Trip report: Ethiopia (February 2014) by Tropical Birding

Guided by Ken Behrens. This was a set-departure tour.

This tour of Ethiopia racked up 515 species of birds and 43 mammals in just 17 days of birding. As usual, this haul included virtually all of the Ethiopian and Abyssinian (shared with Eritrea) endemics. Among these, highlights included hefty Blue-winged Goose, elusive Harwood’s Francolin, dapper Spot-breasted Lapwing, stunning White-cheeked and Prince Ruspoli’s Turacos, diminutive Abyssinian Woodpecker, Black-winged Lovebird, Yellow-fronted Parrot, extremely rare Sidamo Lark, nutcracker-like Stresemann’s Bush-Crow, White-tailed Swallow, and melodious songster Abyssinian Catbird. On the mammal front, we saw wonderful endemics like Gelada Baboon, Mountain Nyala, and Abyssinian Wolf.

But endemics are only part of the picture in Ethiopia. It also offers excellent general African birding, from abundant Palearctic migrants, to Afromontane forest species, to teeming Rift Valley wetlands, to Somali-Masai biome birds in the dry lowlands. Non-endemic prizes included Vulturine Guineafowl, Clapperton’s Francolin, Secretary-bird, Lammergeier, massive monkey-eating Crowned Hawk-Eagle, Arabian and Hartlaub’s Bustards, Black Crowned-Crane, 3 species of sandgrouse, rare White-winged Collared-Dove, massive Cape Eagle-Owl, African Long-eared Owl, Donaldson-Smith’s and Star-spotted Nightjars, Half-collared Kingfisher, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill (by the dozens), Double-toothed Barbet, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Pygmy Falcon, Pringle’s Puffback, Red-naped Bushshrike, African Spotted-Creeper, extremely local Boran Cisticola, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Black Scrub-Robin, Abyssinian Ground-Thrush, and Nile Valley Sunbird.

Finally, it must be said that birds are only a part of the pleasure in travelling in Ethiopia. It is a spectacularly beautiful mountainous country, and many parts of it seem frozen in time and much as they were in the middle ages. Ethiopian cuisine is delicious, and most people find dining an unexpected pleasure in a country that is internationally stereotyped as a land of starvation! Doro wot, tibs, and “fasting food” usually rank among the favorites of visitors. The accommodation in Ethiopia has a bad reputation, but is actually quite decent now, after making huge strides in recent years.

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