Trip report: Ethiopia, Birding the Roof of Africa (Mar 2008) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens.

Ethiopia is a beautiful country with a proud history. Although most of the people engage in subsistence agriculture, the country is far from the dust-blown land of famine in the Western stereotype. Ethiopia boasts some of Africa’s tallest mountains, lush highland forests, vast agricultural uplands, the epic rift valley and its tremendous lakes, and vast savannas. Ethiopia lies at a crossroads of avian biodiversity. It holds at least 30 endemics, and possibly as many as 49, depending of what taxonomy you use. Ethiopia is also part of Africa’s northeast arid zone, and supports 100 species restricted to this area of endemism. Dozens of north African and east African species come into contact in Ethiopia and nowhere else. At least 850 species have been recorded in the country, and this list is sure to grow, particularly if more observers visit the remote frontiers of this vast country. Although it lacks some of the mammalian megafauna of its southern neighbors, Ethiopia has an impressive list of mammals, including remarkable endemics like Mountain Nyala and Simien Wolf.

This trip was tremendously successful, netting 582 species, including nearly every Ethiopian and Abyssinian endemic, a gamut of northeastern Africa arid zone endemics, and a range of other incredible species. One particular highlight was witnessing the first rains of the year in an arid portion of southern Ethiopia. Birds that had been silent the previous day burst into song, and dry rivers suddenly started to flow again! Read on for a day-by-day account of this incredible trip…

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