differs from other IBAs in Djibouti. The wadis with acacia shrubs support Northern Crombec Sylvietta brachyura, Arabian Warbler Sylvia leucomelaena, Black Scrub Robin Cercotrichas podobe, Grey-headed Batis Batis orientalis, Yellow-breasted Trachyphonus margaritatus and Black-throated Barbet Tricholaema melanocephala, Yellow-necked Spurfowl Francolinus leucoscepus, and Rosy-patched Bush Shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus.

Wadis with Tamarix patches support nightjar species (possibly European and Nubian). The gardens host large numbers of Somali Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus somaliensis, Rüppell’s Weaver Ploceus galbula, Blue-naped Mousebird Urocolius macrourus, Grey-headed Kingfisher Halcyon leucocephala, Red-billed Oxpecker Buphagus erythrorhynchus, Crimson-rumped Waxbill Estrilda rhodopyga, Green-winged Pytilia Pytilia melba, Shining Cinnyris habessinicus and Variable Sunbird C. venustus and Wattled Starling Creatophora cinerea. It is the only area in Djibouti where Abyssinian Scimitarbill Rhinopomastus minor, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird Anthreptes orientalis and Eastern Chanting Goshawk Melierax poliopterus have been observed. Additionally, the area hosts two globally threatened mammal species: Leopard Panthera pardus pardus and Beira Antelope Dorcatragus megalotis.

Goba’ad Plain is in the south-west of the country near the Ethiopia border. The site consists of a vast alluvial depression with a mixture of extensive low acacia scrub, many shallow wadis and large sandflats and plateaux.

As a result of its geographical location between two other significant IBAs (Lake Abhé and Hanlé plain) and its closeness to the border with Ethiopia, its avifauna shows elements reflecting a mixture of bird species. Goba’ad is one of only three sites which hosts a breeding population of Ostrich Struthio camelus potentiality. In addition, typical semi-desert species presence include Black-crowned Sparrow Lark Eremopterix nigriceps, Spotted Thick-knee Burhinus capensis, Arabian Bustard, Lichtenstein's Pterocles lichtensteinii, Chestnut-bellied P. exustus and Spotted Sandgrouse P. senegallus, whilst wadis which are more vegetated hold Yellow-necked Spurfowl, Yellow-breasted Barbet, Blue-naped Mousebird, Grey-headed Batis, Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactotes and African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii. With Ali-Sabieh / Assamo, Goba’ad is only the second site where Lesser Masked Weavers Ploceus intermedius have been recorded.

In addition to the species mentioned on the IBA page, Doda holds large numbers of Greater Short-toed Larks Calanrella brachydactyla, Tawny Pipit Anthus campestris, Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava, Isabelline Wheatear Oenanthe isabellina and shrikes, many wintering warblers such as Ménétries Sylvia mystacea and Red Sea Warblers S.leucomelaena, Hemprich's Hornbill Tockus hemprichii, Somali Starling Onychognathus blythii, Rosy-patched Bush-Shrike Rhodophoneus cruentus, Rufous Bush Robin Cercotrichas galactotes, Arabian Bustard Ardeotis arabs and White Ciconia ciconia and Black Storks C.nigra.

Further, this large and complex site is also important for raptors including Rüppell's Gyps rueppellii, Griffon G. fulvus and Lappet-faced Vultures Torgos tracheliotus, Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus, Verreauxs' Eagle Aquila verreauxii and Dark Chanting Goshawk Melierax metabates. Finally, the basalt cliffs, rocky plateaux and plains of the area support Trumpeter Finch Bucanetes githaginea, a species restricted to only 4 sites in Djibouti and found nowhere else in East Africa.


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Somali Starlings Onychognathus blythii, Djibouti

Image Credit: 
Abdi Jama

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 Djibouti 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.

Welch and Welch (1999) list 360 species and give a brief overview of ornithology in the country. The diverse avifauna is demonstrated by looking at the origins of the species recorded: endemic 1; breeding (restricted to Africa) 37; breeding (restricted to Africa and the Middle East) 44; breeding (global distribution) 34; migrant (predominantly of Palearctic origin) 127; vagrant (1 to 3 records) 65; extinct in Djibouti 1 (Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris); status unknown (51).

The following species update was received in February 2011.

Djibouti’s is still little studied ornithologically and the current bird list is based on the result of several visits by Geoff and Hilary Welch from 1987 to 2009 and observations by Houssein Rayaleh / BirdLife Species Guardian. Other records were established by Birdquest (Djibouti & Somaliland trip report, Sept 2010).

Despite limited observations and the small size of the country, 364 bird species have now been recorded (Geoff Welch et al. 2009, Houssein Rayaleh, This impressive list is related to Djibouti’s geographical location at the narrowest point (Bab El Mandeb Straits) in the eastern entrance of the Red Sea. This is one of the most significant entry and exit points for bird migration between Africa and Asia / Europe and is used regularly by millions of migratory birds.

Endemic species

Djibouti Francolin

Francolinus ochropectus


Near endemic species (found in 3 or less countries)

Arabian Golden Sparrow

Passer euchlorus



Threatened species

Atlantic Petrel

Pterodroma incerta


Greater Spotted Eagle

Aquila clanga


Eastern Imperial Eagle

Aquila heliaca


Lesser Kestrel

Falco naumanni


White-eyed Gull

Larus leucophthalmus


In addition there are two species whose taxonomic status has still to be determined. The first is a species (or race) of Melba Finch most closely resembling Green-winged Pytilia Pytilia melba but lacking any trace of red in the plumage, these areas being replaced by rich yellow. The second is an unidentified species of sunbird, probably a Nectarinia sp, seen in autumn 1987 but not since. Details of these sightings, and illustrations, are given in Welch and Welch (1998).

Important Bird Areas

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Djibouti, Forêt du Day in the Goda mountains

Image Credit: 
Abdi Jama

BirdLife International identified seven Important Bird Areas (IBAs), most qualifying for the biome-restricted communities they support. These seven areas total 1,112 km2, approximately 5% of the country, and none are officially protected.

Of greatest conservation concern is the Forêt du Day in the Goda mountains in the north of Djibouti with an altitudinal range between c. 1200 m to c. 1750 m. This is the main site for the endemic and critically endangered Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus. The ecosystem is dry tropical Afromontane mixed woodland and consists of one of the few forested areas still remaining in the country. Historically, the dominant forest tree was African pencil cedar Juniperus procera, which formed a closed canopy forest. A dramatic decline in the last 20-30 years has left a large proportion of the junipers dead or dying, and the canopy open.

At higher altitudes, the understorey consists principally of Buxus hildebrandtii, whilst in peripheral and lower areas the main species are Acacia seyal, A. etbaica and A. mellifera. Scattered large Ficus sp. occur throughout. Beyond the forested plateaus at high altitude are extensive basalt plains with scattered shrubs including many Euphorbia sp. There are valleys with permanent open water in many areas, favoured habitat of the regionally vulnerable endemic Bankoualé palm Livistona carinensis.

The ecology of this landform is considered an isolated outlier of the Ethiopian Montane forest hotspot and ecozone, an important island of forest in a semi desert. The Forêt Du Day is home to 70% of the land based biological diversity and hosts a variety of rare, extremely arid-adapted species including Djibouti Francolin, Leopard and Livistona trees. It has survived for many centuries as a reservoir of biological diversity and important natural resources which feed and contribute to the local community. Firewood collection on the lower slopes, hunting and human disturbance are all of concern. Part of Forêt du Day was declared a National Park in 1939 and more recently a protected area but the designation is no longer valid.

Mabla mountains is approximately 60 km east of the Forêt du Day, and the only other documented site for the Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus though the population is thought to be extremely small. It is the second largest area of relict montane forest and it was described as contiguous with the Forêt du Day. Today however there are no longer juniper trees in the area and the dominant tree species are Acacia seyal, Buxus hildebrandtii with locally abundant Acacia etbaica and common Acacia mellifera.The area also supports breeding Verreauxs' Aquila verreauxii and Bonelli’s Eagles Hieraaetus fasciatus and a colony of Rüppell’s Vultures Gyps rueppellii.

Kadda Guéini-Douméra is a 61km stretch of sandy coast line north of Obock, which includes the rocky outcrops of Ras Siyan and Doumera, and is the main crossing point of the Red Sea for the huge numbers of birds of prey that pass through annually.

Les Sept Frères is an archipelago of six islands (the ‘seventh’ is Ras Siyan) at the mouth of the Bab el Mandeb which supports large breeding colonies of Greater Sterna bergii and Lesser Crested Terns S. bengalensis, though egg collecting is known to take place so numbers may be severely reduced. In addition and in certain weather conditions, the islands play an important role in assisting migrating raptors complete their crossing of the Bab el Mandeb straits.

Lac Abhé is the largest inland water body in Djibouti and forms part of the western border with Ethiopia, which supports large numbers of Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber. The lake is the final ‘outlet’ of the Awash River but damming of the river upstream in Ethiopia has reduced freshwater inputs significantly and the lake has been drastically reduced in size over the last 50 years.

Ali Sabieh-Assamo is a region of lightly wooded wadis along the south-eastern border with Ethiopia supporting a range of Somali-Masai biome-restricted species such as Yellow-necked Spurfowl Francolinus leucoscepus and Eastern Chanting Goshawk Melierax poliopterus.

Doda is a large alluvial plain in the north-west of the country, subject to periodic inundation. The area supports several Sahel biome-restricted species and there was an impressive count of 1,300 Marsh Sandpipers Tringa stagnatilis in December 1998 when the area was extensively flooded. When inundated, the site also supports important breeding and passage wintering waders, e.g. breeding Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Kittlitz’s Plover Charadrius pecuarius, Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis and Egyptian Goose Alopochen aegyptiaca have been confirmed. The site is one of the few known sites for breeding Ostrich Struthio camelus.

No Endemic Bird Areas are recognised, though the Forêt du Day is listed in Stattersfield et al (1998) as a Secondary Area because of the Djibouti Francolin Francolinus ochropectus.

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


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