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TANZANIA – Important Bird Areas (IBA’s)

Tanzania is a very important country ornithologically. It has one of the largest species’ lists of any African country with over 1,000 species, of which over 800 species are resident and nearly 200 are regular migrants. 56 Species are of global conservation concern, of which 21 are endemic to Tanzania and a further 43 species occur in only one or two other countries.

Tanzania holds parts of several Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs): the Tanzania ­Malawi mountains with 32 of its restricted range species occurring in Tanzania; the Albertine Rift mountainsthe Serengeti plains with all 6 restricted range species; the Kenyan mountains with 5 of the 9 restricted range species; the East African coastal forests with 5 of the 7 restricted range species, and Pemba with 4 restricted range species. In addition, there are three secondary endemic bird areas:

South-west Tanzanian swampsKilombero flood-plain; and Dry woodlands west of Lake Victoria.

Parts of 6 biome restricted areas occur in Tanzania: Guinea-Congo Forests of which 56 of its restricted range species have been recorded; the Lake Victoria basin with 11 species; the Afrotropical Highlands with 91 species; the Somali ­Masai with 77 species; the East African coast with 26 species; and the Zambezian biome with 40 species.

Tanzania’s 80 IBA’s cover a total of more than 167,000 km2 or about 18% of the land area with sites varying in size from 3 hectares to 5 million hectares. Only a small number of the better known IBA’s are documented here .

1. Mount Kilimanjaro is forested between 1,500 m and 3,000 m with the National Park lying above 2,700 m. It holds a range of forest species including Olive Ibis Bostrychia olivacea and alpine species such as Hill Chat Cercomela sordida and Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird Nectarinia johnstoni. It is also well known for Lammergeier Gypaetus barbatus and Abbott’s Starling Pholia femoralis.

2. Ruaha National Park is one of the driest protected areas in Tanzania and has a list of over 400 species. It holds important populations of two Tanzanian endemics Ashy Starling Lamprotornis unicolor and Yellow-collared Lovebird Agapornis personatus.

3. The Serengeti National Park is one of the best known National Parks in Africa, lying between Lake Victoria and the Eastern Rift Valley, and adjacent to Kenya’s Masai Mara Reserve and bordering the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. The Park holds three Tanzanian endemics Grey-breasted Spurfowl Francolinus rufopictus, Fischer’s Lovebird Agapornis fischeri and Rufous-tailed Weaver Histurgops ruficaudus. Many large flocks of African and Palearctic migrants are easily observed in the Serengeti during peak migratory periods.

4. Ngorongoro Conservation Area is part of the crater highlands and varies in altitude from 1,700 m at the crater floor to some 3,000 m at the rim. Over 500 species are known from this site including the largest known population of Fischer’s Lovebird Agapornis fischeri. Several important wetlands lie within the site, which is important for both Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor. Large mammals, including the endangered Black Rhinoceros, are cradled in this scenic caldera.

5. Selous Game Reserve lies in the south-east of Tanzania and with an area of 50,000 km2 is one of the largest protected areas in Africa. There is no official species list for this site but numerous miombo endemics occur here, and the Rufigi River is excellent for water-birds such as African Skimmer Rynchops flavirostris.

6. Dar es Salaam Coast includes tidal mudflats, river inlets, saltpans, mangroves, thickets and offshore islands which create a diverse habitat with a remarkable list of over 450 species. It is of major importance for migratory waders including Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola, Little Stint Calidris minuta and Curlew Sandpiper Calidris ferruginea.

7. Lake Natron is a shallow soda lake on the floor of the Eastern Rift valley and extends 58 km south from the Kenyan border. It is the most important breeding site for the majority of the world population of Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor and its arid surrounding habitat, especially if one traverses across country toward Mt. Longido and West Kilimanjaro plains, offers unique opportunities for Buff-crested Bustard Eupodotis gindiana, Spike-heeled Lark Chersomanes albofasciata etc. It is also excellent for mammals such as Gerenuk, Steenbok and occasionally Lesser Kudu.

8. Lake Victoria has four IBA’s which are important for cormorants, egrets and herons and one of which Rubondo Island National Park holds Sitatunga and Spotted-necked Otters.

9. Kitulo Plateau National Park is one of the best places to see Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami and Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea as well as amazing ground orchids.

10. Mkomazi Game Reserve holds a number of species which are found at the southern limit of their range, extending to the southern base of the South Pare Mountains. These include Friedmann’s Lark Mirafra pulpa, Pygmy Batis Batis perkeo, Three-streaked Tchagra Tchagra jamesi, Shelley’s Starling Lamprotornis shelleyi and Pringle’s Puffback Dryoscopus pringlii.

11. Zanzibar has two IBA’s which are important for waders and terns including non-breeding populations of Crab-plover Dromas ardeola. In addition, the Jozani Forest Reserve on Zanzibar contains the only remaining forest on the island and holds endemic races of Fischer’s Turaco Tauraco fischeri, Little Greenbul Andropadus virens and Grey Sunbird Cyanomitra veroxii. East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi can be found as well as a number of interesting mammal species such as Zanzibar Red Colobus, Ader’s Duiker and Pemba Flying Fox.

12. Udzungwa mountains to the south-west of Dar es Salaam have forest reserves which hold species such as Udzungwa Partridge Xenoperdix udzungwensis, Dappled Mountain-Robin Arcanator orostruthus, Sharpe’s Akalat Sheppardia sharpei, Olive-flanked Robin-Chat Cossypha anomala and White-chested Alethe Alethe fuelleborni. The area can be reached from a variety of places, but best is the ascent to the spectacular Sanje waterfalls from the base of the Udzungwa National Park HQ at Mangula.

13. The Uluguru mountains are situated about halfway between Udzungwa and Dar and are the only locality for Uluguru Bush-Shrike Malaconotus alius and Loveridge’s Sunbird Cinnyris loveridgei as well as 5 endemic subspecies. If lucky, Abbott’s Duiker, one of the rarest African antelopes may be seen.

14. East Usambara mountains is one of the most important areas on the African mainland for the conservation of globally threatened species. Usambara Eagle Owl Bubo vosseleri, Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae, Long-billed Tailorbird Orthotomus moreaui, Dappled Mountain-Robin Arcanator orostruthus, Swynnerton’s Robin Swynnertonia swynnertoni and Usambara Weaver Ploceus nicolli all occur here. The West Usambara mountains have been less studied outside the Lushoto area but are none the less important for species such as Usambara Akalat Sheppardia montana, Banded Sunbird Anthreptes rubritorques, Sharpe’s Starling Pholia sharpii and Usambara Weaver Ploceus nicolli. The best locations to find this species regularly being Mazumbai and Magamba.

15. Lindi District Coastal Forests are important for coastal forest birds such as Southern Banded Snake Eagle Circaetus fasciolatus, East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi, Spotted Ground-Thrush Zoothera guttata and other specialities like Livingstone’s Flycatcher Erythrocercus livingstonei.

16. Pemba Island lies 55 km off the mainland and holds 4 endemic species, Pemba Green Pigeon Treron pembaensis, Pemba Scops Owl Otus pembaensis, Pemba Sunbird Cinnyris pembae and Pemba White-eye Zosterops vaughani.

17. Kilombero flood-plain is 260 km long and up to 52 km wide, the Kilombero flood-plain in Tanzania is one of the largest wetlands in Africa. This confluence of rivers and seasonally-flooded marshes and swamps is home to a rich array of birdlife, including species that are endemic to the region, such as the Kilombero weaver, Kilombero cisticola, Melodius cisticola, Iringa akalat and the Dappled throated mountain robin.


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