According to the latest statistics no less than 680 different bird species are found in Namibia. Four of them – the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), the Common or Rock Pigeon (Columba livia), Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) and Common or Indian Myna (Acridotheres tristis) – were introduced to southern Africa and acclimatised well to Namibia and the neighbouring countries.

Sixteen bird species are endemic. The Dune Lark (Calendulauda erythrochlamys), which lives in the sand dunes of the Namib Desert, is completely endemic,

680 bird species in Namibia
Dune Larks are endemic to Namibia. They live in the dunes of the Namib Desert.

while 90 percent or more of the populations of another 15 species occur in Namibia only. They are:

• Hartlaub’s Francolin (Pternistis hartlaubi)
• Rüppell’s Bustard (Eupodotis rueppellii)
• Damara Tern (Sternula balaenarum)
• Rüppell’s Parrot (Poicephalus rueppellii)
• Violet Wood-hoopoe (Phoeniculus damarensis)
• Monteiro’s Hornbill (Tockus monteiri)
• Damara Hornbill (Tockus damarensis)
• White-tailed Shrike (Lanioturdus torquatus)
• Carp’s Tit (Parus carpi)
• Barlow’s Lark (Calendulauda barlowi)
• Gray’s Lark (Ammomanopsis grayi)
• Benguela long-billed Lark (Certhilauda benguelensis)
• Rockrunner (Achaetops pycnopygius)
• Bare-cheeked Babbler (Turdoides gymnogenys)
• Herero Chat (Namibornis herero)

Of the 680 species found in Namibia, 515 are breeding here. Breeding success always depends on external circumstances. Birds do not breed if food and/or the necessary nesting material are in short supply. Droughts are the worst enemy for most birds. Other species, like flamingos, have to rely on good rainfalls in certain areas, i.e. Etosha Pan. Vultures, on the other hand, seem to benefit from dry periods. The more animals perish the more food for the vultures and their offspring.

So far, 107 migratory bird species have been registered in Namibia which do not breed here, whereas 42 species come to nest and rear their chicks. For this reason it is important to protect the summer and winter habitats of these birds in the northern and southern hemisphere. The loss of insect species and dwindling insect populations in Europe has an enormous impact on the bird species which migrate to Namibia in the southern summer. A case in point is the Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica): populations have sharply decreased here and in Europe.

Fifty-one of the 680 bird species in Namibia are threatened with extinction and another 27 species are endangered. These include all types of vultures that occur here, but also wading birds whose habitats are destroyed, mainly by pollution, and seabirds whose food source (fish) has been drastically reduced by commercial fishing.

Author: Dirk Heinrich

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