Niger, Park W, January 21-23 2008

Published by Mary Crickmore (crwrcwamt AT

Participants: Mary Crickmore, Steve Sywulka and family


West Africa does not have game reserves and parks comparable to Southern and East Africa. While there are some national parks and reserves, there are far fewer animals and little chance to see elephants and the big cats. But the birding in these reserves is almost as good as in East and Southern Africa, though some species such as ostriches have disappeared due to hunting.

Park W is one of these West African parks, located at the corner where the boundaries of Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso meet. It is named for the 'W' shape that the Niger River forms in that part of its course. The northern entrance to Park W can be reached in about a two and a half hour drive from Niamey, the capital of Niger, over mostly good paved or laterite road. You need to have your own vehicle or go with an organized tour. You must always travel with a guide, and at the park entrance there are guides waiting their turn to be assigned, at the rate of about $11/day (5000 CFA). The guides really vary in ability and competence. We requested a non-smoker and had Yeyeba Kodjua, who knew a lot of the bird species, was good at spotting animals, and could identify the different types of antelope. The guides can speak French but not English, so all our communication was in French. Yeyeba usually sat on the top of the Land Cruiser as we rode, signaling to the driver with a branch.

The cold season, November to February, is the best time to visit the park. It never freezes, but during this week in January it was the peak of cold season and we had to wear jackets in the evening. The tented camp has mattresses but not blankets or sleeping bags.

Within a kilometer of the park entrance is Hotel de la Tapoa. They are affiliated with Point Afrique, whose office phone is country code 227, 73-40-26. They have rooms that range from about $80 for a double (35000 CFA) and bungalows that are round, styled like African huts, for about $45 for a double (20.000 CFA).

They have a pool and restaurant, and a full meal runs about $15 (6500 CFA) for the menu du jour and $9 (4000 CFA) for the main course alone. The terrace overlooks the gorge of the Tapoa River, which is a tributary of the Niger. A Red-throated Bee-eater was flycatching on the hotel grounds the day we visited.

We stayed at the tented camp called Nigercars Gite. That was about $30 (13500 CFA) per person for tent, breakfast, and dinner. It is in a beautiful location next to the river. A Fish Eagle was visible from the boat landing, and an Egyptian Plover was walking around the tents at the campground every afternoon. Bush Petronia, Black-rumped Waxbill, and Stone Partridge were present as well.

At several places in the park there are miradors or raised viewing platforms with stairs and roofs. They are located next to watering holes. You can get permission to overnight in a mirador, which gives the opportunity to see flocks of Four-banded Sandgrouse coming to drink at nightfall, and a better chance to see animals coming to drink. It is not permitted to drive around the park at night.

There are some package tours that allow you to go by boat one way and drive the other way, and others do a combination of boating and hiking. What we did, since we had only two days, was go by vehicle and make drives between the Nigercars Gite and various miradors, stopping for an hour or so at each mirador. At the Tapoa mirador, not far from the park entrance, some elephants had been seen the day before we arrived, but we waited for over an hour and ate our picnic lunch without any elephants. But we enjoyed watching several Hadada Ibis, Purple and Grey Herons, Bateleur and Brown Snake Eagle, and four Paradise Whydah males in full tail streamers, as well as a number of crocodiles, at that site.

One of the highlights of the park is the Abyssinian Ground Hornbills, which we saw several times. As for mammals, we saw one Buffalo, two families of Baboons, several Green (Vervet) and Patas monkeys, an adult Warthog with three young, several Reedbuck, Kob, and Roan Antelopes, one Red-fronted Gazelle, and a group of Waterbuck. But this park is definitely better for birds than it is for mammals.

Species Lists

Egretta intermedia, Intermediate Egret
Ardea cinerea, Grey Heron
Ardea purpurea , Purple Heron
Egretta alba, Great White
Bubulcus ibis, Cattle Egret
Butorides striatus, Striated Heron
Bostrychia hagedash, Hadada Ibis
Scopus umbretta, Hamerkop
Plectropterus gambensis, Spur-winged Goose
Gyps africanus, White-backed Vulture
Necrosyrtes monachus, Hooded Vulture
Circaetus cinereus, Brown Snake Eagle
Haliaetus vocifer, Fish Eagle
Terathopius ecaudatus, Bateleur
Melierax [Micronisus] gabar, Gabar Goshawk
Accipiter badius, Shikra
Falco chicquera, Red-necked Falcon
Pterocles quadricintus, Four-banded Sandgrouse
Ptilopachus petrosus, Stone Partridge
Francolinus bicalcaratus, Double-spurred Francolin
Numida meleagris, Helmeted Guineafowl
Pluvianus aegypticus, Egyptian Plover (Crocodile Bird)
Vanellus spinosus, Spur-winged Lapwing
Vanellus senegallus, Senegal (African) Wattled Lapwing
Columba guinea, Speckled Pigeon
Streptopelia vinacea, Vinaceous Dove
Streptopelia senegalensis, Laughing Dove
Streptopelia decipens, African Mourning Dove
Oena capensis, Namaqua Dove
Turtur abyssinicus, Black-billed Wood Dove
Psittacula krameri, Rose-ringed Parakeet
Poicephalus senegalus, Yellow-bellied (Senegal) Parrot
Crinifer piscator, Western Grey Plantain-eater
Centropus senegalensis, Senegal Coucal
Glaucidium perlatum, Pearl-spotted Owlet (heard)
Bubo africanus, Spotted Eagle Owl (heard)
Telacanthrura ussheri, Mottled Spinetail
Cypsiurus parvus, African Palm Swift
Ceryle rudis, Pied Kingfisher
Merops nubicus , Little Green Bee-eater
Merops bullock,i Red-throated Bee-eater
Coracias abyssinicus, Abyssinian Roller
Phoeniculus purpureus, Green Wood-hoopoe
Tockus nasutus, African Grey Hornbill
Tockus erythrorhynchus , Red-billed Hornbill
Dendropicus goertae, Grey Woodpecker
Eremopterix leucotis, Chestnut-backed Sparrow-lark
Pycnonotus barbatus, Common Bulbul
Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Redstart
Prinia subflava, Tawny-flanked Prinia
Camaroptera brachyura, Grey-backed Camaroptera
Eremomela pusilla, Senegal Eremomela
Dicrurus adsimilis, Common Drongo
Turdoides plebejus, Brown Babbler
Hedydipna platura, Pygmy Sunbird
Cinnyris pulchella, Beautiful Sunbird
Laniarus barbarous, Yellow-crowned Gonolek
Corvinella corvine, Yellow-billled Shrike
Ptilostomus afer, Piacpiac
Corvus albus, Pied Crow
Lamprotornis [Spreo] pulcher, Chestnut-bellied Starling
Lamprotornis chalcurus/chalybaeus? Bronze-tailed/Greater Blue Eared? Glossy Starling
Lamprotornis caudatus, Long-tailed Glossy Starling
Petronia dentate, Bush Petronia
Passer griseus, (Northern) Grey-headed Sparrow
Amadina fasciata, Cut-throat Finch
Lagonosticta senegala, Red-billed Firefinch
Estrilda troglodytes, Black-rumped Waxbill
Quelea quelea, Red-Billed Quelea
Vidua chalybeate, Village Indigobird
vidua orientalis, Paradise Whydah
Emberiza tahapisi, Cinnamon-breasted Bunting