Birding in Chobe National Park Botswana

Chobe National Park is the best birding Safari destination in Botswana with over 450 recorded bird species. Some of the bird species that are found in Chobe National Park include African marsh harrier, Black-winged pratincole, Brown firefinch, Collared pratincole, Crimson-breasted shrike, Green-capped eremomela, Knysna Turaco, Meyer’s parrot, Swamp nightjar, African skimmer, Pel’s fishing-owl, Greater painted-snipe, Red-necked falcon, Rufous-bellied heron, Half-collared kingfisher, Slaty egret, Souza’s shrike, Swamp Boubou, Thrush nightingale, White-backed night heron, Rosy-throated longclaw, Broad-billed roller, and  Yellow-bellied Greenbul.

Birding in Chobe is best done during morning hours before the sun is up and it can be done while taking guided nature walks, game drives and boat rides along the Chobe River. Below is a list of the bird species that you should look out for on a Chobe birding safari. You can also do birding throughout the day although the bird species seen during the day do amount to the ones that you get to see in the morning.

The African Fish Eagle

Chobe National Park is one of the best places where you get to see the African Fish Eagle even though they are widespread all over the continent. The African fish eagle is back with a white chest and head making it easy to be spotted and they can best be seen perched on riparian trees along the Riverside. They are now used to being photographed and the presence of humans so it is rare to find them flying off in case one approaches their territory. They can be spotted on boat rides, guided nature walks, and game drives.

Yellow-billed oxpecker

Several oxpeckers are found on the African continent and Chobe National Park has 2 oxpecker species the most commonly seen is the yellow-billed oxpecker. Oxpeckers are mainly seen riding on antelope’s backs and some keep on feeding on parasites and ticks off the animals. They feed on a lot of junk like dead skin, cabs, flesh, and their favorite blood in that they keep wounds open just to keep drawing blood. Red-billed oxpecker are mainly seen. On smaller animals, the yellow-billed oxpecker is found on larger game like buffalos.

Collared palm Thrush

These are best seen flying around the Chobe Safari lodge and see hard to find anywhere else in southern Africa. The collared plan Thrush is extremely hard to take photos of because they do not sit in one place for a long time. They can be seen flying in and out of the bushes and a guided walk around the lodge will reward you with the sights of this bird species.

Southern Carmine Bee-eater

These can easily be seen due to their pink and blue color. They are always seen in large numbers and normally feed on insects. The beautiful birds are always a good way to spend an evening or morning since they fly in groups and their distinguished color makes them uniquely different from the tree where they can be seen resting.

botswana birdwatching

African Skimmer

The African Skimmer is a rather large awkward looking bird with red and yellow bills which are large and have white and black bodies. They can easily be seen along the banks of the Chobe River and just like the African fish Eagle, they are used to human presence. The African Skimmer feeds on fish and can be seen flying just above the surface of the water and dive as fast as they can to scoop up the fish.

Rock pratincole

Just like its name, the Rock pratincole lives mainly around rocks that are around the River, and in any case that the rocks are no longer visible due to lots of water, they shift to another place that has rocks. They are easily identified due to the white line that is found under their eyes but if you do not look too closely, you will not be able to see them since they nicely camouflage with their surroundings and the best way to see them is by getting on a boat ride along the Chobe River.

Coppery-tailed Coucal

The coppery-tailed Coucal is a black and cream colored species that can be seen around the Chobe River. They are a common species and can be seen in both seasons. There are two important things that you should know about the Coucal and the first one is that they raid other nests and feed on the chicks and they also care for their young ones, unlike other Coucal species that normally carry out brood parasitism.

Southern Ground hornbill

Best known for having long lashes (actually longer than humans), the southern Ground Hornbill lives within the bushes on the ground, unlike other Hornbill species that are found in trees. It hunts for lizards, scorpions, snakes, beetles, grasshoppers, and other small creatures.  They are best seen during the rainy season and can easily be identified by their call which is likened to thunder since it is a booming one, they are aggressive birds, extremely territorial, and can attack outsiders at any given time and that includes humans in case they feel threatened.

White-backed vulture

This is the most common vulture species in Chobe National Park and it is appearing on this list because of the value it has in conserving the environment. This is a critically endangered species that needs to be protected at all times because since time immemorial they have been poisoned through the carcasses that they eat. Vultures are the nature cleaners of the environment since they can finish eating up a carcass left by other animals in the shortest period helping in conserving the National Park but note that their numbers are dwindling at a faster rate.

Long-toed lapwing

Long-toed lapwings are commonly seen in swamps and see back and white. They are natural alarms and always send warnings to other aquatic life informing them about the danger coming. In case they feel threatened, they flap their wings and fly up and down while making all sounds. There is also a rumor that long-toed lapwings keep picking food from the teeth of crocodiles but there is no proof and do not expect to see anything like this happening while on a Safari to the National Park.

Pennant-winged nightjar

This is a common bird that can be seen all over the Chobe National park and it can change its appearance to look like a kite. It should be on every birder’s list and can best be seen between October and December since the male Pennant-winged nightjar only lasts about six weeks. They make sounds that are insect-like and this can last about 10 seconds.

White-backed night Heron

This is a medium-sized bird that is best seen during the night hours since this is the time when they get out to feed. It can be identified by the narrow white plumes on the back and its chest. It has a white ring around its large eyes and its black head. It feeds on frogs and snails and invertebrates and keeps on hiding in the backwaters which makes it hard for them to be spotted.

What you need for an exciting birding experience

There are things and equipment that you need to make your birding experience in Chobe National Park a memorable one and these include the following:

A camera and extra batteries: a camera is very essential for a birding safari because you will want to take as many photos as you can of the different bird species found in Chobe. Although phones take clear and good pictures, there is something vintage and classic about carrying a camera, and once you get one that works for you, do not forget to carry the extra batteries for emergencies.

Recognition books: these are also important and are on sale in the different tourist shops around Chobe National Park. A recognition book has information about almost all the bird species found in the National Park and this includes a picture of the bird, its species family, name, and characteristics.

Binoculars: some bird species are extremely shy and hide the moment that they get to know they are being watched whereas others just keep on flying away. Binoculars are to help you see bird species like these and to spot those that are far away from you.

Waterproof backpack: this is to help keep your camera equipment safe and other valuables like snacks, bottled water, extra batteries, and personal items safe from the ever-changing weather experienced in Chobe National Park.

Waterproof jacket: this is to keep you from getting wet during the wet season and warm at the same time. Other things that you should carry include toiletries and warm clothes.

Best time to go for birding

The National Park is an all-year-round destination for birders but the best time to see large crowds of birds including the migratory birds is from November to April during the wet season. This is the time when breeding takes place so you will be sure to see numerous bird species in their natural habitats.