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Birds of Namibia

There are 11 families in the Order Charadriiformes: They are:

  • Family Pteroclidae: Sandgrouse
  • Family Scholpacidae: Snipes, Godwits, Curlews & Whibrels, 'Shanks', Stints, Sandpipers, Ruff, Turnstones and Phalaropes.
  • Family Rostratulidae: Painted-snipes
  • Family Jacanidae: Jacanas
  • Family Burhinidae: Thick-knees
  • Family Haematopodidae: Oystercatchers
  • Family Recurvirostridae: Stilts, Avocets
  • Family Charadriidae: Plovers, Lapwings
  • Family Dromadidae: Crab plover
  • Family Glareolidae: Coursers, Pratincoles
  • Family Laridae: Skuas, Jaegers, Gulls, Skimmers, Terns, Noddies


Sandgrouse resemble pigeons at first glance, although they are more likely to be distantly related to shorebirds. They have a thick plumage mainly buffy in colour with distinctive black and white markings. Other features include a small head, short legs and bills, a wedge-shaped tail and long and pointed wings. Sandgrouse mainly eat small seeds, shoots, berries, leaves and some insects and will fly long distances to drink water, which they are dependant on.

Between 2 and 3 eggs are laid in an unlined scrape in the ground and incubated by both sexes. The name Pterocles is the Greek phase for 'noted for or endowed with a wing', referring to long primaries and rapid flight. There are 4 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:


One of the largest families of bird species are the Family Scholpacidae. Snipes, Godwits, Curlews & Whibrels, 'Shanks', Stints, Sandpipers, Ruff, Turnstones and Phalaropes all belong in this diverse family of shorebirds. Characteristics include dominant reds and browns in their plumage, long and thin bills, medium to long-sized legs and long and pointed wings. Other features include breeding inland or at wetlands and the coast. Their diet consists mainly of invertebrates using unique bill features rather than sight. Nests are often built on the ground although some species breed in trees or old nests of other family species. Females lay between 2 and 4 well-hidden eggs incubated by both male and female. There are 22 species of this family found in Namibia, some of them are generally rare but locally common in their distribution range, whilst others breed out of the country. They are:


Painted-snipes are related to jacanas because of skeletal similarities. Features include long bills, long, unwebbed toes and a short tail. Nests are built on a ground based mound of vegetation or on floating vegetation. They feed mainly on small animals and seeds. There is just the 1 species found in Namibia.


Jacanas are small to medium-sized waterbirds with characteristic very long toes and claws enabling this bird to walk on floating vegetation such as water-lilies. Other features include long and rounded wings with an ornamental tail. This species are mainly insectivorous that often take advantage of the disturbance caused by other waders to catch food. Nests are made of plant stems taken from floating vegetation with females usually laying 4 eggs. There are 2 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:


Thick-knees are large, long-legged shorebirds with broad-based bills and swollen tibio-tarsal joints which gives this species the common name of 'thick-knees'. The broad crown on a large head lends them to be known as 'dikkops' '(thick heads) in southern Africa. Other features include 3 front toes, an absent hind toe and a loud, piercing call voiced at night. Females lay 2 eggs in an unlined scrape in the ground incubated by both sexes. The Latin genus name of Burhinus means 'large or great nose'. There are 2 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:


Oystercatchers are closely related to avocets, plovers and stilts. Their short legs and flattened bills are typical characteristics as is their black or pied plumage and loud, piping, vocal calls. Nests are traditionally nothing more than a scrape in the ground where females lay between 2 and 4 eggs, incubated by both adults. There are 2 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:


Stilts and avocets have slender long legs on a medium-sized body with a pied or black plumage. Some species are adorned with chestnut or rusty markings on the head or breast. Their bills are long and slender, straight or recurved in stilts and strongly recurved in avocets. Foraging is performed in deep water, with some species able to swim whilst carrying out this task, is possible because of the shape and length of their bills and legs. A nest is either a shallow scrape on the ground or a simple mound on the ground. Females lay 3 or 4 eggs, incubated by both sexes. There are 2 species from this family found in Namibia. They are:


Plovers and lapwings have long legs, short necks and are related to oystercatchers, stilts and avocets. Characteristics include a variable but colourful plumage and short bills that are swollen at the tip. Between 2 and 4 patterned eggs are laid in a scrape in the ground. The genus names Pluvialis is Latin for 'pertaining to rain' (reason unknown), Charadrius is Greek for ' a plover' and Vanellus is Latin for ' northern lapwing' referring to its floppy wing action which resembles a winnowing fan (vannus). There are 16 species from this family found in Namibia. They are:


Coursers are slender, long-legged birds with characteristic small heads and curved bills. Other features include an impressive upright stance, short unwebbed front toes and long and broad wings with a short, square tail. Pratincoles have short legs, large heads with short bills and wide gapes, an aerial prey catching feature. A gape is the angle at the base of a bill, where the upper and lower jaws meet. Their toes are longer than those of coursers and other features include a raised hind toe and partly webbed front toes. Long and pointed wings taper into a short to long deeply forked tail. Eggs for both species are patterned and laid in a scrape in the ground. The Greek genus name Rhinoptilus means 'feathered nostril', Cursorius for 'swift runner' and Glareola 'living on gravel'. There are 8 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:


The Family Laridae are a diverse group of seabirds divided into 4 groups which are recorded as families as follows:

  • Stercorariidae: Skuas and Jaegers
  • Rhynchopidae: Skimmers
  • Laridae: Gulls
  • Sternidae: Terns

Common characteristics include 3 webbed toes, long, fairly slender wings and a reduced hind toe. Males and females tend to have similar plumage colouration. Other features associated with this family are patterned eggs laid by females in a scrape in the ground.


Skuas and jaegers sport a predominately brown plumage with some white markings in the outer primary feathers. Other features include a bill with a hooked tip and 4 distinctive horny plates. Most of their time is spent at sea, returning to land only to breed. There are 4 members of this family found off the coast off Namibia. They are:


Skimmers have a characteristic narrow lower mandible which is much longer than the upper. They push the lower through the water, detecting shrimp and fish by touch. When they touch prey, they bend the head forward to catch a victim using both mandibles. Plumage is typically black above and white below. Females lay between 2 and 7 eggs. The Greek word Rynchops refers to 'bill' and ops to 'face', a reference to their strange looking bill. There is just the 1 species of this family found in Namibia. It is the African skimmer.


Gulls are usually white in colour with grey or blackish backs and wings. Some species have dark heads. Habitats are both coastal and inland. The genus Larus are a diverse group of small to large gulls and are opportunistic foragers. Breeding characteristics include a long-term pair bonding and females usually lay between 2 to 4 eggs. Larus is the Latin word for 'a rapacious seabird'. There are 7 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:


Terns are small to large, marine birds who resemble slender gulls although they have longer wings, shorter legs and feet and more pointed bills. Foraging is by plunge-diving for mainly fish. Females lay between 1 and 4 eggs and are gregarious, colonial ground-nesters. The genus name Sterna come from the Old English word 'stearn' or 'starn' which means tern. Chlidonias is Greek for 'swallow-like'. There are 12 species of tern found in Namibia. They are:

Fish River Lodge Hikes

5, 3 or 2 Days - hiking trails in the Fish River Canyon. Hikers carry a day pack and additional luggage is transported to the overnight stops

Mundulea Walking Trails

3 or 4 Days - Absolutely brilliant! One of the best experiences in Namibia

Tok Tokkie Hiking Trail

3 Days - Excellent guided walking trail on the NamibRand private reserve (near Sossusvlei)

Namib Mountain Trail

A day hike between two lodges on the very edge of the Namib Desert

Rostock Ritz Hiking

The Rostock Ritz Lodge north of Sossusvlei (en-route to Swakopmund) has a variety of guided and un-guided hikes ranging in duration from an hour to an entire day

Tsondab Valley Scenic Reserve Hiking

A lodge on the edge of the Namib Desert which offers exceptional hiking & walking

Namibia Safaris