The Zambezi Floodplains: A Bird’s Paradise

9 Jun 2020

Dirk Heinrich 

Huge areas in the eastern Zambezi region are under water after the Zambezi burst over its banks and flooded low-lying areas. The people living in these areas have now become islanders for the time-being, as hundreds of square kilometres are covered in water.  

The shallow waters with sometimes dense vegetation form the ideal habitats for small fish that have been swept in large numbers from the main stream into the floodplains. This is ideal for hundreds of birds which take advantage of this protein-rich food source. Various egret and heron species, terns, gulls and pelicans have congregated in the water-locked landscape to indulge. 

The Black Herons appear to look like little black huts when attempting to catch their prey. The birds form a canopy with their wings above their heads and fish swimming under the cover, fall prey. Their yellow feet are a distinctive feature when they lift up into the air. At the many culverts on the gravel road leading to Luhonono (former Schuckmannsdorf), Grey-headed gulls dive for fish and white-winged Terns can be observed in their breeding and non-breeding plumage. 

A huge flock of a few hundred birds takes to the air and when settling on open ground and on the edge of the road the interested observer will notice collared pratincoles which perfectly blend into their surrounding when stationary 

In the water and on trees, pink-backed pelicans can be seen in company of egrets and Yellow-billed Storks. In Namibia Pink-backed Pelicans occur in the Zambezi region but a few individuals have been recorded at Hardap dam and a few other places in the country. African Spoonbills fly overhead to go and feed in the area and in the distance an African Fish Eagle is calling. Normally Hamerkop are solitary birds or in pairs but now even up to four of these birds can be seen together. 

Various lapwing species, plovers and ducks are enjoying the time of plenty. A year ago the Zambezi was at a very low level due to the drought and very low rain-fall in the catchment areas in Angola and Zambia. This year the level of the River is way above normal and nature has become a paradise of luscious green. The birdlife is exceptional and fishing promises to be excellent too. This is the chance to experience these lively scenes as the natural world awakens in all its splendour. 



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