Bird Watching in Bale Mountains
Bird watching in Ethiopia can be a very addictive hobby. You get into it, and there is no way out. I have seen people lose their minds over some endemic birds like Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco, or Black-winged Lovebird, or Golden-Backed Woodpecker. Even the names are so delicately attractive, it makes your heart melt.
The Bale Mountains National Park is recognized by Birdlife International as the foremost Important Bird Area (IBA) in Ethiopia. Over 280 species have been recorded in the National Park. Since the Bale Mountains are isolated from other similar habitats in Africa by low and dry areas, many endemic species are found. At least twenty-three species of birds are known to be endemic to Ethiopia. No less than fourteen of these species are known to occur only in the Bale Mountains National Park area, and several are easily seen every day. 7 of the species endemic to Ethiopia are very popular with enthusiast bird watchers: spot-breasted lapwing, yellow-fronted parrot, Abyssinian wood-pecker, Abyssinian longclaw, Abyssinian catbird, black-headed siskin and Bale parisoma.
Whether for a day or a week, birding in the Bale Mountains National Park is a rewarding and worthwhile experience. Five climate zones are found in the park: juniper-dominated woodlands (looking for the endemic white-backed black tit & black-winged lovebird), open grasslands (regularly spotting the endemic Rouget’s rail), high-altitude heathlands (tripping over chestnut-naped francolins), afro-alpine wetlands (with blue-winged geese, ruddy shellducks and the occasional wattled crane), and moist tropical forest (hearing and seeing the white-cheeked turaco and silvery-cheeked hornbill).
One of the largest and most spectacular birds is the Lammergeier also called the Bearded Vulture or Bone-breaker. This enormous bird with its over-two-metre wingspan is often seen soaring alone over suitably high cliffs and rock outcrops, while splintered bone fragments, even on the top of Tullu Deemtu and Mt. Batu tell of its presence.
Wherever you go in Bale there are birds to watch, and generally unusual ones to add considerably to your experience of this wonderful area.
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