In recent years, Ethiopia has rightly become 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 a staggering 29 are endemic to Ethiopia and its neighbor Eritrea, Ethiopia has a number of peculiar and unique mammal species as well as a scenic diversity and cultural uniqueness that is hard to equal.
The highlands, which dominate the country, are bisected by the Rift Valley and fall away to arid desert and bushveld in the north, south, and east, and to moister Guinea woodland in the west. Much of the highlands are under subsistence agriculture, but there are still considerable tracts of Afro-alpine shrubland and pockets of Afromontane forest.
For birders, the most popular access to really high altitude is the Bale Mountains National Park in the southern part of the eastern southeastern highlands. Here the highest all-weather road in Africa crosses the Sanetti plateau (4377m), allowing easy access to alpine moorlands, grasslands, and lakes.
342 birds observed in an 8 days trip, shows the high potential of this country for attracting more and more birdwatchers to Ethiopia.
18 Nights & 19 Days Birding & Wildlife Tour
This tour is designed to target as many endemics and near-endemics as possible with the added bonus of seeing Ethiopian Wolves, Gelada and other endemic mammals.
Addis Ababa – Babogaya Lake/Debre Zeit – Awash National Park – Aledeghi Wildlife Reserve – Debre Birhan – Debre Libanos via Jemma Valley – Ziway via Sululta Plains and Lake Koka – Abiata-Shalla National Park – Bale Mountain National Park – Negele – Yabelo – Mega – Awassa – Wondo Genet – Addis Ababa
Yellow-throated, Salvadori and Ankober Serin, Abyssinian Woodpecker, Black-bellied and Nile Valley Sunbird, Blue-winged Goose, Ruspoli’s and White-cheeked Turaco, Black-winged Lovebird, Rouget’s Rail, Spot-breasted Lapwing, Stresemann’s Bush Crow, Yellow-fronted Parrot, Pygmy Batis, Erkel’s and Harwood’s Francolin, Donaldson-Smith’s Nightjar, Somali Short-toed, Archer’s and Gillett’s Lark, Arabian and Hartlaub’s Bustard, Golden-breasted, Magpie and White-billed Starling, Red-naped Bushshrike, Juba Weaver, Wattled Ibis, White-tailed Swallow, White-backed Black Tit, White-winged Collared Dove, Banded Barbet, Sombre Rock Chat, Red-billed Pytilia, Abyssinian Catbird, Abyssinian Long-eared Owl, Thick-billed Raven, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher.
Awash National Park
Situated in the Rift Valley, Awash National Park, with its acacia woodland and grassland, is home to 460 bird species and a large amount of plains game, such as Beisa Oryx, Soemmerring’s Gazelle, Swayne’s Hartebeest and Olive and Hamadryas Baboons.
Aledeghi Wildlife Reserve
The arid landscape of Aledeghi Wildlife Reserve is home to the Golden Jackal, Beisa Oryx, Soemmering’s Gazelle, Gerenuk, Salt’s Dik-dik and the endangered Grevy’s Zebra. Notable bird species include Somali Ostrich, Arabian Bustard, Dark Chanting-Goshawk, Black-headed Lapwing, Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse, Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse and Menetries’s Warbler.
The small area surrounding Debre Birhan is not only famous for its Geladas, but also among birders as the only place to find two rare and endemic finches, the Ankober Serin and Yellow-throated Serin.
Birding in the Jemma Valley can be very rewarding and novelties include Harwood’s Francolin, Erckel’s Francolin, Rüppell’s Black Chat, White-winged Cliff Chat, White-billed Starling, Swainson’s Sparrow, Red-billed Pytilia and Yellow-rumped (or White-throated) Seedeater.
Lake Koka and Lake Ziway
Lake Koka and Lake Ziway are Rift Valley Lakes and targets here include Black-Crowned Crane, Saddle-billed Stork and Lesser Jacana.
Sululta Plain is a wide, shallow valley with an elevation of 2500 meters above sea level, almost completely surrounded by mountains. The wetlands here should yield an enjoyable mix of species, including the endemic Blue-winged Goose, Wattled Ibis, Spot-breasted Lapwing, White-collared Pigeon, Erlanger’s Lark, Abyssinian Longclaw, Ethiopian Cisticola, Ethiopian Siskin as well as a variety of raptors.
Abijatta-Shalla National Park
Situated in the Ethiopian Highlands, Abijatta-Shalla National Park is dominated by acacia woodland and savanna. It hosts two Rift Valley lakes, Abijatta and Shalla, more than 400 bird species, a number of handsome mammals and several hot springs.
Bale Mountain National Park
Famous for the Ethiopian Wolf and rated as the 4th best birding spot in Africa, Bale Mountain National Park is home to over 310 bird species and 78 species of mammals. The park’s Afromontane habitats have one of the highest incidences of animal endemicity of any terrestrial habitat in the world.
Negele Area / Liben Plains
It is in this small region of acacia woodlands at the southern border of the Abyssinian Plateau where the elusive and much sought-after Ruspoli’s Turaco and Archer’s Lark occur.
Situated in southern Ethiopia, the Yabelo area is characterized by red soils and acacia savanna and is home to around 210 bird species including the endemic Stresemann’s Bush crow and White-tailed Swallow.
The Awassa area, including Lake Awassa, which is highly productive despite being the smallest of the Rift Valley Lakes, is another popular birding destination. It is home to Black Heron, Senegal Thick-knee, Pygmy Goose, Lesser Jacana, African Jacana, Squacco Heron, Goliath Heron, and Saddle-billed Stork and many other bird species.
In a small patch of primary forest near Wondo Genet is an excellent diversity of species including Scaly Francolin, Lemon Dove, the endemic Yellow-fronted Parrot, the near-endemic White-cheeked Turaco, Narina Trogon, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Double-toothed Barbet, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, the near-endemic Abyssinian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Abyssinian Ground Thrush and Half Collared Kingfisher are all possible here.