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Namibia


Passeriformes

Birds of Namibia

There are 24 families of birds in the Order Passeriformes found in Namibia. They are:

  • Family Eurylaimidae: Broadbills
  • Family Oriolidae: Old World Orioles
  • Family Dicruridae: Drongos
  • Family Monarchidae: Crested Flycatchers, Paradise Flycatchers
  • Family Maloconotidae: Bush-Shrikes, Puffbacks, Tchagras, Boubous, Helmet Shrikes, Batises, Wattle-eyes
  • Family Corvidae: Crows, Ravens
  • Family Laniidae: Typical Shrikes
  • Family Campephagidae: Cuckooshrikes
  • Family Paridae: Tits, Penduline-Tits
  • Family Hirundinidae: Swallows, Martins
  • Family Pycnonotidae: Bulbuls, Nicators
  • Family Sylviidae: Leaf-Warblers, Babblers, Warblers
  • Family Zosteropidae: White-eyes
  • Family Cisticolidae: African Warblers
  • Family Alaudidae: Larks, Sparrowlark
  • Family Muscicapidae: Thrushes, Robins, Chats, Old World Flycatchers
  • Family Sturnidae: Starlings, Mynas, Oxpeckers
  • Family Nectariniidae: Sunbirds
  • Family Ploceidae: Weavers, Queleas, Widowbirds
  • Family Estrildidae: Waxbills, Firefinches, Twinspots
  • Family Viduidae: Whydahs, Indigobirds, Cuckoo Finch
  • Family Passeridae: Sparrow, Petronias
  • Family Motacillidae: Wagtails, Longclaws, Pipits
  • Family Fringillidae: Canaries, Buntings

FAMILY EURYLAIMIDAE

Broadbills are small to medium-sized tree-living birds with characteristic large, broad and dorso-ventrally flattened bills which have a wide gape and hooked tip. Their plumages are brightly coloured. Other features include short and strong legs, rounded wings and short tails. They eat insects but frogs, lizards, small crabs and animals are also taken. There is only 1 member of this species found in Namibia. It is the:

FAMILY ORIOLIDAE

Orioles are medium-sized, tree-living birds with bright yellow and black, or crimson and black plumages. Other features include strong, slightly decurved bills with a slightly hooked tip, short legs, medium toes and rather long and pointed wings. Their tails are fairly long. Orioles live in woodland and forest habitats, where there are plenty of insects and fruit to eat. Females lay between 2 and 5 eggs in a basket nest woven from fine plant materials and lichen. This structure is suspended between 2 brances or as loose, unwoven cups. Oriolus is believed to mean 'golden or yellow'. There are 3 members of this species found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY DICRURIDAE

Drongos are a small to medium tree-living birds with characteristic strong bills, hooked at the tip and notched behind the hook. Plumage colouration is usually black. Other features include large heads, red eyes and short legs with strong toes. Their wings are fairly long and pointed with a long forked tail. There is just the 1 member of this family found in Namibia.

FAMILY MONARCHIDAE

Flycatchers are small to medium-sized birds with diverse and colourful plumages of black, grey, rufous and brown, often with white. Other features include flattened bills with a slightly hooked tip, rounded nostrils and bluish-grey or blackish bills and legs. Their eyes are dark brown. There is just the 1 member of this family found in Namibia.

FAMILY MALOCONOTIDAE

This a diverse group of shrike and flycatcher-like birds placed into 2 sub-families. Tchagras, boubous, bush-shrikes, batises and puffbacks have either mainly grey, black, white and brown plumage, or greens, reds and yellows. Diet and lifestyle affects their size and structure, although they mainly inhabit savannah, forest and woodland. Depending on sub-family some species forage by pouncing on insects on the ground, while others hawk insects aerially or glean from foliage.

Nests can range from tidy, deep cups of bark shreds and grass bound with spider web, to flatter but larger loosely built cups made of rootlets and leaf-stalks. Females usually lay between 1 and 5 eggs. There are 15 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY CORVIDAE

Crows and ravens are the largest of the passerines. Plumages vary with bright blues and greens featuring as well as blacks and whites. Bills are strong and slender and in some species reasonably long. Other features include shortish legs with strong feet, broad, rounded or pointed wings and square tails, round or graduated. This is one of the more intelligent of species of bird as they are 'able to use and even fashion tools'. Nests are placed in trees, bowls can be open or 'roofed over' and placed in rock ledges, a hole in a cliff or in a tree. Corvus is the Latin word for 'a raven' or 'a crow'. There are only 2 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY LANIIDAE

Typical shrikes are small to medium-sized birds with characteristic long to very long graduated tails. Black, grey, white or brown are the predominant plumage colourations. Other features include round and reasonably short wings, heavy bills with strong feet and claws. Most species occur in a either a woodland or savannah habitat. Vertebrates and small invertebrates dominate the diet, caught by hunting from the perch before they drop onto the prey, often impaling their victim on twigs, thorns or barbed fencing. Lanius is a Latin meaning for 'a butcher'. There are 6 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY CAMPEPHAGIDAE

Cuckooshrikes are small to medium-sized birds with variable plumage colouration of grey, black and white, often barred in some species with black, brown and yellowish and bright red, orange or yellow in others. Other features include longish, pointed wings, moderately long tails and dense back feathers. Their bills are rather heavy, feet small and legs short. Woodland and forest edges are preferred habitats where they eat mostly insects such as hairy caterpillars. There are only 2 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY PARIDAE

Tits and Penduline-tits are small, tree-living birds with soft and fluffy plumages, crested in some species. Other features include rounded tails and wings, short, sharp bills and a short tongue, tipped with bristles. Habitats are usually in small groups in forests, savannah, arid scrub and woodland. Feeding is a notable experience for this family, they hang upside down or cling sideways to bark and twigs, often holding food between their feet, before hammering it with the bill. Insects, fruits, buds and nuts are eaten with some tits storing their catch. Tree holes, buildings, rock or on the ground are suitable sites for nesting where females lay between 3 and 12 white eggs are laid. Anthoscopus is a Greek phrase for 'to look at or examine a flower' and Parus is a Latin word for 'a titmouse'. There are 6 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY HIRUNDINIDAE

Swallows and martins are small to medium-sized passerines that specialize in invertebrates aerial feeding. Some species feature a deeply forked tail, whilst others sport long streamers. Small, flattened bills, short legs with small and slender toes are other other family trademarks. Plumage is black or brown dorsally, with blue or a green gloss, paler below with a coloured throat or band.

Species of this family are excellent fliers with noted aerobatic performances. As many family members are migratory they have the ability to survive in almost every habitat. Dietary requirements usually involve eating aerial invertebrates, although some eat fruit and arillate seeds. Many species breed on buildings or even bridges in a variety of nests that might be a lined chamber at the end of a short tunnel in the ground, or perhaps a mud pellet cup attached to a rock or the underside of a strong branch on a large tree. Females usually lay 1 to 6 white, plain or spotted eggs. Riparia means 'frequenting a stream or river bank' and Hirundo is Latin for 'a swallow'. There are 16 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY PYCNONOTIDAE

Bulbuls are small to medium-sized, slender birds with pointed, downward curving bills. Other features include short wings, medium-length tails, fairly short legs and a distinctive voice. Habitats are not just confined to forest or forest-edge, but savannah and woodland as well, ideal environments to search for fruit and insects, nectar and pollen. It is the female that builds the nest, often a deep cup, where 2 or 3 eggs are laid, adorned with distinctive brown and red blotches and freckles, all on a pink background. There are 4 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY SYLVIIDAE

Leaf-warblers, babblers and warblers and a diverse group of passerines that vary greatly in size, plumage, habitat and behaviour. Members of the Eremomela genus are small warblers with long legs and slender, pointed bills. Other features include fairly long wings and short tails that extend beyond folded wingtips. Savannah, woodland and forest are typical habitats. The Greek meaning for Eremomela is 'a wilderness or desert song'.

Birds associated with the Acrocephalus genus are small to large warblers with long, pointed bills. This species usually have a plain brown plumage. Other characteristics include an eyebrow, strong legs and feet and rounded or blunt wings. The Greek word Acrocephalus means 'pointed head', a reference to the shape of the males head whilst it is singing.

The Turdoides genus are strong-looking medium-sized birds with either white, yellow or reddish eyes. Other features include short, rounded wings, a long tail and a loud, vocal call. Turdoises is a Latin phrase for 'like a thrush'.

There are 28 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY ZOSTEROPIDAE

White-eyes are small, gregarious, tree-living birds with characteristic white feathery eye rings. Most species from this family have either a yellowish or greenish plumage. Other features include fairly short wings, sharp, pointed bills and brush-tipped tongues that are adapted for hoovering up liquid. Although their habitat is mainly woodland and forest edges, their gregarious nature has seen them colonize many islands. Zosterops is a Greek meaning for 'girdle and eye' referring to their eye rings. There are 2 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY CISTICOLIDAE

This is a family of small warblers with characteristic thin, straight bills, shortish, rounded wings and fan-shaped, fairly long tails. They have a well-developed and varied 'song-sheet' and some numbers accompany aerial courtship displays, along with 'wing-snaps and other wing noises'. In general their nests are a closed oval shape, with the entrance on a side-top, and made of dry vegetation and bound by spider web. Females lay between 1 to 6 colourful eggs.

The genus Cisticola are small to medium-sized warblers with a mainly brown plumage, often with streaked upperparts. The underparts are pale and the dark bands and pale tail tips give it a 'spotted fan' appearance. They inhabit mainly savannahs, grasslands, marshes and closed woodlands. Cisticola is a Greek word meaning 'a flowering shrub inhabitant' or 'a water tank or reservoir inhabitant' in Latin. Cista is also a 'basket of woven twigs', perhaps referring to their nest structure. There are 19 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY ALAUDIDAE

Larks and sparrowlarks are small to medium-sized terrestrial birds with either short or rounded, or fairly long and pointed wings, depending on the species. Other features include short and stout bills in some species compared to slender and decurved in insectivores. Legs are short to long, with longish toes and hind claws that vary from short and curved to long and straight.

Most species prefer open habitats, ideal for eating seeds and insects. Most nests are cup-shaped and placed on the ground, usually protected by a shrub, stone or tuft of grass. Between 1 and 8 whitish eggs are laid and incubated by the female.

The genus Mirafra are small to large larks with either short to conical or long and decurved bills. Other features include short, rounded wings and a short, curved hind claw. The genus Calendulauda are medium-sized larks with slender and decurved bills. They sing in flight or when perched. Calendulauda is a combination of 2 lark generas, Calendula and Alauda.

There are 24 members of the Family Alaudidae found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY MUSCICAPIDAE

Thrushes, robins, chats and flycatchers are small to medium-sized passerines, comparable in size and structure but with contrasting wing shapes, leg lengths and bill size and shape. Therefore foraging and feeding habits differ, as does nesting and overall breeding behaviour. There are 33 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY STURNIDAE

Starlings, mynas and oxpeckers are a diverse group of medium-sized to large birds. Plumage colourations differ from species to species as do wing size and bill structure. Their habitat range is impressive, which includes towns and cities. Nesting locations can vary from holes, rock crevices and buildings. Females lay from 2 to 6 eggs, blue-green or whitish, after which the male will join the incubation duties.

The genus Lamprotornis are medium-sized to large starlings, with highly iridescent blue-green plumages. Other features include broad wings, with black tips and rounded or elongated tails. They are both tree and ground livers in a savannah, forest or woodland habitat. Lamprotornis is the Greek meaning for ' bright or shining bird'. There are 12 species of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY NECTARINIIDAE

Sunbirds are small passerines that feed on nectar. One of their most important features is their slender, pointed, decurved bills, short and fairly straight in some species and long and strongly decurved in others. Mandibles are finely serrated near the tip. Another distinctive aspect of their facial make-up, is the long and tubular tongue, with a bifurcated or trifurcated tip, adapted for sucking up nectar.

Plumages of sunbirds vary greatly, with drab, iridescent and brightly coloured birds found throughout the family. Observations are usually made when sunbirds are not far from flowering shrubs and trees, where they will hover or perch to feed by probing flowers with their specially adapted bills to obtain nectar and insects. The most common genus in the family are Cinnyrus or 'shining' sunbirds, a large group of small to medium-sized sunbirds with strongly decurved bills and brightly coloured plumages. There are 10 members of the family Nectariniidae found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY PLOCEIDAE

Weavers, queleas and widowbirds are small to medium-sized birds, sparrow-like in many ways. Their bills are either straight, stout and strong for species that feed on grain and seeds, or slender for those members of the family that feed on insects. Plumages vary from very colourful to dull, wings are short and rounded. Other features include short and square tails and strong legs and feet.

Habitats vary from forest and swamps to semi-desert and grassland. This affects their diet, which varies insects to grains and seeds, but many species of weaver will take fruit and nectar as well. A feature of this family is their gregarious and social nature, which includes the construction of multiple display nests. These nests are always made by the male and often built on the ground as well as suspended from the ends of branches or placed between stems. Females produce from 2 to 8 eggs. There are 19 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY ESTRILDIDAE

Waxbills and firefinches are small, colourful birds, often with strongly patterned plumages. One of their main features is the conical bill, adapted for husking and cracking seeds. Other characteristics include short and rounded wings, a fairly long tail and rather short legs. Not a particularly vocal bird, courtship songs are rather quiet. Their habitat ranges from forest, savannah, scrub and woodland, Marshes with grasses are also visited.

These ecosystems provide a diet of mainly seeds, some insects, fruits and ants, the varying species require. It is the female that builds the nest, with grass and other plant materials brought by the male. Dome-shaped constructions, sometimes with a side entrance are often seen.

One of the most common species of this family is the Genus Estrilda; small waxbills that bear stout, conical, black or red bills. Brownish or grey plumages dominate, with some species sporting red or black face masks. A feature of their breeding behaviour is to build a false nest on top of the original construction; a tactic believed to mislead predators. There are 15 members of the Family Estrildidae family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY VIVUIDAE

Whydahs, Indigobirds and cuckoo finches are small, finch-like birds with characteristic stout, but short bills. The most common genus of the family, Vidua, are predominately black in plumage colouration, whilst the genus Anomalospiza are mainly yellow coloured birds. Other common features include short, rounded wings and short and square tails.

The most common genus of this family are Vidua species. They forage on bare ground, pecking mainly fallen grass seeds. The name Vidua is a Latin word for 'widow', which refers to their black plumage or the long tail of some species, also called 'widow's train'. There are 7 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY PASSERIDAE

Sparrows and petronias are relatively small passerines with characteristic short to medium-length, conical bills. Other features include mainly brown and grey plumages, large bristly nostrils and in some species, bills that change colour in the breeding season. Other possible identification areas are short and rounded wings and a medium-length square or notched tail.

Foraging for seeds, fruits and insects is done mainly on the ground, although the genus Petronia search for food in trees and rocks, making some species of this family the scourge of many a commercial fruit-growing company. Nests are built by both male and female, an untidy ball of grass, often lined with a large number of feathers, complete with a side entrance. From 2 to 7 eggs are laid.

The most common species of the Family Passeridae are from the genus Passer, Latin for 'a sparrow'. They sport characteristic patterned heads with black throat patches. There are 6 members of this family found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY MOTACILLIDAE

Wagtails, pipits and long claws are small to medium-sized passerines with slender, pointed bills, a structure associated with their insectivorous, ground-dwelling habits. Plumages are varied, with streaks, stripes and contrasting colours seen regularly throughout the species. Other features include rounded or pointed, medium-length wings, long, slender legs and toes, enabling an upright stance. Forest streams and woodland number amongst the wide range of habitats, which also include open spaces. Both sexes build a nest made from dry plant materials. From 2 to 6 eggs are incubated by the female only.

One of the 2 most prominent genera in this family are Motacilla, a Latin word for 'little mover'. These small, long-tailed passerines live up to their common name with a distinctive tail-wagging habit whilst walking. They have mainly grey, black and white plumages, with yellow underparts. There upper parts are greenish. Other features include long, decurved hind claws. These wagtails are always near water and count domestic livestock as long-term neighbours. Both male and female build the nest and incubate their eggs.

The other main genera of this family are Anthus, a seemingly lark look-alike but with more of an upright stance and a shorter bill. Plumages are streaked and washed on some species, often with upper parts and whitish below. Their hind claws are also (short to) long and decurved. Tails do wag, but not in all species. Nests can usually be found at the base of rocks or in tufts of grass, some hidden by overhanging grasses. It is the female that both builds the nest and incubates her eggs. Anthus is a Greek word for 'flower'.

There are 12 species of the Family Motacillidae found in Namibia. They are:

FAMILY FRINGILLIDAE

The Family Fringillidae are a very large and diverse family that includes canaries and buntings, both small to medium-sized seed-eating passerines. The main genera of this family are Crithagra. Their size ranges from small to large and they are canaries and seedeaters. Features include short and stout bills and plumage colourations that vary from brown to bright yellow and greenish yellow. Their habitat scope of arid scrub to forest highlights their nomadic behaviour and need for a varied diet that is not just granivorous. Fruit, nectar, flowers, insects and buds are also taken. Nests are built by both male and female in trees and bushes. From 2 to 5 eggs are incubated by the female only. The name Crithagra is believed to come from 2 Greek words; krith meaning 'barley' and agra meaning 'hunting', or 'barley-eater'.

The other main genera is Emberiza, small seed-eating birds with short legs and longish tails. Their upper parts are more streaked and patterned than other members of this family, the markings of the head often being quite prominent in identification. Other features include short and conical bills and large feet, an adaptation frequently used for scratching. They too are nomadic and migratory as well. Their habitat range extends from open areas to woodland, but absent from forest. Seeds, flowers, buds, fruit and insects are foraged for mainly on the ground. Cup-shaped nests are built entirely by the female, who lays 2 to 6 plain eggs. Emberiza is a Greek meaning for 'a bunting'.

Chaffinches are also included in this family, although none are present in Namibia. There are 9 members of this family 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

Waterberg Hike

4 Days - Guided hike on the Waterberg Plateau

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)

Dune Star Camp

Several rustic log cabins in the Namib Desert which can only be reached via a short and informative guided hike

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