I enjoy birds, but I am by no means a serious bird watcher. One of the benefits of spending more than two months in Africa, however, was being able to take the time to learn a bit about the overwhelming variety of birds. The assortment ranges from the world's largest bird (the ostrich) down to an impossible array of larks, sparrows and cisticolas (collectively known as "little brown jobs" – LBJ's) that I have no hope of being able to identify. For the most part, the photographs here concentrate on the large or the very colorful. These photographs do not even scratch the surface of the available subjects.
While in Africa I was amazed at the number of very large birds that spent most of their time walking the ground. Ostriches, of course, are the prime members of this category. But there were also kori bustards, secretarybirds, gray crowned cranes and many others (including many large waterbirds and ground hornbills, which can be seen on other pages).
Perhaps the funniest birds in Africa were the smaller ground dwellers (such as the spurfowl and guineafowl) that often walked along the roads in the parks (presumably because it was easier than fighting their way through the tall grass and brush). When a vehicle came up behind them, too often they were unwilling to relinquish their space and instead would run ahead in a vain attempt to outrun the intruder. Eventually, they would give up and either veer off to one side or fly ahead to a point further down the road (where they were soon to be discommoded again).
Many birds in Africa make up in color what they lack in size. Some of the most beautiful birds on the continent are the starlings, such as the superb starling (its real name) pictured here. One of the most common birds is also one of the most colorful, the lilac-breasted rollers. These birds basically sit at the top of trees or in other highly visible locations looking like a flower and wait for insects to come along. When one comes into range, they swoop down and have a quick meal. When they fly, they are even more colorful (though despite my best efforts I was never able to get a decent shot of them in flight).
On one of my safaris, I met a fellow from England who was a fairly serious bird watcher back home. He told me that the variety of birds is rather limited in the U.K. (mostly "little brown jobs"). As a result English birders become very adept at spotting very minor differences and will travel across the country in order to see a certain rare sparrow. He told me he felt a bit overwhelmed in Africa with all the colorful variety.