15-27 October 2000
Dale Herter and Jim Thomason
Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This report summarizes the birds we observed and includes some notes on birding locations found during a business/tourism trip to Mali in fall 2000. We were assigned to scout the popular tourist routes within the country for upcoming general natural history/cultural tours to the region. As a result, we drove way too far for a normal intensive birding trip, but were able to stop mostly whenever we wanted for short walks and to identify top-of-the-tree large birds (as long as we remained somewhat on schedule). Consequently, our list of birds is top-heavy toward the larger roadside species, and a bit lean on the smaller passerines.
We felt very lucky to have a guide and driver in a 4X vehicle for the entire trip and spent portions of 24-26 October in western Burkina Faso, which is not summarized here. The only time we needed the 4X vehicle was for the drive from Timbuktu to Douentza, which was essentially a track through the sand for most of the way. Otherwise, the main roads in this portion of the country were paved and in excellent shape. We were amazed at the almost complete lack of potholes. The worst roads encountered were the streets in Bamako proper. Accommodations were a bit more expensive than weíd expected and there seems to be a big gap between semi-luxurious hotels and mid-priced hotels, many of the latter we found to be dark, hot, and depressing. The former will cost you $40-$60 US per night. Also, knowledge of some French is most definitely helpful if you do not have a local guide, very little English is spoken in the smaller towns.
Mali is a fascinating country with friendly people and stunning artwork. Our trip took us from the capital, Bamako, eastward to Timbuktu and Douentza, and included side trips to the Dogon region (east of Mopti), and the border area with Burkina Faso near Kouri. Like other first-time visitors, we were struck by how "lush" the vegetation appeared, having expected a much drier, more desert-like countryside (probably resulting from international reports of droughts in the Sahel region during the 1980ís). The habitats we encountered mainly represented portions of the moisture gradient from true Saharan desert in northern Mali to relatively moist Guinea woodland in the southwest. Starting in the north, around Timbuktu south to Douentza, the habitat would best be called subdesert scrub with often heavy cover of "karram-karram" grass, a nasty plant with spiny seeds that stick to shoes and clothing, its abundance probably resulting from the widespread overgrazing by sheep, goats, and cattle. Small green-bark acacias and other thorny trees and shrubs occur commonly as well. South of here, from Douentza to San, a dry savannah type occurs with much millet and sorghum cultivation, but with frequent large trees (mostly acacias and keritie-nut trees), even amongst the cultivated fields. From San to Bamako and south to Koutiala, a moist savannah type is found which is characterized by the presence of baobabs and more shrubby growth, where allowed, between the intensive agricultural plots. In the border area with Burkina Faso from Koutiala to Kouri and patchily near Bamako, a stunted, dry Guinea woodland occurs with much grazing in the understory by goats and cattle. Taller leafy trees are found near watercourses, where most of the cultivation occurs. Peanuts and cotton can be grown here, as well as cereal grains. The Niger River forms its own band of habitat, with intensive rice cultivation occurring in many areas that were formerly seasonal wetlands. The Dogon region, the immediate area around Douentza, and just north of Bamako is characterized by dramatic laterite and sandstone escarpments reminiscent of the canyonland area of the southwestern U.S. Several species of birds were only found in association with these rocky outcrops and cliffs.
We visited at the end of the wet season, with millet and sorghum harvest just starting and the rice had attained its maximum height but was not yet ripe. Few deciduous trees had lost their leaves yet and the cool southerly Harmattan winds had not started (unfortunately). Maximum temperatures were close to 38 degrees C, so mid-day birding was often slow. Many finches and other seed eaters were busily feeding young, and bishops and wydahs were still in full plumage and displaying frequently. Our list only represents what one may find during this season, since we suspect there would be some dramatic changes in avian abundance and distribution once the dry season is in full swing.
We provide an annotated species list at the end of this report, but some of the birding highlights are as follows: Timbuktu is legendary (at least in English-speaking countries) and rightly so today, as it still seems far from anywhere. The desert scrub around here produced a few nice species, including cricket longtail, southern gray and woodchat shrikes, yellow-breasted barbet, and fulvous chatterer. Most of the drive south from Timbuktu to Douentza is through the Reserve des Elephants, although much of the larger game is gone and we found no elephants (or sign of them). The only large wildlife besides the thousands of goats and cattle we saw, were two red-fronted gazelles and a stunning Arabian bustard. Surprisingly, driving though this area was like parting the waves (of birds), as 100ís of thousands of red-billed queleas and Sudan golden sparrows erupted from the grass and bushes for miles on end. The sparrows were in small flocks and still busily feeding recently fledged young, but the queleas were farther along and seemed to have already formed large flocks (often over100 birds in each).
The Dogon region (which we visited near Sangha) is truly amazing, from both a cultural and birding perspective. Cliff dwellings very similar to the Pueblo culture of the southwestern U.S. are found here, with fetish houses and burial piles of human bones wedged in impossibly high cliff ledges. Unlike the Anasazi dwellings of the U.S., these villages are still occupied, with women grinding corn on flat rock trays and millet and sorghum drying on the rooftops. Add to this a host of circling falcons, ravens, starlings, and pigeons, and it makes for a dizzying display. Our biggest regret was not spending several days trekking in this area, as we only had one full day here. Fox kestrels were common, as well as truly wild rock doves, mocking cliff-chats, Neumannís starlings, and brown-necked ravens. We also observed one probable Mali firefinch here, visiting a rocky pool with lavender waxbills and red-billed firefinches.
The combination of roadside stops and short walks in the savannah habitats from Bamako to Douentza produced great views of some of the common tree-top-sitters, including Abyssinian, broad-billed, and rufous-crowned rollers, red-billed and African gray hornbills, western plantain-eater, dark chanting-goshawk, and grasshopper buzzard. Highlights in these habitats included a pair of bronze-winged coursers spotted by JT as they dozed under a bush at mid-morning, a pair of chestnut-bellied sandgrouse near a waterhole, the gorgeous but shy yellow-crowned gonolek, and the less-shy and wholly improbable long-tailed paradise-wydah.
Highlights in the woodland habitat included a martial eagle, single groups of northern carmine, red-throated, and white-throated bee-eaters, one Gambaga flycatcher, and a small nesting colony of Heuglinís masked weavers, all near the border with Burkina Faso.
We spent little time along the Niger River or its main tributaries, but did see a few Egyptian plovers, and yellow-crowned bishops along the banks. A boat trip into the inland delta north of Mopti would undoubtedly produce more wetland species.
While not the birding mecca of West Africa, Mali nonetheless has a nice mixture of Sahel and cliff-loving species which may be difficult to find in other countries farther east or west. The generally excellent A Field Guide to the Birds of the Gambia and Senegal by Barlow and Wacher (1997) was mostly adequate for Mali, but a few birds, especially in the Timbuktu and Burkina border areas (and the Mali firefinch), were not in this guide, so an East African field guide is also helpful. The excellent paved roads were a real treat after visiting Senegal and the Gambia. Be sure to visit Timbuktu and the Dogon region if possible, although still somewhat difficult to get to, they are fascinating and well worth going out of your way if you find yourself in this part of the world.
Annotated Species List:
Goliath Heron (Ardea goliath): A single individual flying over the Niger River at Mopti at dusk on 19 Oct.
Black-headed Heron (A. melanocephala): Seen twice, inland near large waterholes or wetlands.
Gray Heron (A. cinerea): Seen commonly along the Niger and its tributaries, also inland wetlands.
Purple Heron (A. purpurea): One immature seen flying along the Niger River south of Timbuktu, 23 Oct.
Great Egret (Egretta alba): Farily commonly seen in rice paddies along the Niger, occasionally seen at inland wetlands.
Little Egret (E. garzetta): Common in all habitats at stock waterholes, inland wetlands, rice paddies, etc.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis): Seen every day, around livestock, at water holes, millet fields, etc.
Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides): Seen twice, once near the Niger River south of Timbuktu, and again along the river near Mopti, less common than expected.
Striated Heron (Butorides striatus): Occasionally seen at larger waterholes and inland wetlands with wooded edges, fairly common but secretive.
Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis): Seen several times in rice paddies near Mopti.
Comb Duck (Sarkidiornis melanotos): About 6 flying over the Niger River south of Timbuktu, 23 Oct.
Garganey (Anas querquedula): Flock of 20-30 flying over rice paddies south of Timbuktu, 23 Oct.
Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus): Two individuals, both in subdesert habitat near Douentza.
Black Kite (Milvus migrans): Seen almost daily around cities, villages, or not, common.
Hooded Vulture (Neophron monachus): The common West African vulture, seen many times in all habitats.
Short-toed Eagle (Circaetus gallicus): One individual seen soaring near Segou on 17 Oct. (appeared to be gallicus, not beaudoini).
Western Marsh Harrier (Circus aeruginosus): Mostly females seen, over rice paddies and less commonly over subdesert grasslands.
Gabar Goshawk (Micronisus gabar): Seen several times in moist savannah or woodlands, a fairly bold and visible Accipiter relative.
Dark Chanting-Goshawk (Melierax metabates): An adept lizard-catcher, seen multiple times, commonest in savannah habitats.
Shikra (Accipiter badius): Seen a few times darting around larger trees or even soaring in savannah habitats.
Grasshopper Buzzard (Butastur rufipennis): Fairly common at this season, mostly in moist savannah and woodland habitat. Typically perched at tree tops. Rufous wings easily seen in flight and seemed less buffy below than shown in Barlow and Wacher, 1997.
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo): A few individuals seen in dry savannah and subdesert, as well as near rocky ridges. Each one scrutinized for red-necked buzzard, but all appeared to be this species. All had dull rufous tails, unlike the illustrations in Barlow and Wacher, 1997.
Booted Eagle (Hieraaetus pennatus): One individual seen flying over the rocky hills just north of Bamako on 16 Oct.
Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus): One individual soaring low over hilly woodland near the Burkina Faso border south of Kouri. Well seen, large size, long primary "fingers".
Fox Kestrel (Falco alopex): Common at the Dogon cliffs but seen nowhere else. Un-kestrel-like chattering calls heard often over the Dogon villages. A large kestrel, illustrations fail to show the darker rufous upperside of the tail, contrasting with the light rufous back which is easily seen in flight from cliff-top viewpoints.
Grey Kestrel (F. ardosiaceus): Much less common at this season here than in Senegal, seen only once in dry rocky savannah near the Dogon region but not at the cliffs.
Common Kestrel (F. tinnunculus): Much more common at this season here than in Senegal, pairs and individuals were common in Bamako, also in dry savannah and a few at the Dogon cliffs.
Lanner Falcon (F. biarmicus): A few at the Dogon cliffs and one near Timbuktu in subdesert habitat.
Northern Hobby (F. subbuteo): A few were seen soaring around the Dogon cliffs.
Red-necked Falcon (F. chicquera): Fairly common near cities and villages, particularly along the Niger River and areas with palms.
Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris): Feathers of probable wild birds found in the Reserve des Elephants near a mostly dry watercourse. Small group heard in the Faya Forest Reserve just east of Bamako at dusk.
Stone Partridge (Ptilopachus petrosus): Several small family parties heard and seen in rocky hills just outside Mopti. Two sizes of chicks were seen in the groups, all quite small in size and following closely behind the adults.
Double-spurred Francolin (Francolinus bicalcaratus): Two individuals seen in moist savannah habitat, one seen well to rule out Clappertonís.
Arabian Bustard (Ardeotis arabs): Lone individual seen well in the Reserve des Elephants south of Timbuktu on 23 Oct., an impressive bird. Found in grassy subdesert.
African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus): Small numbers seen in rice paddies around Mopti and in inland wetlands near the Burkina border.
Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus): Small groups occasionally encountered at larger waterholes in all habitats.
Egyptian Plover (Pluvianus aegyptius): Pairs seen twice, once along the road to San where it crosses the Bani River, once along the Niger River near Segou, relatively tame.
Bronze-winged Courser (Rhinoptilus chalcopterus): Nice to find a pair of this hard-to-see species huddled under a bush during a short walk in dry (heavily grazed) savannah habitat between Segou and Mopti. Patches of open short grass were interspersed with shrub patches at this location.
Black-headed Lapwing (Vanellus tectus): A fairly commonly seen species of moist and dry savannah habitat, less apt to be seen at waterholes than spur-winged.
Spur-winged Lapwing (V. spinosus): Commonly seen around stock waterholes. Seemed to favor woodland and moist savannah habitats.
Wattled Lapwing (V. senegallus): Only a few small groups near a larger wetland adjacent to the Burkina border near Kouri.
Ruff (Philomachus pugnax): Small numbers in flooded grass along the Niger River south of Timbuktu.
Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia): A few in a pond along the banks of the Bani River.
Wood Sandpiper (T. glareola): A few individuals in the same pond as the greenshanks.
Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos): Fairly common, mostly singles could be found at almost any type of water feature, along the river, stock ponds, small streams in the Dogon region, etc.
Caspian Tern (Sterna caspia): Two or three flying over the Niger River south of Timbuktu.
Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus): Appeared to be common along the Niger River where we crossed it by ferry south of Timbuktu.
Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus): One pair near a waterhole in dry savannah between Segou and Mopti, another pair flushed in grassy subdesert north of Douentza.
African Green Pigeon (Treron calva): One small group in woodland habitat at riverside trees near the Burkina border.
Bruceís Green Pigeon (T. waalia): A few seen feeding in a fruiting tree near a village below the Dogon cliffs at Sangha.
Black-billed Wood-Dove (Turtur abyssinicus): Fairly common in shrubby areas from subdesert to woodland. Heard calling nearby and often flushed at water holes.
Namaqua Dove (Oena capensis): Common, more so in dryer habitats but found throughout. Nest found in a shrub near Timbuktu.
Rock Dove (Columba livia): A common native wild bird at all rocky areas with cliffs. The local subspecies is a sleek dark gray pigeon with much irridescence, a small dirty white rump patch, and prominent red eye wattles. Did not seem to associate with semi-domesticated pigeons nearby and fed in fields rather than in villages. Conducted wheeling flight maneuvers over the cliffs and very vocal when on the ledges.
Speckled Pigeon (C. guinea): Seen almost daily. A few at cliff sites, but also associated with towns and villages, overall fairly common.
Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata): Fairly common in woodland habitat, not seen elsewhere but may have been present at least in moist savannah habitat.
African Mourning Dove (S. decipiens): Replaces red-eyed as the common large dove in dry habitats and along rivers. Common in Mopti and surrounding area.
Vinaceous Dove (S. vinacea): Fairly commonly seen in moist savannah and woodland.
African Collared-Dove (S. roseogrisea): Replaces vinaceous dove as the common small dove in dry savannah and subdesert. Common around Timbuktu and Doentza.
Laughing Dove (S. senegalensis): One of the most abundant birds in Mali. Seen in all types of habitats, from cities to deep woodland, a very adaptable species.
Levaillantís Cuckoo (Clamator levaillanti): Fairly common. A few individuals seen in all habitats.
Great Spotted Cuckoo (C. glandarius): One individual seen well, flying over subdesert brush near the Niger River south of Timbuktu.
Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis): Fairly commonly seen in savannah and woodland, always associated with patches of dense brush and often near tall grass or rank herbage. Another species that frequently perches at bush-top level at dusk.
Barn Owl (Tyto alba): Heard at night from the Hotel Azalai in Timbuktu. Individual seen the next morning in the roof of a decorative arch at the entrance of this hotel.
Long-tailed Nightjar (Caprimulgus climacurus): Only one individual, seen flying at dusk in the Faya Forest Reserve east of Bamako.
Senegal Parrot (Poicephalus senegalus): A fairly common and widespread species but we did not see them in the driest habitats. Small groups frequently seen flying from tree to tree in savannah and woodland.
Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri): About as common as Senegal parrot, also seemed to avoid the driest habitats. Usually seen wheeling around savannah or woodland trees in small parties.
Western Plantain-Eater (Crinifer piscator): Found in savannah and woodland habitats. Commonly seen perched at tops of trees, especially at dusk.
African Palm Swift (Cypsiurus parvus): Common wherever palms were found, in all habitats.
White-rumped Swift (Apus caffer): A few were seen at the Dogon cliffs at Sangha, they did not seem to associate with nearby flocks of little swifts.
Little Swift (A. affinis): Common, seen daily in all habitats, flocked near cities, cliffs, and major bridges.
Alpine Swift (A. melba): A small flock was present at dusk at the Dogon cliffs near Sangha, the only time we saw them.
Hoopoe (Upupa epops): Only seen in subdesert habitat from Timbuktu south to Douentza, where it appeared to be common.
Green Wood-Hoopoe (Phoeniculus purpureus): A few family groups were seen in all habitats, typically flying from tree to tree, appeared to be uncommon but widespread.
Gray-headed Kingfisher (Halcyon leucocephala): Two individuals found in streamside trees near Mopti in dry savannah habitat.
Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo cristata): One seen in a small stream near the border with Burkina Faso at Kouri.
Giant Kingfisher (Megaceryle maxima): One individual at a small river crossing along the main highway between Bamako and Segou.
Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis): Commonly seen near all types of water bodies, including rivers, waterholes, and wetlands.
Abyssinian Roller (Coracias abyssinica): A common roadside species seen daily in all habitats. Unfortunately a victim of passing cars and trucks on paved roads. A case where the roads of Mali may be TOO good, allowing cars to speed over 100 km/hr, hitting rollers that come to the roads to capture reptiles and insects.
Rufous-crowned Roller (C. naevia): Much less common than Abyssinian, and we only saw it in moist savannah and woodland habitats.
Broad-billed Roller (Eurystomus glaucurus): A few individuals were seen in one small area of dry savannah south of Mopti, near rock outcroppings, otherwise not encountered.
Red-throated Bee-eater (Merops bullocki): A fantastic bird, one group seen in woodland near the Burkina border near Kouri.
Northern Carmine Bee-eater (M. nubicus): One group seen at the border crossing with Burkina Faso near Kouri, perched in tall trees near a pond.
White-throated Bee-eater (M. albicollis): A few small groups seen in subdesert and woodland habitats.
Little Green Bee-eater (M. orientalis): Small groups seen in dry savannah habitat on several days.
Red-billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus): Seen daily in small numbers in all habitats.
African Gray Hornbill (T. nasutus): Seen daily but only in savannah and woodland habitats, being more common in the moister areas. Loose flocks of up to 20 often seen flying well above tree-top level toward roost sites at dusk.
Yellow-breasted Barbet (Tricholaema margaritatus): One small family group heard and seen in tall subdesert scrub south of the Niger River in the Timbuktu area.
Vieillotís Barbet (Lybius vieilloti): Singles and pairs encountered occasionally in all habitats. Illustrations of this species rarely do it justice, a handsome barbet in real life.
Bearded Barbet (L. dubius): Fewer seen than Vieillotís, and seemed restricted to areas with tall trees, often by streams and rivers. The "beard" is easily seen on calling birds and is more pronounced than typically illustrated.
Gray Woodpecker (Mesopicos goertae): Only seen once, in woodland near the Burkina border. The lack of woodpeckers (and honeyguides) was noticeable, and may have been related to the common use of dead wood as a fuel source throughout the rural areas.
Crested Lark (Galerida cristata): One small flock in sandy grassland near the Niger River south of Timbuktu.
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark (Eremopterix leucotis): Seen a few times in moist savannah and woodland openings.
Black-crowned Sparrow-Lark (E. nigriceps): Replaced its congener in dryer habitats, encountered commonly in the Reserve des Elephants in grassy subdesert.
Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava): Large flocks were seen flying over Mopti toward islands in the Niger River at dusk from nearby rice paddies.
Plain Martin (Riparia paludicola): A pair was seen along the banks of the Bani River where the main highway from Segou crosses.
Red-rumped Swallow (Hirundo daurica): Small flocks associated with cliffs wherever this habitat was encountered.
African Rock Martin (H. fuligula): Appeared to be fairly common at the Dogon cliffs, and rocky areas near Mopti.
Common House Martin (Delichon urbica): A few individuals were seen dipping into a stock pond near Segou.
Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus): Common in urban gardens and streamside vegetation throughout.
Brown Babbler (Turdoides plebejus): Seen only once, a small party in dense brush within the moist savannah zone near Segou.
Fulvous Chatterer (T. fulvus): Several small parties were found in subdesert scrub south of the Niger River in the Timbuktu area. Amazing resemblence to some thrashers of southwestern U.S. deserts.
African Yellow White-eye (Zosterops senegalensis): Seen only once, a pair in woodland near Kouri.
Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata): Singles in subdesert, dry savannah, and woodland habitats.
Gambaga Flycatcher (M. gambagae): One identified in woodland habitat near the Burkina border.
Black Scrub-Robin (Cercotrichas podobe): Seen on a few occasions in subdesert and dry savannah.
Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus): We did not encounter this species until we reached dry savannah or subdesert habitats, where it was frequently seen, although shy.
Northern Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe): Also only found in dryer habitats, several seen in open subdesert scrub and rocky outcroppings.
Black-eared Wheatear (O. hispanica): A few seen well (including tail pattern) in subdesert habitat, others suspected but not seen well enough to identify.
Northern Anteater-Chat (Myrmecocichla aethiops): Only one seen, found in association with termite mounds in dry savannah near Mopti.
Mocking Cliff-Chat (Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris): Commonly seen wherever significant rocky cliffs were found, such as in the Dogon region and outcroppings around Mopti.
Olivaceous Warbler (Hippolais pallida): Seemed to be frequent in dry savannah only.
Garden Warbler (Sylvia borin): Only seen once, in subdesert scrub near Timbuktu.
Orphean Warbler (S. hortensis): An immature bird was seen in scrub near Timbuktu.
Common Whitethroat (S. communis): One individual seen in Mopti.
Subalpine Warbler (S. cantillans): Several small groups encountered in subdesert scrub near Timbuktu.
Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita): Seen a few times in dry savannah habitat near Segou and Mopti.
Western Bonelliís Warbler (P. bonelli): Identified twice in mixed species flocks in savannah habitats.
Senegal Eremomela (Eremomela pusilla): Seen a few times in moist savannah and woodland habitats, always in mixed-species flocks.
Singing Cisticola (Cisticola cantans): A cisticola giving call notes appropriate to this species was seen briefly in tall grass and bushes near a millet field in the Segou area.
Tawny-flanked Prinia (Prinia subflava): Encountered several times, wherever tall grass and bushes meet in moist savannah and woodland habitats.
Cricket Longtail (Spiloptila clamans): Several parties seen in subdesert scrub in the Timbuktu area.
Green-backed Camaroptera (Camaroptera bracyura): Small groups seen a few times in dense shrubby areas in moist savannah and woodland habitats.
Woodchat Shrike (Lanius senator): Commonly seen only in subdesert scrub near Timbuktu and in the Reserve des Elephants.
Southern Gray Shrike (L. meridionalis): Also commonly seen only in subdesert scrub in same areas as woodchat shrike.
Yellow-billed Shrike (Corvinella corvina): Small parties seen only a few times in moist savannah and woodland types.
Black-crowned Tchagra (Tchagra senegala): A pair found in dense brush in woodland near the Burkina border.
Yellow-crowned Gonolek (Laniarius barbarus): Seen and heard several times wherever dense shrubs were found in savannah and woodland habitats, also in brush near escarpments.
White-crested Helmet-Shrike (Prionops plumatus): Only one party seen in woodland habitat near Bamako.
African Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone viridis): One female seen along a creek in a small mixed flock of warblers in woodland habitat near the Burkina border.
Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis): Seen daily in savannah and woodland habitats but not in subdesert.
Pied Crow (Corvus albus): Seen daily in all habitat types, usually with cattle or near villages.
Brown-necked Raven (C. ruficollis): Seen twice, a pair at the Dogon cliffs and a pair in subdesert near Douentza.
Piapiac (Ptilostomus afer): Only two small groups in moist savannah habitat near Segou.
Neumannís Starling (Onychognathus neumanni): Common at the Dogon cliffs and also seen at the escarpment north of Bamako.
Chestnut-bellied Starling (Lamprotornis pulcher): Seen daily in all types of habitats, common.
Long-tailed Glossy-Starling (L. caudatus): Also seen daily in all habitats, common and impressive!
Greater Blue-eared Glossy Starling (L. chalybaeus): A few flocks found in dry savannah and near a mostly dry watercourse in the Reserve des Elephants.
Lesser Blue-eared Glossy Starling (L. chloropterus): Appeared to us to be less common than greater, identified twice, in Segou and with greaters at a dry watercourse in subdesert habitat.
Bronze-tailed Glossy Starling (L. chalcurus): Two individuals picked out of a mixed flock of glossy starlings along a mostly dry watercourse in the Reserve des Elephants.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus): Seen a few times in savannah habitats, always in association with cattle.
Pygmy Sunbird (Anthreptes platurus): Seen a few times in moist savannah and woodland habitat. We expected this species to be more common. Two full-plumaged males seen.
Beautiful Sunbird (Nectarinia pulchella): Seen several times in moist savannah and woodlands, more common than pygmy and more common than we had expected. Most were in molt.
White-rumped Seedeater (Serinus leucopygius): Seen once near a waterhole along the Bani River in moist savannah habitat, in association with waxbills and other finch-like birds.
Yellow-fronted Canary (S. mozambicus): Seen with the seedeater above, as well as outside Bamako.
Village Indigobird (Vidua chalybeata): Pairs commonly seen in villages and small cities, also near waterholes with other birds.
Long-tailed Paradise Wydah (V. interjecta or V. orientalis): Species identification uncertain but full-plumaged males regularly seen in savannah and woodland habitats throughout, often conducting display flights. They are amazing!
Gray-headed Sparrow (Passer griseus): One of the most commonly seen birds in all habitats, often found "singing", but also feeding young.
Sudan Golden Sparrow (P. luteus): Incredibly common in the Reserve des Elephants and around Timbuktu. Adults feeding young in small groups everywhere, primarily in grassy subdesert habitats.
Bush Petronia (Petronia dentata): Only seen twice, one with yellow-spotted petronias in rocky dry savannah near Sangha, and two perched in typical upright stance in woodland habitat near the Burkina border. We expected to see more of this species than we did.
Yellow-spotted Petronia (P. pyrgita): A few seen foraging in a tree in rocky dry savannah near Sangha.
White-billed Buffalo-Weaver (Bubalornis albirostris): Seen daily in all types of habitats, but absent from the driest subdesert areas. Common and their obvious nests where seen wherever large trees were found.
Speckle-fronted Weaver (Sporopipes frontalis): Small groups were often present near waterholes in savannah habitats, fairly common.
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver (Plocepasser superciliosus): We only saw nests of this species, primarily in subdesert and a few in dry savannah habitat. Nests did not appear active.
Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus): Common in woodland and savannah habitats but not seen in subdesert. Slightly less common overall than in Senegal.
Yellow-backed Weaver (P. melanocephalus): Groups seen a few times in moist savannah and woodland habitats, usually near water.
Vitelline Masked Weaver (P. velatus): Encountered fairly frequently in savannah and woodland habitats, appeared to us to be more common than in Senegal.
Heuglinís Masked Weaver (P. heuglini): One male and several females attending nests in a bush within a marsh near the Burkina border. Nest shape, yellower females, and yellow crown of male helped in identification as we were too far to see the eye color.
Red-billed Quelea (Quelea quelea): A few small groups seen near waterholes with other birds in moist and dry savannah types, but large flocks were found everywhere in grassy subdesert in the Reserve des Elephants, mixed in with Sudan golden sparrows.
Yellow-crowned Bishop (Euplectes afer): Displaying males were common in riverside grass along the Niger River south of Timbuktu, but not seen elsewhere.
Orange Bishop (E. franciscanus): Commonly seen in deep grass wherever moist conditions occurred along roadsides and rice paddies in savannah and woodland habitats.
Black-winged Bishop (E. hordaceus): Two pairs seen in grass/woodland edge along the Burkina border.
Green-winged Pytilia (Pytilia melba): Only seen once, a pair in dense brush in moist savannah habitat outside Bamako.
Red-billed Firefinch (Lagonosticta senegala): Seen daily, a common commensal of man in villages and towns. Young fledged from a nest at our hotel in Timbuktu on 22 October.
Mali Firefinch (L. virata): A single male fitting the description for this species was seen with lavender waxbills and red-billed firefinches at a rocky pool near Sangha in the Dogon region. The bird was larger than the nearby red-billeds, had a brown nape and back, blending with deeper red undersides. The forehead was reddish and the bill was larger and longer than in red-billed and was all bluish black (upper mandible all black). We had a nice close look but somewhat brief as the bird soon flew off.
Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (Uraeginthus bengalus): Commonly seen in brushy areas in all habitats.
Lavender Waxbill (Estrilda caerulescens): Only a few were found and only in one area, in trees and brush below the escarpment near Sangha in the Dogon region.
Black-rumped Waxbill (E. troglodytes): Found a few times near waterholes in dry savannah, and in brush near cliffs north of Bamako.
African Silverbill (Lonchura cantans): Small numbers fairly commonly seen near waterholes and rocky areas in savannah habitats.
Bronze Manakin (Lonchura cucullata): Small groups encountered a few times near waterholes and in rice paddies in savannah areas.
Cut-throat Finch (Amadina fasciata): Another species found often at waterholes in savannah habitats, fairly common.
Cinnamon-breasted Bunting (Emberiza tahapisi): Seen several times in rocky areas within savannah habitats, singing often betrayed its presence.
House Bunting (E. striolata):
times at the Dogon Cliffs and in villages there, also in rocky outcroppings
near Mopti. Often seen in the same habitat as cinnamon-breasted bunting.
Not found at Timbuktu as expected, but we did not search the town for them