Birds

Over 863 species of birds have been registered in Ethiopia, representing approximately 9.5 percent of the world’s birds and 39 percent of the birds in Africa. Eighteen of these birds are endemic to Ethiopia, while a further 14 are endemic to Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea.

Over 180 species of birds have been found in the Simien Mountains National Park. Of these, five are endemic to Ethiopia and a further 12 to Ethiopia and Eritrea.

* = Endemic to Ethiopia
** = Endemic to Ethiopia and Eritrea

Red-billed chough - Photo by: Hakan Pohlstrand

Red-billed chough – Photo by: Hakan Pohlstrand

Red-billed chough

One of the most remarkable birds of the park is Red-billed chough, a small population of which live on the Gich plateau, apparently separate from the population in the Bale Mountains, the only other population of this species in the region. The park is particularly rich in raptors and vultures. The near threatened species: Pallid Harrier, Lammergeier and Augur Buzzard are generally common throughout the park. Other interesting species recorded are the Wahlberg’s, Verreaux, and Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Rufous-Breasted Sparrow-hawk, Fox Kestrel, Cape Eagle Owl, Abyssinian Owl and Black stork recorded on passage.

Common Name Scientific Name
Spot-breasted Plover* Vanellus melanocephalus
Abyssinian Catbird* Parophasma galinieri
Abyssinian Longclaw* Macronyx flavicollis
Ankober Serin* Serinus ankoberensis
Black-headed Siskin* Serinus nigriceps
Wattled Ibis** Bostrychia carunculata
Abyssinian Slaty Flycatcher** Melaenormis chocolatina
White-collared Pigeon** Columba albitorques
Black-winged Lovebird** Agapornis taranta
Banded Barbet** Lybius undatus
Abyssinian/Golden-backed Woodpecker** Dendropicos abyssinicus
Abyssinian/Black-headed Forest Oriole** Oriolus monacha
Thick-billed Raven** Dendropicos abyssinicus
White-backed Black Tit** Parus leuconotus
White-billed Starling** Onychognathus albirostris
White-winged Cliff Chat** Myrmecocichla semirufa
Ruppells Black Chat** Myrmecocichla (Pentolaea) melanea

The Bearded Vulture: Bone Crusher (Lammergeier)

The Bearded Vulture: Bone Crusher

Photo by: Patricio Robles Gil

One of the largest and most spectacular birds in Ethiopia, this enormous bird has a wingspan of over 2m. They are often seen soaring alone along high cliffs and rock outcrops looking for food. Clocked at speeds of 130km/hr and flying at staggering heights with barely a beat of its gigantic wings, they are a magnificent sight.

Bearded vultures wait patiently until other scavengers finish picking meat off a carcass to make their move. They soar down to retrieve a whole bone and return to the sky. From there, the bird picks up speed, pointing the bone forwards to reduce air resistance, and heads for an area of open rock. As it nears the dropping zone, the bearded vulture dips sharply to increase velocity and releases the bone to fall and break on the rocks below. They are incredibly accurate at estimating where and when to drop the bone – they usually hit an area of 4m2 while soaring at a height of 30 to 40m. As the bone shatters, they descend rapidly, turning into the wind, spreading its tail and flapping its wings to brake. They swallow the bones shards whole as their gastric fluids are so strong that they can easily digest bone. The bearded vulture is the only animal that feeds almost exclusively on bone (70-90% of their diet!)

The reddish plumage on the neck and under parts of the bird comes from iron oxide that they rub onto themselves from stones.

The Simien Mountains are perhaps the best place in Ethiopia to see them as they are frequently spotted soaring along the magnificent cliff edges

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