15 Tanzanian Birds Take Flight: Wings, Wits, and Wildness!

Tanzania is a land of unspoiled vastness, bordering Kenya to the North, Malawi, and Mozambique to the South, Congo to the West, and pristine beaches and the Indian Ocean to the East. The country is home to more than 1000 species of Tanzanian birds but only a small number of about 34 species are endemic (only found in Tanzania) to the country.

It is truly an ornithophile’s ( people who love birds) paradise, as it has diverse geographic conditions and a warm moist climate for about half the year, due to its proximity to the Equator. The number of bird species in the country is too numerous to list each and every one here, so instead let’s focus on the 15 most common species.

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Common and must-see Tanzanian bird species

1. Common ostrich

There are two distinct ostrich species in Africa the common ostrich and the Somali ostrich.

The common ostrich has four subspecies distributed throughout Africa, but the subspecies predominantly found in Tanzania is the Masai ostrich.

the largest bird in the world

The common ostrich is a bird of many wonders holding titles such as the largest bird on earth, the heaviest bird on earth, and the fastest bird on land easily clocking a top speed of 70 kmh (43 mph).

Ostriches are aggressive towards predators that prey on their eggs, chicks and on themselves, and have a deadly kick that can even kill a lion.

They have powerfully built legs that enable them to run well, and unlike other birds that have four toes, they only have two toes that have sharp tough claws.

The ostrich will use its claws as weapons as they will kick forward and down inflicting injury on the lower limbs of predators. Common predators on ostriches include lions, hyenas and cheetahs, but due to the size and ferocity of adult ostriches, predators will have to team up to succeed.

2. Kori Bustard

The Kori Bustard is the heaviest flying bird in Africa, with some individuals weighing up to 20 kg ( 44 lbs).

The species has extreme dimorphism with the males being significantly heavier and larger than the females, with females weighing an average of between 4.8 to 6 kg ( 10.5 to 13.2 lbs).


The kori bustard is characterized by yellow legs, feet, and beaks, a long neck, a speckled white belly, brown wings, and a visible backward crest.

The Kori Bustard is a strong but reluctant flier only flying when in danger.

Most of the time, you’ll spot their ponderous gait as they search for food among the grasslands.

They are absent, to the far South and West of Tanzania but very common to the North and North East particularly in Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.

3. Lesser flamingo

There are two flamingo species that can be found in Tanzania; the greater and lesser flamingo, but the Lesser Flamingo is more common and abundant within the country.

The lesser Flamingo is much smaller than the greater Flamingo, standing at about 90 cm ( 3 ft), while the greater Flamingo easily reaches 150 cm (5 ft).

The lesser flamingo is a non-migratory bird living in colonies that can reach a million individuals.

During the mating season, they are a sight to behold and will perform some of the most exquisite group performances in the avian kingdom.

If you plan on bird watching in Tanzania, then the start of the breeding season (from October to December) for lesser flamingos is the best time to come bird watching, so as to catch a glimpse of their mating performance.

4. African fish eagle

Some have described the call of the African fish eagle as the call of Africa; a sound that evokes images of great, slow-moving rivers, expansive grassland plains and palm-fringed shores.

The African fish eagle is a majestic and unmistakable bird, with the head, breast, and tail all snow white in color, the featherless face yellow with dark brown eyes, and the hook-shaped beak yellow with a black tip.

The rest of the body is a chestnut color with black wings. These birds usually require open water and places to perch on and will thus be found in large numbers around Lake Victoria and along the Rufiji River.

But this is not to say they can’t be found anywhere else in Tanzania, because they are spread throughout the country.

This versatile predator will feed on fish, flamingos, small waterfowl, crocodiles, and ducks. They are also known to steal prey from other birds such as the goliath heron, and the saddle-billed stork.

5. Secretary bird

This is one of the most iconic bird species in Tanzania, and has been given the title of “the killer bird of Africa.”

The secretary bird is a bird of prey related to eagles, hawks and vultures but with a distinct look; the body of an eagle perched on tall crane-like legs makes the bird stand tall, up to 1.4 m ( 4.2 ft).

These birds like hunting on the ground and will be found in areas of tall open grasslands, where their long legs can be used as effective hunting tools, stomping, and striking prey.


They are monogamous, often pairing up for life, and defending a territory of about 50 km2.

If you get to see one or two secretary birds, then you won’t see others for some distance apart from shared resources such as water holes, as they are highly territorial.

6. Lilac-breasted roller

The Lilac-breasted roller is an extremely colorful and common bird in the savannah. These spectacular birds have iridescent colors, akin to those of hummingbirds, making them noticeable.

They are also known for their acrobatic flight displays, and flight patterns of rolling from side to side, or flying in loops.

Although small in stature, they are known to be quite fearless and will showcase this particular quality when hunting or when threatened.

When hunting, they prey on snails, millipedes, scorpions, and spiders.

Lilac-breasted rollers are not afraid of humans like other bird species and will attack any intruder who attempts to enter their space.

Are you thinking about buying binoculars to have a good look at all the magnificent birds of Africa?

7. Marabou stork

In Tanzania, there are 8 different species of storks, and the most abundant of these is the Marabou stork, sometimes referred to as the “undertaker bird.”

The Marabou stork is quite unforgettable, not because of its beauty but rather perceived ugliness, whether you’ll see it scavenging in the savannah or on a dumpsite in the city areas.

The birds are quite large, standing at up to 1.5 m (5 ft ) tall with a wingspan of about 3 m (10 ft), making them one of the largest bird species in Africa.

Just like vultures, marabou storks are scavengers and form an important element of any ecosystem; the clean-up crew.

So for all its ugliness, marabou storks are an essential part of the environment, cleaning up carcasses and helping reduce the spread of any harmful bacteria or pathogens in the environment.

Their diet includes insects, small birds, small rodents, snakes, frogs, flamingos, human waste, and dead animals.

8. Southern ground hornbill

The Southern ground hornbill belongs to the ground hornbill family together with the Northern ground hornbill, and they can only be found in Africa, and is the largest hornbill species in the world.

The bird is as large as a turkey, ranging in height from 90 to 130 cm ( 3 to 4.3 ft) with a wingspan of between 1.2 and 1.8 m (4 to 6 ft).

They are easily recognizable from their jet-black body plumage, bright red throat, and face and yellow eyes.

Even though they have the word ground in their name, they are excellent fliers, often reaching speeds of 29 kmh (18 mph) in flight.

The bird likes open savannahs, grasslands and woodlands with availability of trees for roosting and nesting, as they will, spend most of their time on the ground slowly walking around in groups foraging for food.

They are omnivores and will eat just about anything they find, from snakes, tortoises, rodents, small birds, lizards and insects.

They are also very long-lived, with birds having an average lifespan of 50 years in the wild and up to 70 years in captivity, and as a result, are slow breeders producing a brood of 2 to 3 chicks every 9 years.

9. Grey crowned crane

The Grey-crowned crane is a majestic and beautiful bird that is striking to look at and quite unforgettable. Its most striking feature is its crown of stiff hair that is yellow in colour with black tips.

Most of the body feathers are grey, while the wings are white with black trailing edges. The legs are long, and made for wading in water and grasses and are black in colour.

beautiful exotic birds of Africa

The grey crowned crane, belongs to the crowned crane family together with black crowned cranes and are ancient among cranes, being older than other crane species by millions of years.

Cranes can be found in a variety of habitats from grasslands to wetlands, but this is dependent on the breeding season.

These beautiful birds are unfortunately facing threats to their survival mainly through the loss of breeding habitats; wetlands.

10. Silvery-cheeked hornbill

The Silvery-cheeked hornbill is a fairly large hornbill species that has a large cream-coloured casque on the head, and silvery grey spots on the cheeks.

They can be found in forests and woodlands of East Africa up to elevations of 2600 m ( 7800 ft) above sea level.

Their diet is mainly made up of fruits, supplemented by insects, birds and their nestlings, centipedes, spiders, fruit bats and lizards. As they feed, they usually do so in pairs, and up to large groups of about 200 birds at good feeding spots.

Silvery-cheeked hornbills have a rather unique nesting strategy that is common among hornbills, wherein after laying the eggs in her tree cavity, the female will seal herself in leaving only a small slit large enough for the male to feed her through.

Until her chicks have fledged, the female depends on the male for survival, which also makes them dependent on trees for both shelter and nesting.

11. Tawny eagle

The Tawny eagle is a large eagle with a wingspan of between 1.7 and 1.85 m ( 5.5 and 6.1 ft) with the females being slightly larger than the males.

These formidable hunters can be found in open and dry habitats such as deserts, mountainous regions, savannahs and grasslands, and will avoid dense forests as these may hinder their movements and hunting methods.

They are generalist hunters and opportunistic scavengers often stealing kills from other raptors, but will also hunt small mammals, small reptiles, small birds and insects. They will also be seen alongside vultures fighting over a carcass.

Are you thinking about buying binoculars to have a good look at all the magnificent birds of Africa?

12. Rufous-tailed weaver.

The Rufous-tailed weaver is a grey-brown bird with a scale-patterned head and body with a rufous-colored tail and blue-white eyes (a unique feature among weavers).

These are endemic to Tanzania and will be found in the Northern regions of the country. They will be found in thorny savannahs that have black cotton soil.

Their diet includes fruits, insects and seeds, and they will be found actively foraging on the ground.

The Rufous-tailed weaver is a communal nester and will roost in the same tree throughout the year. Their nests are usually round, with a wide entrance and two initial openings, whereby one is closed after the eggs are laid.

More expanded information about African weaver birds is in this blog post.

13. White-backed vulture

Of all the 11 vulture species in Africa, the white-backed vulture is the most common species.

It is recognizable from its bald, dark brown head, long featherless white neck, and white backside. It is a pretty large scavenger with a wingspan of 2.3 m (7.5 ft), and is essential to its ecosystem as it feeds specifically on carrion serving as a clean-up crew.

Vultures and other scavenging birds have strong stomachs that are able to neutralize and digest all the carrion they ingest.

By feeding on animal carcasses before they rot, the white-backed vulture prevents the growth of dangerous pathogens on the carcass. They also pick the carcass clean limiting insect infestation and the diseases these insects can spread.

14. Superb starling

The Superb Starling is a common bird and can be found in gardens, lake woodlands, arid areas, wetlands, thorny woodlands, and open savannahs of elevations up to 2700 m ( 8100 ft) above sea level.

These birds are beautiful, with iridescent colors; black head, white eyes with a black pupil, blue breasts separated from a red-orange stomach by a white band and green back feathers.

Superb starlings have a breeding strategy where a breeding pair is helped in raising the young by juvenile helpers which are usually male offspring of the breeding pair.

15. Red-billed quelea.

The Red-billed quelea is a weaver bird that has an unfortunate reputation for being a pest to farmers and also as the most populous wild bird in the world with their number being at an estimated 1.5 billion individuals.

They have large conical beaks that range in color from orange to red, with males having either a white or black facial mask, and around this mask, the feathers are either lavender, red, pink, or yellow.

These birds are highly social, with single colonies having up to 30 million birds making them highly destructive should they land on a farm. They are omnivores with their diet consisting of cereals, insects, and grass seeds.

Are you thinking about buying binoculars to have a good look at all the magnificent birds of Africa?

FAQS On Tanzanian Birds.

What is the most popular bird in Tanzania?

The most popular bird in Tanzania is the African fish eagle. This is a majestic bird that is not only the most popular bird in Tanzania but is also the national bird of several African countries such as Malawi, Zambia and Namibia.

What is the most common bird in Tanzania?

In terms of numbers, the Red-billed quelea is the most common bird in Tanzania with flocks being a menace to farmers. A single colony of these birds can have ups to 10 million individual birds.

In a day, a single colony can eat up to 50 tons of grain, making the birds a menace and sometimes referred to as feathered locusts.

The other bird that can be found nearly everywhere is the superb starling which is found nearly everywhere both in the wilderness and near human settlements.

What is the national bird of Tanzania?

The national bird of Tanzania is the Grey-crowned crane. This majestic bird is also the national bird of neighboring Uganda but is facing pressure due to the decline in wetlands which are essential breeding grounds for Grey-crowned cranes.

My Final Conclusion.

I hope that you enjoyed this blog post on 15 Tanzanian birds, but if you have any more questions, please feel free to leave them down below in the comment section or join me on my social media channels below to enjoy more pictures, videos, and stories on my travels to Africa!

I wish you happy bird-watching in Tanzania!

Kind Regards,


I now have a YouTube channel as well!


4 thoughts on “15 Tanzanian Birds Take Flight: Wings, Wits, and Wildness!”

  1. An amazing overview of the birds of Tanzania. It is great to have such a passion for a place such as Africa. I have never visited but it is on my bucket list. There are so many beautiful animals and you have done a great job sharing some of the beautiful birds I might see. It would be tough to pick a favorite as I am always inclined to pick and eagle and never a vulture=) Thanks for all the beautiful images. Brian

    • Hi Brian!

      Thank you for your wonderful comment and I do hope that you will visit all the birds in Africa some day!

      Kind regards


  2. Hi there Lizzy

    Thanks so much for sharing, although I have been on a safari to the Serengeti,( I combined Maasai Mara and Serengeti)I did not take the time to learn more about birds found in Tanzania.

    Your post has really made me want to visit Tanzania again. The only birds I know and can confidently point out are the pelicans, flamingos, and ostrich although I can not tell the difference between Somali Ostrich and Masai Ostrich.

    Bird watching in Tanzania seems like something I`d love to do and have put it on my to-do list although it will take me some time, I just came back from the said safari(Maasaimara-Serengeti) mid-last month, but I’m looking forward to visiting again because I also want to extend my visit to include places like Daaresalam and Zanzibar.

    Really informative post, thanks so much for sharing

    • hello Roamy!

      Wow, I am jealous that you just visited the Maasai Mara and the Serengeti haha! I have been there as well, it was just a long time ago now and I want to go back so much! This year I will be visiting South Africa though, but there is a lot of birdwatching to do there as well.

      I hope that you get to Daar es Salaam and Zanzibar soon, these are wonderful places to visit as well and I am sure that you will enjoy! 😉

      I wish you happy travels!

      Kind regards,



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