Zimbabwe: 26 Aug - 4 Sept 1990





Zimbabwe offers excellent birding, with the chance to see species which are rare and of restricted range. The roads and the services infrastructure within the country make getting around easy, and the availability of good field guides, and well run national parks and reserves make birding easy. Not only birds, but large game abounds, and no visit should miss the spectacular Victoria Falls, where the rare Taita Falcon can be found also. The eastern highlands on the border with Moçambique hold many species of interest such as Swynnerton's Robin, Chirinda Apalis, Robert's Prinia and Red-faced Crimsonwing. Both Bradfield's Hornbill and Boulder Chat are most easily found in Zimbabwe, the latter being practically endemic.

Flights and Getting There

Direct flights from London to Harare, the capital, are available on both British Airways and Air Zimbabwe, the later also operating all internal flights. I flew Air Zimbabwe between Harare and Victoria Falls, and found the service punctual and of reasonable quality. However, be warned - they only allow flight reconfirmation a maximum of three days in advance and automatically cancel unconfirmed reservations 24 hours before the flight. Generally this would not present a problem, but for the truly appalling telephone system in Zimbabwe. I found it impossible to get a connection to Harare from Mutare (the second largest city), and the Air Zimbabwe office in Victoria Falls took over an hour to get through to reconfirm my flights.


No visas are required by holders of British, and most European passports. Immigration are particularly strict on return tickets and currency. Make sure you have the name, and complete address of where you intend to stay, at least for the first night. Yellow fever inoculation certificates are checked.


Accommodation in Harare is in short supply, and consequently not cheap. However, for the rest of the country, plenty of accommodation can be found in the tourist areas, and most national parks have excellent facilities. It is advisable to make advance reservations if visiting Victoria Falls during the peak season (August and December). Places I found particularly good, or bad, are mentioned.


The official currency is the Zimbabwe Dollar (Z$). Currency regulations are enforced, with visitors receiving currency forms on arrival, which must be produced whenever money is exchanged. On departure, any unspent local currency is refunded as US$ travellers cheques only. There is a US$20, airport departure tax, payable in hard currency.


Language English, the official language, is widely spoken.

Travel and Getting Around

Car hire is a little more expensive than in Europe, and unlimited mileage only available on hires of longer than six days. I hired with Avis throughout (and wished I hadn't), as the only Hertz car I had in Harare was excellent. Due to the foreign currency regulations, new cars and spares are in very short supply, resulting in poor quality cars with high mileages.

Main roads are in excellent condition - wide, straight, well maintained, with remarkably little traffic. Previously, parts of western Zimbabwe were unsafe, but the whole country can now be safely travelled. For those using public transport, there are plenty of buses, or simply hitch-hiking, which seems to be the national pastime in Zimbabwe. One important note: Jeans are not as accepted in Zimbabwe as in Europe, and many ordinary restaurants will refuse entry to those wearing jeans and/or T-shirts.

Climate and When to go

The 1000 metre altitude plateau, upon which most of the country sits, has a tempering effect on the climate, which is hot and dry. The rains starting in October, continuing through to April, coincide with the breeding season for most species. The ideal time therefore for a visit is October through December, coinciding with the austral spring and early summer.


Berruti, A. and Sinclair, J.C. (1983). Where to Watch Birds in Southern Africa. Struik, Cape Town. An immensely useful overview of the birding areas, complete with maps, details of access, birds and habitats. Unfortunately now out of print, and difficult to obtain.

Brown, L.H., Urban, E.K., and Newman, K. (1982). The Birds of Africa. Volume I. Academic Press, London. Comprehensive and authoritative, this, combined with volumes II and III, has become the standard reference for West African non-passerines. Volume 4 covering the first of the passerine species has now been published.

Clements, J. (1981). Birds of the World: A Checklist. Facts on File, USA. The 1991 update is now available. Collar, N.J., and Andrew, P. (1988). Birds to Watch. ICBP, Cambridge. UK. Useful summary of current status of each threatened species.

Collar, N.J., and Stuart, S.N. (1985). Threatened Birds of Africa and Related Islands, The ICBP/IUCN Red Data Book, Part I. I.C.B.P., Cambridge, UK. Collar, N.J., and Stuart, S.N. (1988). Key Forests for Threatened Birds in Africa. International Council for Bird Preservation Monograph No. 3. I.C.B.P., Cambridge, UK.

Crowther, G. (1986). Africa on a Shoestring. Lonely Planet. Useful information and background reading.

Fry, C.H., Keith, S., and Urban, E.K. (1988). The Birds of Africa. Volume III. Academic Press, London.

Greensmith, A and E.A. (1988). The Birds of South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe. 2nd November 1987 to 13th December 1987. Unpublished trip report.

Haltenorth, T., and Diller, H. (1980). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Africa. A good mammal guide such as this will be indispensable on any trip to Southern Africa.

Howard, R., and Moore, A. (1991). A Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Academic Press, London.

MacLean, G. (1985). Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. New Holland Publishers. A comprehensive field guide covering all species found in Zimbabwe. To take this, or the Maclean reference, is a matter of personal choice.

Newman, K. (1988). Birds of Southern Africa. Southern Book Publishers.

Urban, E.K., Fry, C.H., and Keith, S. (1986). The Birds of Africa. Volume II. Academic Press.


Taxnomy follows Clements, J. (1981) Checklist of the Birds of the World.

Itinerary and Suggestions

Two weeks would be an ideal stay. This would allow coverage of all the important sites at a relatively easy pace. The nine days I spent were enough to see most of the specialities, and enabled me to cover the eastern highlands, Victoria Falls, and Harare areas. With limited time, the areas and species on which to concentrate are:

Lake McIlwane National Park for Boulder Chat, plus a host of Miombo woodland endemics such as Racquet-tailed Roller, Whyte's Barbet, Stierling's Barred Warbler, Spotted Creeper, Mashona Hyliota, Miombo Grey Tit, and Green-capped Eremomela. Other good birds include African Scops-Owl, Bennett's Woodpecker and Violet-backed Sunbird.

The Eastern Highlands for Chirinda Apalis, Roberts' Prinia, Swnnerton's Robin, Broad-tailed Warbler, Black-fronted, Gorgeous, Olive, and Orange-breasted Bush-Shrikes, and Red-faced Crimsonwing. This is also one of the better places in Africa for Blue Swallow which is a breeding visitor from October onward.

Victoria Falls area for Slaty Egret, Taita Falcon, African Hobby, Rock Pratincole, White-crowned Plover, Red-capped Crombec, Collared Palm-Warbler, and White-rumped Babbler etc.

Hwange National Park for Swainson's Francolin, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Bradfield's Hornbill Southern Pied Babbler, Black-chinned Prinia, Crimson-breasted Boubou, Brubru, White-crowned Shrike, and Violet-eared Waxbill etc.

26 Aug 90 - Arrived Harare. Lake Mcllwane National Park.
27 Aug 90 - Flew to Victoria Falls. Zambezi River Drive, Victoria Falls National Park.
28 Aug 90 - Victoria Falls, Zambezi National Park, Victoria Falls area.
29 Aug 90 - Kazungula, Zambezi National Park.
30 Aug 90 - Hwange National Park.
31 Aug 90 - Hwange National Park.
01 Sep 90 - Hwange National Park. Flew to Harare. Drove to Vumba. 'Seldomseen'.
02 Sep 90 - Seldomseen, Vumba Botanic Gardens.
03 Sep 90 - Seldomseen, Thompson's Vlei.
04 Sep 90 - Drove to Harare. Return flight.


Personal Experiences

26 Aug. Arrived at Harare from Lilongwe, Mala at 11h30. On trying to reconfirm my return flight I was told it would not be possible until three days before! As I had arrived one day later than planned, my previously reserved car from Avis had been cancelled, and I was lucky to get the last Hertz car available in town that day. Drove out of Harare to Lake Mcllwane National Park less than an hour away, where I started by looking around the tourists chalets for Boulder Chat with no success. Proceeded to Bushman's Point where a walk around the headland produced White-throated Robin-Chat, Crested Barbet and Natal Francolin. En route back to the chalets saw plenty of mammals including Zebra, Giraffe and White Rhino. A further couple of hours effort around the chalets was eventually rewarded with a pair of Boulder Chat. Drove back to Harare where I checked into the Jameson Hotel - pricey at US$70 a night, but the cheapest hotel which wasn't a dive that I could find.

27 Aug. Took a taxi to the airport (Z$25) in time for the 08h00 internal flight to Victoria Falls, where I collected reserved car from Avis, a large Peugeot 504, which almost immediately started giving problems. Next spent over an hour in the Air Zimbabwe office, who in their wonderful efficiency had cancelled all my flight reservations. As August is peak tourist season I had to try several hotels, but eventually found one night available at the Rainbow Hotel for Z$113. In the heat of the day, birded along the Zambezi River trail and then entered the Victoria Falls Park to do the tourist bit. Spent the last two hours of light perched at the head of gorge waiting in vain for Taita Falcon to put in an appearance, until slung out of the park at the 18h00 closing hour. In the evening was refused entry into the Rainbow Hotel's restaurant as I was wearing jeans, so went to the Whimpy in town. An evening spot-lighting drive along the Zambezi Drive produced nothing.

28 Aug. Making a determined effort today to find Taita Falcon I started with at 06h00 with a walk through the Victoria Falls Hotel to get at a view of gorges, numbered two and three (see map) behind the hotel. After an hour with no luck, slipped under the security fence and walked out to a good observation area for gorges three and four. By 10h00 gave up and returned to the Rainbow Hotel to check-out. Telephoned a few hotels and found a room for two nights at the A'Zambezi River Lodge at Z$110. I would recommended this lodge for future visitors. Here I ran into an American birding tour with a local leader and learnt that Taita Falcon has now moved away from the Victoria Falls area due to egg-collecting pressure, and he kindly gave me a new locality to try. I next ventured into the Zambezi National Park, but with little birding success, though many animals including a pair of elephant which took exception to the car and decided to charge it. After a couple of hours the car was misfiring badly, so I turned around and just about made it back to the Avis office where it was replaced by a Mazda 323. Stocked up on food for the Hwange National Park and then continued to the Taita Falcon site where as in addition to excellent views of that species, had Verreaux's Eagle soaring at less than 50 metres distance and toward evening an African Hobby chasing African Black Swift.

29 Aug. Took the Kazungula road though the Zambezi National Park. Along this excellent paved road I soon discovered that my Mazda had appalling vibration through the steering column effectively limiting speed to 60 km/h. Lots of elephant, buffalo and zebra en route and I arrived at the Botswana border by 08h00. Parked at the police station and asked permission to view the river behind the station. For the next hour walked slowly eastward along the river obtaining very close views of hippo, after which time one of the policemen was waving for me to return. However, having just discovered a Slaty Egret in the scope I temporarily went deaf and blind and continued to grill the egret and a Buffy Pipit which had wandered past, until dragged off to the police captain who informed me that: a) it was dangerous to walk along the river as there are lions and elephants, and b) all the land was private. It was suggested that I pay a visit to the owner who ran a lodge just down the road. Having arrived at the lodge to find that everyone was out on game viewing I used the opportunity to wander a short way westward along the river to where a lion kill was attracting numerous vultures. By lunch the owner returned but was not interested in taking me out on the river. The guy was a really objectionable, and took great pleasure in telling me that this was an exclusive lodge, available only to those with loads of money. As no other access was available to the river without a four wheel drive vehicle, I reluctantly headed back to Victoria Falls. (I have since discovered that this whole thing is a scam, as the land is not really private, but the lodge owner obviously has an interest in keeping people away). As there was very little bird activity in the heat of the day I decided to tick off Zambia, so crossed the border for a couple of hours. If you decide to cross, take as little with you as possible. One camera and a maximum of Z$40 are permissable. The late afternoon was spent birding along the Kazungula road.

30 Aug. Drove to Hwange National Park, entering the eastern side at Robin's Camp. As the accommodation there was fully booked I spent most of the day slowly driving the 80 km to Sinamatella Camp. Much better birding than in the Zambezi Park, and I soon had several new species including Swainson's Francolin, Magpie Shrike, and Steel-blue Widowfinch. Arrived at Sinamatella Camp by mid-afternoon and luckily managed to secure the last available chalet on a cancellation. Late afternoon spent sitting with the telescope outside the restaurant, which perched on a small escarpment, results in phenomenal views across the park. Highly recommended.

31 Aug. A flat tyre overnight and no wheel spanner in car (well done Avis again!) delayed the day's start waiting for the park workshop to open. Spent the majority of the day in a slow drive to the Main Camp. There was a noticeable difference between habitats and species in the two halves of the park. Some good birds seen including Pearl-spotted Owlet, Red-eyed Francolin, Southern Pied Babbler and Bradfield's Hornbill. After dark I left the park and drove to the Baobab Hotel (Z$60) in Hwange town.

01 Sep. A couple of hours spent birding along the road leading to Robins Camp before catching the 10h00 flight to Harare. Collected car from Avis and started off toward Mutare and the eastern highlands. After 10 km returned the car due to chronic misfiring. As no cars were ready, I took a just-returned, dirty one with faulty windscreen wipers and no petrol cap -at least it was drivable! Drove the 300 km to Vumba in about 4 hours arriving at Alec Manson's property, 'Seldomseen', by 16h00. Unfortunately Alec's cottages were full so I spent a couple of hours birding around his property and then headed back down the hills to the White Horse Inn. A nice place for Z$80, but again no jeans in the restaurant.

02 Sep. Woke up to rain and fog! Back up the hill to Alec's for breakfast and a couple of hours wait for improvement in the weather. Gave up waiting and went out anyway with Peter, the handyman/bird guide, and found a few of the special species such as Chirinda Apalis, Swynnerton's Robin and Roberts' Apalis. On Alec's suggestion the afternoon was spent in the Vumba Botanical Gardens where with improving weather I managed to pick up Black-fronted and Olive Bush-Shrikes, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Lemon Dove and African Goshawk. Overnight in Alec's 'Twin Streams' Cottage.

03 Sep. An excellent morning spent birding around Alec's property with Peter, where with the help of much better weather we were able to find all the species previously missed including an out-in-the-open Gorgeous Bush-Shrike. Afternoon spent in the Thompson's Vlei Nature Reserve just outside Mutare.

04 Sep. Drove back to Harare and took 15h00 return flight.

Birding Sites

The figures given for observations of each species are bird-days. The letter C denotes that the species was common or fairly common.

Lake McIlwane Recreational Area

Two distinct areas at McIlwane, the bird sanctuary and the game park, are found together under the title of the McIlwane Recreational Area. Access to the sanctuary is by permit only. Fortunately all the birds of interest can be found in the game park, which is open daily, with a small admission charge. Chalets are available, and can be booked in advance through the National Parks Booking Office in Harare. Camping is also possible. Being on the doorstep of Harare, 33 km to the west, on the Bulaweyo road, the area is a major attraction at weekends, and best avoided at that time. The park is well signposted, but remember to follow signs to the game park, not the bird sanctuary. The habitat is predominantly Miombo woodland interspersed with grassy vleis and granite koppies. Check the boulders around the chalets for the Boulder Chat. In the Miombo woodland look for specialities such as Whyte's Barbet, Racket-tailed Roller, Green-capped Eremomela, Stierling's Camaroptera, Miombo Grey Tit, Mashona Hyliota and Violet-backed Sunbird. At Bushman's Point, where you are free to walk around, it should be possible to find Natal Francolin, White-throated Robin-Chat, Crested Barbet and Mocking Chat.

Species observed at Lake McIlwane Recreational Area:

Ostrich  10+
Great Cormorant  2
Purple Heron  2
Cattle Egret  C
Egyptian Goose  2
Yellow-billed Kite  1
Black-shouldered Kite  1
Osprey  2
Natal Francolin  8+
Helmeted Guineafowl  20
African Black Crake  1
African Jacana  2
Senegal Wattled Plover  2
Red-eyed Dove  C
Cape Turtle-Dove C
Grey Go-away Bird  1
Klaas' Cuckoo  1
African Palm-Swift  C
Little Swift  C
African White-rumped Swift  2+
Pied Kingfisher  1
Malachite Kingfisher  1
Striped Kingfisher  1
European Bee-eater  3+
Little Bee-eater  4+
Lilac-breasted Roller  2
Hoopoe  2
African Grey Hornbill  4+
Crested Barbet  1
Golden-tailed Woodpecker  4+
Wire-tailed Swallow  2
Lesser Striped Swallow  C
Grey-rumped Swallow  C

Fork-tailed Drongo  C
Eastern Black-headed Oriole  3+
Pied Crow  C
Miombo Grey Tit  3+
Southern Black Tit  4+
Arrow-marked Babbler  6
Common Bulbul  C
Terrestrial Bulbul  4+
Groundscraper Thrush  1
Capped Wheatear  4+
Mocking Chat  c
Stonechat  1
Heuglin's Robin-Chat  1
White-throated Robin-Chat  2+
Boulder Chat  2
African Yellow Warbler  1
Long-billed Crombec  6+
Green-capped Eremomela  2+
Grey-backed Camaroptera  C
Zitting Cisticola  2
Rattling Cisticola  1
Pallid Flycatcher  1
Chin-spot Batis
Grassveld Pipit  C
Yellow-throated Longclaw  2
Brown-headed Tchagra  2
Retz's Helmet-Shrike  10+
Lesser Blue-eared Starling
Yellow-bellied Sunbird  1
Masked Weaver  C
Blue-billed Firefinch  2
Cordon-bleu  10+
Golden-breasted Bunting  1

Lake McIlwane

Victoria Falls National Park and Zamebzi National Park

Not to be missed. Not only are the falls a superb natural spectacle, but the area holds many birds of interest, and makes an ideal base for a few days. Of the many hotels available, the colonial Victoria Falls Hotel is a tourist attraction in itself, though the price will deter most from staying there. The falls attracts thousands of tourists, so advance reservations for both hotels and hire cars are essential during the peak season of July/August and December/January. I recommend the A'Zambezi River Lodge, which is situated on the river a few kilometres from town. Another possibility is the self-catering chalets in the Zambezi National Park. Within the Victoria Falls National Park, open between 06h00 and 18h00, a paved walkway runs along the opposite edge of the gorge into which the water plunges 100 metres below. The base of the falls is only accessible from the Zambian side, and day-tripping is common. There are several good viewpoints into the gorge where the common species are African Rock Martin, African Black Swift and Red-winged Starling. Taita Falcon could be observed in any of the gorges, though its numbers are declining due to egg collecting pressure. Each gorge is numbered, with the first gorge into which the water plunges, numbered one (see map). Exploring the gorges behind the Victoria Falls Hotel should be worthwhile for a range of species, and the 3 km of footpath along the river from the falls to the A'Zambezi River Lodge has Rock Pratincole, White-crowned Plover, and Collared Palm-Warbler. The Zambezi National Park can be explored from the dirt road which runs through the park parallel with the river. Away from the river the habitat is mixed dry woodland with grassy areas and a few pans. Many bird species occur, though in August I found the area very hot, dry and relatively birdless.

Species observed at Victoria Falls National Park and Zamebzi National Park:

Long-tailed Cormorant  C
African Darter  2
Grey Heron  1
Great White Heron  1
Hammerkop  1
Black Stork  5
Marabou Stork  4+
African White-backed Vulture  2
Yellow-billed Kite  C
Verreaux's Eagle  2
Wahlberg's Eagle  1
Martial Eagle  1
Brown Snake-Eagle  1
Bateleur  3
African Fish-Eagle  1
Augur Buzzard  1
Lizard Buzzard  1
Dark Chanting Goshawk  2
African Marsh-Harrier  2
Peregrine  1
African Hobby  1
Taita Falcon  1+
Helmeted Guineafowl  C
Three-banded Plover  2
Senegal Wattled Plover  2
White-crowned Plover  1
Rock Pratincole  C
African Skimmer  1
Red-eyed Dove  C
Cape Turtle-Dove  C
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove  C
Grey Go-away Bird  6+
African Palm-Swift  C
African Black Swift  C
Little Swift  C
African Giant-Kingfisher  3
Pied Kingfisher  C
Brown-hooded Kingfisher  1
Southern Carmine Bee-eater  3+
White-fronted Bee-eater  4+
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater  10
Purple Roller  2
Hoopoe  1
African Scimitarbill  2
African Grey Hornbill  C
Red-billed Hornbill  3
Trumpeter Hornbill  C
Black-collared Barbet  11
Crested Barbet  2
Golden-tailed Woodpecker  5+

Bearded Woodpecker  1
Wire-tailed Swallow  C
Lesser Striped Swallow  C
African Rock-Martin  C
Brown-throated Martin  C
White-breasted Cuckooshrike  1
Fork-tailed Drongo  C
Eastern Black-headed Oriole 1
Pied Crow  C
Common Bulbul  C
Yellow-bellied Greenbul  6
Kurrichane Thrush  2
Groundscraper Thrush  2
Familiar Chat  2
Heuglin's Robin-Chat  4
White-browed Robin  1
Bearded Robin  2
Long-billed Crombec  4+
Green-capped Eremomela   2+
Grey-backed Camaroptera  C
Stierling's Barred Warbler  3
Ashy Flycatcher  6
Pallid Flycatcher  2
Chin-spot Batis  6+
African Pied Wagtail  C
Tropical Boubou  6+
Black-backed Puffback  C
Brown-headed Tchagra  4
Grey-headed Bush-Shrike  1
White Helmet-Shrike  20
Amethyst Starling  3
Red-winged Starling  C
Scarlet-chested Sunbird  4+
White-bellied Sunbird  3
African Yellow White-eye  14
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver  C
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow  2+
Yellow-throated Sparrow  20+
Brown-throated Weaver  1
Holub's Golden Weaver  1
Red-headed Weaver  1
Red-billed Quelea  C
Green-winged Pytilia  2
Golden-backed Pytilia  1
Red-billed Firefinch  6
Cordon-bleu  C
Yellow-eyed Canary  C
Golden-breasted Bunting  C
Cinnamon-breasted Rock-Bunting  C

Lake McIlwane


This area, 75 km west of Victoria Falls, on the Botswana border, is reached via the newly paved road running through the centre of the Zambezi National Park. The road is little used and wild animals abound. Habitat is primarily mixed woodland, and birding anywhere along the road could be productive. Just before reaching the border control post there is a signpost on the right to the police station. Turn hard right here and follow the road 2-3 km to the station. You pass the private safari lodge on your left, and will now be running parallel to the river back toward Victoria Falls. This is the old road. The police station or the lodge is the only readily accessible place from which to view the river. However, for those with a four wheel drive vehicle, an old road has tracks down to the river. The police are unlikely to let you wander on foot along the river, so try asking at the private safari lodge just before. The best way to work this area would be by boat. One possibility, which I didn't try, would be to cross the border and hire a boat and driver there, as many villagers live on the Botswana side. The star attraction is the Slaty Egret, which regularly occurs. Other interesting birds include Long-toed Plover, White-headed Plover, Red-capped Crombec, and White-rumped Babbler.

Species observed at Kazungula:

Great Cormorant  C
Long-tailed Cormorant  2
African Darter  1
Slaty Egret  1
Hammerkop  1
African Openbill Stork  6
Marabou Stork  2
African Openbill Stork  6
Glossy Ibis  20
African Pygmy-Goose  4
Spur-winged Goose  3
Hooded Vulture  4+
Lappet-faced Vulture  3
African White-backed Vulture  100
Wahlberg's Eagle  1
Brown Snake-Eagle  1
Bateleur  2
African Fish-Eagle  1
Helmeted Guineafowl  C
African Black Crake  1
African Jacana  6+
Blacksmith Plover  6
Common Sandpiper  1
Wood Sandpiper  1
White-crowned Plover  2
Greenshank  1
Common Pratincole  20
Red-eyed Dove  C
Cape Turtle-Dove  C
Namaqua Dove  1
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove  C
Grey Go-away Bird  4
White-browed Coucal  1+
African Giant Kingfisher  2
Pied Kingfisher  4
Striped Kingfisher  1
Brown-hooded Kingfisher  1

Little Bee-eater  2
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater  5
Lilac-breasted Bee-eater  1
Purple Roller  1
Green Woodhoopoe  4+
African Scimitarbill  6
African Grey Hornbill  C
Red-billed Hornbill  2
Southern Ground Hornbill  1
Crested Barbet  1
Golden-tailed Woodpecker  1
Little-spotted Woodpecker  1
Bearded Woodpecker  1
Wire-tailed Swallow  C
Rufous-breasted Swallow  6
Lesser Striped Swallow  4
Fork-tailed Drongo  C
Pied Crow  C
Arrow-marked Babbler  6+
Common Bulbul  C
Stonechat  1
Tawny-flanked Prinia  2
African Pied Wagtail  2
Buffy Pipit  1
Tropical Boubou  2
Black-backed Puffback  2
Brown-headed Tchagra  1
Retz's Helmet-Shrike  8
Red-billed Oxpecker  3
White-bellied Sunbird  C
Scarlet-chested Sunbird  2
African Yellow White-eye  1+
Holub's Golden Weaver  1
Red-billed Quelea C
Red-billed Firefinch  2
Cordon-bleu  C
Cinnamon-breasted Rock-Bunting  4

Hwange National Park

The premier national park in Zimbabwe, and well worth the visit. As well as all the usual animals, Hwange has the largest concentration of African Wild Dog remaining, about 200. The nearest entrance to Victoria Falls, at Robin's Camp, lies an hour's drive to the south on the Bulaweyo road. The habitat is mainly mopane and mixed woodland with many artificial pans. Three camps with self-catering chalets, petrol, basic supplies and restaurant facilities, are positioned in the centre, and at the western and eastern edges of the park. All three, Robin's, Sinamatella and Main, are well signposted from the main road. As the park is so large, on leaving any camp you are required to fill in cards of your proposed route for the day. A search party is dispatched for those not arriving at their specified destinations by 18h00. Only roads in the western part of the park are paved, though all are passable to two wheel drive vehicles (at least in the dry season). I found the western half, between Main and Sinamatella camps, the most productive. Bradfield's Hornbill is a major attraction, as this is one of the few places in southern Africa where it is common. Other birds of interest include Red-crested Bustard, three species of Sandgrouse, Pearl-spotted Owlet, Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Boubou, and Black-eared Seedeater. At least two and preferably four days are required to work the area thoroughly.

Species observed at Hwange National Park:

Ostrich  1
Little Grebe  28
Long-tailed Cormorant  1
African Darter  3
Grey Heron  4
Great White Heron  3
Little Egret  2
Hammerkop  1
Black Stork  5
Saddle-billed Stork  2
Marabou Stork  1
Yellow-billed Stork  1
Glossy Ibis  1
Egyptian Goose  2
Red-billed Teal  11+
Lappet-faced Vulture  4
African White-backed Vulture  4
White-headed Vulture  1
Yellow-billed Kite  3
Tawny Eagle  3
African Hawk-Eagle  2
Martial Eagle  3
Brown Snake-Eagle  4
Bateleur  13+
African Fish-Eagle  2
Ovambo Sparrowhawk  2+
Gabar Goshawk  1
Red-billed Francolin  6
Red-necked Francolin  2
Natal Francolin  6
Swainson's Francolin  40+
Helmeted Guineafowl  C
African Black Crake  1
Moorhen  2
Red-crested Bustard  4+
African Jacana  4+
Three-banded Plover  6+
Crowned Plover  12+
Blacksmith Plover  C
Senegal Wattled Plover  4+
Common Sandpiper  7
Wood Sandpiper  3
Marsh Sandpiper  3
Senegal Plover  4+
Greenshank  3
Curlew-Sandpiper  2
Common Pratincole  2
Black-winged Stilt  16+
Grey-headed Gull  1
White-winged Tern  1
African Skimmer  2
Red-eyed Dove  C
Cape Turtle-Dove  C
Laughing Dove  30+
Namaqua Dove  4
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove  C
Meyer's Parrot  5+
Grey Go-away Bird  C
Senegal Coucal  1
Pearl-spotted Owlet  1
Freckled Rock Nightjar  3+
African Palm-Swift  1
African White-rumped Swift  3
Pied Kingfisher  4+
Malachite Kingfisher  2
Little Bee-eater  6+
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater  30+
Lilac-breasted Roller  14
Purple Roller  6+
Hoopoe  7
Green Woodhoopoe  10+
African Grey Hornbill  C
Red-billed Hornbill  C
Crowned Hornbill  C

Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill  C
Bradfield's Hornbill  C
Southern Ground Hornbill  2
Crested Barbet  8
Chestnut-backed Finch-Lark  5+
Wire-tailed Swallow  C
Rufous-breasted Swallow C
Lesser Striped Swallow  C
Fork-tailed Drongo  C
Pied Crow  C
Southern Black Tit  3+
Arrow-marked Babbler  20+
Southern Pied Babbler  8+
Common Bulbul  C
Yellow-bellied Greenbul  4
Kurrichane Thrush  5
Groundscraper Thrush  3+
Capped Wheatear  4
Arnot's Chat  2
White-browed Scrub-Robin  2
Bearded Scrub-Robin  1
Red-faced Crombec  4
Yellow-bellied Eremomela  3
Grey-backed Camaroptera  4
Steirling's Barred Warbler  3
Rattling Cisticola  2+
Neddicky Cisticola  4
Tawny-flanked Prinia  6
Black-chested Prinia  2
Ashy Flycatcher  4
Black Flycatcher  3
Marico Flycatcher  8+
Chin-spot Batis  4
African Paradise-Flycatcher  2
African Pied Wagtail  C
Grassveld Pipit  1
Magpie Shrike  C
Tropical Boubou  4+
Crimson-breasted Boubou  2+
Black-backed Puffback  14+
Brubru  1
Brown-headed Tchagra  C
Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike  1
White Helmet-Shrike  20+
Southern White-crowned Shrike  10+
Wattled Starling  3
Long-tailed Starling  C
Cape Glossy Starling  C
Greater Blue-eared Starling  2+
Red-winged Starling  10+
Red-billed Oxpecker  C
Yellow-billed Oxpecker  8+
White-bellied Starling  6+
Olive Sunbird  2
Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver  20+
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver  C
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow  C
Yellow-throated Sparrow  C
Holub's Golden Weaver  2
Red-headed Weaver  2+
Red-billed Quelea  C
Yellow-mantled Widowbird  20+
Green-winged Pytilia  6
White-winged Widowbird  20+
Red-billed Firefinch  1
Cordon-bleu  C
Violet-eared Waxbill  1
Black Widowfinch  20+
Steel-blue Widowfinch  3+
Yellow-fronted Canary  C
Black-throated Canary  6+
Cabanis' Bunting  C
Golden-breasted Bunting  C

Hwange National Park

Eastern Highlands - 'Seldomseen' and Vumba Botanic Gardens

The highlands of eastern Zimbabwe need to be visited to find such local species as Blue Swallow, Swynnerton's Robin, Chirinda Apalis, Roberts' Prinia, and Red-faced Crimsonwing. Of several areas which can be visited, the most accessible and well staked-out is the area above Mutare, around Vumba (sometimes written BVumba) and the 'Seldomseen' Field Study Centre. The study centre is privately owned and run by Alec and Cecilia Manson, with accommodation consisting of two small, self-catering chalets. These cost Z$60 per day and sleep up to four people. Meals can also be provided by the Manson's. Write in advance to arrange both accommodation and a session with Peter, a local bird guide. Address: Seldomseen Field Study Centre, P.O.Box 812, Mutare. Alternative accommodation is available at the Leopard Rock Hotel and White Horse Inn (see map). From Mutare, follow signs to Vumba. At the 24.5 km post turn left onto Nyamheni Road, and after a further 800 metres watch for signs to 'Seldomseen'. The habitat is sub-montane forest and rolling grassland. The Blue Swallow is a common breeder arriving late October. As the weather is variable, plan a day spare somewhere in your itinerary. The Vumba Botanic Gardens being slightly lower in altitude, can be clear when rain is falling higher up. They also hold many of the species of interest. There is a Z$1 entrance fee. To get there from 'Seldomseen', continue past the Nyamheni Road turn-off, through the Bunga Forest, for 2.5 km and turn left onto the road which leads to the gardens.

Species observed at 'Seldomseen':

African Black Duck  2
Wahlberg's Eagle  1
Long-crested Eagle  1+
Augur Buzzard  2
African Goshawk  1+
Common Kestrel  1
Red-necked Francolin  4+
Red-eyed Dove  3
Tambourine Dove  4
Cinnamon Dove  4+
Livingstone's Turaco  8
White-browed Coucal  2
African Black Swift  3+
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill  2
Lesser Honeyguide  1
Cardinal Woodpecker  1
Flappet Lark  1
Eastern Roughwing-Swallow  3
Pied Crow  C
White-necked Raven  2
Common Bulbul  C
Yellow-streaked Greenbul C
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul  2
Kurrichane Thrush  4+
Olive Thrush  3
Orange Thrush  2
Stonechat  C
Heuglin's Robin-Chat  C
Red-headed Robin-Chat  6+
Starred Robin  5
Swynnerton's Robin  1
Barratt's Warbler  3+

Yellow-throated Warbler  3+
Bar-throated Apalis  6
Chirinda Apalis 6+
Grey-backed Camaroptera  1
African Grassbird  3+
Singing Cisticola  3
Lazy Cisticola  3
Roberts' Prinia  10
Cape Batis  6
White-tailed Blue Flycatcher  3
Long-tailed Wagtail  1
Common Fiscal Shrike  2
Tropical Boubou  4
Black-backed Puffback  2
Olive Bush-Shrike  6
Gorgeous Bush-Shrike  1
Gurney's Sugarbird  1
Malachite Sunbird  3
Bronze Sunbird  6
Yellow-bellied Sunbird  C
Olive Sunbird  C
Amethyst Sunbird  C
African Yellow White-eye  13+
Dark-backed Weaver  2
Red-faced Crimsonwing  1+
Blue-billed Firefinch  2
Red-backed Mannikin  20
Pin-tailed Whydah  12+
Yellow-fronted Canary  10
Bully Canary  1
Cape Canary  2
Streaky-headed Canary  1

Species observed at Vumba Botanic Gardens:

African Goshawk  1
Red-eyed Dove  2
Tambourine Dove  C
Cinnamon Dove  4+
Livingstone's Turaco  1
Speckled Mousebird  5
White-eared Barbet  2
Golden-rumped Tinkerbird  2
Cardinal Woodpecker  2
Eastern Roughwing-Swallow  3
Square-tailed Drongo  1+
African Golden Oriole  2
Eastern Black-headed Oriole  2
Common Bulbul  C
Yellow-streaked Greenbul  C
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul  10+
Kurrichane Thrush  4+
Olive Thrush  1
Stonechat  C
Heuglin's Robin-Chat  6+
Red-headed Robin-Chat  4+
Barratt's Warbler  2
Yellow-throated Warbler  2
Bar-throated Apalis  4
Chirinda Apalis 4
African Grassbird  1
Dusky Flycatcher  C

Dusky Flycatcher  C
Cape Batis  3
White-tailed Blue Flycatcher  2
Long-tailed Wagtail  1
Black-backed Puffback  2
Black-fronted Bush-Shrike  2
Olive Bush-Shrike  6+
Red-winged Starling  4
Bronze Sunbird  4
Yellow-bellied Sunbird  C
Olive Sunbird  C
Amethyst Sunbird  4+
African Yellow White-eye  10
Dark-backed Weaver  2
Spectacled Weaver  1
Yellow-rumped Widowbird  1
Red-faced Crimsonwing  2
Blue-billed Firefinch  2+
Common Waxbill  3
East African Swee-Waxbill  20
Bronze Mannikin  3+
Red-backed Mannikin  10
Pin-tailed Whydah  2
Yellow-fronted Canary  C
Bully Canary  2
Cape Canary  4+
Streaky-headed Canary  2

Eastern Highlands

Thompson's Vlei

A small nature reserve, on the eastern outskirts of Mutare, which is popular with the local habitants, and best avoided at weekends. The reserve is well signposted from the centre of town, though it has several local names; Cecil Kop Nature Reserve, Tiger's Kloof Dam, Mutare Game Park and finally Thompson's Vlei. Although not known as a hot birding spot, this was the only place I saw Crowned Eagle, Whyte's Barbet, Black Cuckooshrike, and Thick-billed Weaver.

Species observed at Thompson's Vlei:

Hammerkop  1
Crowned Eagle  1
Lizard Buzzard  1
Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove  4+
Livingstone's Turaco  10
African Palm-Swift  20
African White-rumped Swift  4
Brown-hooded Kingfisher  2
Little Bee-eater  2
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater  2
Hoopoe  2
Whyte's Barbet  3
Golden-tailed Woodpecker  1
Little-spotted Woodpecker  2
Lesser Striped Swallow 20
Grey-rumped Swallow  3
Eastern Roughwing-Swallow  6
Black Cuckooshrike  1
Fork-tailed Drongo  1
African Golden Oriole  1
Pied Crow  2
Common Bulbul  C

Terrestrial Bulbul  1
Starred Robin  1
Bar-throated Apalis  2
Grey-backed Camaroptera  1
Tawny-flanked Prinia  4
Ashy Flycatcher  1
Black Flycatcher  2
Tropical Boubou  1
Black-backed Puffback  2
Orange-breasted Bush-Shrike  1
Olive Bush-Shrike  1+
Gorgeous Bush-Shrike  3
Yellow-bellied Sunbird  C
Olive Sunbird  C
Amethyst Sunbird  1+
African Yellow White-eye  2+
Thick-billed Weaver  2
Spectacled Weaver  2
Yellow-rumped Widowbird  10+
Blue-billed Firefinch  2+
Yellow-fronted Canary  4+
Cabanis' Bunting  1

Systematic List

Systematic list of birds observed. A toal of 279 species were recorded.