Senegal Part III: Raptor Haven and Dense Mangroves

Scissor-tailed Kite

As our tale of birding in Senegal continued and one of the spectacles we most wanted to see was the gathering of Lesser Kestrels and Scissor-tailed Kites. A roost site was discovered less than ten years ago. These birds gather in overwhelming numbers, over 15,000 kites and almost 30,000 kestrels have been counted in this roost. This a considerable part of these species’ populations which breed in Europe and North Africa overwinter in this important enclave.

Niokolo-Koba Park to Kaolack

With seeing this roost forefront in our minds, we crisscrossed most of the country from west to east, from Niokolo-Koba Park to Kaolack. We made occasional stops along the way and were able to see quite a few species. Black-headed Heron, Brown Snake Eagle, Martial Eagle, Exclamatory Paradise Whydah, the Pin-tailed Whydah and a host of other species kept us entertained along the way.

Black-headed Heron near Kaolack

Perhaps one of the most amazing things we saw occurred just alongside the road. We witnessed a wildfire which had just crossed the road and hundreds of Abyssinian Rollers were taking advantage of the opportunity to feed on dead insects or those fleeing the fire. However, because of the smoke or the frenzy, many rollers ended up getting run over by passing cars. Within a stretch of a hundred yards, we counted fourteen laying dead on the shoulder. Surely there were more.

With every step we took another Abyssinian Roller flew up from the ground
Some of the dead rollers that we found by the edge of the road


We continued en route to Kaolack. To reach the island you need to contact a local guide and cross a river by canoe. We approached cautiously and talked with one of the people responsible for carrying out the census this year and began our journey. We stayed a considerable distance from the roost to enjoy the birds as they approached from all directions. Although there were more kestrels, we saw a lot of kites (hundreds … thousands!). The kestrels increased in numbers as the sun began to set. We noticed some hyena tracks as we were leaving the area. We arrived in Toubacouta late into the night.

Scissor-tailed kites near the roost
One of the trees where we saw a higher number of kites

Saloum Delta

Toubacouta is the town located in the heart of the Saloum Delta. Of all the national parks in Senegal, Saloum is probably the most popular among birdwatchers. It is a key site for birding in Senegal. It is relatively close to Dakar, has an impressive mangrove area (180,000 hectares of which 76,000 are protected), and is a designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO containing considerable ornithological wealth.

Delta du Saloum at sunset

The best way to get to know the delta intimately is by retaining the services of someone with a motorboat. Taking the tides into account is a must when looking for birds like the Goliath Heron and to witness the arrival of hundreds of birds at a roost site, including Western Reef and Intermediate herons, cormorants, anhingas and Pied Kingfishers There were dozens taking refuge beneath the mangroves!

Goliath Heron
Western Reef Heron
African Darter. One of the advantages of taking a boat is that you can get much closer to the birds making it easier to take close up photos.

Birding at Toubacouta

But the area around Toubacouta had even more species waiting for us, such as Pearl-spotted Owlet, Wire-tailed Swallow, African Thrush and Pygmy Sunbird. We were even able to see a Yellow-browed Warbler, a Senegal rarity, just outside town. However, the highlight of Toubacouta for us was seeing a rare yellow morph of Common Gonolek. Apparently individuals with this plumage are very difficult to find and are present in the region only during breeding season.

Pearl-spotted Owlet. We saw several in Toubacouta.
The rare “Yellow” Gonolek

We would have liked to stay longer in Toubacouta. The days, hours, and minutes in the field flew by; there was barely even time for us to rest for lunch before we were back on the road. It was now time for us to think about heading back to Dakar.

Once there, we spent the afternoon with a telescope pointed toward the sea, from N’Gor Beach in Cap-Vert, the western most point of the African Continent.  During our last hours in Senegal we enjoyed seeing Royal Terns, Pomarine Skuas, Gannets and a far-off group of Bottle-nosed Dolphins jumping in front of the setting sun. We collected our telescopes and cameras, and placed our binoculars in our backpacks. Until next time, Senegal.

To read more, check out the first and second parts of this amazing trip!

List of species seen during the trip

Género Especie Common Name
1 Numida meleagris Helmeted Guineafowl
2 Pternistis bicalcaratus Double-spurred Francolin
3 Dendrocygna viduata White-faced Whistling Duck
4 Dendrocygna bicolor Fulvous Whistling Duck
5 Plectropterus gambensis Spur-winged Goose
6 Sarkidiornis melanotos Knob-billed Duck
7 Alopochen aegyptiaca Egyptian Goose
8 Tadorna tadorna Common Shelduck
9 Nettapus auritus African Pygmy Goose
10 Anas clypeata Northern Shoveler
11 Anas querquedula Garganey
12 Calonectris sp. Shearwater sp.
13 Tachybaptus ruficollis Little Grebe
14 Phoenicopterus roseus Greater Flamingo
15 Phoeniconaias minor Lesser Flamingo
16 Mycteria ibis Yellow-billed Stork
17 Ciconia nigra Black Stork
18 Ciconia episcopus Woolly-necked Stork
19 Ciconia ciconia White Stork
20 Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis Saddle-billed Stork
21 Threskiornis aethiopicus African Sacred Ibis
22 Bostrychia hagedash Hadada Ibis
23 Plegadis falcinellus Glossy Ibis
24 Platalea leucorodia Eurasian Spoonbill
25 Platalea alba African Spoonbill
26 Nycticorax nycticorax Black-crowned Night Heron
27 Butorides striata Striated Heron
28 Ardeola ralloides Squacco Heron
29 Bubulcus ibis Western Cattle Egret
30 Ardea cinerea Grey Heron
31 Ardea melanocephala Black-headed Heron
32 Ardea goliath Goliath Heron
33 Ardea purpurea Purple Heron
34 Ardea alba Great Egret
35 Egretta intermedia Yellow-billed Egret
36 Egretta ardesiaca Black Heron
37 Egretta garzetta Little Egret
38 Egretta gularis Western Reef Heron
39 Scopus umbretta Hamerkop
40 Pelecanus onocrotalus Great White Pelican
41 Pelecanus rufescens Pink-backed Pelican
42 Morus bassanus Northern Gannet
43 Microcarbo africanus Reed Cormorant
44 Phalacrocorax carbo Great Cormorant
45 Phalacrocorax lucidus White-breasted Cormorant
46 Anhinga rufa African Darter
47 Pandion haliaetus Western Osprey
48 Elanus caeruleus Black-winged Kite
49 Chelictinia riocourii Scissor-tailed Kite
50 Milvus migrans Black Kite
51 Milvus aegyptius Yellow-billed Kite
52 Haliaeetus vocifer African Fish Eagle
53 Gypohierax angolensis Palm-nut Vulture
54 Necrosyrtes monachus Hooded Vulture
55 Gyps africanus White-backed Vulture
56 Gyps rueppellii Rüpell’s Vulture
57 Gyps fulvus Griffon Vulture
58 Torgos tracheliotus Lappet-faced Vulture
59 Circaetus gallicus Short-Toed Eagle
60 Circaetus cinereus Brown Snake Eagle
61 Circaetus cinerascens Western Banded Snake-Eagle
62 Terathopius ecaudatus Bateleur
63 Circus aeruginosus Marsh Harrier
64 Circus macrourus Pallid Harrier
65 Circus pygargus Montagu’s Harrier
66 Polyboroides typus African Harrier-Hawk
67 Melierax metabates Dark Chanting Goshawk
68 Accipiter badius Shikra
69 Kaupifalco monogrammicus Lizard Buzzard
70 Butastur rufipennis Grasshopper Buzzard
71 Aquila spilogaster African Hawk-Eagle
72 Hieraaetus wahlbergi Wahlberg’s Eagle
73 Polemaetus bellicosus Martial Eagle
74 Falco naumanni Lesser Kestrel
75 Falco tinnunculus Common Kestrel
76 Falco ardosiaceus Grey Kestrel
77 Falco chicquera Red-necked Falcon
78 Falco biarmicus Lanner Falcon
79 Podica senegalis African Finfoot
80 Amaurornis flavirostra Black Crake
81 Porphyrio porphyrio Purple Swamphen
82 Gallinula chloropus Common Moorhen
83 Balearica pavonina Black Crowned Crane
84 Burhinus senegalensis Senegal Thick-knee
85 Haematopus ostralegus Eurasian Oystercatcher
86 Himantopus himantopus Black-winged Stilt
87 Recurvirostra avosetta Pied Avocet
88 Vanellus spinosus Spur-winged Lapwing
89 Vanellus tectus Black-headed Lapwing
90 Vanellus albiceps White-crowned Lapwing
91 Vanellus senegallus African Wattled Lapwing
92 Pluvialis squatarola Grey Plover
93 Charadrius hiaticula Common Ringed Plover
94 Charadrius dubius Little Ringed Plover
95 Charadrius pecuarius Kittlitz’s Plover
96 Charadrius alexandrinus Kentish Plover
97 Pluvianus aegyptius Egyptian Plover
98 Rostratula benghalensis Greater Painted Snipe
99 Actophilornis africanus African Jacana
100 Gallinago gallinago Common Snipe
101 Limosa limosa Black-tailed Godwit
102 Limosa lapponica Bar-tailed Godwit
103 Numenius phaeopus Whimbrel
104 Tringa erythropus Spotted Redshank
105 Tringa totanus Common Redshank
106 Tringa stagnatilis Marsh Sandpiper
107 Tringa nebularia Common Greenshank
108 Tringa ochruros Green Sanpiper
109 Tringa glareola Wood Sandpiper
110 Actitis hypoleucos Common Sandpiper
111 Arenaria interpres Ruddy Turnstone
112 Calidris alba Sanderling
113 Calidris minuta Little Stint
114 Calidris temminckii Temminck’s Stint
115 Calidris ferruginea Curlew Sandpiper
116 Calidris alpina Dunlin
117 Philomachus pugnax Ruff
118 Glareola pratincola Collared Pratincole
119 Chroicocephalus genei Slender-billed Gull
120 Chroicocephalus ridibundus Common Black-headed Gull
121 Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus Grey-hooded Gull
122 Larus fuscus Lesser Black-backed Gull
123 Sternula albifrons Little Tern
124 Gelochelidon nilotica Gull-billed Tern
125 Hydroprogne caspia Caspian Tern
126 Thalasseus maxima Royal Tern
127 Thalasseus sandvicensis Sandwich Tern
128 Sterna hirundo Common Tern
129 Chlidonias hybrida Whiskered Tern
130 Chlidonias niger Black Tern
131 Stercorarius pomarinus Pomarine Skua
132 Stercorarius parasiticus Parasitic Jaeger
133 Pterocles exustus Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse
134 Columba guinea Speckled Pigeon
135 Streptopelia turtur European Turtle Dove
136 Streptopelia risoria African Collared Dove
137 Streptopelia decipiens Mourning Collared Dove
138 Streptopelia semitorquata Red-eyed Dove
139 Streptopelia vinacea Vinaceous Dove
140 Spilopelia senegalensis Laughing Dove
141 Turtur abyssinicus Black-billed Wood Dove
142 Oena capensis Namaqua Dove
143 Treron waalia Bruce’s Green Pigeon
144 Psittacula krameri Rose-ringed Parakeet
145 Poicephalus senegalus Senegal Parrot
146 Crinifer piscator Western Plantain-eater
147 Centropus senegalensis Senegal Coucal
148 Tyto alba Barn Owl
149 Otus senegalensis African Scops Owl
150 Glaucidium perlatum Pearl-spotted Owlet
151 Caprimulgus climacurus Long-tailed Nightjar
152 Macrodipteryx longipennis Standard-winged Nightjar
153 Telacanthura ussheri Mottled Spinetail
154 Cypsiurus parvus African Palm Swift
155 Apus affinis Little Swift
156 Urocolius macrourus Blue-naped Mousebird
157 Coracias naevius Purple Roller
158 Coracias abyssinicus Abyssinian Roller
159 Coracias cyanogaster Blue-bellied Roller
160 Eurystomus glaucurus Broad-billed Roller
161 Halcyon leucocephala Grey-headed Kingfisher
162 Halcyon chelicuti Striped Kingfisher
163 Halcyon malimbica Blue-breasted Kingfisher
164 Ispidina picta African Pygmy Kingfisher
165 Corythornis cristatus Malachite Kingfisher
166 Megaceryle maxima Giant Kingfisher
167 Ceryle rudis Pied Kingfisher
168 Merops hirundineus Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
169 Merops pusillus Little Bee-eater
170 Merops bulocki Red-throated Bee-eater
171 Merops orientalis Green Bee-eater
172 Merops persicus Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
173 Merops nubicus Northern Carmine Bee-eater
174 Upupa epops Eurasian Hoopoe
175 Phoeniculus purpureus Green Wood Hoopoe
176 Tockus nasutus African Grey Hornbill
177 Tockus kempi Western Red-billed Hornbill
178 Bucorvus abyssinicus Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
179 Pogoniulus chrysoconus Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
180 Lybius vieilloti Vieillot’s Barbet
181 Lybius dubius Bearded Barbet
182 Jynx torquilla Eurasian Wryneck
183 Campethera punctuligera Fine-spotted Woodpecker
184 Dendropicos goertae African Grey Woodpecker
185 Batis senegalensis Senegal Batis
186 Platysteira cyanea Brown-throated Wattle-eye
187 Prionops plumatus White Helmetshrike
188 Malaconotus blanchoti Grey-headed Bushshrike
189 Tchagra senegalus Black-crowned Tchagra
190 Dryoscopus gambensis Northern Puffback
191 Laniarius barbarus Yellow-crowned Gonolek
192 Corvinella corvina Yellow-billed Shrike
193 Lanius meridionalis Southern Grey Shrike
194 Lanius senator Woodchat Shrike
195 Oriolus auratus African Golden Oriole
196 Dicrurus adsimilis Fork-tailed Drongo
197 Terpsiphone viridis African Paradise Flycatcher
198 Ptilostomus afer Piapiac
199 Corvus albus Pied Crow
200 Elminia longicauda African Blue Flycatcher
201 Mirafra cordofanica Kordofan Lark
202 Galerida cristata Crested Lark
203 Eremopterix leucotis Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark
204 Eremopterix nigriceps Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark
205 Pycnonotus barbatus Common Bulbul
206 Riparia riparia Sand Martin
207 Hirundo lucida Red-chested Swallow
208 Hirundo smithii Wire-tailed Swallow
209 Delichon urbicum Common House Martin
210 Cecropis senegalensis Mosque Swallow
211 Cecropis daurica Red-rumped Swallow
212 Sylvietta brachyura Northern Crombec
213 Phylloscopus trochilus Willow Warbler
214 Phylloscopus collybita Common Chiffchaff
215 Phylloscopus bonelli Western Bonelli’s Warbler
216 Phylloscopus inornatus Yellow-browed Warbler
217 Acrocephalus schoenobaenus Sedge Warbler
218 Acrocephalus scirpaceus/baeticatus Eurasian Reed Warbler/ African Reed Warbler
219 Iduna opaca Western Olivaceous Warbler
220 Hippolais polyglotta Melodious Warbler
221 Cisticola juncidis Buitrón Común
222 Prinia subflava Tawny-flanked Prinia
223 Prinia fluviatilis River Prinia
224 Camaroptera brevicaudata Grey-backed Camaroptera
225 Eremomela icteropygiallis Yellow-bellied Eremomela
226 Eremomela pusilla Senegal Eremomela
227 Turdoides reinwardtii Blackcap Babbler
228 Turdoides plebejus Brown Babbler
229 Sylvia curruca Lesser Whitethroat
230 Sylvia hortensis Western Orphean Warbler
231 Sylvia communis Common Whitethroat
232 Sylvia cantillans Subalpine Warbler
233 Zosterops senegalensis African Yellow White-eye
234 Lamprotornis chalybaeus Greater Blue-eared Starling
235 Lamprotornis chalcurus Bronze-tailed Starling
236 Lamprotornis purpureus Purple Starling
237 Lamprotornis caudatus Long-tailed Glossy Starling
238 Lamprotornis pulcher Chestnut-bellied Starling
239 Buphagus africanus Yellow-billed Oxpecker
240 Turdus pelios African Thrush
241 Cossypha niveicapilla Snowy-crowned Robin Chat
242 Erythropygia galactotes Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin
243 Cercotrichas podobe Black Scrub Robin
244 Phoenicurus phoenicurus Common Redstart
245 Saxicola rubetra Whinchat
246 Saxicola torquatus African Stonechat
247 Myrmecocichla aethiops Northern Anteater Chat
248 Oenanthe oenanthe Northern Wheatear
249 Melaenornis edolioides Northern Black Flycatcher
250 Muscicapa aquatica Swamp Flycatcher
251 Ficedula hypoleuca European Pied Flycatcher
252 Anthreptes longuemarei Western Violet-backed Sunbird
253 Hedydipna platura Pygmy Sunbird
254 Chalcomitra senegalensis Scarlet-chested Sunbird
255 Cinnyris pulchellus Beautiful Sunbird
256 Cinnyris venustus Variable Sunbird
257 Passer domesticus House Sparrow
258 Passer griseus Northern Grey-headed Sparrow
259 Passer luteus Sudan Golden Sparrow
260 Bubalornis albirostris White-billed Buffalo Weaver
261 Sporopipes frontalis Speckle-fronted Weaver
262 Ploceus vitellinus Vitelline Masked Weaver
263 Ploceus cucullatus Village Weaver
264 Quelea quelea Red-billed Quelea
265 Pytilia melba Green-winged Pytilia
266 Amadina fasciata Cut-throat Finch
267 Lagonosticta senegala Red-billed Firefinch
268 Lagonosticta larvata Black-faced Firefinch
269 Uraeginthus bengalus Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu
270 Estrilda caerulescens Lavender Waxbill
271 Estrilda melpoda Orange-cheeked Waxbill
272 Estrilda troglodytes Black-rumped Waxbill
273 Amandava subflava Orange-breasted Waxbill
274 Euodice cantans African Silverbill
275 Lonchura cucullata Bronze Mannikin
276 Vidua chalybeata Village Indigobird
277 Vidua orientalis Sahel Paradise Whydah
278 Vidua interjecta Exclamatory Paradise Whydah
279 Vidua macroura Pin-tailed Whydah
280 Motacilla flava Western Yellow Wagtail
281 Motacilla alba White Wagtail
282 Motacilla aguimp African Pied Wagtail
283 Crithagra leucopygia White-rumped Seedeater
284 Crithagra mozambica Yellow-fronted Canary
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