The African jungle is less known and less studied than its counterparts, the Amazon and the jungles of Asia, but it is full of wild exotic birds, that are beautiful, exciting, and well-adapted to their habitat.
Today, we are having a look at all these 15 different gorgeous birds living in the African jungle.
But first, a little bit of explanation on the African Jungle!
The jungle or tropical rainforests usually come in different forms which include:
- Tropical mangrove forests,
- temperate rainforests,
- seasonal rainforests,
- semi-evergreen rainforests
- and moist or dry deciduous forests.
The African jungle occurs in two blocs; the Lower Guinea forests of Central Africa or Congo and the Upper Guinea Forest of West Africa.
Between the two vast blocs of upper and lower Guinea Forests is a narrow piece of woodland area known as the Dahomey gap.
The Congo bloc stretches from Nigeria, South to Angola, and East as far as Kenya, while the Upper Guinea bloc stretches from Guinea to Ghana.
Of the two, the upper Guinea bloc faces more pressure from deforestation with 80% of the original forest already gone.
These rainforests play host to many birds that have adapted quite well to living within them.
The nature of the rainforests with their abundance tall trees and dense canopies creates an area of darkness or a twilight zone on the forest floor which has made jungle birds be well-camouflaged, shy, and very reclusive making their study and observation challenging.
Here, the article will highlight some of the exotic, and rare birds of the African tropical rainforests.
1. Silvery-cheeked Hornbill
The Silvery Cheeked Hornbill is a fairly large bird at 60-70 cm (23-27 in) with defining silvery grey spots on the cheek and a large cream-white casque on the head.
The body plumage is an iridescent black with white on the tips of the outer feathers, thighs, lower back, and rump.
The females are differentiated from the males by red skin around the eyes and a smaller casque.
They are omnivorous and their diet includes arthropods, birds and their nestlings, lizards, fruits, fruit bats, and they usually feed in the canopies but will descend to the forest floor to chase prey and pick fallen fruits.
This wild exotic bird mates for life and during the breeding season, the female will seal herself together with her clutch of eggs and leave only a slit wide enough to allow the male to feed her.
They can be found in tall evergreen forests in hills and coastal areas, and they range from the Ethiopian Highlands, Kenya, Tanzania, and Malawi, to Mozambique.
2. The African Palm Swift
The African palm swift is a common jungle bird that is thriving thanks to the cultivation of the Washington Palm which is an exotic palm breed.
Its overall plumage is gray-brown, it is slender with a long tail that is forked, and its wings are shaped like a boomerang.
It has an erratic flight pattern characterized by sudden changes in direction, all of which are aided by the rapid beat of its wings and the use of its tail rather effectively.
In flight, the tail is sometimes held close to the body and appears needle-like. These birds are social often living in colonies of more than 100 nests, each is unique.
These nests are cup-shaped, mostly made of feathers that are glued together using the Swift’s saliva, and after laying the eggs, they are also glued to the nest with saliva.
Their diet consists exclusively of flying insects that are hunted above the tree canopies but will also feed near the ground.
As they spend nearly all their time in the air or in the canopies, they have short, tiny legs with hook-like claws that they use to cling to vertical surfaces.
They can be found in palm fields with exotic species such as Washingtonia and Livistona, tropical forests, and wooded savannahs.
They originated from the lowland forests in the equatorial region of Africa but are now widespread across Sub-Saharan Africa.
3. Giant Kingfisher
The Giant Kingfisher is the largest Kingfisher species in the African jungle, and there are two subspecies: M.m.gigantea and M.m.maxima.
They are about 42-28 cm ( 16-19 in) in length, have a large crest on the head, and a big dagger-like beak.
Its plumage is black-tipped with white spots, while males have orange breasts, the females will have orange bellies.
A good way to think about it is that males have orange shirts while females have orange skirts.
Its diet consists of fish, insects, river crabs, toads, frogs, and occasionally small reptiles.
They will perch on a branch or rock outcrop overlooking the water from where they can scan for prey, it may also hover over the water or make steep or shallow dives into the water to catch their prey.
Fish and small crabs are usually swallowed whole, while large crabs are held by the tip of the beak, and repeatedly bashed to remove the pincers and the carapace before it feeds on the soft inner meat.
These wild exotic birds of the African jungle usually build their nests by excavating a long horizontal tunnel into a river bank.
Of the two subspecies in Africa, only the M.m.Gigantea is found within the tropical forests and distributed across Sub-Saharan Africa from Liberia to Tanzania in the East and to Angola in the South.
4. The Crested Guineafowl
The Crested Guinea Fowl is different from the plumed or helmeted guinea fowl species because of the distinctive black crest on top of their heads which usually range from downs to small curly feathers depending on the sub-species.
The Crested Guineafowl has a long neck and long round body with black plumage and rows of blue-white spots all over the body, a bare face that is red, and a blue neck.
They prefer staying on the ground, spending most of their time feeding on berries, seeds, and other plant materials but they are capable fliers though not for long distances.
During the night they will roost in trees to avoid predators.
Their preferred habitats include forest savannah, woodlands, and open forests, and they are widespread throughout Sub-Saharan Africa.
5. The African Dwarf Kingfisher
Also known as the Dwarf Kingfisher or the black-fronted pygmy kingfisher, the African Dwarf Kingfisher is the smallest kingfisher species in the world.
These birds are similar in dimensions to hummingbirds with a length of about 10 cm (4 in) and roughly weighing 9 grams.
Their bills, head, neck, and belly are orange, with a darker forehead, white throat, with dark blue wings and back.
It is found in the African jungle in the understory where it perches at head height and hunts for insects.
They can be found in the jungles of Angola, D.R.C., Congo, C.A.R., Guinea, Ghana, Gabon, Liberia, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria.
6. The Africa Pied Hornbill
The African Pied Hornbill is a small Hornbill species at 54 cm (21 in).
Their body plumage is all black except for their abdomen and tail tips which are white, their bills are long, curved, and yellow with a medium-sized casque on top.
One characteristic feature of the Africa Pied Hornbill is its flight pattern, as it flies in smooth wavy motions.
These birds are omnivores with their diet consisting of fruits and insects and are particularly interested in oil palms.
Just like other hornbill species, during the breeding season, the female lays her eggs in a tree hole and cements herself in the hole using fruit pulp, droppings, and mud and leaving an aperture wide enough for the male to feed her through.
They are found in the Equatorial forests from Gambia in the West to Uganda in the East up to Northern Angola.
7. The Western Oriole
Also known as the Western Black Headed Oriole, the Western Oriole is native to Africa.
This species is very similar in appearance to the Black Winged Oriole and the African Black Headed Oriole and is only separated by the range and habitat from these other species.
The bird has a red bill, black hood, and plain olive-black wing with a small white patch along the front edge and yellow underparts.
In the African jungle, these birds can usually be found at low and middle elevations of the canopy where it blends in really well with their surroundings.
They can also be found in secondary forests; those forests that have completely and naturally regenerated after being cut down, forest edges, and forest clearings.
In Africa, they are native to the jungles of Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Benin, and the Ivory Coast.
8. The Congo Serpent Eagle
The Congo Serpent Eagle is a bird of prey that closely resembles Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle in a very rare example of avian mimicry.
They have long banded tails, rufous hindquarters, brown backs, barred flanks, and white breasts for the Western birds and black spotted throats for the Eastern birds.
Unlike Cassin’s Hawk Eagle, it has a larger head, is smaller overall, and has a black line running down the center of its throat.
These birds are specialized for hunting in the dark understories of tropical rainforests and have developed impressive eyesight.
Their diet mainly comprises snakes, but they will also hunt lizards, chameleons, small mammals, and toads which drop down onto them from perches above.
The habit is the dense and dark understory of primary forests at altitudes of 900 m ( 3000 ft).
Due to its adaptations, it does not do well in secondary forests or plantations and can come under threat due to deforestation.
They are found in the jungles of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Liberia, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, C.A.R., D.R.C, Gabon, Congo and into Northern Angola.
9. The Great Blue Turaco
The Great Blue Turaco is the largest of the Turaco species of birds standing between 70-76 cm (28-30 in) in length.
The birds have a tall black crest on the head, a yellow bill with a red tip, brown eyes surrounded by a ring of bare skin that is black, a white chin, grey-blue upperparts, green-yellow lower breast, and belly, while the undertail is yellow and black.
They are very social and will often congregate in groups of up to 10 individuals, with several of these groups gathering in one large tree.
They are also weak flyers even though they live most of their lives in the trees.
They are strong climbers, moving nimbly through the canopies, and will only come to the ground to either bathe or drink.
Their diets will include leaves, flowers, and fruits of very many plant species.
These birds also play a vital role in seed dispersal and will often resort to feeding on leaves when there is a scarcity of fruits.
They are residents of gallery forests, rainforests, and areas that have been cleared by humans.
They range from Guinea, South Sudan, Uganda, D.R.C., Tanzania, and Kenya to Angola.
10. The Grey Parrot
Also known as the Congo Grey Parrot, the Grey Parrot is a very smart bird that is highly sought after as an avian pet.
Their whole body is generally grey with white edges along the wings and on the head with red tail feathers.
In captivity, you might find grey parrots that are either completely or partly red and this is due to selective breeding by parrot breeders.
In the wild, these birds can be quite hard to study due to their secretive nature and the fact that they are prey animals.
They also have the ability to mimic the songs and sounds of birds and animals around them.
They fall prey to a number of raptors such as palm nut vultures, and their eggs are targeted by monkeys but the biggest threat comes from humans trafficking and hunting them.
They inhabit dense forests, but will also be found in mangroves, forest edges, and in gallery forests.
They are native to the tropical jungles of Africa from Cameron, Congo, Uganda, Kenya, Gabon, Ivory Coast, and Angola.
11. The Maned Owl
The Maned owl is a bird endemic to Africa and that gets its name from the long white-tipped feathers on its ears and crown that seem to form a mane.
The bird has upper parts that are a deep chestnut with dark, narrow and wavy bars that are darker on the head and lesser wing coverts which lead to a contrast with the white ear tufts and forehead.
The upper breast is a dark brown with white bars, the belly is a creamy white with dark streaks, and the flight feathers are rufous with dark broad bars.
While the facial disk has a broad black rim, on a rufous background, the throat is white, while the beak, eyes, and legs are yellow.
Not much is known about the maned owl as it is nocturnal and prefers dense closed canopy evergreen rainforests with an abundance of creepers.
To date, there have been no records of the maned owl outside of its dense jungle habitat.
Their feet have weak claws and feet suggesting that the maned owl subsides on insects as its main source of food. They are in the jungles of Liberia all through West Africa to the D.R.C.
12. Red Headed Lovebird
Also known as the Red-Faced Lovebird, the Red Headed Lovebird is a bird native to Africa.
The bird has mostly green plumage apart from a red-colored area on the head, extending from the mid crown over the forehead to the beak.
The females have an orange-colored head instead of a pale red beak.
Their diet usually consists of fruits, a variety of cultivated crops, and grass seeds, and during the day they will travel far to forage food returning during the night to a communal roosting nest.
During the breeding season, a pair of birds will build a nest in termite and ant mounds that may be above ground on the trees or on the ground.
The female will line the nest with seed husks, and shredded grass that the female will transport to the nest under her wings.
There are two subspecies of the red-headed lovebird in Africa: the Uganda Red Headed Lovebird which is distributed from West Ethiopia, East D.R.C., and Tanzania.
And then there is the Red Faced Lovebird which is distributed from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Congo to Angola.
13. Olive Bellied Sunbird
The Olive Bellied Sunbird is a colorful and aggressive little bird that is similar to the tiny sunbird in appearance.
The male and females have different colorations with the males having a metallic green head, throat, back, metallic blue rump, dark brown wings, and tail that is black with a purple-blue metallic sheen.
The belly is olive-colored, and the breast is scarlet with a narrow blue band.
The female is drabber and less colorful with olive-brown upperparts and head, dark brown tail and wings.
They are widespread in the African tropical rainforest and will usually be found in the lower sections of the canopy foraging for caterpillars, spiders, beetles, seeds, flowers, and nectar.
If there is one wild exotic bird that belongs to the African jungle, it sure is this little bird. As you can see, it is hard to get a nice-looking picture, sorry for that 😉
14. White Crested Tiger Heron
Also known as the White Crested Bittern, the White Crested Tiger Heron is a rare heron species that is distinguishable by its white crest which is visible when erected.
The male has a white crest which is usually concealed at rest, black nape and crown, and a long and slender black and brown bill, with the upper wings, back, neck, and sides of the head being transversely barred black and buff.
The tail is barred white and black While the legs are brown.
Females tend to be smaller with narrower buff barrings on the upper side and the underside pink cinnamon.
Due to the limited study on the bird, its feeding habits and diet are still not clearly understood but it most likely has a broad diet eating whatever it can catch along the river shores from crabs, insects, and snakes to frogs.
It is found within tropical jungles in wet areas such as swamps, marshes, small streams, and rivers.
It ranges from Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, Gabon, C.A.R. to the D.R.C.
15. Shelley’s Eagle Owl
Shelley’s Eagle Owl is a large and extremely rare owl that was first photographed in the wild on October 2021 in the Atewa Range Forest Reserve in South-Eastern Ghana.
It is dark brown overall with light barring, the underparts are darker with broad white barring, the feet are entirely covered with feathers, eyes are dark brown.
There are two variants one which is lighter and another darker.
The lighter morph has a pale tawny facial disk, and a well-marked black-brown rim.
The darker morph has a darker brown facial disk, with scaly-looking brown chest feathers.
It is a nocturnal bird and its powerful talons suggest it preys on large birds and medium-sized mammals.
It likes the deep, dark and dense parts of the rainforest making it extremely difficult to spot and its range is from Guinea, Ghana, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone to the D.R.C.
What kind of binoculars do you need to watch all these terrific birds? Check out this expanded information on binoculars for birdwatching here.
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this blog post about the top 15 wild exotic birds of the African jungle!
If you have any questions or would just like to share your experience with birding or anything else about Africa, please feel free to leave a comment below in the comment section.
Or join me on one of my social media pages or Facebook group to have a look at my other pictures of my travels 😉
I wish you happy travels!