29. Mount Gorongosa, Mozambique

Birders consider this mountain in Mozambique to be a magical place. It is the only place in our region where you can see the beautiful Green-headed Oriole. The forest grows on the upper slopes of the mountain, and getting there can be a mission. In the old days it was a 3 day mission, sometimes involving the sacrifice of a chicken. Then it was super easy for a while. Then the military took over and it was inaccessible. It’s best to find out beforehand what’s going on and to go with an experienced guide. But even if you can’t get up to the forest, there is still amazing birding all around this area. Tropical specials like Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Black-winged Bishop and Marsh Tchagra are around every corner. Gorongosa National Park is probably the most under-rated birding site in the country.

TOP TEN SPECIALS (TWELVE):

Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon | Withalsbosduif
Blue-spotted Wood Dove | Blouvlekduifie
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill | Kuifkopboskraai
Green-backed Woodpecker | Gevlekte Speg
Pallid Honeyguide | Oostelike Heuningwyser
Marsh Tchagra | Vleitjagra
Green-headed Oriole | Groenkopwielewaal
Moustached Grass Warbler | Breëstertgrasvoël
Short-winged Cisticola | Kortvlerktinktinkie
Red-winged Prinia | Rooivlerksanger
Black-winged Bishop | Vuurkopvink
Red-throated Twinspot | Rooikeelkolpensie

x

x

X

X

30. Coutadas, Mozambique

This is a big wilderness area between Beira and the Zambezi River. Big parts of this area are hunting concessions, and there are still plenty of wild animals about. Birding in these lowland forests is mind-blowing. Almost all the birds you encounter are specials! From alethes and akalats on the forest floor to woodpeckers, flycatchers and apalises in the canopy! It’s best to make up a birding group and organise an expedition to the coutadas with an experienced guide. Summer is best for African Pittas, but it extremely hot and rains a lot. Here are a few specials, but there are many more that I didn’t name (Livingstone’s Flycatcher, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Southern Banded Snake Eagle, Mangrove Kingfisher, Pennant-winged Nightjar…the list just goes on and on).

TOP TEN SPECIALS:

Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo | Langstertkoekoek
African Pitta | Angolapitta
East Coast Akalat | Gunningjanfrederik
White-chested Alethe | Witborswoudlyster
Speckle-throated Woodpecker | Tanzaniese Speg
Chestnut-fronted Helmetshrike | Stekelkophelmlaksman
Black-and-white Shrike-Flycatcher | Witpensvlieëvanger
Lowland Tiny Greenbul | Kleinboskruiper
Black-headed Apalis | Swartkopkleinjantjie
Plain-backed Sunbird | Bloukeelsuikerbekkie

x

x

X

X

31. Rio Savane, Mozambique

Birding along the small road that runs north-east of Beira is quite unlike anywhere else in our region. It is a big, flat, open plain: sometimes it is just dry grassland, and sometimes it is completely under water. The main attraction is all the rare tropical grassland and wetland birds. To see them you’ll have to walk around a lot and try and find them hiding in the grass. Often the best spots are where it is squelchy but not too deeply flooded. There is also an excellent forest patch along the road, and check any thickets that look promising – this is one of the only places where the sought-after Lesser Seedcracker has been seen. The road eventually ends at a river – you can cross by ferry to reach a small lodge by the seaside. 

TOP TEN SPECIALS:

Eurasian Bittern | Grootrietreier
Rufous-bellied Heron | Rooipensreier
Wattled Crane | Lelkraanvoël
Blue Quail | Bloukwartel
Black-rumped Buttonquail | Swartrugkwarteltjie
Short-tailed Pipit | Kortstertkoester
Red-headed Quelea | Rooikopkwelea
Magpie Mannikin | Dikbekfret
Lesser Seedcracker | Oostelike Saadbrekertjie
Locust Finch | Rooivlerkwartelvinkie

x

x

X

X

32. Inhambane, Mozambique

Inhambane is a popular spot for seaside holidays. It also has great scuba diving and you might even spot a Dugong in the lagoon. But it is also an incredible birding spot, particular for waders in summer. The best one of all is the large and noisy Crab Plover. I’ve seen flocks of 80+ here. When it is high-tide the waders all get together to roost on sand bars near the mouth of the lagoon. This can be spectacular, with flocks of thousands of Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Lesser Crested Terns, Terek Sandpipers and lots of others. You might be lucky enough to spot a rarity. I found Southern Africa’s second Great Knot here many years ago. To see the waders at high-tide you need to reach an area called White Sands which is right at the tip of the Barra Peninsula. To get there you’ll have to wader through the warm tropical waters and mangroves! It is also worth scanning over the ocean for tropical seabirds like Great Frigatebird, particularly after cyclones. A good spot is from the lighthouse or around Tofo.

TOP TEN SPECIALS:

Great Frigatebird | Grootfregatvoël
African Pygmy Goose | Dwerggans
Crab Plover | Krapvreter
Terek Sandpiper | Terekstrandloper
Lesser Sand Plover | Mongoolse Strandkiewiet
African Cuckoo Hawk | Koekoekvalk
Square-tailed Nightjar | Laeveldnaguil
Mangrove Kingfisher | Manglietvisvanger
Pale Batis | Mosambiekbosbontrokkie
Lemon-breasted Canary | Geelborskanarie

x

x

X

X

32. Panda, Mozambique

This small town (which, by the way, is not named after the bear) is known to birders as the only spot to see Olive-headed Weaver in Southern Africa. The weavers live in a small patch of miombo woodland that remains here. They are sometimes tricky to find, but you just have to work the miombo until you find a bird party. There are lots of other miombo specials too, and once you find a bird party you won’t know where to look first. The first time I visited I saw three lifers in the same tree! And that night I found a cobra in my tent (ha!). The roads are sandy and muddy, so you might need a 4×4. On the way to Panda check out any big wetlands or pans for wetland specials. With luck you might even find the near-mythical Eurasian Bittern here.

TOP TEN SPECIALS:

Eurasian Bittern | Grootrietreier
Collared Pratincole | Rooivlerksprinkaanvoël
Racket-tailed Roller | Knopsterttroupant
Böhm’s Spinetail | Witpensstekelstert
White-breasted Cuckooshrike | Witborskatakoeroe
Southern Hyliota | Mashonahyliota
Red-faced Crombec | Rooiwangstompstert
Neergaard’s Sunbird | Bloukruissuikerbekkie
Olive-headed Weaver | Olyfkopwewer
Black-eared Seedeater | Swartoorkanarie

x

x