BirdWatch Zambia has sustained species research and population monitoring in different Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in the country. Particular focus has been drawn on the globally threatened and endemic species including the Zambian Barbet and vultures in South-Central Zambia. BWZ has partnered with different individuals, farm owners and organisations, in ensuring that species and habitats are conserved by Influencing land use and management practices.
Over the years BWZ has supported the conservation of bird species and their habitat in Zambia. Since the establishment of the organization, BirdWatch Zambia has committed to protecting wild species and their habitats in order to maintain healthy wildlife species or populations and to restore, protect and enhance natural ecosystems in IBAs/KBAs. To date, the BirdLife Partnership has identified and documented more than 13,000 IBAs in over 200 countries and territories worldwide, and 42 of these important areas are in Zambia. This includes 18 out of the 20 National Parks found in Zambia, showcasing a variety of avifauna, with a number of them being declared as birding hotspots (i.e., Lochinvar National Park). This network of sites is vital to the long-term viability of bird populations and is also important for other forms of wildlife. The conservation of IBAs, therefore, ensures the survival of many other animals and plants. IBAs may be considered the minimum essential to ensure the survival of many of these species across their ranges and throughout their life cycles as they provide safe habitats to rest and feed on these extraordinary journeys. There is a diverse range of activities to protect IBAs, including monitoring, research, management, restoration, public awareness, and the safeguarding and promotion of sustainable economic alternatives.
Source: BirdLife International- https://www.birdlife.org/projects/ibas-mapping-most-important-places/
While the protection is of all bird species and their habitats, BirdWatch Zambia prioritizes actions towards flagship species. In conservation biology, a flagship species is a species chosen to raise support for biodiversity conservation in a given place or social context. The flagship species that BWZ prioritizes on are listed below;
The Lilian’s lovebird (Agapornis lilianae) is the smallest species of parrot in Zambia, restricted to the Zambezi basin along the Zambezi Valley from Mozambique to Zimbabwe, into Zambia, Namibia, Malawi, and south of Tanzania. The total population may be as high as 20,000 or as low as 10,000 birds in the wild (WPT, 2022). Lilian’s Lovebirds are at risk due to a number of threats including habitat loss especially the loss of mature Mopane trees where they roost (Mzumara, et al., 2019), persecution by farmers, illegal trade, and pesticide use, especially in southern Malawi which results in mortalities (Mzumara, et al., 2015). Though the species distribution spans across 6 countries, the largest population is mostly in Zambia where it is widely common within its range.
IUCN status: NT
Zambian Barbet (Lybius chaplini) or Chaplin’s Barbet is an endemic bird, a true Zambian bird. Although found only in Zambia it is restricted to the south and central Zambia to specific areas which meet their habitat conditions. They are found almost exclusively in open woodland where the fig, Ficus sycomorus - their favorite food source and nesting tree is abundant. Just like any other bird, they are important to the ecosystem: they are agents of seed dispersal, aid in plant pollination, and help in pest control by feeding on insects and various pest species. The Zambian Barbet is threatened as a result of habitat loss especially the removal of dead branches from the fig trees which are commonly used as a source of firewood. By virtue of the species being endemic to this country, the Zambian Barbet is the bird that has been minted on the one-kwacha coin.
IUCN status: VU
The Black-cheeked Lovebird Agapornis nigrigenis is Africa’s most localized parrot with a core range estimated at 2,500Km² and is endemic to Zambia. The species is never far from permanent sources of surface water as the birds need to drink at least twice daily. It is a small parrot species of the Lovebird genus that occurs primarily in mopane woodland but utilizes adjacent riverine vegetation and agricultural areas to forage and drink.
The Black-cheeked Lovebird is considered to be the most endangered of all African parrot species with the smallest area of distribution (4,550 Km²) in Southwest Zambia between the Kafue River to the north and the Zambezi River to the south. It is a Zambian endemic found in a relatively small area of of mopane woodland (Colophospermum) in Machile IBA, that covers parts of Mwandi district and in the Nanzhila area south of the Kafue National Park (Warburton,2004).
The Lovebird population comprises two distinct but adjacent geographical subpopulations, the northern population which occurs along the Nanzhila River largely confined to the Kafue National Park while the southern population is centered around the Machile and Sichifulo rivers (Dodman,1995). Competition for open surface water with humans and domestic livestock lists among the threats that also include the illegal harvest of live birds due to the bird trade, habitat loss due to high levels of charcoal production, and encroachment as human populations increase resulting in demand for land for agriculture expansion and settlements.
IUCN status: VU
The Grey-crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) occurs mostly on larger floodplains. They occur in flocks of up to 100 outside the breeding season with 150 - 200 on the Kafue Flats, the Busanga, Liuwa Plains and Luangwa Valley, The Grey-crowned Crane is a resident species with movements of only short distances although little is known about these movements and would require satellite tracking. The overall population ranges between 2,000 and 2,500 individuals.IUCN status: EN
Southern Ground Hornbill
The Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) was once a common resident in most of Zambia’s IBAs but the population has significantly declined with the species now not being recorded at all in some IBAs. The Department of National Parks and Wildlife reports increased illegal hunting of this bird in most national parks for the sale of body parts on the black market for use in the synthesis of some traditional medicines. In addition, intentional poisoning has greatly contributed to the decline in of the Southern Ground Hornbill population. This species breeds in very large trees of which a large number have been cleared within the species' range.
IUCN status: VU
African Fish Eagle
The African Fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer) is distributed and resident throughout most of Zambia. African Fish Eagles are monogamous bird species that can maintain mating partners for life. They usually breed during the dry season, with their nests placed in large trees and reusable over time. African Fish eagles lay up to 3 eggs, from which juveniles hatch. The juveniles are allowed to be around their parents for only 3 months, after which they becoming nomadic before they settle with a partner.
The African fish Eagle is a national symbol of freedom and a sign of the country's ability to rise above its problems. It is listed as a species of least concern under the IUCN red list. The African Fish Eagles are among the birds that have been affected by wetland degradation and pollution.
IUCN status: LC
The Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus) is present as a breeding resident in shallow wetlands adjoining grasslands, dambos, floodplains, and throughout much of the Zambian plateau.
They breed mainly in wetlands, notably Liuwa Plain, Kafue National Park, Kafue Flats and Bangweulu Wetlands.
Zambia holds 60% of the global population with the highest number mainly foraging and breeding in the Kafue Flats.
IUCN status: VU
Vultures are a distinctive and spectacular constituent of all the environments in which they are found. However, despite their intrinsic value as part of the natural ecosystem and playing an extremely important ecological role in the ecosystem, vultures are the most threatened avian functional group of terrestrial migratory birds around the world.
They are uniquely adapted to exploit food sources such as carcasses and other natural waste, acting as nature’s garbage collectors. Conservation actions to be effective if implemented require a broad approach and the engagement of all range states. This realization, and the wider appreciation of the seriousness of the African Vulture Crisis, in addition to that already known in Asia, and increasing threats to vultures elsewhere, have been key catalyzing factors that led to a swift international agreement on the urgent need to develop a Multispecies Action Plan to Conserve African-Eurasian Vultures (Vulture MsAP) under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).
Zambia holds healthy breeding populations of White-backed, Lappet-faced, White-headed, Hooded and Palm-nut Vultures. Further, Cape, Rüppell's and Egyptian Vulture are known as rare non-breeding visitors.
The Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula) is confined to the swamps of the upper Zambezi, Kafue Flats, and Bangweulu Wetlands in seasonally flooded grassland and pans on the floodplains. Like the Wattled Crane, this species is highly vulnerable to changing flood regimes.
Though the Slaty Egret may have been recorded in about 9 countries in its range, the species are principally restricted to the Okavango and middle Zambezi systems of northern Botswana, northeastern Namibia, and southwestern Zambia.
IUCN status: VU
Shoebill (Balaenicepts rex) is a very large marsh bird endemic to tropical African wetlands along the Great Rift Valley, from South Sudan in the north, to the Bangweulu Swamps in Zambia as the southern limit of its range.
Threats range from habitat loss due to shrinking wetlands, droughts as a result of climate change, nest raiding by egg and chick collectors, fires and poaching.
IUCN status: VU
The Taita Falcon (Falco fasciinucha) inhabits and nests in rocky gorges although it can no longer be found readily in its best-known habitat (Batoka Gorge) in Mosi-oa-Tunya NP and Batoka Gorge IBA. This is possibly as a result of disturbance from overhead tourist flights, or competition by larger falcons occurring in the same habitat. These birds of prey have increased linked to growth in populations of domestic and urban prey species.
Further surveys to establish the presence of this species in the Muchinga Escarpment and Wonder Gorge IBA will be required.
IUCN status: VU
The Margaret's Batis (Batis margaritae) is a resident occurring mainly in the North Western Province of Zambia, where it is common in the Cryptosepalum Forests, with small populations in dry evergreen forests and Mushitu on the Copperbelt particularly in Imanda Forest IBA. Cryptosepalum forests, which hold >90% of the population, are limited to Zambia's Northwestern Province and adjacent parts of Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The area has come under significant deforestation pressure due to cultivation and logging, leading to population declines. Apart from West Lunga National Park, this forest type remains largely unprotected.
Currently, the population in Angola is unclear, and the species has not been sighted for a considerable amount of time in DR Congo. It is therefore highly likely that this species is a near-endemic to Zambia and requires close monitoring. It is a very discrete and easily overlooked bird, in this regard, its range and conservation status deserve further study.
IUCN status: VU
The African Pitta (Pitta angolensis); is a secretive species inhabiting riverine thickets and forests in the eastern half of Zambia in the Rift valleys from the Kariba area in the south, to the middle Luangwa Valley in the north, as well as the Sumbu thickets between Mweru and Tanganyika. Rapid deforestation has caused significant declines in key areas such as Mutulanganga IBA. The species is an intra-African migrant present in Zambia from November to April.
IUCN status: LC
The Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea) inhabits and breeds in montane grasslands mainly under overhangs or in holes in the ground. Within Zambia, the Blue Swallow is only known to breed in the grasslands of the Nyika Plateau, where it is common on the Malawian side.
Further surveys to establish breeding on the Zambian side of the Nyika National Park are required. It is important to note that the terrain on this Zambian side is challenging and that is one of the reasons previous surveys did not yield positive results due to difficulty in navigating through the habitat.IUCN status: VU
The Secretary Birds (Sagittarius serpentarius) is an endangered terrestrial bird species native to the grasslands, floodplains, dambos, and savannahs of Zambia. It is patchily distributed across the Zambezi West and Kafue Flats. The secretary bird's population has greatly reduced and the decline has been attributed to habitat loss, poisoning, and human disturbance.
IUCN Status: EN
The Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) is a large black and white stock with a diagnostic red and black banded bill that has a yellow saddle at the base of the upper mandible. It is a sparsely distributed resident bird usually found in freshwater dams, lakes, and rivers either solitary or usually in pairs.
Sightings for this species has been reduced over the last decade and they have become rare, especially outside protected areas.IUCN Status: LC
The Zambian Barbet - a Gem of a Species
The Bird engraved on the Zambian 1 kwacha coin - the Zambian Barbet or Chaplin’s Barbet is endemic, a true Zambian bird. Although found only in Zambia it is restricted to South and Central Zambia to specific areas which meet their habitat conditions. They are found almost exclusively in open woodland where the fig, Ficus sycomorus - their favourite food source and nesting tree is abundant.The Zambian Barbet measures up to 19 cm in length (including the tail), and weighs between 64 - 75 grams. They have a large head and a heavy bill fringed with bristles. Its plumage is mostly white and ruffled, except for the distinctive red markings around the eyes. The tail is black and the wings are black and edged yellow.
It typically nests in cavities in the branches of dead or live fig trees and usually occur in small solitary groups of two to six individuals. These groups aggressively defend their territories against intruders. As part of its call, it snaps its bill loudly together while emitting a chorus of buzzy, grating notes-a song described as an accelerating, noisy cackle. The Zambian Barbet eats a variety of fruits, including figs (primarily Ficus sycomorus). They will also visit plantations and feed on cultivated fruit and vegetables. In addition to fruit, they also eat a wide range of insects. Just like any other bird, they are important to the ecosystem: they are agents of seed dispersal, they aid in plant pollination and help in pest control by feeding on insects and various pest species.
What we can do to help this populations of this endemic bird to thrive:
- Prevent habitat destruction- the best way to protect endemic species is to protect the special places where they live. And never to cut down old fig trees which are critical to the continued existance of the Barbets and many birds.
- Planting of Sycamore Figsnative trees in our areas-attracting native insects that these birds can feed on.
- We can control the use of herbicides and pesticides -hazardous pollutants that affect birds at many levels.
- Educate people on the importance of protecting this endemic species and learn about how interesting and important they are.
- Avoid participating in shooting, trapping or harassing activities and report such activities local wildlife enforcement offices.
- Prevent habitat destruction- the best way to protect endemic species is to protect the special places where they live. Do not cut down trees anyhow!
- Finally, we can plant fig trees in our areas. This will attract these birds to make these trees their home.
Bird species go extinct due to a broad range of reasons, including: Habitat loss , starvation as a result of food shortages, hunting and poaching, nest raiding and poisoning. In some cases, certain species are lost because they are too sensitive to habitat.
Reduce Extinction Risks - Your efforts can help reduce the risk of extinction, and the more birders who take those steps, the larger the overall impact will be and the more bird species will benefit.
Know more about Endangered Species and protect them - The first step towards prevention of extinction is being aware of species that need conservation help and learning how to lower the risks of extinction.
Know more about Endangered Species and protect them
The first step towards prevention of extinction is being aware of species that need conservation help and learning how to lower the risks of extinction.
Support Species Conservation Programs
Supporting conservation programs can be done through funding conservation work, joining or volunteering in conservation work or making donations to conservation groups, bird rescue organizations or wildlife rehabilitators.
Protect Habitats/Key Biodiversity Areas
Protecting these areas increases their chance of survival.
Talk about it
Introducing more people to birds and birding to minimise the risk of extinctions, because the more people who are involved in protecting birds, the greater and more effective those protections will be.
Curb Artificial Risks to Birds
reduce human induced threats or risks dramatically.
Be a citizen scientist
Everyone is a citizen scientist. You can take part in monitoring birds and contribute to their conservation by recording your bird sightings in your garden and surroundings, creating checklists using eBird and Merlin Apps developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and share checklists!
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is one of BirdWatch Zambia’s key partners. It is a member-supported unit of Cornell University in Ithaca, New York USA, which studies birds and other wildlife. Approximately 250 scientists, professors, staff, and students work in a variety of programs devoted to the Lab's mission: interpreting and conserving the Earth's biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds.
eBird is an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. Originally restricted to sightings from the Western Hemisphere, the project expanded to cover the whole world in June 2010. eBird has been described as an ambitious example of enlisting amateurs to gather data on biodiversity for use in science. eBird is an example of crowdsourcing and has been hailed as an example of democratising science, treating citizens as scientists, and allowing the public to access and use their own data and the collective data generated by others.
Link to eBird Zambia: https://ebird.org/zambia/home
How can you become a Citizen Scientist?
Take the free online eBird Essentials Course: https://academy.allaboutbirds.org/product/ebird-essentials/
Getting started/Installing eBird: https://support.ebird.org/en/support/solutions/articles/48001158707-get-started-with-ebird
Report your bird sightings