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Birds of Ethiopia

Ethiopia becoming one of Africa`s leading birding destinations. Its avifauna represents an interesting mixture of east and west African, Palearctic and some strikingly unusual endemic components. In addition to more than 800 species of birds, of which staggering 29 are endemic to Ethiopia and its neighbor Eritrea.

For birders, the Bale Mountains National Park in the southern part of the south-eastern highlands. Here the highest all-weather road in Africa crosses the Sanetti plateau (4377m), allowing easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands and lakes. Highland endemics such as Spot-breasted Lapwing and Rouget`s Rail occur alongside spectacular giant lobelias and Ethiopian wolves. The highlands also offer a number of species not found elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, such as Ruddy Shelduck, Golden Eagle Aquila and Red-billed Chough. Other more widespread highland endemics include Blue-winged Goose, Ethiopian Siskin, Wattled Ibis, and Abyssinian Long claw.

Ethiopian forest endemics, accessible at such forest patches as those at Wondo Genet (central highlands) and Debre Libanos (northern highlands) include Yellow-fronted Parrot , Black-winged Lovebird, Abyssinian Slaty-Flycatcher, Abyssinian Black-headed Oriole, Banded Barbet and, in Juniper-Hygenia forest at higher altitude, such as at Dinsho or near Robe in the Bale mountains, White-backed Black Tit , Abyssinian Catbird, White-cheeked Turaco and Abyssinian Woodpecker. Other forest species particularly worthy of mention are Ayres's Hawk Eagle, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush and African Hill Babbler.

North of Addis Ababa, the Jema River Gorge holds a population of highly localized and endemic Harwood's Francolin, best searched for along the river itself. The rocky valley rim hosts a number of species that could be searched for in any rocky highland area, such as White-billed Starling, Ruppell's Black Chat, Nyanza Swift and White-winged Cliff Chat. One of Ethiopia's three highly localized endemic serins, Ankober Serin, is also a highland species, occurring along the spectacular Ankober escarpment north of Awash.

The Rift Valley, punctuated by several large lakes, offers few endemics but very diverse and enjoyable woodland birding. Some of the several excellent birding sites here are Lake Langano, Awash National Park and Nechisar National Park, offering amongst many others such great birds as African Swallow-tailed Kite, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Arabian Bustard, Somali Fiscal, and Gillett's Lark, Red-winged Bush Larks and Singing Bush Larks.

In the south of the country, high diversity and endemic combine to offer absolutely superb birding. Sought-after specials include the endemic Prince Ruspoli`s Turaco, White-tailed Swallow, Stresemann's Bush Crow and Sidamo and Degodi Larks, as well as a number of dry land species shared with far northern Kenya and Somalia, such as Red-napped Bush-Shrike, African White-winged Dove, Somali Long-billed, Juba Weaver, Yellow-vented and Vulturine Guineafowl.

In the far west of the country, along the Sudanese border, low-lying plains are cloaked with moister woodland supporting an avifauna quite unlike that of the rest of the country. It seems somewhat West African in character, and specials include Egyptian Plover, Gambaga Flycatcher, Black Scimitar bill , Levant Sparrow hawk Accipiter brevipes (perhaps a rare summer migrant), Pygmy Sunbird, Black-rumped Waxbill , Black-faced and Bar-breasted Firefinches, Yellow-bellied Hyliota, Little Green and Red-throated Bee-eater, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Brown-rumped Bunting and Green-backed Eremomela.