3 Incredible Birds to Spot While on Safari

This one’s for the twitchers, the birders and budding ornithologists. Going on safari is about more than just ogling over predators and observing plains game. Soaring high above in the turquoise skies and scuttling along the ground are over 500 species of bird. There is always the fluttering of the familiar species, but there are 3 birds that stand proud above the rest. Of course, this is merely our opinion, but for us these 3 incredible birds to spot while on safari will make your day.

Martial Eagle

This is Africa’s largest eagle and, as well as being impressive in looks, it can lift a whopping 8kgs! With a wingspan of over 2kgs, seeing a martial eagle soaring above makes for a memorable raptor sighting. This bird of prey swoops down on poultry, small carnivores and they have even been known to capture jackal! The martial eagle is most certainly one of the most powerful apex predators and covers a wide territory.

Martial Eagle - Bradley Chambers
Martial Eagle – Bradley Chambers

Pel’s Fishing Owl

This owl is a graceful and intensely well-camouflaged raptor, despite its rather cumbersome size. Listed as a threatened species, it’s no wonder that keen ornithologists consider this a lifer. Feeding mainly on fish and frogs, they can often be found in trees close to waterways. The intricate and narrow channels of the Okavango Delta provide the perfect habitat for this rare bird. With its talons outstretched in moves in on its kill quite quickly, swooping down and returning to its nest to feast.

These birds of prey hide out in deep cavities within trees or abandoned hamerkop nests. Females lay eggs in the nest and the male goes out to hunt, returning to the nest to keep her well fed and nourished. The female lays two eggs, but only one chick is raised.

You’ll probably hear these owls in the dead of night, when they’re the most vocal. The male has a beautiful song and can be heard from up to 3km away. If you want to seek out the Pel’s fishing owl, then head to Okavango Delta for a birding safari.

Pel's Fishing Owl Botswana
Pel’s Fishing Owl Botswana – Image by Kevin McLaughlin
Pel's Fishing Owl - Image by Chloe Cooper
Pel’s Fishing Owl in Botswana – Image by Chloe Cooper
Pe'ls Fishing Owl - Image by Warwick Hendry
Pe’ls Fishing Owl Watching Us – Image by Warwick Hendry

Southern Ground Hornbill

With it’s black plumage, hidden white feathers and heavyset body complete with a wobbling crimson red wattle beneath its beak; the southern ground hornbill is one of the most easily recognizable birds to spot. They’re certainly not birds that you’d need to whip Bushnell binos for, but sightings of them are always exciting for avid twitchers.

There are plenty of sightings of the southern ground hornbill, but they’re actually quite a threatened species, which is why we consider sightings rather exciting. These birds are vulnerable on the IUCN list due to their shrinking habitat and the fact that females only manage to produce one chick every 9 years!

The southern ground hornbill is often heard before it’s seen. The bright red wattle on the males actually swells up when they contact call. The sound emitted is loud and sounds quite similar to a lion’s roar. They’re monogamous birds and have been known to pair for up to 40 years. They certainly have a strong sense of family and will fiercely protect their territory against intruders. They are co-operative breeders and the entire family will help to rear the young.

The southern ground hornbill is a rather striking and charming bird!

Southern Ground Hornbill
Southern Ground Hornbill – Image by Marius Zeilinga