Botswana’s Okavango Delta is what happens when a river meets a desert. This inland delta creates a unique desert Eden that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is abundant in fauna and flora.

Each year, birding enthusiasts from across the globe travel here not only for the incredible game viewing the area provides but also for the birding opportunities that abound in the life-giving waterways of the delta.

With over 400 species recorded, the Okavango Delta region transforms into a birdwatcher’s paradise in the rainy months from November to April. 

As with most safari destinations in Southern Africa, the usual residents can be spotted wading in the waters of the delta or perched overhead awaiting fishing opportunities. Look out for the majestic African Fish Eagle, Bateleur Eagle, the African Jacana, Malachite Kingfisher, and Southern Ground Hornbill, while the iconic Lilac-breasted Roller is also regularly spotted here.

If you’re visiting the Okavango Delta hoping to spot something a little more special, here’s our list of the top five birds to keep a lookout for.

1. African skimmer

There is nothing more rewarding after a day of soaking up the sights and game viewing opportunities that the Okavango Delta offers than enjoying sundowners while watching the African skimmer swoop along the waters of the delta’s channels. 

The African skimmer is easily identified by its long red bill and uses its lower mandible to catch its prey while it skims across the water’s surface. 

Depending on your accommodation option, you may even be treated to these sights from your very own private deck. The African skimmer feasts on small fish during the late afternoons and evenings and is a special sighting for any birding enthusiast.

2. Pel’s fishing owl

The ginger-brown Pel’s fishing owl is a rare yet exciting sighting. With less than 500 pairs in Southern Africa, their numbers remain somewhat decent in the Okavango, where they’re enticed by pristine waters of the delta and its channels. 

Pel’s fishing owl is a nocturnal hunter and feasts on crabs, fish, and frogs and spends most days keeping a low profile in the shady branches of the tree-lined waterways. Not every visitor will have the good fortune of spotting one of these special birds, but if you look hard enough, you might just be rewarded with the sighting of a lifetime.

3. African pygmy goose

One of the smallest birds in the world, the African pygmy goose belongs to the family of perching ducks. 

With its white face, black crown and nape, oval green patch on the side of its head, pale chestnut lower neck, breast and flanks, and an iridescent green back, the African pygmy goose can be spotted foraging on aquatic plants and seeds and small insects as well as other small invertebrates of the delta’s waterways.

4. Wattled Crane

Reaching a height of around 175cm (5ft 7inches) the Wattled crane is the largest crane in Africa. With beautiful grey feathers, a long white neck, black undersides, and a bare, red face with a black cap, the Wattled crane is a regular sighting in the delta’s waterways. 

With a diet of aquatic vegetation, fish, frogs, and even baby crocodiles, its lifespan ranges from 20 to 30 years, most of which is spent with one mate, which it chooses for life. 

5. Slaty egret

Classified as vulnerable due to the threat of habitat loss, the Slaty egret is a notable bird of the Okavango Delta. 

Preferring to wade in the shallows, the Slaty egret is curiously often spotted beside red lechwe antelope, as they help disturb the waters where the egret forages for food. With predominantly slate-grey bodies with a red-brown chin and upper chest and yellow legs, they stand approximately 40cm to 60cm tall and feed on small fish, frogs, and invertebrates. 

While they may be a common sighting in the Okavango Delta, their rarity makes them a special sighting for any birding enthusiast.

With hundreds of species of birds found across Botswana’s Okavango Delta, bird lovers of all persuasions will be thrilled at the sheer opportunities that exist for birdwatching in this magnificent desert oasis. 

Pack your binoculars for a game drive, a guided makoro tour through the delta’s channels and waterways, or enjoy sightings from the comfort of your accommodation when you visit the Okavango Delta.

Explore Botswana and its plentiful birdlife through a specialised tour or contact African Travel Canvas for a bespoke itinerary.

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