Six Days in Ghana, April, 2008

Published by Mark Gawn (gawnbirding AT

Participants: Mark Gawn, Kalu Afasi


In April, 2008, a series of happy coincidences led to a six day birding trip in Ghana. The recent discovery of accessible sites for White-necked Picathates has put Ghana on the birding map. And well it should be. Sporting an enviable mixture of savannah and forest habitats, Ghana has much to offer, all set in a friendly, politically stable country with a decent infrastructure. While it has no endemics per se, there is a suite of Guinean forest endemics that are now hard to see elsewhere, and it has a good assortment of more wide-spread West African forest and savannah species.

The limited time available led me to focus on habitats where I had the best chance of seeing Guinean endemics while avoiding overlap with species I had previously seen in Kenya. Accordingly, I spent all of my time in the south, focussing on several sites in and around Kakum National Park, as well as visiting Shia Hills National Park and two coastal sites. This resulted in a trip list of 227 species, of which 107 were life birds.

I was fortunate to engage the services of Kalu Afasi, a keen, sharp-eyed birder with well tuned hearing, who made all of the logistical arrangements. I would highly recommend Kalu to anyone planning to visit Ghana, he can be contacted at: or through the web pages of the aptly named Malimbi Tours at:


As always, Fatbirder had links to useful trip reports, I found the best to be: Birding Ghana 18th -30th October 2003, Jos Wanten & Roland Holz;
2006 [November] - Mike Bowman & Kalu Afasi; 2007 [February] - Mike Bowman & Kalu Afasi; 2004 [April] - Johannes Vermehren, as well as two reports from Rock Jumper tours which can be found at: I would like to express my thanks to Mike Bowman for providing me with Kalu's coordinates and information on birding in Ghana.

In the field I used "Birds of Western Africa: An Identification Guide" by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey, a handy field version of a heftier tome which proved adequate to solving most identification challenges. Some pictures were are a little off (the Longbills do not have the right jiz) and some of the range maps for Ghana are incomplete, suggesting that the knowledge of Ghana's birds is still evolving.

Annoyances, etc.

The usual precautions when visiting tropical countries apply: a Yellow Fever shot is obligatory and precautions against malaria recommended. I had several intimate encounters with siafu (army ants) which I would have preferred to avoid. Aside from the occasional sweat bee, flying insects were not a bother (indeed, a multitude of butterflies enlivened bird free intervals). The sun was intense and it was hot. Despite being at the beginning of the rains we had only the occasional shower; several of the sites visited would be hard to access in heavy rain. Ghana has limited crime but caution is merited.


April 26 - Shia Hills and Aburi Botanical Gardens. Return to Accra for the night.
April 27 - Sakumo Lagoon and Assin Foso. Stay at Hotel in Assin Foso.
April 28 - Kakum NP, Aboabo Camp, Elmina. Stay at Hans Cottage Botel.
April 29 - Kakum NP, Canopy walk. Stay at Hans Cottage Botel.
April 30 - Kakum NP, Antwikaa, KNP, Canopy walk. Stay at Hans Cottage Botel.
May 1 - Kakum NP, Canopy walk. Depart Ghana.


Accra. Masses of Little Swift, Pied Crow and Hooded Vultures patrol the skies of Accra; in a week in and out of conference rooms some 30 species of bird were seen, the highlight being my lifer Double-toothed Barbet seen in a tree top from my 5th floor hotel room! Wattled Plovers adorned the grounds of the Conference Centre and starlings, mostly Purple Glossy with the occasional Splendid, added a dash of colour.

Shia Hills. A good day trip from Accra, about one hour distant. Guinean savannah surrounding isolated rocky hills. We walked along the road from the main gate for about two hours by which time bird activity had declined markedly due to the heat. A good selection of Guinean savannah species including the stunning Violet Turaco. The bird du jour was a overflight by a Rosy Bee-eater. After our walk, we drove along the road immediately opposite the park gate; this road transects a flat savannah with some agriculture and ended up producing Piapiac and Blackcap Babbler among others. This was my first "official" day birding in West Africa, so 25 of the 70 species seen were new.

Aburi Botanical Gardens. Arboretum adjacent to a forest. At high noon on a weekend the gardens were crowded with people, not birds, and we saw no species here that we did not see elsewhere and particularly at Kakum NP. Nonetheless, if time is short and all one had was one day this would make for a good combination with Shia Hills and a coastal site; we saw several forest species there such as African Pied Hornbill, Speckled Tinkerbird and Chestnut-bellied Negrofinch.

Sakumo Lagoon. Coastal lagoon near Accra. A late April date meant that most Eurasian waders had left, and a hot and breezy day meant that birding was slow. The site nonetheless produced a good assortment of waders as well as mangrove and savannah species. The highlight were two very well hidden Painted Snipe. This site is clearly a mega vagrant trap that is worthy of careful investigation, I can only imagine that it will add many birds to the Ghana list.

Assin Foso. We visited a site for White-necked Picathates about one hour north of town. On arriving at a small hamlet at the end of the road we were met by our local guide, Samuel, who, wielding his machete, led us through the dense jungle to a secluded rock face upon which were plastered a dozen large, mud nests. Due to eye glass fogging and ongoing siafu extraction, I did not see the Picathates which flushed on our arrival, but a quiet wait of several minutes had several reappear. This is one prehistoric looking bird, sort of a babbler/chicken cross with a crow-like bill, topped off by a bizarre yellow pattern. The whole experience was right out of a 1950's jungle movie, and one of the best birding adventures of my life. Hurrying back to make the hamlet before dark we stopped several times to pull birds lurking in the undergrowth, including a Dusky-blue Flycatcher: a Buff-throated Sunbird near the hamlet was an added bonus.

Kakum, Aboabo Camp. Hands down the best birding of the week, Aboabo offers a quiet forest track winding through a disturbed but surprisingly birdy forest. In combination with a savannah site visited later in the day it resulted in 35 lifers, which was rather overwhelming. No one sighting stood out as a highlight, but it might have been the tree in which Bristle-nosed and Naked-faced Barbets vied for the title of World's ugliest bird. Long sight lines meant that lugging around a scope was a good idea; distant gun fire, and the sight of people hawking "bushmeat" along the roadside later in the day, explained why no monkeys were seen.

Kakum NP. Canopy walkway through, and over primary rain forest. We visited the canopy walkway two times in the evening and twice in the morning, having on both occasions arranged to be met at 6AM, three hours before the official opening and the arrival of the maddening crowd. All visits produced birds, although the mornings were best. The walk to the walkway was quiet but produced views of forest skulkers like Fire-crested Alethe and Blue-headed Dove. The walkway itself allows for non-neck straining views of the smaller canopy species as well as an array of hornbills, parrots and other large birds. The highlight was a swarm of low flying swifts which included Mottle-throated, Sabines and Cassin's Spinetail. We carefully identified a Willcock's Honeyguide, apparently rare in Ghana.

Kakum NP, Antwikaa. Another forest track, similar to Aboabo but through an even more disturbed forest; yet again, strangely bird-rich despite the intrusion of agriculture. The incomparable Black Bee-eater was the star, but the supporting cast included White-crested Hornbill and the tiny Tit Hylia, so it was a close call.

Elmina. Disturbed coastal savanna with small ponds. Preuss' Swallow nest under the bridges by the ponds, otherwise rather quiet on our visit, but we were able to hear and see Green Turaco.

Hans Cottage Botel. While I still don't know what a botel is, HCB is the spot to stay when exploring Kakum. The hotel itself is set by a small lake, complete with three breeding weavers (including Orange) and crocs. The grounds have some flowering trees which during our stay attracted Green-headed and Superb Sunbirds. At night we heard African Wood Owl and Brown Nightjar.

Species Lists

Long-tailed Cormorant Phalacrocorax africanus
Gray Heron Ardea cinerea
Great Egret Ardea alba
Little Egret Egretta garzetta
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis
Black-crowned Night-Heron Nycticorax nycticorax
African Spoonbill Platalea alba
White-faced Whistling-Duck Dendrocygna viduata
Black-shouldered Kite Elanus caeruleus
Black Kite Milvus migrans
Hooded Vulture Necrosyrtes monachus
African Harrier-Hawk Polyboroides typus
Lizard Buzzard Kaupifalco monogrammicus
African Goshawk Accipiter tachiro
Shikra Accipiter badius
Black Goshawk Accipiter melanoleucus
Red-necked Buzzard Buteo auguralis
Long-crested Eagle Lophaetus occipitalis
Cassin's Hawk-Eagle Spizaetus africanus
Eurasian Kestrel Falco tinnunculus
Gray Kestrel Falco ardosiaceus
Lanner Falcon Falco biarmicus
Ahanta Francolin Francolinus ahantensis
Double-spurred Francolin Francolinus bicalcaratus
Helmeted Guineafowl Numida meleagris
White-spotted Flufftail Sarothrura pulchra
Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio
Common Moorhen Gallinula chloropus
African Jacana Actophilornis africanus
Greater Painted-snipe Rostratula benghalensis
Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus
Senegal Thick-knee Burhinus senegalensis
Spur-winged Plover Vanellus spinosus
Wattled Lapwing Vanellus senegallus
Black-bellied Plover Pluvialis squatarola
Common Ringed Plover Charadrius hiaticula
Spotted Redshank Tringa erythropus
Common Greenshank Tringa nebularia
Little Stint Calidris minuta
Ruff Philomachus pugnax
Black Tern Chlidonias niger
Rock Dove Columba livia
Afep Pigeon Columba unicincta
Red-eyed Dove Streptopelia semitorquata
Vinaceous Dove Streptopelia vinacea
Laughing Dove Streptopelia senegalensis
Black-billed Wood-Dove Turtur abyssinicus
Blue-spotted Wood-Dove Turtur afer
Tambourine Dove Turtur tympanistria
Blue-headed Wood-Dove Turtur brehmeri
African Green-Pigeon Treron calva
Gray Parrot Psittacus erithacus
Red-fronted Parrot Poicephalus gulielmi
Senegal Parrot Poicephalus senegalus
Guinea Turaco Tauraco persa
Yellow-billed Turaco Tauraco macrorhynchus
Violet Turaco Musophaga violacea
Western Plantain-eater Crinifer piscator
Levaillant's Cuckoo Clamator levaillantii
Red-chested Cuckoo Cuculus solitarius
Klaas' Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas
African Emerald Cuckoo Chrysococcyx cupreus
Dideric Cuckoo Chrysococcyx caprius
Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus
Blue-headed Coucal Centropus monachus
Senegal Coucal Centropus senegalensis
African Wood-Owl Strix woodfordii
Brown Nightjar Caprimulgus binotatus
Mottled Spinetail Telacanthura ussheri
Black Spinetail Telacanthura melanopygia
Sabine's Spinetail Rhaphidura sabini
Cassin's Spinetail Neafrapus cassini
African Palm-Swift Cypsiurus parvus
Bate's Swift Apus batei
Little Swift Apus affinis
Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata
African Pygmy-Kingfisher Ispidina picta
Woodland Kingfisher Halcyon senegalensis
Pied Kingfisher Ceryle rudis
Black Bee-eater Merops gularis
White-fronted Bee-eater Merops bullockoides
Little Bee-eater Merops pusillus
Rosy Bee-eater Merops malimbicus
Broad-billed Roller Eurystomus glaucurus
Blue-throated Roller Eurystomus gularis
Green Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus
Forest Woodhoopoe Phoeniculus castaneiceps
White-crested Hornbill Tockus albocristatus
African Pied Hornbill Tockus fasciatus
African Gray Hornbill Tockus nasutus
Piping Hornbill Ceratogymna fistulator
Brown-cheeked Hornbill Ceratogymna cylindricus
Black-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna atrata
Yellow-casqued Hornbill Ceratogymna elata
Naked-faced Barbet Gymnobucco calvus
Bristle-nosed Barbet Gymnobucco peli
Speckled Tinkerbird Pogoniulus scolopaceus
Yellow-throated Tinkerbird Pogoniulus subsulphureus
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird Pogoniulus bilineatus
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird Pogoniulus chrysoconus
Yellow-spotted Barbet Buccanodon duchaillui
Hairy-breasted Barbet Tricholaema hirsuta
Vieillot's Barbet Lybius vieilloti
Double-toothed Barbet Lybius bidentatus
Yellow-billed Barbet Trachyphonus purpuratus
Willcock's Honeyguide Indicator willcocksi
Yellow-footed Honeyguide Melignomon eisentrauti
Cassin's Honeyguide Prodotiscus insignis
Cardinal Woodpecker Dendropicos fuscescens
Gabon Woodpecker Dendropicos gabonensis
Fire-bellied Woodpecker Dendropicos pyrrhogaster
Gray Woodpecker Dendropicos goertae
Rufous-sided Broadbill Smithornis rufolateralis
Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica
Ethiopian Swallow Hirundo aethiopica
Lesser Striped-Swallow Hirundo abyssinica
Red-rumped Swallow Hirundo daurica
Preuss' Swallow Hirundo preussi
Fanti Sawwing Psalidoprocne obscura
African Pied Wagtail Motacilla aguimp
Plain-backed Pipit Anthus leucophrys
Blue Cuckoo-shrike Coracina azurea
Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike Campephaga phoenicea
Common Bulbul Pycnonotus barbatus
Little Greenbul Andropadus virens
Gray Greenbul Andropadus gracilis
Ansorge's Greenbul Andropadus ansorgei
Slender-billed Greenbul Andropadus gracilirostris
Sombre Greenbul Andropadus importunus
Yellow-whiskered Bulbul Andropadus latirostris
Spotted Greenbul Ixonotus guttatus
Simple Greenbul Chlorocichla simplex
Swamp Greenbul Thescelocichla leucopleura
Yellow-spotted Nicator Nicator chloris
African Thrush Turdus pelios
Fire-crested Alethe Alethe diademata
Red-faced Cisticola Cisticola erythrops
Whistling Cisticola Cisticola lateralis
Winding Cisticola Cisticola galactotes
Croaking Cisticola Cisticola natalensis
Siffling (Short-winged) Cisticola Cisticola brachypterus
Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis
Tawny-flanked Prinia Prinia subflava
Red-winged Gray Warbler Drymocichla incana
Sharpe's Apalis Apalis sharpii
Green-backed Camaroptera Camaroptera brachyura
Yellow-browed Camaroptera Camaroptera superciliaris
Olive-green Camaroptera Camaroptera chloronota
Senegal Eremomela Eremomela pusilla
Rufous-crowned Eremomela Eremomela badiceps
Green Crombec Sylvietta virens
Lemon-bellied Crombec Sylvietta denti
Northern Crombec Sylvietta brachyura
Kemp's Longbill Macrosphenus kempi
Green Hylia Hylia prasina
Willow Warbler Phylloscopus trochilus
Violet-backed Hyliota Hyliota violacea
Northern Black-Flycatcher Melaenornis edolioides
African Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria ocreata
White-browed Forest-Flycatcher Fraseria cinerascens
Spotted Flycatcher Muscicapa striata
Ussher's Flycatcher Muscicapa ussheri
Little Gray Flycatcher Muscicapa epulata
Dusky-blue Flycatcher Muscicapa comitata
Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat Cossypha niveicapilla
Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher Bias musicus
Brown-throated Wattle-eye Platysteira cyanea
Chestnut Wattle-eye Platysteira castanea
Senegal Batis Batis senegalensis
Dusky Crested-Flycatcher Elminia nigromitrata
Black-headed Paradise-Flycatcher Terpsiphone rufiventer
White-necked Rockfowl Picathartes gymnocephalus
Blackcap Babbler Turdoides reinwardtii
Brown Babbler Turdoides plebejus
White-winged Black-Tit Melaniparus leucomelas
Tit-hylia Pholidornis rushiae
Scarlet-tufted Sunbird Deleornis fraseri
Little Green Sunbird Anthreptes seimundi
Green Sunbird Anthreptes rectirostris
Collared Sunbird Hedydipna collaris
Reichenbach's Sunbird Anabathmis reichenbachii
Green-headed Sunbird Cyanomitra verticalis
Blue-throated Brown Sunbird Cyanomitra cyanolaema
Western Olive-Sunbird Cyanomitra obscura
Buff-throated Sunbird Chalcomitra adelberti
Olive-bellied Sunbird Cinnyris chloropygius
Tiny Sunbird Cinnyris minullus
Splendid Sunbird Cinnyris coccinigaster
Superb Sunbird Cinnyris superbus
Bates' Sunbird Cinnyris batesi
Copper Sunbird Cinnyris cupreus
Western Black-headed Oriole Oriolus brachyrhynchus
Black-winged Oriole Oriolus nigripennis
Common Fiscal Lanius collaris
Yellow-billed Shrike Corvinella corvina
Large-billed Puffback Dryoscopus sabini
Black-crowned Tchagra Tchagra senegala
Yellow-crowned Gonolek Laniarius barbarus
White Helmetshrike Prionops plumatus
Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike Prionops caniceps
Fork-tailed Drongo Dicrurus adsimilis
Velvet-mantled Drongo Dicrurus modestus
Piapiac Ptilostomus afer
Pied Crow Corvus albus
Bronze-tailed Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis chalcurus
Splendid Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis splendidus
Purple Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis purpureus
Copper-tailed Glossy-Starling Lamprotornis cupreocauda
Chestnut-winged Starling Onychognathus fulgidus
Narrow-tailed Starling Poeoptera lugubris
Gray-headed Sparrow Passer griseus
Vitelline Masked Weaver Ploceus vitellinus
Black-necked WeaverPloceus nigricollis
Orange WeaverPloceus aurantius
Village Weaver Ploceus cucullatus
Vieillot's Weaver Ploceus nigerrimus
Yellow-mantled Weaver Ploceus tricolor
Maxwell's Black Weaver Ploceus albinucha
Compact Weaver Pachyphantes superciliosus
Red-vented Malimbe Malimbus scutatus
Gray's Malimbe Malimbus nitens
Crested Malimbe Malimbus malimbicus
Red-headed Malimbe Malimbus rubricollis
Yellow-crowned Bishop Euplectes afer
Black-winged Bishop Euplectes hordeaceus
Red Bishop Euplectes orix
Yellow-shouldered Widowbird Euplectes macrourus
White-breasted Negrofinch Nigrita fusconota
Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch Nigrita bicolor
Gray-headed Negrofinch Nigrita canicapilla
Bar-breasted Firefinch Lagonosticta rufopicta
Orange-cheeked Waxbill Estrilda melpoda
Black-rumped Waxbill Estrilda troglodytes
Bronze Mannikin Lonchura cucullata
Black-and-white Mannikin Lonchura bicolor
Pin-tailed Whydah Vidua macroura