Zambia’s flagship species

Zambian Barbet

Zambian Barbet (Lybius chaplini); minted on the new one kwacha coin, the Zambian Barbet is the only truly endemic bird species in Zambia. Zambian Barbets frequent scattered large fruiting fig trees, mostly Ficus sycomorus, in extensive open areas, edges of cultivated fields, gardens, pastures, streamside woods in open savanna and miombo woodlands.

Wattled Crane

Wattled Crane (Bugeranus carunculatus); an African endemic resident in two areas, Ethiopia, and Central & Southern Africa (Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa)-Wattled Cranes are present as breeding residents in shallow wetlands adjoining grasslands, dambos and floodplains throughout much of the Zambian plateau. This species is extremely vulnerable to controlled and changing flooding regimes.

Grey Crowned Crane

Grey-crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum); endemic to central and southern Africa, the Grey Crowned Crane is a localised resident species. Grey Crowned Cranes generally inhabit dry and wet open areas including grasslands, open riverine woodland and shallow flooded plains. The Kafue Flats, Bangweulu Swamps, Busanga Plains and Baroste floodplains are some habitats in which the species has been recorded in large numbers.

White Headed Vulture

White-headed Vulture (Trigonoceps occipitalis); the most hunted of all Zambian vultures- there is a very high demand for the head of this vulture for use in traditional medicines, witchcraft and making charms. The trade is known to occur in Zambia, Congo, Malawi and Tanzania but it is possible that it occurs with more countries particularly in central, west and southern Africa.

White Backed Vulture

White-backed Vulture (Gyps africanus); mostly occurs in open country with large mammal populations. This is the most abundant vulture in game areas, forming about 85% of the vulture population.

Hooded Vulture

Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus); is quite common along the major rivers in Zambia. This species is associated with open woodlands or riparian forests where it feeds on a variety of small items including dead fish and scavenges as a minor member of vulture groups at large carcasses.

Black-Cheeked Lovebird

Black-cheeked Lovebird (Agapornis nigrigenis); closely associated with Mopane (Colophospermum mopane) woodlands; the Black-cheeked Lovebird is Africa’s most localised parrot, with a core range estimated at 2,500 km² in Machile IBA and it has been suggested that the species be considered endemic to Zambia. It is considered to be the most endangered of all the African parrot species with the smallest area of distribution.

Slaty Egret

Slaty Egret (Egretta vinaceigula); confined to the swamps of the upper Zambezi, Kafue Flats and Bangweulu wetlands in seasonally flooded grassland and pans on the floodplains. Like the Wattled Crane, this species is highly vulnerable to changing flood regime.


Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex); The Bangweulu Wetlands hold the most southerly breeding population of shoebill in Africa. Shoebills are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red list and the exact number in Bangweulu is currently not known. Shoebills are not known to undertake major migrations except  small local movements in search of food and nesting sites.

Taita Falcon

Taita Falcon (Falco fasciinucha); inhabits and nests in  rocky gorges although it can no longer be found readily in its best-known habitat (Batoka Gorge), possibly as a result of disturbance from overhead tourist flights. However, the species is a very weak competitor which is easily dominated by larger falcons occurring in the same habitat

Margrates Batis

Margaret’s Batis (Batis margaritae); most common in the Cryptosepalum forests in North-western Zambia. The Margaret’s Batis is suspected to be a breeding resident in Zambia though observations suggest that there is some post-breeding movement by most birds from the Cryptosepalum forests from November to April. This however, needs further investigation as it is possible that birds are more discreet during the period of moult (rainy season).

Batis African Pitter

African Pitta (Pitta angolensis); is a secretive species inhabiting riverine thickets and forests in the eastern half of Zambia going south towards Pemba through Mutulanganga IBA (the only confirmed breeding site in Zambia). The species is an intra-African migrant present in Zambia from October to April.

Blue Swallow

Blue Swallow (Hirundo atrocaerulea); inhabits and breeds in montane grasslands mainly under overhangs or in holes on the ground. The Blue Swallow is only known to breed and occur in the grasslands of the Nyika Plateau (mostly on the Malawian side), although suitable foraging sites have been found in use on the Zambian side

Kori Bustard

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori); this species is the flagship of Zambia’s southernmost grassland IBAs such as Simungoma which is about 10km  from the Zambia-Namibia border. This bird is iconic as  the heaviest flying bird in the world. Habitat destruction and alteration is the major threat affecting this species as grasslands are being burnt out, converted into farmland or over harvested for thatching and other domestic uses.

Southern Ground Hornbill

Southern Ground Hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri); was once a common resident in most of Zambia’s IBAs but the population has significantly declined with the species now not being recorded at all in some IBAs. The Zambian Department of National Parks and Wildlife reports increased illegal hunting of this bird in most national parks for the sale of body parts on the black-market for use in the synthesis of some traditional medicines. In addition, this species breeds in very large trees of which a large number have been cleared within the species range.