Monday, June 22, 2009

Birds of Kolwezi

Kolwezi is situated in the Katanga Province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The area would have historically supported vast tracts of rich Miombo woodland. However, Kolwezi happens to host one the worlds greatest Copper deposits and has therefore hosted a large human population for some time. Most of the original habitat surrounding the town of Kolwezi has borne the brunt of mining, seasons of subsistence agriculture and uncontrolled burning resulting in a modified grassland and scrub dominated by generalist species. There are of course small relict patches of woodland, forest and wetland which still offer some excitement to birders.

Most of the remaining vegetation hugs the numerous termite mounds, charactristic of the region. These biological islands support a healthy number of species including White-browed Robin Chat, Speckled Mousebird, Schalow's Turaco, Orange-winged Pytilia, White-winged Black Tit and the striking Black-collared Bulbul. Scrubby grassland inbetween the termite mounds is home to Red-necked Francolin, Short-winged Cisticola, Red-cheeked Cordonbleau, Flappet Lark, Black-faced Canary and the ubiquitous Black-crowned Tchagra.

Dambos (flooded grasslands) are wet throughout the year and often intensively farmed. However even some of the most intensely farmed dambos host Red-chested Flufftail, Fullenborne's Longclaw, Broad-tailed Warbler, Black Coucal, Black-chinned Quail Finch and Marsh Widow. African Marsh Harriers are common. The edges of larger dambos and rivers offer suitable habitat for Yellow-throated Leaflove, Coppery Sunbird and African Yellow Warbler. Lesser Swamp and Little Rush Warblers and Chirping Cisticola call from dense reedbeds adjacent to modified aquatic habitat. Quiet open water with suitable vegetation support both Lesser and African Jacana, Allen's Gallinule and Purple Swamphen while Angola Swallows swoop down through open culverts. The mighty Lualaba River (start of the Congo) passes immediately to the north of Kolwezi. Although a bit overfished it still holds small numbers of hippo and crocodile. All of the regular open water suspects such as Grey-headed Gull and Osprey, and a diverse array of Herons and Egrets are present.

Remnant patches of Mushito (swamp forest) harbour African Thrush, Common Wattle Eye, White-chinned Prinia, Little Greenbul, Olive Woodpecker and Superb Starling. Relict patches of miombo woodland are home to typical mixed flock species such as Rufous-bellied Tit, Violet-backed Sunbird, Green-capped Eromomela, Red-capped Crombec and Yellow-bellied Hyliota.

Despite the degraded nature of the area, large raptors are suprisingly well represented in Marial Eagle, Bateluer, Long-crested Eagle, Western-banded, Brown and Black-breasted Snake Eagle and Gymnogene. The presence of these large raptors gives an indication of what lies beyond the susbistence agriculture and stunted miombo.