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The Birds of Senegal


Senegal has lovely, wondrous birds, and enough sky to fit them all in. On the most mundane day you can expect to see hundred of whirling kites, crows, and gulls, and when the wind is still the treetops are full of feathered friends of all types.

Here are some notes from my field book.

Red Cheeked Cordon Bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus). Came by one day to visit our bird feeder and stayed long enough to make quite a mess. Never saw him again!
Pied Crow (Corvus albus). These big guys are ubiquitous, noisy, and aggressive, but they are a treat to watch! They're mean too: I've seen them pick the carcass of a cat clean, and they have a thick bill that looks like it could crack your skull if you just gave them a reason to do it. Just pass over the french fry and step back slowly, OK pal?
A mystery bird I can't find in any of our bird books. Some kind of finch, I'd say, looking like it was dipped only halfway into the paint. Beautiful to look at, and fast enough I couldn't get a good picture.
Blue cheeked Bee-Eater (Merops persicus). There are many varieties of Bee Eaters, so I might be off. But with its gossamer tail and its delicate poise in the northern grasslands of the Sahel (I took this shot near Gamadji, northern Senegal), they are intriguing.
Black Kite (Milvus migrans): This impressive character impressed me so much he got a page all to himself.
Spur-Winged Lapwing (Vanellus spinosus). This Lapwing reminds me a lot of the endangered Piping plovers of my home beach. They're more confident though, scolding my dogs, and stand quite a bit higher than my old plovers I photographed this one on a grassy plateau overlooking the rocky Atlantic Ocean.
Red-Billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus). I've had a passion for Hornbills since I first found them flying overhead in the jungles of Western Java, Indonesia. In Benin my favorite bird by far was a mysterious black hornbill with a bright red beak; they chattered from the coconut palms and performed a bobbing dance. In Senegal the Hornbills look like this, but the dance is the same, and they are equally elegant and graceful.
Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus). Funny what happens if you don't cut down the trees in your area: even the parrots come to hang out. We heard this little guy before we saw him up in the tree branches, munching on the tender, young pine cones.
Red-Billed Quelea (quelea quelea). Had a flock of these guys chattering in the trees in our backyard. So cute.
Rose Ringed Parakeet (Psittacula karmeri). This one ("Flutter")came to live with us for a while in the brief interstitial period between unhappiness and freedom. Hope she's fluttering away in some distant branches.
African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus). A pair of these visited us every evening near dinner time, landing long enough to pick up seeds and crumbs and calling softly to us from treetops – a sound I will likely never forget. I'm told these birds have superstitious value but to me they were just evening friends.

As always, thanks to Birds of Western Africa by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey, and A Field Guide to the Birds of The Gambia and Senegal by Clive Barlow and Tim Wacher.


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