The Selous is known for its vast size and huge numbers of big game; however, as in common with much of Tanzania, the Selous Game Reserve enjoys a prolific bird life. Without doubt the mighty Rufiji River is responsible for the huge variety of birds drawn to this area. This huge river with its ever changing pattern of sandbanks, oxbow lakes, lagoons, islands and channels is a magnet for many animals and especially the birds.The Selous Reserve's most visited lagoons are the Nzerkela and Tagalala and these lagoons are home to, storks, herons, terns and many migrant waders. The lovely-pinked back pelicans are often seen here as are the great white pelicans. When the water levels lower during the dry season the fish become consecrated in this shrinking environment and waterfowl are attracted to feast on this easy pray.
Egyptian geese and the White faced Whistling Duck are common at these times.The main river provides an setting for the specialist birds. Along the sandbanks are many white-headed lapwing, this unusual bird can be seen along the many tributaries that feed this Rufiji River. The star of the river is the African skimmer as is skims the surface of the water with its oversize lower jaw snapping its beak shut as it touches a fish.Along the lagoons the beautiful Fish Eagle can be seen and its haunting cries echo over the still waters. The fish eagle will not only eat fish but also prey on the young of the Egyptian geese.
The spectacular Borassus palms along the river provide ideal vantage points for the fish eagle and nest sites for the Egyptian geese. The palm swift also uses these trees and glues its eggs to the palm leaves with its own saliva.A favorite of mine is the pied kingfisher and is an ever preset member in the wetlands of the Selous Reserve. It can be easily spotted as it hovers over the waters and then plunges to the river for its pray; its relative the Giant kingfisher is much less common.The wooded area's of the river are home to two nocturnal species.
The Pel's Fishing Owl which roosts in large trees and fishes over the river at night; its spine-chilling call piecing the sleep of guests in the nearby camps. The White-backed Herron is also an elusive night bird that can be seen along the river banks and the oxbow lakes.The Horn Bills [known locally as the honda-honda] are found in the woodlands.
The ground hornbills to who's deep calls many visitors will wake to - will be a never forgotten call of Africa. These birds live in family groups and walk slowly through the grasses foraging for food.Many parrots can also be found here, the Brown-necked and brown headed Parrot is common above the hills of Beho Beho camp. Birds of pray include the very large Martial Eagle, Red-necked Falcon, Bateleur Eagle as well as the Hobby and Honey Buzzard.
It is advisable to invest in a specialist bird book and a good pair of binoculars when coming on safari. In-between looking for the big game take time to look at the smaller species of animals and thereby making the most of your safari experience. Also check that your guide brings some bird books along in the 4 x 4 safari vehicle..For a more comprehensive guide to the Birds of the Selous Game Reserve connect Ian through http://betheladventure.
co.uk or Philemon http://www.aardvark-expeditions.
com. Using responsible tourism to change lives.
By: Ian Williamson