Ethiopia has rightly become one of Africa’s leading birding destinations. Its avifauna represents an interesting mixture of east and West African, Pale arctic migritant and endemic components. In addition to 840 species of birds, of which a staggering 16 are endemic. The best months to visit are October-December, and over 500 species can be recorded on a thorough three-week trip.
Most bird watching sites are in the south of the country and an itinerary in search of all endemic birds would take a minimum of three weeks. The most promising areas are the Awash National Park, the Rift Valley Lakes, the Lake Abijata-Shalla National Park and Bale Mountains National Park. Also the Jemma River Valley as well as the escarpment north-west of Addis Ababa, the area around Debre Berhan, Ankober and Debre Libanos, Wondo Genet and the Harenna forest, the region around Negele, Bogal Manyo and Yabelo as well as the Sanetti Plateau would guarantee seeing many species which can sometimes only be found in a very small area. Also a shorter tour of about 10-15 days would guarantee seeing most of the endemics and several hundred other species. Hereunder some of the popular bird watching sites with corresponding key species:
Awash National Park
A total of 460 bird species are recorded in the park, with more than 50 species belonging to the Somali-Masai biome and about 50 birds of prey like Bat Hawks, Snake and Imperial Eagles, Lesser Kestrel, Pallid Harrier, Koris and Arabian Bustards. The park is also an important breeding place for Rupell's Griffon Vultures, Fox Kestrels and Carmine Bee Eater. Also Ostrich, Secretary Birds, Basra Reed Warblers, Yellow-Throated Serins and Somber Chats can be seen in the park.
Lake Abijata-Shalla National Park
Lake Abijata-Shalla National Park is particularly known for water birds, flamingos and birds of prey. Over 400 species live here, one endemic and five species restricted to the Highland biome.
Green Lake, Lake Ziway and Lake Langano
A great variety of water birds are to be found here: various ducks, Lesser Flamingos, Great White Pelicans, Marabou Storks, Fulvous Whistling Ducks, Cormorants, different gulls, Whiskered as well as White-winged Black Terns. Also raptors like Pallid Harrier and Imperial Eagle can be found.
Bale Mountain National Park:
More than 265 species live in the park, of which 42 belong to the Highland biome (88 % of Ethiopia's highland biomes). The endemics here are Rouget's Rail, Abyssinian Long Claw, Spot-breasted Plover, Yellow- fronted Parrot, Abyssinian Wood Pecker, Abyssinian Catbird and Black Siskin. But also Pallid Harrier, Imperial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel, Wattled Cranes and the rare Greater Spotted Eagle can be spotted.
Sof Omar Cave
17 Somali-Masai biome species live here, including Salvadori's Seedeater and Fischer's Starlings.
16 other Somali-Masai biome species can be found here. Also endemic Prince Ruspoli's Turacos, White winged Doves, Jubaland Weavers, Ovambo Sparrowhawks and more live here.
White-Winged Flufftails, Rouget's Rails, Pallid Harriers, Great Snipes and many more can be seen here.
Jemma and Jara Valley:
6 Sudan-Guinea biome species and 6 Somali-Masai Biome species live here. Also Vinaceous Dove, Foxy Cistcola, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling, Black-faced Fire Finch and the endemic Harwood's Francolin can be seen.
Ankober Mountain Range
At least 15 Somali-Masai biome species and six Highland biome species live here. Also Ankober Serin, endemic Yellow throated Serin and various other lesser known species, such as Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Sombre Chat and Pale Rock-sparrow can be seen.
Over 440 species of bird have been recorded in this area including rare species such as the endemic Yellow-throated Serin, Sombre Chat and Arabian Bustards.
Here you can find the threatened, endemic Degodi Lark, White-winged Dove, Somali Short-billed Crombec, White-headed Moosebird, Blue-capped Cordon Bleu, Fischer's Starling and Jubaland Weaver. Also Somali-Masai biome species such as Somali Bee Eater, Scaly Chatterer, Golden Pipit and Smaller Black-bellied Sunbird inhabit the area.
Liben Plains and Negele woodlands
A variety of birds live here including endemic Sidamo Lark, Short-tailed Lark, Tiny Cisticola, Heuglin's Bustard, Hunter's Sunbird, Golden Pipit, Pygmy Batis, Red-naped Bush-Shrike, White Crowned Starling, Rufous Sparrow and the rare Coqui Francolin.
Dawa-wachile and Arero forest in Negele
Pringle's Puffback, Abyssinian Grosbeak Canary, Bare-eyed Thrush can be seen here.
Mankubsa - Welenso Forest:
Endemic Prince Ruspoli's Turaco, Salvadori's Seedeater, Short-tailed Lark, Boran Cisticola, Banded Parisoma, Somali Long-billed Crombec, Red-chested Sunbird and many more live in this area.
Yabello Sanctuary and Elsod Creator Lake:
At least 62 species belonging to the Somali-Masai biome live here as well as White-tailed Swallows and Abyssinian Bush Crows.
Significant numbers of water birds can be found here, particularly White-breasted Cormorant, White-faced Whistling Duck, Spur-winged Goose, Red-knobbed Coot, Pygmy Goose, Saddle-billed Stork, Brown Snake Eagle, Grey Kestrel, Green-backed Honey guide, Blue Headed Coucal, Spotted Creeper and African Fire Finch.