Birdwatching in Eritrea
Birding in Eritrea
Eritrea is not well known as a birdwatching destination. But it should be. Despite being one of the most 'underbirded' countries in Africa, it has an impressive checklist of over 560 species, which is increasing rapidly. Ethiopia is famous as one of the best birding destinations in the world. Most highly prized are its Abyssinian 'endemics', many of which are in fact shared with Eritrea, as the Abyssinian Highlands are split between the two countries. There are approximately 32 endemic species in the Abyssinian Highlands (depending on splits), of which Eritrea shares at least 17, including Wattled Ibis, Ruppell's (Black) Chat, Rouget's Rail, White-backed Black Tit, Abyssinian Woodpecker and Black-winged Lovebird. Eritrea has a good range of habitat types within the borders of a small country. It has the furthest north rainforest in Africa (Filfil), the mountainous landscape (up to 3000m) around Adi Keih and Senafe, the pristine beauty of the Dahlak Island Archipelago, one of the hottest plains in the world (Danikalia), the extensive acacia woodland of the Western Lowlands (Gash Barka) and over 1000km of coastline, which is rich in migrating species in spring and autumn. Visiting birders can see all of this within a week, and often take home a species list of 250-300 birds.
How Safe is Eritrea?
This question is asked by many birdwatchers and potential visitors, and the answer is: For tourists, it's one of the safest countries in Africa. Muggings are virtually unheard of, corruption is rare, and even petty crime, such as pick-pocketing is uncommon. Whilst the unresolved border dispute with Ethiopia is a cause for concern, and before travelling you should check with your foreign office to get the latest news on this situation, foreign nationals will not be permitted to travel near the border, and the risk is no greater than in Ethiopia. There are travel restrictions on foreign nationals in the country, but permits are possible to organise and a good travel agent should be able to get you to all the key birding destinations.
When to Visit
The birdwatching in Eritrea is good all year round, especially for the Abyssinian endemic species, all of which are resident. However, during migration periods (approx. from February to April and September to November) there are significant numbers of birds moving through Eritrea, so coastal watching turns up significantly more species, and raptor counts along the escarpment edge are also higher. During the winter (November to March) there are more birds (wildfowl, waders, herons, etc.) on the reservoirs and waterways than during the summer (May to August). Some species become more numerous during the rainy season (from June to October), most notably Blue Saw-wing, but also intra-African migrant species (swifts, cuckoos, etc.) However, if we had to recommend a best 'season' it would probably be autumn - from late October to early December.
The Purpose of this Website
Through this website, we hope to provide information for both visiting birdwatchers and Eritreans who are interested in their own wildlife. Eritrea is a wonderful country, with some of the kindest, most hospitable people in the world. An increase in birdwatching will hopefully increase Eritrea's tourism revenue, and could lead to greater protection of Eritrea's birds and the fragile ecosystems on which they depend. We update the website regularly, and always welcome information about trip reports, feedback and comments.
Jason Anderson, Solomon Abraha and Dawit Berhane
|Bird Checklist for Eritrea|
|Travel & Accommodation|
|Adi Keih Birdwatching|
|Dahlak Islands Birdwatching|
|Elabered / Keren Birdwatching|
|Gash Barka Birdwatching|
|Children and Schools|