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red billed hornbill

The Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus ruahae) is found in open, wooded savanna with sparse groundcover, especially areas heavily trampled by game or livestock, and feeds mostly on insects, small mammals, and rarely, on seeds and fruit. They are common on alluvial flood plains with occasional large trees, and in Mopane Colophospermum mopane woodland; wanders into more open habitats in dry season.


It is one of the smaller hornbill’s. The adult has a grey-brown head and grey neck with ear coverts streaked white.  It boasts a broad white post-orbital stripe, narrowly streaked grey, from above eye to nape. Its back is black with a central white stripe and underparts are white.  The coverts are sooty brown, each with a large white central spot, and the greater secondary coverts being mostly white.

The flight feathers are black with small white spots across the centre primaries, outer secondaries are black, inner secondaries white with a black base, retrials dark brown with narrow cream edges.  

The bill is red with a narrow yellow base. The eyes are yellow with black skin around the eye and facial skin pink. The legs and feet are grey.

The immature hornbill will look the same as the adult but the bill assumes the same colour as the adult within a year. The juvenile will be the same as the adult but with eyes that are grey, changing to brown as it ages. The bill is a bit small, but more orange with a black patch at the base of the lower mandible in both sexes. The wing coverts are finely edged buff. 


The Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill issues high, clucking notes, usually given in long series that accelerates and breaks into faster double notes during territorial Bobbing display, given with head down: kok kok kok kok kok kok kokok kokok kokok kokok

The first syllable of the double note is longer and more intense than the second. Shorter sequences or single notes are used when the hornbill is in alarm, contact or threat. It will make low growling sounds in close contact, screeches when frightened, and gives squark of fear when suddenly surprised. Chicks beg with high piping notes, and females and chicks give harsh squawks when receiving food.

General Habits

The hornbill is usually territorial, found in pairs or small family groups, but may gather in flocks in the dry season. It spends much time running about on ground; regularly sunbathes and dustbathes. It is known to fly with direct flap-and-glide, returning to roost in trees close to the trunk or large branches, and reverting nightly to a favourite roost in summer breeding territory.

Foraging & Food

Most food items are taken from the ground by the hornbill by digging with its bill in loosen soil, detritus or herbivore droppings. It rarely pursues prey on foot but feeds mainly on small insects, favouring beetles, ants, termites, or flies and their eggs or larvae. In summer, its diet is often supplemented with larger arthropods including grasshoppers, centipedes, termite alates, scorpions and solifugids. Sometimes it will eat small vertebrates including reptiles, or even birds’ eggs and nestlings (eg Crimson-breasted Shrike and Red-billed Quelea), or scavenges dead rodents. They will rarely eat small seeds and fruits, eg of Shepherds-trees (Boscia spp) and corkwoods (Commiphora spp).


The hornbill is a monogamous, solitary nester, and is territorial. Male and female display together, bobbing up and down with head bowed and wings held close to body.

They will nest in a natural cavity in a tree, 0.3-9 m up. The female will inspect the nest holes and is often courtship-fed and brought lining by the male. The nest entrance is often only 30-40 mm wide, sealed by the female from inside, using own faeces, to narrow, vertical slit 10-15 mm wide. Cavity 200-250 mm diameter. Most nests have an escape hole above the main chamber. 2 – 7 eggs will be laid over an interval of 2 – 4 days.  The female will remain on the nest during incubation and be fed by the male.

The female leaves the nest when oldest chick is 16 – 24 days and helps the male deliver food. The chicks will reseal the nest entrance. Nestling period is 39 – 50 days and then the hornbill chicks remain hidden near the nest for a few days after fledging before joining adults to forage.

If you wish to see the Tanzanian Red-Billed Hornbill on one of our tours, take a look at the following tours available to do this:



Contact us to book your birding experience at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Multimedia

Diedericks cuckoo

The Diedericks Cuckoo has a very distinctive call, which just so happens to sound much like its name. It is known for its plaintive high-pitched fluty whistles, dee-dee-deederik, rising and falling in pitch, repeated at regular intervals.


The Cuckoo is 18-20 cm in size. The sexes are dimorphic in plumage coloration with the female being slightly larger than the male.

The adult male’s bill is black, eyes and eye ring red, with grey legs and feet.

The male’s head and along its back is metallic green, with bronze patches on the back of head and nape. The Supercilium forehead and median crown are striped white. Its tail is dark green; with the exception of the central pair of rectrices with white tips and white spots along both edges. The upper wing coverts are a glossy bronze-green, with large white spots. The flight feathers are blackish, with white bars across inner webs of primaries. Underwing coverts and undersides of the flight feathers are dark with white bars with the underparts being white and flanks, thighs and undertail coverts barred green. 

The adult female’s bill is black with hazel to reddish brown eyes and a brown eye ring.

The female is similar to the male, but duller, with or without white forehead. The upper parts are green, rufous or intermediate, but usually rufous or bronze.  The upper wing coverts with white to buff or rufous spots. The female has a dark green tail, rectrices with rufous spots and notches; and second to fourth pairs with broad rufous bars. The underparts are white to buff with the throat and breast usually washed brown. The breast is often lightly streaked or barred dull green or bronze. 

In the juvenile, the sexes are alike. The upper parts are dull green, bright rufous or intermediate, with green and rufous barring; some with rufous restricted to the crown. The upper wing coverts with pale spots (except in rufous birds) and the underparts are white; with the throat being dark greenish or rufous streaks. The breast and belly are blackish with dark green spots. The bill is coral red, and grey to brown eyes. While still in juvenile plumage, the eye ring of the male will become red, and the legs and feet dark brown.

Diedericks Cuckoo


The introductory notes of the call may vary in number and the song is sometimes followed by shorter, rapid di-di-di-di-di, falling in pitch. When courtship-feeding, the female solicits with deahdeahdeahDEAH; male gives wavering weah, weah, weah, weah.


The cuckoo searches through the foliage while moving from perch to perch, or searches from perch and flies out and takes prey from the ground or from tree stem. It will also glean prey from leaves and stems, and hunt like hover-hawks. 

Mainly caterpillars are eaten, including the Chestnut Eggarlet Anadiasa punctifascia (which occur in a protective woolly cluster), Barred Eggarlet Bombycomorpha bifasciata, Mopane Emperor Moth Imbrasia belina, and the distasteful Acraea spp. It will also feed on termites, including alates, grasshoppers and adult butterflies. Caterpillars are grasped near the head and eviscerated by shaking. The juvenile cuckoo skins caterpillars by holding it at one end, flicking it until the skin separates from the body, then shaking to remove the skin. Hosts’ eggs are sometimes eaten.


The Diedericks Cuckoo is located in Sub-Saharan Africa and the southern Arabian Peninsula. It is widespread in South Africa but largely absent from the Namib Desert and central and northwest Karoo.

It inhabits forest edges, mesic savanna and closed woodlands, drainage-line woodlands, open arid savanna, semi-arid shrublands, parks and gardens; mostly below 1 200 m. They are uncommon in Mopane Colophospermum mopane woodland.


The Diedericks Cuckoo is found solitary or in pairs. They are conspicuous in the breeding season; with males calling for extended periods from prominent perches. The females are less conspicuous but often seen in interactions with males. The female will be found sitting for long periods concealed in foliage close to breeding colonies of host nests. Their flight is direct with rapid wingbeats.

After sighting a female in his territory, a male Diederik Cuckoo courts her with song and hairy caterpillars. After mating, she will leave him and lay a single egg in an alien nest. She then flies off leaving the “foster” parents to hatch and raise her offspring. If she enters a nest when the host is absent she will remove a host’s egg from the nest. She will fly up to 100 m away, perch and eat the egg, or discards or drops the egg at or near the nest. The female may lay as many as 20 to 24 eggs in as many different nests during the breeding season.

The Diedericks Cuckoo is not threatened and has most likely expanded its range. 

If you want a chance to see a Diedericks Cuckoo on a birding tour, contact us and find out how you can book one of our tours at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Spotted Thick-knee

The answer to this question is ‘Yes’. The Spotted Thick-knee is native to the grasslands and savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa and Mauritania in the west to EthiopiaKenyaTanzania and South Africa in the east and south. The Spotted Thick-knee (Burhinus capensis), also known as the Spotted Dikkop or Cape Thick-knee, is a wader in the family Burhinidae. 

Spotted Thick-knee Identification

The Spotted Thick-knee can reach up to 45.5 cm (17.9 in) in height and has long legs and brown-and-white speckled plumage which provides camouflage. This makes it difficult to spot the bird in the grasslands and savannah, where it roams. 

Photo: Stewart Bentley

Its head is large and round with a prominent yellow eye and a short, stout beak. When in flight or standing in a characteristic position with its wings raised, it shows a striking contrasting pattern. Its legs are long and yellow and the tibiotarsal joint is expanded, giving it the name “thick-knee”. 


This bird has a loud, distinctive “ti-ti-ti teeeteeeteeee-ti ti ti” call.


The Spotted Thick-knee is a nocturnal bird and squats on the ground during the daytime, making it difficult to spot. It hunts exclusively on the ground, feeding on insects, small mammals and lizards, and grass seeds.


The Thick-knee is found in a variety of habitats, ranging from grasslands and semi-desert, to urban areas.


The female typically lays two eggs, and males and females rear the offspring together, with both bringing food back to the nest. The Spotted Thick-knee is monogamous with the male becoming aggressive and territorial when breeding. 

A nest of twigs and leaves is built on the ground, lined with small stones, normally placed under a bush. They lay between one and three eggs, that are incubated by both parents for around 26 days. The birds will defend the nest and adopt a defensive pose with wings spread and tail cocked, and will even peck an intruder. Sometimes they will fake injuries to lead predators away from the nest.

The Spotted Thick-knee is often found on the ground, but when in flight, they fly with rapid wing beats. They are normally found either singly or in pairs. These birds are well camouflaged and rely on this to avoid predators. Thick-knees are mostly nocturnal.

If you want to see a Spotted Thick-knee on a birding tour, contact us and find out how you can book a tour at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Sources: Wikipedia, eBird, Southafrica.

travel trends

2021 is here; and hopefully with it, some relief for travel and tour operators. The world has spent the last 12 months willing this year to come sooner. It is the year pregnant with the possibility of relief from a pandemic that has plagued every inch of our lives.

We are not only anticipating the global release of Coronavirus vaccines, but we are also entering a new travel year with the prospect of movements being more free and a more stable tourism industry returning.

Looking ahead at the year, there is a weight of expectation riding on it, as we all wonder: 

What is to follow for the Tourism Industry now that 2021 has finally arrived? 

We take a look at predicted travel niches expected to boom in 2021.

multi generational travel

Multi-Generational Travel

The first off the mark for popular travel niches in 2021 is multi-generational travel. This is already a popular segment in the tourism industry, but the last 12 months has brought about a newfound appreciation for family, and due to this, family travel has seen it spike in popularity.

After such a long time of separation, isolation and distance throughout the pandemic, many are using vacation time as the perfect opportunity to reunite, reconnect and create memories with extended families and their loved ones.

As a general rule, multi-generational travel is age inclusive and covers three generations; grandparents, parents and children. While catering to different ages and abilities is tricky, more people are expected to travel this way as the travel numbers grow throughout 2021 and 2022. 

bicycle travel

Bicycle Travel

Is it a plane, a train or a vehicle? No, it’s a bicycle. The popularity of the bike movement is stronger than ever. Putting your pedal to the metal has never been so appealing now while the fitness industry, environmental consciousness movements, and everyone in between look to ways to boost a healthy alternative to a consumerist approach to tourism.

Whether individuals enjoy biking as a sport or are hoping to challenge themselves with something new by mountain biking and bikepacking; or perhaps they view it as a more leisurely way to take in sights with friends … this niche is showing explosive growth.

Being outdoors definitely provides a sense of freedom (a blessing in a confined COVID-19 world!). Bike tours and cycle holidays are bringing in tourists as governments and councils around the world start to focus greater amounts of cash into infrastructure for bikers.

Of particular note within this travel niche is the popularity of electric bikes, which provide more power for your pedal effort, aiding those that may have difficulty biking normally. This is now rated as the third top trending ‘hot demand trips’ by the Adventure Travel Trade Association in 2020, itineraries catering to electric bikers are gaining popularity by the week. Electric bikes broaden the target market of cycle tourists, boosting the popularity of the segment.


Motorhome Travel

They are known by many names across the world. Campervans, RV’s, mobile homes. It is a way of travelling that is associated with the idea of freedom of movement while still being comfortable.

Similar to the other travel niches on this list, motorhome travel offers a great deal of flexibility, while not compromising on safety; especially in these uncertain times. With the ability to self-drive and remain socially distant from others, holidaying in a motorhome is an option that many are taking.

Travellers who travel in this way are drawn to exploring and spending time in natural locations. The number of travellers buying a motorhome, in particular first time buyers, has also increased with over 40,000 RV wholesale shipments taking place in June 2020, a 10% increase from the year previous. Such numbers are an indicator of how popular this niche segment will continue to be in the near future.

birding tours

Birding Tours

Considered by many to be a little sedate, birding has flipped this viewpoint on its head as people craved deeper connections with nature and a sense of freedom. We don’t think it could get any more niche than birding or avitourism.

According to bird watchers around the world, the drawcard of bird watching is that it brings with it an almost meditative state as birds symbolise the “ultimate freedom of movement.”

It is being noticed that a much younger generation of bird watchers is emerging following the outbreak of the Coronavirus, and we are putting bets on birding tours being one to watch in 2021 and beyond.

Global lockdowns saw younger people, even children, whip out the binoculars and take note of bird species as a means to pass the time. Retailers experienced a 10-15% increase in spending within the birding category and engagement on Cornell’s bird logging app rose by 84%. Interactions with adventure travellers have also found that bird watching is one of their top rated activities.

New birders may simply be reacting to the line of thinking that the number of bird species in a person’s surroundings is said to directly impact individual happiness. By simply immersing yourself in an environment with a variety of bird species, people can increase their overall level of life satisfaction; and what better time to do this than when on holiday?!

As is the story with most travel niches, whether they be newfound or long term individual interests such as bird watching, these are often the triggers for participating in such specialised tourism activities.

virtual reality travel

Virtual Reality Tours

Seeking a total unplug from technology, travellers often crave the absence of technology of any kind while on holiday. Rather, they prefer to take the opportunity to soak up nature rather than looking for the best WiFi signal. It is no surprise that holidaying can be seen as an escape from staring at a screen all day for work, or an unhealthy social media habit.

However, with COVID-19 quashing the possibility of travel for those in pandemic-stricken countries, technology has the power to transport individuals to other places from the comforts of their own homes.

Virtual reality is carving out a very successful niche for itself as online experiences offer a glimpse of travel for many. Making tourism encounters possible via an immersive experience (headset, simulators), virtual reality technology can make someone truly feel they are seeing and experiencing things in their chosen location on the screen. The gamification of tourism through the sales of virtual reality headsets is expected to grow by 53% by 2024.

In the past, this technology operated as a great marketing tool for Destination Management Organisations, allowing potential travellers to ‘try before you buy’. It is likely that physical holidays will be replaced with virtual experiences in 2021 in areas affected by travel restrictions. Virtual Reality Tours are an important tool to keep inspiration and discussions about travel alive.

Now that we know what trends to keep a look out for when booking travel in 2021, you can look forward to satisfying your birding interest and experience the wonder of the natural world. You can book your tour with us and contact us here.

Source: Tourwriter

Black Bellied Bustard - timothy Kadlecek

Hearing a Black-bellied Bustard is an unusual experience. They have a rather striking call.

Identification assistance 

The male and female Bustard differ in their plumage and colours.

The adult male has:

  • Long legs and long slender neck.
  • Large whitish cheek patch extends down sides of neck to form large white patches on either side of the breast.
  • Head buffy-brown, with black eye stripe (mostly behind eye) and faint whitish supercilium.
  • Hind neck buffy-brown, finely mottled darker brown.
  • Back, rump, upper tail coverts and tail buffy brown, with prominent blackish chevrons; tail with 3-4 evenly spaced, darker brown bars.
  • Upper wing coverts mostly buffy brown, with prominent blackish chevrons; white greater coverts form line along leading edge of folded wing.
  • Underwing black, except for white flash in primaries. Black line down foreneck broadens onto a black breast and belly.
  • Bill blackish. 
  • Eyes pale brown. 
  • Legs dull yellow.

The adult female has:

  • Similar to adult male, but with plain brown head and neck.
  • Chin and throat white.
  • Breast buff, finely vermiculated with black; belly white.
  • Greater coverts buff, with dark central spots.
  • Primaries blackish, with white bars at base.

The juvenile has:

  • As with the female, but cheeks, throat and neck rufous-brown.
  • Buff tips to flight feathers and upper wing coverts.


The male Bustard calls by slowly raising his neck, bill upwards and half open. The neck expands, displaying his black and white throat; with a slight tuft at the nape and pale ear covert feathers raised. This gives a drawling, frog-like quark; as he immediately pulls his head back onto his shoulders with his bill horizontal, then extends his neck and gives abrupt, explosive kww-ick, like a cork being pulled from a bottle. 

This is repeated every 10-15 sec, for 30 minutes or more. They sometimes calls at night. Males gives a growling call when fighting and an alarm call that sounds like a hoarse krak. Half grown young give a high-pitched wailing call when handled.


The Bustard forages by walking and pecking close to the ground. They are omnivorous and feed on mainly small invertebrates (especially locusts, grasshoppers and beetles), as well as caterpillars, termites, mantids, crickets, Hemiptera, cicadas, ant-lions, wasps, ants, cockroaches and centipedes; also including vegetable matter (berries, seeds, fruits, flowers, palm kernels and green leaves). 


This Bustard inhabits the tall dense grassland and grassy savannah, in both hilly and flat country, where the rainfall is more than 600 mm. 

Black Bellied Bustard - timothy Kadlecek
Photo: Tim Kadlecek


The bustard is likely polygynous and a solitary nester. Its eggs are laid directly on the ground, in a shallow scrape, among tufts of tall (under 1 m) grass; sometimes at the base of sapling or termite mound.

The eggs are virtually spherical; some with nodules at ends. They are olive green to olive-brown, with yellowish- and chocolate-brown markings, underlain with purple or grey in colour. The eggs are incubated for a period of 23 days (in captivity); by the female only.

Males will display at regularly used sites and the females nest away from display arenas. Males may gather in loose leks with 4 displaying males and 1 young male in close proximity at 1 site. The male display flight will typically occur after rain, in late afternoon and after calling. 

They fly high up, with exaggerated wing-beats, displaying white primaries (wings raised high on upstroke, almost touching over back; barely reach horizontal on downstroke), with breast feathers puffed out. They return to ground in a shallow glide with wings held in deep ‘V’. Aerial displays and calling are concentrated in pre-breeding season. 

In courtship, the male approaches the female Bustard, with mincing steps and the neck outstretched, throat puffed out, along with head and neck feathers raised to form ruff. He repeatedly retracts and stretches out his neck horizontally, and then raises it back to vertical position with sinuous, reptilian movement. 

The male also runs after the female in crouched position, with tail raised vertically while competing males strut in front of each other; they fight with heads down, feathers fluffed out, rearing up to kick, tails raised, giving growling calls. 

If you want to witness one of these unusual sounding Black-bellied Bustard’s, contact us and find out how you can book a tour at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Birds

Air ticket

Your birding trip is booked, and now it is time to book your air ticket. This can prove to be quite costly, so will require a little research to make sure that you are getting good value for money. You need to be aware that there are sometimes hidden costs or additional costs should you make a mistake and need to change something on the ticket booking.

No matter how you choose to book, whether online or through an agent, here are some tips to help you keep your ticket booking process in check. 

Read Fare Rules

There may be specials running for cheaper tickets. You should always read the fare rules for changes and cancellations before booking the ticket. You may find that cheaper tickets are non-refundable and will incur costs for any changes. The more flexible tickets tend to be more expensive.

Does it include airport taxes?

If you see a special offer advertised, check the T&C’s on the advert and ensure that the advertised price does include airport taxes. Some adverts do not mention excluding airport taxes, because the seemingly lower rate will appeal to purchasers. 

Does it include baggage charge?

Check your ticket to make sure that it includes the baggage charge. Some airlines only notify you of this when you have already purchased the ticket.

air ticket

Get a return ticket

It works out cheaper to purchase a return ticket over purchasing two one-way tickets. Consider this when planning your itinerary for your trip.

Check connecting flight times

Allow yourself extra time between connecting flights. You never know what may happen with a flight that may end up delaying your landing time. Also, you may want to check up on airports and the amount of security checks you will experience, because this will slow down your time to get to the next flight.  A general estimate of a safe time between flights for domestic flights is 2 hours, and international is 3 hours. 

Should you need to change airports, your travel time from one to the other must be factored into this as well. 


If you are crossing borders between countries, check that you will not require additional visas for the different destinations.

Different baggage policies

When your flights happen to be with different airlines, pack your luggage according to the airline with the most restrictive baggage policy. If you choose to go with a different allowance, it is likely that you will need to pay excess baggage charges with the stricter limits on an airline.

Choosing your seat

If you decide to choose a pre-booked seat with an airline, check if there is an additional fee. Most airlines will charge an extra fee for this. If you want to avoid this charge, select your seat from the remaining available seats at check-in online or at the airport.

in flight ticket

Get travel insurance

Buy your travel insurance around the same time as you do your air ticket. In this way, if you have an unexpected cancellation before the trip, you will already be covered. The insurance company will still likely request a valid reason for cancellation, though.

Use reputable airlines

Use long-standing and reputable airlines. Avoid purchasing tickets on new airlines until they have proven their reliability and financial sustainability. When airlines shut down, tickets are not refunded.

The airline industry is constantly changing and so are the rules. It is important to research and make sure you are clued up on what you are paying for. Travel is exciting and will always pay dividends on your investment with much joy and many memories.

Now that you have your ticket in line, you can look forward to your birding tour with us and experience the wonder of the natural world. You can contact us here.


yellow billed stork

Seeing a Yellow-billed Stork (Latin name – Mycteria Ibis) is an unusual experience. They are not small birds, which makes for an interesting sighting. The Yellow-billed Stork is a large wading bird in the stork family – Ciconiidae, but although one may expect them to be ungainly, they have extremely quick reflexes.

Identification assistance 

One of the first indicators to be aware of when trying to identify a bird is its relative size, ie. how big is the bird compared to a well known familiar bird. The Yellow-billed Stork is a big bird – much larger than a Pied Crow. The height of the Yellow-billed Stork is about 97 cms, and its weight is about 2 kgs. 

The male and female are the same when it comes to plumage and colours:

  • Head is red
  • Eyes are yellow
  • Bill is yellow
  • Throat is white
  • Back is white
  • Legs are pink.

The Yellow-billed Stork is a stealthy bird, moving slowly and quietly on its long legs.

Storks will generally travel in flocks. During the breeding season, the storks make a hissing sound and adults may make a hollow banging sound with their bills. The babies will beg for food with a braying sound. 


The Yellow-billed Stork feeds on the ground and in or around water mainly. Their diet consists of mostly:

  • Reptiles
  • Invertebrates
  • Seeds
  • Aquatic life forms.

When hunting, they stand on one leg and use the other leg to muddy up the water and get the prey to move from their hiding places. Once the prey is moving, the stork is able to dunk its head into the water and catch the prey with its lightning-quick reflexes.

stork in step
Photo: Akio and Yasuko Yamada

Habitat and flocking behaviour for this bird

The preferred habitats for Yellow-billed Storks are wetlands and riverine areas.


They breed when food is abundant. The breeding cycle often takes place toward the end of rainy season, or in a dry season, depending on food availability, or when fish and frogs are more easily caught in shallow pools.

When mating, the female stork approaches the male. The male stork selects the nesting spot and together the male and female build a nest of sticks and debris. Most often the nests are built in a tree, away from predators. It can take the pair several days to build the nest. The Yellow-billed Stork is monogamous unless its mate dies. In the event of a partner dying, the stork will seek out a new mate

Once the female has laid her eggs (normally 2-3 eggs), the incubation period is about 30 days long. The eggs are laid on alternate days, so they also hatch accordingly. The babies remain in the nest for up to 55 days when the fledging period begins. The stork comes of breeding age at around 3 years old. The lifespan of a stork is about 19 years in captivity.

Unusual Facts about this stork

  • They have one of the fastest swallowing reflexes known, enabling them to catch moving prey in water very quickly.
  • They can snap their beaks shut in just 0.025 seconds.
  • Storks will nest in groups in trees, sometimes with other species.
  • Storks regurgitate water over their babies to keep them cool, and to encourage water intake.
  • Storks are smart birds, they stand on one leg, and stir the water and mud with the other, disturbing their prey, and then catching it quickly as it moves.

If you want to see one of these large, feathered friends and find out why they are so popular, you can enquire or book with us at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: The Kruger, Desert USA.

birding tour

Birding is more than just a hobby. It turns out it has become as popular as … well… a phenomenon. So choosing the right Company to ensure that you have a birding tour that suits you can be a little bit daunting. The key in picking the right touring Company most likely lies in asking the right questions and ticking off when the answers match what you need. The very first step in this process is to narrow down your options into a group that you can make a selection from.

Big or Small Tour Company?

Do you choose to go big or small? Depending on what your budget looks like you may decide to go for a big, well established tour company and pay a little more. The benefit here is that it could mean you get a little more and also a company providing a good quality experience. This being said, smaller companies can often provide a more personalised experience. However, you should always research the company as much as possible to see what you are getting for what they are asking and make sure it falls within what it is you want from your tour. Ask about the points that matter to you, i.e. the birds you really want to see, ratio of customers to guides and what comforts the tour offers.

Word of Mouth

Experience is the best proof of a tour company’s service, so ask around! Talk to members of your local bird club, read up on any online reviews the company may have and ask on birding forums if anyone has toured with them before.  Chances are good that you know someone who has taken guided tours. Personal recommendations can be very helpful.

For Starters, Take It Easy

If you’ve never gone on a tour, start with a relatively short trip to see if you enjoy the experience, rather than jump into a marathon trip to some country on the other side of the planet. take into consideration what the pace and intensity of the tour are as well. Some will be more relaxed and have an easier timeline while others may be more challenging. If it is your first time, begin with an easy trip and plan for a more challenging one later. Ask the tour company can tell you about the pace of the trip when you get in touch.

birding tour truck

Questions to Ask the Tour Company

  1. Usually a bird-tour company will have an office with people who know the tour business. If you can’t find out what you need to know by reading the website, or published information about a tour, call the office and ask questions. It could give you in depth knowledge into what you need.
  2. Have they run this tour before? Sometimes it’s wise to avoid a company’s very first trip to a region. You can catch the tour next year, after the itinerary has been perfected.
  3. Is the guide familiar with the area you are visiting? The company may have a long history of trips to the region, but that’s not helpful if this year’s guide has never been there.
  4. What is the maximum group size? Group size can be a crucial factor in the quality of your experience. Fifty bird watchers following one guide is not a good ratio, but effective group size can vary with the terrain. In open surroundings, one leader might be enough for 20 participants. On narrow forest trails, a group of fewer than eight or nine with one leader is probably best.
  5. What is included in the tour cost? This can vary a lot. Some trips can look surprisingly cheap, until you find out that meals are not included in the price. On foreign tours, airfare is normally not included in the price. As a general rule, tour prices do not include laundry costs, alcoholic beverages, personal phone calls, or a private secretary to write down all the birds for you. So make sure you are sure what is included and what you still need to pay for yourself.

If you are looking to go on your inaugural birding tour, or if you are experienced and want to find that lifer that you have been chasing, take a look at our website to find a tour that suits your budget and time constraints. While you are at it, have an experience of a lifetime!

Contact us now with questions about your birding tour.

Augur Buzzard

The joy of birding is best shared, and so, this week, the bird we are following is the Augur Buzzard.

The Augur Buzzard is a fairly common bird that is nomadic in response to the supply of available prey.


They are commonly found on rocky outcrops in the mountainous country as well as in woodlands and arid scrub.

The population is found intermittently from Ethiopia and East Sudan through Eastern and Central Africa to Zimbabwe. There is some isolated population in South West Angola and Namibia. In Southern Africa, the species is confined to Central and North Western Namibia, Zimbabwe and adjacent Mozambique. There are vagrants at Tsodilo Hills, North Western Botswana.

They are resident, with some juvenile dispersal; and occasional nomadism linked to prey availability.

The general habits of the Augur Buzzard can be described as living solitary or in pairs. They have a longevity of about 9 years. They spend most of the day perched (58%), with the remaining time split between soaring (29%) or hovering (13%). Towards midday, the buzzard rests perched in shaded areas in the trees or will soar much higher than at other times. The Augur Buzzard is known as territorial but will range most widely in the non-breeding season.

Photo by Akio and Yasuko Yamada


The call of the bird can be described as a harsh kow-kow-kow, sometimes led by a whistling note made mainly in display, but also in greeting, or when soliciting food, or alarmed. The young bird calls with a penetrating pi-pi-pi-pee-ooo-ooo, or cheeu-cheeu, occasionally interspersed with tuk, tuk notes.

Adult Male Pale Morph

The adult male can be described as having a blackish slate crown, face and upper parts, along with whitish streaks, especially on frons, supraorbital ridge, mantle and scapulars. 

It’s upper tail coverts and the tail are rich rufous or chestnut. Upper wing coverts are blackish slate, with streaked white. The flight feathers whitish, with fine black bars and broad blackish tips. 

The underwing coverts are a white, with greater primary coverts mostly presenting with blackish tips forming a dark comma. Undersides of the flight feathers are mainly white, with broad blackish trailing edge and fine dark grey barring on secondaries and inner primaries. 

The underparts are white, with throat and sides of breast sometimes presenting with dark streaks; along with undertail coverts rufous. Some males retain a narrow, dusky grey-brown juvenile subterminal undertail band. Its bill is black, cere yellow, and eyes are dark brown. The legs and feet are yellow.

Adult Female Pale Morph

The female is much like the male, but the throat and breast usually have more extensive blackish streaking, often forming a distinct bib.


By one year, the underparts are mainly creamy white, with blackish spots on flanks, thighs and underwing coverts. The immature bird moults into adult plumage over the 1.5 year period after this, with mosaic of adult and juvenile plumage visible during this time.


The juvenile’s upper parts are dark brown, head and neck feathers edged by buff, with whitish bases showing as streaks. The upper tail is brown and upper wing coverts are dark brown. 

Flight feathers present as grey-brown (with darker brown bars), forming a slightly paler panel visible in flight and at rest. Underwing coverts are buffy, with dark carpal patches and dark tips to flight feathers that are more diffused than adults. 

The underparts are buff with irregular brown blotches on the throat, flanks and thighs. Undertail shows as a greyish brown, with narrow dark brown bars and broader subterminal band with the tail being distinctly longer than the adult.


The Augur buzzard likes to hunt from a perch with a downward swoop to catch its prey. It will also hunt from the air in a rapid parachute drop with its feet extended in front of it to catch mostly reptiles. It feeds on insects, nestlings, rodents and reptiles, and will sometimes chase prey on the ground.

Alternative Names

German = Augurbussard
French = Buse augure
Portuguese = Bútio-augur
Dutch = Augurbuizerd

All our Tanzania Tours guarantee an Augur Buzzard! 

If you want to see one of these beautiful feathered friends and find out why they are so popular, you can enquire or book with us at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Multimedia Birds guide

red billed firefinch

Following hot on the heels of our Facebook bird of the week post, we present our bird of the week as the Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala).

The Red-billed Firefinch or Senegal Firefinch is a small gregarious passerine bird. There are two types in East Africa, which are: 

  1. Lagonosticta senegala ruberrima Reichenow, which occur in most of Eastern Africa, and the 
  2. Lagonosticta senegala rendalli which occur in most of Southern Tanzania and down into Southern Africa.


The Red-billed Firefinch has a wide distribution, and are found in Sub-Saharan Africa, from south Mauritania to Sudan and Somalia, south through east and central Africa to South Africa; absent from Congo Basin and arid areas in east Africa. 

Populations that have been introduced have spread in:

  • Central Algeria.
  • South Africa, in northern Namibia. 
  • North and East Botswana.
  • Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and Swaziland. 

In South Africa: 

  • widespread in NW and Limpopo Provinces, 
  • Gauteng, 
  • Mpumalanga,
  • Northern KwaZulu-Natal,
  • more locally in Western Free State, 
  • Northern Cape and interior of Eastern Cape, with small numbers extending through Little Karoo to Western Cape, with several recent records west to Robertson, in Breede River valley.
  • In KwaZulu-Natal, formerly mainly north of Tugela River, but now along the coast as far south as Ramsgate.

They are residents of grassy habitats and thickets with a preference for Acacia Savanna. The Red-billed Firefinch have an extremely large geographic range, with a fairly stable population. They have one breeding partner and their nest is placed near the ground and forms a ball shape. Usually found in pairs or small flocks with other birds where they are seen feeding on seeds and grains on the ground and are considered sedentary, with some localised movements. 

📷 Akio and Yasuko Yamada


The Firefinch has a call of a soft fluty “dwee” or “fweet” notes which is a simple melodious phrase of 2-6 soft fluty whistles, rising slightly in pitch towards the end, preceded by sharp tzet alarm note. The local dialects and individual songs will vary slightly. 

The contact call is a soft, thin dwee, uee, peee or fweet, slurred and usually rising, sometimes repeated as a double note; which is restrained by the close proximity of the same species. The Firefinch alarm call is a sharp, low-pitched tzet, tzet, tzet, sometimes rapidly repeated. The young of the species beg with wis and we call.

Adult Male Firefinch

The sexes are dimorphic in feather colouration. (L. s. rendalli). The adult male will be brown along the centre of crown and nape, mantle and back, sometimes suffused with pale red. The remainder of his head will reflect a dull pinkish-red. The rump and base of the upper tail are a pinkish red. 

  • The tail is blackish-brown, with reddish outer margins. 
  • Wing coverts are brown, sometimes suffused pale red. 
  • Flight feathers dark brown, narrowly edged pinkish-brown with the underparts mostly dull pinkish-red, sides of breast faintly spotted white. 
  • The lower belly and the undertail coverts deep buff. 
  • Bill red, with dark horn culmen ridge; palate black, the rim of palate yellow. 
  • Eyes red to red-brown, eye-ring white or bright yellow. 
  • Legs and feet pinkish brown.

Adult Female Firefinch

The upperparts are brown with a reddish rump, as well as the upper tail coverts and fringes of rectrices. The face, underparts buff and lores are a dull rose red. The white spotting on the breast is more extensive on the female than in the male.

Juvenile Firefinch

The juvenile is similar to the female but lacks reddish lores and white spotting on breast. Its bill is black; with recently fledged birds, base is pink and a petite white gape tubercle. The eyes dark brown and the eye-ring grey.

All our Tanzania Tours guarantee a Red-billed Firefinch! 

If you want to see one of these beautiful feathered friends and find out why they are so popular, you can enquire or book with us at www.tanzaniabirding.com.

Source: Roberts Multimedia Birds guide