Although best known for incredible game viewing—particularly during the Great Migration, one of Nature’s grandest spectacles—Tanzania attracts its fair share of twitchers*, as well. The country is one of Africa’s best bird-watching destinations, with more than 1,100 species including a host of endemic and near endemics, as well as hundreds of migrants that visit between November and April each year. (To put that into perspective, there are around 750 species in the US and Canada combined.)
Birds flock to this East African country due to its diverse geography, which comprises numerous climates ranging from mountain forest to open savannah, from arid desert to tropical coast. Along with Kenya and Uganda, Tanzania also claims Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest freshwater lake, where tiny islets offer refuge to large nesting colonies of egrets, gannets, cormorants, and African fish eagles.
Situated in the central part of the country, Ruaha National Park—Tanzania’s largest—transitions from acacia grassland to miombo woodlands, making it an avian haven. Birders can check off upwards of 450 species here, including the Dickinson’s kestrel, violet-crested turaco, endemic yellow-collared lovebird, and constantly trilling crested barbet.
Covering nearly 20,000 square miles in southern Tanzania, the remote Selous Game Reserve is one of the largest protected areas in all of Africa and home to the world’s biggest populations of hippopotamus and water buffalo. The reserve is also one of the continent’s best birding areas; with more than 400 species, you’ll want the binoculars handy for spying the endemic Udzungwa forest partridge and rufous winged sunbird, along with African spoonbill, a variety of bee-eaters and lapwings, and the rare Pel’s fishing owl.
One of just two protected areas for chimpanzees within Tanzania, Mahale National Park is the chosen perch for hundreds of bird species, as well. Most dwell in the forest, making them more difficult to spot; yet the chance to view Giant kingfisher, bamboo warbler, Vieillot’s black weaver, and Livingstone’s turaco is sure to set twitchers’ hearts all atwitter.
*Twitcher is another name for birdwatcher.