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Etosha is one of Africa's greatest wildlife parks and it holds some 380 bird species. Several Namibian near-endemics are available here, as are many of the arid-bushveld specials. Etosha is well worth a 3-5 day visit, during which one could easily see over 200 species. It is the only place in the sub-region where Egyptian Vulture is seen with any regularity.

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Specials

Secretarybird, Red-necked Falcon, Kori Bustard, Ludwig's Bustard, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Bennett's Woodpecker, Meves's Starling, Chestnut Weaver, Pallid Harrier, Montagu's Harrier, Pygmy Falcon, Chestnut-banded Plover, Caspian Plover (summer), Blue Crane, Burchell's Sandgrouse, Black-winged Pratincole, Monteiro's Hornbill, Bradfield's Hornbill, Stark's Lark, Bare-cheeked Babbler, Black-faced Babbler, Southern Pied Babbler, Carp's Tit, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Sociable Weaver. Violet Wood-Hoopoe also occurs but beware as this species readily hybridizes with Green Wood-Hoopoe and occasionally they are seen in mixed flocks. Several kalahari-associated species occur this far west including the Barred Wren-Warbler, Southern Pied Babbler, Marico Flycatcher, Scaly-feathered Finch, Violet-eared Waxbill and Shaft-tailed Whydah. An interesting variety of typically coastal palearctic migrant waders get to the park as accidentals.

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Facilities

A variety of accommodation is available from luxury bungalows, bungalows (2, 3 or 4 beds), bus quarters, camping and caravan sites at each of the three camps, Okaukuejo, Halali and Namutoni. All three camps have a shop (for minor supplies), restaurant, swimming pool, mail facilities, fuel and firewood. No banking facilities are available. There is a good dirt road network suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles. There are several waterholes and viewing points but no self guided trails or night drives.

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Habitats

The primary feature is the 6 000 square kilometer Etosha Pan, covering almost one quarter of the park. The pan is dry for most of the year, but in exceptional years when wet it is spectacular and abounds with birds. The vegetation is primarily arid savanna, shrub and thorn scrub in the west, tending towards tree savanna and broadleaved woodland in the east. acacia woodland is found throughout the region with Mopane woodland (central) and Combretum woodland (east) dominating patchily within the park's broadleaved savanna belt.

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Birding

1. Fisher's Pan. When wet - Great Crested Grebe, Black-necked Grebe, Lesser Flamingo and Greater Flamingo, Yellow-billed Stork, African Openbill, Saddle-billed Stork

2. Namutoni Camp. The waterhole occasionally holds some good birds including Caspian Plover (summer), Greater Painted-snipe and other waders. The woodland around this camp holds small numbers of Bradfield's Hornbill.

3. Bloubokkie Draai. The best place in Etosha to see Black-faced Babbler.

4. Andoni Plains. Good for larks, particularly Eastern Clapper Lark, Red-capped Lark, Fawn-coloured Lark, Sabota Lark, Spike-heeled Lark, Pink-billed Lark and Stark's Lark. Grey-backed Sparrowlark and Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark are common here too. The small Blue Crane population at Etosha is most evident here. The kalahari sands hold Burchell's Sandgrouse.

5. Springfontein. The open flats here are good for both Double-banded Courser and Temminck's Courser. Some years the grasslands here hold very important numbers of Black-winged Pratincole. Occasional bushy patches hold the isolated Etosha population of the Rufous-eared Warbler. The open grassland flats here are good for Pallid Harrier and Montagu's Harrier.

6. Etosha Lookout. When the pan is wet waterfowl, storks and flamingo's abound. This is one of only two areas in southern Africa where flamingo's breed. Chestnut-banded Plover and Caspian Plover abound in good years. Occasionally small numbers of Wattled Crane and Grey Crowned Crane occur on the pan in the wet season.

7. Halali Camp. This camp is the best place in Etosha for Namibian specials. Bare-cheeked Babbler, Violet Wood-Hoopoe and Carp's Tit all occur on the wooded knoll behind the camp waterhole, all of these species occasionally wander right into the camp. Southern White-faced Scops-Owl occurs in the camp.

8. Okaukuejo Camp. The camp itself holds Sociable Weaver and the associated Pygmy Falcon as well as several species more typical of drier habitats such as the Southern Pied Babbler and Crimson-breasted Shrike. Many seedeaters frequently come to drink at the waterhole including Violet-eared Waxbill, Red-headed Finch and Cut-throat Finch. Impressive numbers of Double-banded Sandgrouse regularly come to drink at the waterhole shortly after dusk. At night, Marsh Owl and Barn Owl hunt in the lights as do Rufous-cheeked Nightjar.

9. Far western Etosha. The area near Otjovasandu holds part of the Namibian escarpment and is not open to the general public but can be accessed through registered tour operators. The area holds several specials, some of which cannot be seen elsewhere within the park but are easily seen at Hobatere including Hartlaub's Spurfowl, Monteiro's Hornbill, Rüppell's Parrot, White-tailed Shrike, Rockrunner, Violet Wood-Hoopoe and Bare-cheeked Babbler.

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General

All bookings should be made through the Ministry of Environment and Tourism's Central Reservations Office, Private Bag 13267, Windhoek, Namibia (Tel: +264-61-236975; Fax: +264-61-224900; Telex: 0908-880). It is possible to obtain accommodation at the park without prior arrangement, but phone Okaukuejo (0671-29800) or Namutoni (0671-29305) first to make sure they are not fully booked.

Keith Barnes and Christian Boix 1998. Sugarbird African Birding Tours info@sugarbirdtours.com www.sugarbirdtours.com



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