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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.

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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.

Distribution

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

Voice

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.

Immature

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.

Juvenile

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.

Food

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

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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.

Distribution

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

Voice

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

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bald-eagles-nest 2

Want to know where birds choose to lay their eggs? In a birds nest of course. But this doesn’t mean that all birds nests are the same. Today we look at different kinds of nests for different species of birds around the world. These all have different kinds of structures that are specifically built for raising their young. 

1. Cavities and Burrows

Holes in trees are referred to as nest cavities, and underground nests are called burrows. Burrowing owls will sometimes dig their own nests, whereas other birds will rely on spots that have been dug out by other animals in the wild. Some other types of birds that are considered underground nesters include bank swallows, belted kingfishers and Atlantic puffins. Find out more about owls in Tanzania at https://www.tanzaniabirding.com/birding/the-usambara-eagle-owl-10-birding-facts/.

2. Floating Nests

Some waterbirds, including many ducks, choose to nest in grasslands far from water. Others, such as loons, grebes, coots and gallinules, make their Their eggs will sink, so the birds construct a floating nest out of natural resources such as cattail plants, reeds, other aquatic vegetation, or mud. They attach their nests to surrounding vegetation to camouflage them and to keep them from drifting off, eg. Wattled crane.

3. Cliffside Nests

Colonies of birds such as murres, razorbill and guillemots nest on shelves on the coastal cliffs. These birds do not usually build a nest structure, but rely on laying eggs that are pointed at one end which helps the eggs balance and prevents them from falling over the cliff edge. This is also a defence mechanism for the birds, providing more shelter from predators due to the difficulty of accessing the nesting area. But these cliff nesters aren’t found only on the coast. Other species of birds such as condors, ravens and falcons, use cliffs by building stick nests in the crevices of the cliffside.

4. No Hassle Nests

It does sometimes happen that birds choose to build very little nest at all. It does sometimes happen that birds choose to build very little nest at all. Laying and protecting eggs is still important to them, by they tend to be more opportunistic in nesting. Beach nesting birds such as terns and plovers lay eggs in a depression in the sand. The eggs laid by these species are suitably camouflaged in colour with speckles that match their surroundings. Sometimes extra debris from the adjacent areas are scraped together. As beaches become more developed, some of these birds have chosen to move their nests to rooftops nearby the beach.

5. Detailed Nests

Orioles and weavers are the seamstresses of the bird world. Their stylised pendant nests hang daintily from the outermost tree branches. The nests are impossible to miss during the breeding season. They will use whatever material is available in the area to stitch their bag nests together: long grasses, palms, even horsehair. They line the nests with soft materials such as plant fibres, feathers or animal wool. 

6. Tiny and Flexible Homes

It should come as no surprise that hummingbirds, the smallest birds, construct the tiniest nests. These nests are artfully constructed on top of tree branches using plants, soft materials and even some spider silk webs. Some hummingbirds even decorate their homes with flakes of lichen. The nest construction is completed around the eggs with this soft lining which then stretches as the birds grow. Hummingbirds usually lay 2 eggs around the size of black beans, inside a nest that is about the size of a walnut shell, only several centimetres big. 

7. In It for the Long Haul Nests

Considered the King of nest building is the Bald Eagle! In 1963, an eagle’s nest near St. Petersburg, Florida, was measured at nearly 3 metres wide, 6 metres deep and weighed over 2000kgs. Although this nest was extreme; most bald eagle nests are under 2 metres in diameter and about a metre tall. The building of this nest can take up to three months. Eagles will generally use the same nest year after year, adding to it over the years.

bald-eagles-nest

If you are looking for a memorable birding tour, consider our experienced guides to get you in the best spots to see that bird you have been waiting to see. You can get in touch with us from our website.

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technology binoculars

Tanzania is an extensive, untouched wilderness and has the second largest lake in the world; Lake Victoria – a freshwater lake, home to 400 species of bird, and one of the seven summits, Mount Kilimanjaro. It is also considered one of the best places for wilderness viewing in the world including Arusha, Serengeti, Norongoro Crater, Tarangire and Manyara National Parks.

The National parks in Tanzania are made up of a variety of landscapes including open savannah grassland, bush and scrub with large rivers running through them. This means that these parks host an incredible array of birdlife including the Secretary Bird, numerous vultures, eagles and hawks, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Gabon Nightjar, Lilac-breasted Roller, Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Tit, Sooty Chat, and a wide variety of larks, pipits and widowbirds. The thick riverine forest bordering the Mara and Talek rivers hold African Finfoot, Livingstone’s & Ross’s Turaco, Giant Kingfisher, Blue Flycatcher, Double-toothed Barbet and the rare Pel’s Fishing Owl; while the feeding ground for the largest concentration of Lesser Flamingo’s on the planet (being about 2 million) is found at Lake Natron.

Tanzania Top Birding destinations

Arusha National Park

The verdant grassy hills surround the tranquil beauty of the Momela Lakes, all shimmering in shades of green and blue. Their shallows sometimes host Pink Flamingos in their thousands. These lakes support a rich selection of resident and migrant waterfowl, and shaggy waterbucks line the watery fringes. Giraffes lope along the grassy hills between dazzling zebra herds, while pairs of wide-eyed Dik-Dik dart into scrubby bush like overgrown hares on spindly legs.

Lake Victoria

This Lake is home to over 400 species of birds, which makes it easy to view them in a few days. White and Pink-backed Pelican, Cormorant and Long-tailed Cormorant, Little Bittern, Goliath, Purple and Squacco Heron, Little, Yellow-billed and Great-white Egrets, Hammerkop, Yellow-billed Stork, Sacred Ibis, African Spoonbill, Fish Eagle, Black Crake, Allen’s and Purple Gallinules, Jacana, and Pied and Malachite Kingfishers are all residents. With a surface area of just under 70 000 km², Lake Victoria is the second-largest freshwater lake in the world. But despite its size, it is fairly shallow, only reaching 75m at its deepest.

By NASA – NASA World Wind, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.phpcurid=42445846

Mount Kilimanjaro

This is the world’s tallest freestanding mountain, the summit of which is 5,895 meters (19,341 feet) above sea level. Highland species here include several extremely uncommon birds such as Green Ibis, Rufous Sparrowhawk, Mountain Buzzard, Crowned Eagle, Jackson’s Francolin, Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-fronted Parrot, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Scarce Swift, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, Montane Oriole, Alpine Chat, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Sharpe’s Longclaw, Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starling, and 13 species of sunbirds including the Northern Double-collared, Golden-winged, Tacazze, Green-headed and Scarlet-tufted Malachite.

Serengeti National Park

Serengeti National Park, the Ngorongoro Conservation Area, and the Maasai Mara Game Reserve across the border in Kenya, protect the largest and most diverse collection of terrestrial wildlife on Earth, and remains one of the last great migratory systems still intact. The Serengeti is the jewel in the crown of Tanzania’s protected areas, which calculated together, make up some 14% of the country’s land area. This is a conservation record that few countries come close to.

Usambara Mountains

These mountains and tropical forests are considered incredibly significant ecologically and as a Biodiversity hotspot. There are protected zones throughout the range which are still being expanded and contributed to by the Tanzanian government, associated NGO’s and research teams, and donor countries. The Usambara Mountains are fairly unique in East Africa with their natural areas still being cloaked in tropical forests, which are otherwise seen primarily in Western Africa.

If you are looking at one of these popular destinations for your birding tour, consider our experienced guides to get you in the best spots to see that bird you have been waiting to see. You can get in touch with us from our website.

Sources: Fatbirder, Go2Africa, Nasa

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birding with kids

For a hobby your kids can start that is educational but loads of fun (and can be done when sheltering or in isolation), why not start them on bird watching?

Children can be hard to keep entertained, but there are some ways to make it more manageable while getting them hooked on this easy and inexpensive hobby.

Here are some ways that you can make bird watching a regular family adventure that your children will have indelible memories of.

1. Get your kids to help set up a bird feeder

To watch birds, you need to attract them. You can buy or build birdhouses and bird baths. Bird feeders are essential to attract birds though and it would be wise to have a few on your property to give birds a good reason to stop in.

Preferably, these should be placed near cover so that the birds can quickly move to safety should they feel threatened. Encourage your children to regularly fill the bird feeders.

2. Get bird books, apps or flashcards

There are so many birds. How do you even start identifying them? The easiest is to find some bird books about the birds that are native to the area you are in. You can also look for birding apps online (some are free to download). Another way to keep the kids (and yourself) entertained is to get some flashcards. You can carry these on a binder and take them with you whenever you are birdwatching. At this point, you may want to invest in some binoculars for your kids as well.

3. Make a scavenger hunt

Now that your kids are set up to go bird watching, make it even more fun with a scavenger hunt. Write a list of different types of birds they need to see by a set time or date. The first one to see all the birds is the winner!

4. Make a seen-it book

When you begin watching birds as they start visiting your yard, you can create a book that details the birds as your child first sees them. If your child is able to, let them write the list. As an additional interesting task, get your child to draw their version of the bird with the date they first saw it.

This can be carried out as birds return seasonally. This will also make your child aware when new birds and rare birds are seen.

5. Join in

Make a point of enjoying bird watching with your children. Take note of the bird feeders, look outside and keep an eye out for bird movement. When you do spot birds, call the children over to look at them and see if you can identify them together. Kids are eager to join in and enjoy anything their parents love too.

If you are looking for a fantastic birding experience in Tanzania once world borders are open, take a look at our tours, or contact us on tours@tanzaniabirding.com. We look forward to meeting and hosting you.

Source: Mothering

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birding checklist

Birding Apps and checklists can keep you up to date with the latest information on what birds are being seen in a given area. In other words, if you are a birding enthusiast, it can keep you birding ‘fit’.

Today we are going to take a look at some Apps to help you identify and get facts on birds. We also take a look at some birding checklists that you can download to have with you while birding, and then some birding competition sites that you can list your sightings on (just for those that are a little competitive).

Birding Apps

There are a number of these worldwide the cover different geographical regions. They range from free options to paid versions and can be incredibly useful when starting out to identify family groups, colours and calls, or even when you are experienced to make sure you are correct when it comes to similar species. Let’s take a look at some of these Apps.

#1 iBird Pro Guide

Whether you are an experienced birder, a bird watcher or a beginner at birding, iBird’s intelligent search engine and comprehensive species accounts will turn you into a birding expert. From well-known birds to exotic rare species, iBird works like magic, revealing a list of birds that perfectly matches your search choices.

This can be purchased for the UK and North American regions. There is a free version available.

#2 Merlin Bird ID

Merlin is more than just a field assistant to help you identify birds, Merlin is a customizable field guide for birds around the world. Get identification help and discover what birds to look for near you with Merlin Bird ID. You can download the app here.

#3 Audubon Bird Guide

The Audubon Bird Guide is a free and complete field guide to more than 800 species of North American birds, right in your pocket. Built for all experience levels, it will help you identify the birds around you, keep track of the birds you’ve seen, and get you outside to find new birds near you. 

#4 Song Sleuth

Song Sleuth turns your Android phone or tablet into an automatic bird song identifier covering the 200 most common vocalizing land birds in the U.S.A. Not just for beginners, the App also has features for intermediate birders who might need an identification hint or wish to study the included example recordings to take their birding ‘ear’ to the next level. Advanced birders who don’t need any identification help will appreciate the ability to make and keep recordings for further study.

#5 Newmans Birds Southern Africa

Includes over 1000 high-quality photographs of 975 bird species (i.e. ALL the species for the region). There are detailed descriptions (including species’ status), illustrations and distribution maps and accurate illustrations of each bird as it is seen in the field, with labels showing diagnostic features. The App includes over 800 bird calls with multiple call types (song, duet, alarm, mating). Buy the full version here or try the free version first (download here).

#6 Roberts Bird Guide

Roberts Bird Guide displays Southern African birds on full pages of the book for instant comparison and identification. Search the family list or swipe the pages for a bird, play the sound, view the distribution, add to your list, view and compare similar birds, open the Bird Page for text and photographs, or open the Bird Guide list for the selected bird. This can be purchased here.

Birding Checklists

For some birding checklists of species in Southern Africa, see the different options below:

Zest for Birds

Avibase

African Bird Club

Birding Tracking Lists

Tracking which species of birds you have seen and where you spotted them, is good fun. You realise as the numbers start adding up how many different types there are and also which birds you are more likely to see in different areas.

Here are some Bird Tracking List sites:

Bird Lasser

BirdLasser is a fun, easy way to record your bird sightings and share with friends, your community and contribute to conservation. You can also share that special sighting with your fellow birders in real-time via email or post a trip report.

iGoTerra

Record all your wildlife observations with any device. Import all your past records and create your personalised Tree of Life. Manage your wildlife observations and photos from all over the world. Get prepared with personalised country checklists. You can visit the iGoTerra website for further details.

eBird

eBird Mobile makes it easy to record the birds you see in the field, and seamlessly link these observations to eBird with a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world. This free resource makes it easy to keep track of what you see, while making your data openly available for scientific research, education, and conservation. 

If you want to find out more about birding tours, take a look at our birding tours for 2020 in Tanzania, or email us on tours@tanzaniabirding.com.

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nature health

Children are naturally curious. Why not take advantage of this and introduce them to a healthy pastime?

Birdwatching is inspiring and refreshing. It connects us to a place and gets us outside in our yards and neighbourhoods to explore. So how do you get started and how do you make this hobby interesting for children? Take a look at some tips and games that your children can play to get them birding.

How to Bird

Prompt children with the knowledge that birds are not easy to see, and sometimes adults struggle too. But if you listen quietly and carefully, you can hear them. Help them by telling them to close their eyes and listen, and then to point to the area the call is coming from.

Where to go

This is one hobby where you don’t need to go far. You can see birds on the street, in your yard, in parks and in conservation areas. But having water or a dam in an area means it will attract birds. You may see herons, ducks, egrets and if you are lucky, swans.

What to look for

Not having much luck finding birds? Look for telltale signs that birds leave behind. Try finding nests, the remainder of cracked seeds or bird poop.

Which binoculars to use

Binoculars take some getting used to, and it can be difficult for children. Kids also find spotting through scopes challenging. Why not teach them to focus on staying still and looking for movement of birds or other animals? Or for fun and to get them into the habit, why not make a pair of DIY cardboard binoculars?

children birding

Games

How do you get a child interested in something? Make it a game! Here are some ways that will help them get into birding.

Scavenger hunt

Get them interested in a goal – try to see as many different birds as possible. For many children, counting up from zero to a number eg. ten, will be enough to keep them focused and enjoy learning.

Help children be more observant. Make a list of birds you would like to see before heading out. Use general categories like hawks, doves, sunbirds or even small animals in groups below four.

Leader

Encourage children’s independence. Let them pick an area on a map (that has a green patch) close to you to visit. When you arrive, let your child select which trail to take and guide you, telling you which things or places they want to study along the way.

Binocular spy

If your child is able to make use of binoculars, teach them to use them properly by asking them to read signs at different distances. Start closer to you and continue to move further away until they are able to hold the barrels steady and turn the focus wheel steady while operating.

Once they have this in their skills, play ‘I Spy’ to help them find smaller objects.

Sound off

Most children can easily tell you what a dog or a chicken sounds like, but what about a guineafowl? Get your child to imitate the bird sounds they hear and then use a field guide app to pull up the bird and play back clips to listen to and identify. Then get them to voice their own translation of the songs and calls.

Now that you have the actionable steps to getting your birding skills on point, plan and book ahead for a tour. You can contact us on tours@tanzaniabirding.com

Source: Audubon

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african grey crowned crane

Birders’ vocabulary often sounds confusing to people who don’t share the same passion. For example, did you know that someone who travels a long distance to view a particular bird, is referred to as a ‘Twitcher’? Generally, this is translated as an avid bird watcher.

If you are new to birding, we decided it would be good to list some of the vocabulary regularly used to help you. Some words may differ from area to area due to cultural and dialect differences.

Birding Vocabulary

B

  • Big Day: a birding event in which a birder or team of birders tries to see as many species of birds as possible within a calendar day.
  • Big Year: a birding event in which a birder tries to see as many species of birds as possible within a defined area (county, state, ABA area, etc.) within a calendar year; originated with the American Birding Association, and the basis for the movie The Big Year.
  • To burn up or flog: to beat around in the undergrowth hoping to flush a bird. A desperate measure and not a kind way to treat an exhausted migrant.
  • BVD: “Better View Desired”, describing a lifer that was observed well enough to identify, but not enjoy.

C

  • CBCChristmas Bird Count is a census of birds undertaken in the Western Hemisphere.
  • CFW (Eastern North America): An abbreviation that stands for “Confusing Fall Warbler” (During fall migration and through mid spring, most members of Parulidae found in the Eastern US and Canada tend to be in nonbreeding plumage, and therefore have relatively few distinctive markings or patterns).
  • Chooks (Australia): already seen or common birds.
  • Crippler (UK): a rare and spectacular bird that shows brilliantly, perhaps an allusion towards its preventing people from moving on.
  • Crush (verb, U.S.): to get very high-quality photos of a bird, often referred to as a banger. See hammer.

D

  • Dip (or dip out): to miss seeing a bird which you were looking for.
  • Dude: “a bird-watcher who doesn’t really know all that much about birds.” A novice birdwatcher; slightly pejorative term. Also used to refer to someone who primarily seeks out birds for photography rather than study.

E

  • Empid (US): any of the flycatchers of the genus Empidonax, infamous among North American birders for being difficult to identify in the field without the aid of vocalizations.

F

  • Fallout: a natural occurrence where migratory birds are forced down by adverse weather in a way that makes them congregate in large numbers; generally associated with meteorological and geographical conditions (exclusively in spring, generally in the United States along the Texas and Florida coasts of the Gulf of Mexico).
  • First: a first record of a species (in a defined area, such as a county first).

G

  • Grip (or grip off) (UK): to see a bird which another birder missed and to tell them you’ve seen it.

H

  • Hammer (US): to get high-quality photos of a bird.

J/G

  • Jizz or giss: the overall impression given by the general shape, movement, behaviour, etc., of a species rather than any particular feature. Experienced birders can often identify species, even with only fleeting or distant views, on jizz alone.

L

  • LBJ (or little brown job. UK): drab songbirds that are difficult to differentiate and identify.
  • ”LC” (noun; local U.S., San Francisco Bay Area): the action of reporting vagrants suspiciously often, generally without photos or audio. As in: “Did you see that LC of an Ancient Murrelet? They couldn’t make it more obvious that they didn’t actually see a murrelet, but were instead just trying to increase their Sonoma County list.
  • Lifer: a first-ever sighting of a bird species by an observer; an addition to one’s life list.
  • List:
    • Noun: a list of all species seen by a particular observer (often qualified, e.g. life listcounty listyear list, etc.). Keen twitchers may keep several lists, and some listers compete to amass longer lists than their rivals.
    • Verb: to keep or compile a bird list (a lister is someone who is intensely focused on keeping and growing lists, and can be used negatively).

M

  • m.ob. or mob or MOB: an abbreviation that stands for “many observers,” often used as a collective noun.
  • Mega or megatick or meguh: a very rare bird.

N

  • Nemesis (or nemesis bird): a bird that has eluded a birder despite multiple attempts to see it.

P

  • Patagonia Picnic Table Effect (or Patagonia Roadside Rest Effect) (US): the phenomenon that occurs when one bird draws many birders to a remote area, who then find more rarities and other interesting species in that same location. Named after an actual roadside rest area just west of Patagonia, Arizona.
  • Patch (or local patch): a birding location or set of birding locations near one’s home that a birder visits frequently.
  • Pelagic (noun): a boat trip designed for birders to find open-ocean (pelagic) species, such as albatrosses.
  • Pish (US): an emphatic shushing or hissing noise used by North American birders to elicit mobbing behaviour; made in imitation of alarm calls of chickadees and titmice.
  • Peep (US): a collective term for the five smallest North American Calidris sandpipers: least sandpiper, semipalmated sandpiper, Western sandpiper, white-rumped sandpiper, and Baird’s sandpiper.
  • Plastic (UK): an adjective used to indicate a bird which has escaped from captivity, rather than a genuinely wild bird.

S

  • Sibe (US): a bird from Siberia (usually applied to rare migrants).
  • Siesta time (also the doldrums) (US): the period in mid-afternoon when birds (and therefore birders) are least active. 
  • Slash: a cryptic species pair (on a day list), e.g. long-billed dowitcher/short-billed dowitcher, willow flycatcher/alder flycatcher.
  • SOB: “Spouse of Birder”, a non-birder spouse.
  • Spark bird: a species that triggers a lifelong obsession with birding.
  • Spuh: birds that are only identifiable to genus level (on a day list) (from “sp.”, abbreviated form of species).
  • String (see LC):
    • Noun: a dubious, “ropy” record.
    • Adjective: Stringy.
    • Verb: to claim such a record.
      • Note: the term stringer usually denotes people who intentionally mislead and falsify bird sightings, as opposed to well-intentioned mistakes made from lack of field experience.

T

  • Tick: an addition to a personal list (sometimes qualified as year tickcounty tick, etc.). Life tick and lifer are synonymous. a tart’s tick is a relatively common species added to one’s list later than might be expected. An armchair tick is an addition without leaving one’s home, typically as a result of a taxonomic change. 
  • To pull an Easterla (California): to find a ridiculously rare vagrant in a place with no vagrant potential whatsoever. As in: “A first state record of Yellow-browed Warbler in Alpine County? How did a Sibe end up 160 miles inland alongside a mountain stream?! And how was it even found?!?”
  • Twitch: the act of travelling a long distance to see a rare bird. Synonymous with chase.
birding vocabulary

V

  • Vagrant: a stray far from the normal ecological range.

W

  • Warbler Neck (US): a painful crick in the neck from looking at birds high in the treetops. Named after the New World warblers, which are often found in the tops of trees.

Y

  • Yank (UK): a bird from North America (usually applied to vagrants seen in Europe).

Z

  • Zootie (US, uncommon): a locally rare or unusual bird.

We hope that having this vocabulary list will help you feel more confident in your birding outings.

If you want to find out more about birding tours, you can email us on tours@tanzaniabirding.com or take a look at our top tours for this year where you can practise your birding vocabulary.

Source: Wikipedia

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Crowned Crane endemic

Can you identify the large endemic birds that make Tanzania their home? We are helping you out by putting together a list. Why not see how many you know?

Large endemic ground birds

Ostrich

These large birds hatch from a soccer ball-sized egg. The male of this endemic species is black and white, and the female a scruffy grey-brown colour. Ostriches can run up to 70 km/h, covering up to 5 m in a single stride.

Ostrich endemic

Secretary Bird

This 1,5 m tall raptor is seen in the grasslands and is mostly terrestrial. It is thought its name derives from the European trend that secretaries had of tucking a quill pen behind their ear.

Ground Hornbill

This is one of the most striking birds that looks like a black turkey, with white underwings, red wattled throat and eyes, and long, fluttering eyelashes. They also have a walk that resembles a waddle.

Guineafowl

This endemic helmeted bird is quite common and is known for its panicky behaviour and call. It is a white speckled grey bird with a blue head and ivory casque.

Kori Bustard

This is the world’s heaviest flying bird and makes the grassland its habitat. It has brown wings with a speckled belly, prominent backward crest and a laborious gait.

Francolin

There are two endemic species of francolin in Tanzania. The grey breasted francolin of the Serengeti and the Udzungwa forest partridge. They are usually seen hunting for food on the ground or at the base of trees and low down in the shrubs.

Large waterbirds

Pelicans

The larder billed great white pelican is a large bird that is white with black underwings and a large yellow throat pouch. This is used for catching prey and draining water from the scooped-up contents before swallowing. 

Flamingoes

The algae sifting flamingoes are one of East Africa’s most popular birding attractions. There are an estimated 5 – 6 million present here. They eat shrimps, algae, crustaceans and the pigments in their food (called carotenoids) are responsible for the red and pink colours of their feathers. 

Herons & Egrets

Although most species are water dependant, the black-backed heron often looks for food in the grasslands and the cattle egret flocks around buffalo herds to catch insects.

Storks

Tanzania has 8 stork species of which three are migrant, notably the familiar Eurasian variety. These birds are unable to sing.

Crowned Crane

This bird has grey feathering capped by a bristly gold crown and a red neck wattle. They frequent marsh and rank grasslands. Unlike other cranes, they usually roost in trees.

Crowned Crane endemic

Endemic Birds of prey

Verreaux’s Eagle

This is Africa’s second-largest raptor. It has black feathering offset by the yellow beak and legs with a distinctive white ‘V’ on its back.  It measures 75 to 96 cm (30 to 38 in) long from the bill to the tip of the tail, making it the sixth-longest eagle in the world.

Fish Eagle

One of the most distinctive African sounds is the piercing cry of a Fish Eagle. This fish feeding bird has a chestnut belly and yellow beak with black and white plumage.

Fish eagle endemic

Bateleur

This heavyset black eagle is both a hunter and a scavenger. It preys on birds and reptiles and can fly for as much as eight hours at a time searching for live food or carrion.

Augur Buzzard

The augur buzzard is a fairly large African bird of prey. With the exception of the tail, the rest of the body is slate-grey with white specks and an orange tail.

Vultures

These scavengers form the very important role of nature’s garbage cleaners. Due to them feasting on rotten meat, vultures have strong immune systems so they don’t get sick. Their heads and necks are almost bare of feathers so they can stay clean while feasting on a carcass.

Black Kite

The black kite is a medium-sized bird of prey and is Tanzania’s most common raptor. It is a bold scavenger and is regularly seen in urban areas. These birds prey on lizards, small mammals and insects, especially grasshoppers. Both live and dead (carrion) prey is eaten.

Owls

Tanzania has 15 species of Owls, which range from a thrush sized African Scops Owl to the huge Verreaux’s Eagle Owl. The local population believe that these birds are the harbinger of death.

Hornbills

These birds inhabit a multitude of areas, from desert to jungle, and are recognised for their heavy decurved (and sometimes colourful) bills.

If you want to find out more about what birding tours we offer, take a look at our birding tours for 2020 in Tanzania, or email us on tours@tanzaniabirding.com.

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