Unique Bird Species in Sierra Leone to Excite Birdwatchers
Have you ever considered Sierra Leone for a bird watching expedition? Our country is generally better known for chimpanzees, our national animal, but it is also home to a variety of birds, including 14 species endemic to West Africa.
There are plenty of destinations where you can see birds in Sierra Leone – even hiking on
Leicester Peak or chilling on a beach in the Freetown Peninsula may give you the opportunity to spot some winged species.
However, the best birdwatching opportunities in Sierra Leone can be found in the country’s
national parks and reserves, such as Gola, Kambui Hills, and Kangari Hills Forest Reserve.
Wildlife in Sierra Leone is often shy, but birds can be spotted quite easily – and with over 600
bird species, you’ll be spoilt for choice.
Let’s have a look at 7 unique bird species you can see in Sierra Leone!
White-Throated Bee Eater
Let’s start with the white-throated bee eater, the national bird of Sierra Leone. These birds may look diminutive at only 20 cm when fully grown, but they make up for their size with really striking plumage – their belly is bright green to white, they have a pale blue rump, a thick band of black plumage underlined in turquoise on their collar, and a dash of yellow behind their head.
As it’s common in the bird world, males have more striking vivid colors than females, and also
have long tail streamers, up to 12 cm long. There are several bee eater species all over Sierra Leone – you can recognize white-throated bee eaters by their white throat and ‘eyebrows’.
Also known as the white-necked picathartes, this is one of 14 endemic species found in West Africa at higher altitudes, spotted from Guinea to Ghana. The white-necked rockfowl measures about 40 km in length, with tail feathers adding another 20 cm to their length. There is little difference between males and females – their plumage is white and black, their head is yellow and bare of feathers, with large circles on their cheeks lending them a cartoonish appearance. It is one of the most popular birds with twitchers visiting our country, and the Kambui Hills are a good place to try and see it.
These tiny birds are only about 15/17 cm long, with bright yellow plumage. Males can be told apart from females as they have black faces, a brown stripe and black and yellow wings. However, what makes them unique are their nesting habits – weavers construct nests hanging from trees looking a little like Christmas baubles, made with grass and feathers.
Female pin-tailed whydah are tiny brown passerine birds measuring only about 12 cm in length, but the males look truly striking with their long tail feathers, twice as long as they are. They are grassland birds, spotted in savannah-like habitats. They don’t nest, instead they hide their own eggs in other birds’ nests, so that when they hatch they are raised alongside the mother’s own hatchlings.
Kingfishers are often blue and orange, but this species common in Sierra Leone’s riverine areas is white with black splotches all over their body. They grow to about 25 meters in length and have a long, sharp beak used to catch small fish and insects near bodies of water. Unilke other kingfishers that are mainly solitary, pied kingfishers are often found roosting in groups near rivers and lakes.
The Gola Malimbe is another species endemic to West Africa, and it’s actually named after the Gola Rainforest, its primary habitat. They are hard to spot as they tend to live in primary rainforest, and they are quite small at only 18/20 cm in length. Their plumage is mostly black, with bright yellow crescents – one on the chest for females, and on their head, chest and underbelly in case of males. They also have a unique song, with long wheezing intervals interspersed with chattering sounds.
Great Blue Turaco
Let’s end this selection of Sierra Leone bird species with the great blue turaco, a large and really spectacular bird! They measure about 75 cm in length, with bright blue plumage all over their body, save for green chests, red legs and yellow and black tail feathers. Turacos also have a striking mohawk and curved yellow beaks with a red tip, looking like lips. They spend most of their life in trees, gliding from one branch to another as they are not great fliers because of their size. They are also known as ‘plantain eaters’ as they enjoy eating plantain and bananas.