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A Report from

Zambia, December 2002,

Gonçalo Elias and Pedro Sá Pessoa

The following report describes a 10-day trip to Zambia in December 2002 made by the two of us and six other birders from South Africa and Namibia, in December 2003.

Brief description of itinerary:

(a map of Zambia can be found on the Internet at the following address:

6 Dec - departure Lisbon airport to Munich and then intercontinental Lufthansa flight to Johannesburg overnight

7 Dec - arrival in Johannesburg in the morning then S.A. Airways flight to Lusaka, where arrival at about 2 p.m. Transfer bus to Hotel Holiday Inn Lusaka.

8 Dec - 6 a.m. bus to Choma (300km southwest of Lusaka). Accomodation at the Choma Farm. Birding in Choma during the afternoon.

9 Dec - morning birding in Choma. Departure in the afternoon for overnight drive. Unfortunately axle of trailer broke near Lusaka so we had to camp near petrol station just outside Lusaka.

10 Dec - left trailer in Lusaka for repair. Proceeded without trailer towards Mutinondo Wilderness (near Serenje), where arrived at Sunset. Camping at Mutinondo.

11 Dec - Whole day birding in forests and 'dambos' around Mutinondo.

12 Dec - morning birding around Mutinondo, then departure by mid-morning towards Lusaka to collect repaired trailer, which was then left in private farm near Lusaka. In the evening, departure for overnight drive towards northwest Zambia, through Copperbelt region.

13 Dec - After a long drive, morning arrival near Mwinilunga in far northwestern Zambia. Proceeded to Hillwood (in the corner near the border with Angola and Dem. Rep. of the Congo) with several stops on the way and afternoon birding at Hillwood. Camping at Hillwood.

14 Dec - Birding around Hillwood.

15 Dec - Morning birding at Hillwood, proceed to Source of the Zambeze; then departure to Mwinilunga (with stops on the way). Overnight at pension in Mwinilunga.

16 Dec - leave Mwinilunga in the morning and proceed to Mayaw, south of Mwinilunga. Camping in the woodlands at Mayaw.

17 Dec - Morning birding at Mayaw. Then drive north to Mwinilunga and eastwards. Stop at bridge near sunset. Overnight driving to Lusaka.

18 Dec - Morning arrival at Lusaka, where we said farewell to the rest of the group. Midday flight to Johannesburg. Stay at hotel in Johannesburg.

19 Dec - Birding at Marievale, about 50km from Johannesburg (birds seen here are not mentioned in this report). Overnight flight to Frankfurt.

20 Dec - Arrival Frankfurt and then morning flight to Lisbon.

General aspects about Zambia

Generally speaking, Zambia is a rather quiet country. We had no problems with people at all, they are generally peaceful and friendly. Furthermore, everybody speaks English, so one doesn't have much trouble asking for directions or when buying something.

Zambia is generally a low populated country, with a human density of about 12 inhabitants per square km. This means that away from Lusaka and from the so-called Copperbelt, one does not see many people, except for some roadside villages, especially in the northwest.

Woodland consists mainly of miombo, a type of dry forest where Brachystegia is the dominant tree.

Visa and money

A visa is required for entering Zambia, at least for Portuguese citizens. However, visa is issued upon arrival at the airport.

The local currency (Kwasha) can be exchanged at the airport. However, they will hardly take it back or will only do it at a much lower rate. Hence, it is wise to calculate previously how much money will be needed and not exchange more than that.


From Lusaka to Choma we took a bus. Long-distance buses run only once or twice a day; they usually leave at 6 or 7 a.m. and tickets must be bought on the previous day. One should be at the bus station at least half an hour before departure, as buses leave on due time.

From 9th December onwards, we travelled on a large vehicle that had capacity for 9 people. The 8 of us had to fit inside with the whole luggage after the trailer's axle broke in Lusaka on the first day. So it was a bit uncomfortable in terms of space. Otherwise we had no major problems concerning transportation.


On 7 December we stayed at the Holiday Inn hotel in Lusaka.
On 8 December we stayed at the Choma farm.

Otherwise we camped on most days, except on the nights of 12 and 17 December, which had overnight driving, and the night of 15 December, where we stayed in a pension at Mwinilunga.


December is the wet season so weather was generally overcast. It rained every day, but mostly at night, so we could bird during the day. Wind was mostly weak and did not disturb us.

Bird Guides used

Ber van Perlo's "Birds of Southern Africa" is the only guide covering all the birds of the region. However, because the drawings are so small, other guides of southern Africa might be useful for identification purposes, as they cover many of the species occurring here.

Sites visited and highlights for each day

In this section the most interesting species are described (a complete species list is presented hereafter).

Choma Farm (8th and 9th)

Choma lies about 300km southwest of Lusaka. We went to this are in order to meet the rest of the group - six birders from South Africa and Namibia. The area we stayed in (a private farm) consists mainly of miombo woodland but also comprises some ponds that attract waterbirds. We managed to find nearly 150 species here in just two days. Highlights included: Comb Duck, White-backed Duck, Red-necked Falcon, Amur Falcon, Swainson's Spurfowl, Lesser Jacana, African Wattled Lapwing, Bronze-winged Courser, Racket-tailed Roller, Broad-billed Roller, Grey Go-away-bird. Schalow's Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill, Chaplin's Barbet (the only Zambian endemic!), Miombo Barbet, Rufous-chested Swallow, Arrow-marked Babbler, Miombo Rock-thrush, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Piping Cisticola, Southern Hyliota, African Penduline Tit, Spotted Creeper, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, White-breasted Sunbird, Greater and Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starlings and Plain-backed Pipit. A very good selection of birds!

Trip to Mutinondo (9th and 10th)

Not many relevant specialities were seen on the trip to Mutinondo. Abdim's Stork and Red-faced Mousebird were the only noteworthy species.

Forest Inn (10th and again 12th)

This is a roadside campsite between the Kapiri Mposhi T-junction and Mkushi (30km before Mkushi). This is a convenient stop to see some rare birds and we stopped here on the way to and back from Mutinondo. Specialities we saw here included Miombo Scrub-robin, Miombo Wren Warbler, Boehm's Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-weaver, Orange-winged Pytilia, Black-tailed Waxbill and Cabanis's Bunting.

Mutinondo Wilderness (11th and 12th)

An extremely remote area that lies 25km off the main Serenje-Mpika road. Miombo dominates the landscape, the more open areas being covered by dambos. Huge rocks called whalebacks can be found scattered through the whole area. We found about 90 species here, with many interesting ones among them. The following ones stand out: Blue Quail, Small Buttonquail, African Wattled Lapwing, Meyer's Parrot, Broad-billed Roller, Ross's Turaco, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Coppery-tailed Coucal, African Barred Owlet, Grass Owl, Black-backed Barbet, Familiar Chat, Bocage's Akalat, White-browed Robin-chat, Broad-tailed Grassbird, Yellow-bellied Eremomela, Black-throated Wattle-eye, Miombo Tit, Rufous-bellied Tit, Spotted Creeper, Anchieta's Sunbird, Striped Pipit, Woodland Pipit, Bar-winged Weaver, Locust Finch, Black-eared Seed-eater and Reichard's Seed-eater.

Trip towars Mwinilunga (13th)

The trip from Lusaka to Mwinilunga was made overnight. At dawn we were in the Solwezi region, so we did the last part in broad daylight, with some roadside stops. Among the most interesting birds seen in the journey were: African Goshawk, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Ross's Turaco, Boehm's Spinetail, Black-backed Barbet, Cabanis's Greenbul, Square-tailed Drongo, Bamboo Warbler, Brown-headed Apalis, Ashy Flycatcher, Black-fronted Bush Shrike and Bar.winged Weaver. Most of these birds (but not all) were seen at the Mutanda bridge (30km beyond Solwezi). This spot used to be a famous site for Red-throated Cliff-Swallow, but we failed to find any.

Trip between Mwinilunga and Hillwood including Chitunta plains (13th and 15th)

From Mwinilunga northwards the road is untarred but fair. Miombo dominates but at a certain stage an open plain - the Chitunta plain - appears. We made several stops on the way to Hillwood and also on the way back. Among the most interesting birds found here were: Dickonson's Kestrel, Great Snipe, Black Cuckoo, Angola Lark and Grimwood's Longclaw.

Hillwood (13th, 14th and 15th)

This are lies in far northwestern Zambia, close to the border with both Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is a good area for spotting several birds that are otherwise less accessible. Species we saw here include: Cuckoo Hawk, Banded Snake-Eagle, Palm-nut Vulture, African Crake, Stanley's Bustard, Afep Pigeon, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Schalow's Turaco, Narina Trogon, Pallid Honeyguide, Honeyguide Greenbul, Miombo Rock-thrush, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Cloud-scraping Cisticola, Buff-throated Apalis, Boulton's (Margaret's) Batis, Miombo Grey Tit, Black-collared Bulbul, Long-tailed Pipit, Forest Weaver and Locust Finch.

At the nearby Zambezi rapids we saw Forbes's Plover and Afep Pigeon; finally, at the source of the Zambeze we found Yellowbill, Red-capped Robin-chat, Rufous Flycatcher-Thrush and Laura's Woodland Warbler.

Mayaw (16th and 17th)

This forested area lies about 100km (?) south of Mwinilunga. We camped in the woodlands near the road as there are no human settlements around here. Fiery-necked Nightjar was heard and seen after dark. Other species found at Mayaw or along the road included: Boehm's Spinetail, African Broadbill (displaying), Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Miombo Scrub-Robin, White-chinned Prinia, African Dusky Flycatcher, Perrin's Bush Shrike and Black-tailed Waxbill.

Other sites near Mwinilunga (16th and 17th)

We made additional stops north and east of Mwinilunga, mainly in well-developed miombo areas. Species seen at these roadside stops include: African Pygmy Kingfisher, Black-necked Eremomela, Tabora Cisticola, Boehm's Flycatcher, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Souza's Shrike, Bar-winged Weaver, Cabanis's Bunting and Black-eared Seed-eater.

Full Species List

See attached Excel file for a complete list of the species seen each day.


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