Birds of the Okavango Delta, Part 1 of 2

Saddle-billed Stork, Okavango Delta

The Okavango Delta, in the southern African country of Botswana, is a most astounding place. A desert in the dry season, and an extensive wetland the other months, it is home to thousands and thousands of birds, mammals, and myriad wildlife.


This is the first of a two-part series highlighting birds we saw at this Unesco World Heritage Site.


African Jacana

Due to seasonal flooding, the Okavango Delta swells and shrinks dramatically in the course of a year.   In January and February, rainfall from Angola drains down the Okavango River and floods this flat plain for 4-6 months–an attractive opportunity for parched wildlife.


Wattled Cranes, Botswana, Africa

As part of the Kalahari Desert, the Delta’s water eventually recedes from the sandy terrain; and high temperatures cause the water to transpire and evaporate.


African Skimmer, Botswana

This annual cyclical pattern creates a permanent or temporary home for hundreds of thousands of African creatures.  Wikipedia Okavango Delta overview here.


A 7,000-square-mile area, there are over 500 different bird species here. For comparison, in all of Canada (3.8 million square miles) there are 400 bird species.   Bird list here.


African Fish Eagle, Botswana

Aquatic birds and raptors populate the waterways, swampy areas attract crakes and swamphen, while open waters attract waders. The variety of habitat, from reedy swamps to forests and grassland, is what makes this an attractive panoply for birds.


Egyptian Goose

Some birds are rare or threatened, like the Wattled Crane and African Skimmer; others, like the African Fish Eagle, are commonly seen.


Yellow-billed Storks, Okavango Delta


Hippopotamus, Okavango Delta

More than 200 species of mammals graze, drink, and live primarily nomadically, following the water or the growth it produces–buffalo, hippo, numerous antelope, zebra, wildebeest, to name a few.


Elephant herds number several hundred. And of course, predators (lion, hyena, cheetah and more) follow the herds.


Wild Dog, Botswana

The Okavango Delta is also home to the endangered Cape Wild Dog. We had the blissful pleasure of finding a pack of wild dogs at nearby Chobe River, read about it here.


Today I showed you some of the water birds in the Okavango Delta, including a few cameo appearances by non-birds. Next time we’ll take a look at more terrestrial-oriented birds. Stay tuned!


All photos by Athena Alexander

Painted Reed Frog, Botswana, Africa


Yellow-billed Stork, Okavango Delta






Location of  Botswana  (dark blue)– in Africa  (light blue & white)– in the African Union  (light blue)  –  [Legend]

Botswana in dark blue. Courtesy Wikipedia.



126 thoughts on “Birds of the Okavango Delta, Part 1 of 2

    • It used to be a bird watcher’s paradise, now it has become more popular for other safaris too, there’s plenty for everyone to watch. The reed frogs are colorful, yes, and they are very variable. He’s about the size of your thumb! Thank you, Mike, appreciate your visit.

  1. Over 500 different bird species in A 7,000-square-mile area, that is incredible. Lovely bird captures, Jet!
    African Fish Eagle is so good looking. 🙂

  2. Great pictures you are certainly well traveled–That hippo seems to be looking directly at the photographer–hope that’s his happy look!

    • I love that photo of the hippo, makes me smile every time. We were required to stay in the safari vehicle at all times, for safety reasons. Your comment made me smile, just like the hippo does — that’s a fierce happy look, isn’t it Bill??

  3. Awesome photography Jet – really loved this post. The African Jacan is a handsome bird – beautiful colors. But the Hippo, he does eat the cake – great shot.

    • At first I included only bird photos here, but the Delta is more than just birds, so I put in a few other non-birds too. I’ll do another series sometime on the mammals. Thanks so much, Mary, for your visit and kind words.

  4. What amazing statistics! And the quality of light in these great photos reflects very well what I imagine it to be like there – hot and bright. My sister lived there for a few years but I never managed to visit unfortunately. There is no way she would have taken photos like these so it is good to get another taste of what she must have experienced.
    By the way, call me pedantic but I love your correct use of “myriad”. I am told I have a “bee in my bonnet” about the word, but I perhaps we can all be a bit pedantic about certain things 😉

    • We spent almost no time sleeping here, because the morning light was so commanding. I’m glad to have shared it with you Alastair. I enjoyed your word discussion too. You know me, Alastair, I am a word person; the use of words is a constant study, and joy for me, and I both understand and appreciate the “bees” we have. Your visit was a joy, thank you.

  5. Oh wow just awesome pictures of gorgeous birds and animals I do not see here in the states. Incredible shots! I so appreciate the time it must have taken to actually shoot these images. Beautiful post, Jet. Thank you! ❤

    • …what it was I was viewing. Something cut me off there and I didn’t finish! You provide
      not only great photos but useful information to complete the story. Thanks so much for
      your hard work.

      • I really appreciate your kind words, Eddie, and thanks for finishing that thought. I do work hard on the posts, it is kind of you to acknowledge. Just like one of my heroes, David Attenborough, I feel driven to share the beauties and miracles of the earth’s incredible creatures with others. The more people who know what is out there, the bigger the effort can be to protect wildlife. With continued human population growth and urbanization, the less many people see of the open spaces; but it is the open spaces that we need to keep alive for wildlife to propagate and thrive, and for future human generations to enjoy. Many thanks to you, Eddie~~

  6. I truly enjoy reading this and seeing all the photos. Thanks, Jet.
    Is it just me? Those birds, frog… look so unreal. They look more like something created by an artist. The African Fish Eagle looks like he/she was wearing a pair of pants. So cute. Can’t wait for your next post.
    Have a wonderful day.

    • I so agree with you, Helen, there is a story-book quality to some of these creatures with their unusual markings and patterns and colors. Enjoyed your comment so much, a delight to have you visit.

    • It is indeed a very special location. I’m glad you enjoyed the photos here, R2P. There are lots of fish here too, I think you would like it. Thank you for your visit today~~

    • I agree, MD, lots of crazy shapes and configurations. The land, too, is like that, with islands and rivers and channels everywhere. I’m glad you enjoyed it, I really appreciate your input and enthusiasm.

    • I’ve never seen a place with so many storks, so many different kinds too. I’ll wait for you to come up with the joke, Craig; your clever imagination goes for many miles. Thanks for coming by today….

    • The ears are a giveaway, yes. In the wild, probably at the zoo too, these dogs were unbelievably ferocious. We were absolutely thrilled to find them, had been looking for weeks and saw them on our last day. Mahalo, my friend~~

    • I hope you get a chance to visit the Okavango Delta some day, Mike. You wouldn’t want to kayak here (crocodiles!), but you would absolutely love it. Many thanks!

      • Hi Jet, I did look into a kayaking trip in the Okavango and if I get out there might have to go despite the crocs, hippos (which I hear are most dangerous) and elephants.

        Have a wonderful weekend and thanks again for the post as it helps give me that nudge towards making it happen.

      • I’m delighted you are considering a trip to the Okavango, Mike. One of the keys to success in Africa is leaving behind our American ways, for it is a land like no other. I would recommend a visit by land, for that is enough to contend with in itself. Wonderful to have this exchange, my friend~~

      • Jet, thanks for the tips and word of wisdom. I hope that when the time come you will allow me to pick you brain a bit more five you knowledge on the area.

  7. Bless that hippo – beautiful captures Jet! How fabulous you were able to travel Botswana. For reasons I can’t remember now travel wasn’t allowed through there when I went through Africa. What an amazing experience for you.

    • It was a great treat to visit Botswana, and we felt very lucky to have had the opportunity. The Okavango Delta and the Moremi Preserve were lovely. I’m glad we could share it with you, Joanne. Thanks for your visit.

    • The African Jacana is a very special bird, Sarah, you picked a lovely specimen to fall in love with. When they walk on the lily pads it is magic in motion. My thanks for your visit~~

    • It was very difficult to narrow the series down to a two-post series, because there were SO MANY birds! But I am sure you will enjoy the second part, Belinda — see you next week!

  8. A wonderful wildlife post! Such beautiful birds and creatures of the African country. Fantastic photography and a lovely write. Thanks for this first part and looking forward to the next, Jet. 🙂

  9. Beautiful photos and birds and what an amazing place to have so many different bird species. It’s too difficult to pick a favorite shot this week and, as always, thanks for introducing me to new birds and fascinating places.

    • It is a true joy to share these birds and the Okavango Delta with you, ACI. I, too, had a difficult time narrowing it down for this post and the next one, because there were so many photos! I really enjoyed your wrestling swans today, my friend~~

  10. We have Wattled cranes in the Saint Louis zoo and their calls are sometimes mistaken for a woman’s cry. The police regularly receive false reports because of them.

    • I think that is such a wonderful tidbit, RegenAxe. This very rare and threatened bird is one of the most beautiful cranes I have ever seen in my life. We were so thrilled when we came upon them in this small pond. I smile as I type, thinking about the St. Louis police and the wattled crane calls. 🙂

  11. So many beautiful birds. How wonderful to see a rare wattled crane in the wild. I first heard about this crane during my trip to the International Crane Foundation in WI and found their coloring and features fascinating.

    • We were so lucky to have come across this pair in the pond. We were just far enough away (in the safari Land Cruiser) that they didn’t flee, and simply continued drinking. One of the most beautiful cranes I have ever seen. I am happy to say, I saw 13 of the 15 at the International Crane Foundation, with thanks to you, Ingrid, and your post for suggesting this lovely foundation.

  12. What an adventure you must have had! I had to follow up on the wild dogs link – they are astonishing. Always fun to read your posts, and I always learn something new. Looking forward to part two. Thanks, Jet, and have a great weekend!

    • Oh I am so glad you were able to visit the wild dogs link, pc. It was truly one of the most exciting wildlife sightings I have ever had. They are so very rare, there are very few left on this planet, and we had been scouring the land for 3 weeks to no avail. Then on our last day, we were graced by a pack. A joy to share the Botswana adventures with you, pc. I hope your weekend is a pure delight.

  13. I very much agree with plaidcamper: “Always fun to read your posts, and I always learn something new.” He took the words right out of my fingertips. O_o

    • “…took the words right out of my fingertips” — what a great phrase, Gunta!! Truly a delight to hear from you, my friend, and a happy time to share with you. Thank you. 🙂

    • I’m delighted you enjoyed the Okavango Delta, Val. That fish eagle is such a cool bird, and I enjoyed, with a smile, your fun description. He does look like he’s wearing jodhpurs. 😀

    • I love that the Okavango is one of your most favorite places on earth, Dina. And I can see why. It was really tricky doing this post because Okavango is so loaded with wonderful features and creatures, it’s difficult to narrow it down. So I’m narrowing the birds into two posts (more coming on Friday), and I’ll do mammals and natural history in future posts. Many thanks for your great input~~

  14. Interesting! So many birds there look similar to the birds we see here, but have there own uniqueness that set them apart. A lesson in diversity.

    • Yes, cranes and waders and raptors are everywhere on earth; they have some differences, and there’s always some very unique creatures wherever we are on the globe. But we are definitely all one planet. Enjoyed your comment today, Nan — thanks for your visit.

    • Hi Regina, thanks for stopping by. When you and John decide to visit Africa, you are welcome to email me and we can give you suggestions for good places to visit. Until then, I’m glad you enjoyed Part 1 of the Okavango…and there’s more to come this Friday. 🙂

  15. So many lives in one place! I love the Saddle-billed Stork – she is so pretty! How far did you see them, Jet? I can imagine we had to take quite distance from them for not making them insecure or so.

    • I love that saddle-billed stork, too, Indah. They are very big birds, with such unique markings. When viewing the wildlife we were always in either a land cruiser or a boat, so they are not as disturbed by that. And we were several hundred feet away too. Thank you for your visit, always fun.

  16. Gorgeous photos. I love the variety of birds. The birds in WI are not nearly as colorful or unique as birds found across the rest of the world. I also LOVE the reed frog.

    • Yes, the bird variety at the Okavango Delta is astounding, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Last summer we visited the International Crane Foundation in Baraboo WI and we were happy to see the Wattled Crane there (in captivity), the same species we saw here in Okavango. The reed frog was tiny and hidden deep in the reeds, but oh, what great fun it was to find him. Enjoy your trip~~

      • It is great to see all the variety of cranes we have in this world, and the Crane Foundation is doing wonderful things for this species that is in danger of disappearing. It is, however, all captive birds; so it is not a wild experience. I think it’s definitely worth a day trip, Froglady.

    • That painted reed frog is quite a creature, isn’t it Steve? They vary a lot from individual to individual, too. I’m glad you enjoyed the Okavango wildlife…tomorrow is the final in the series, hope to see you then. Many thanks for your visit and comment.

    • Oh, Sriram, I see you know the pure thrill of the painted dogs. Of all my safari experiences, this one stands out in the top five. We found them on our last day after weeks of searching, a pack of a dozen or so, down by the Chobe River. It was such a moving experience that after they all ran off, we remained there, speechless and mesmerized. I am so glad to share this with you, thank you.

  17. Wow! The Okavango Delta looks like a beautiful place to visit. So much wildlife! Thank you so much for sharing the exciting information and gorgeous photos. I didn’t know before that there was a wild dog species – I like the particular shape of their muzzle and ears. The bird variety is dreamy! And the hippo and frog are delightful too! 🙂

    • It is a pure delight to share the Okavango Delta with you, Myriam. The bird variety is indeed dreamy (love that word), and the mammals, including the wild dogs are wonderful too. Wild dogs are on the endangered species list, so it was an absolute thrill to see them, and they were so lively and animated, yet ferocious too. Thank you for your enthusiastic response, it is much appreciated.

      • Is your next book set in Africa? I remember reading that somewhere but now I can’t remember where. I’m definitely curious to see how you include these rich travel experiences into a murder mystery. Your two novels are on my “I’d like to read list”. I haven’t had time to read fiction in a while but this summer looks good… 🙂

      • You guessed it right, Myriam. My next book is set in Africa. I love Africa. I wouldn’t want to live there, but I love to travel there; and basing a mystery there is great fun. It will probably be about two years before it’s done. Thank you, my friend~~ 🙂

  18. What a strange looking eagle! I sometimes forget the eagle family is very diverse! Black eyes,must be to protect the retinas from the bright light?
    Must be hot down there too eh?
    Looks like a great trip!

    • Hi Wayne. Looks like I stumped the bald eagle photography expert with the sight of the secretary bird…this bird is definitely a strange one. They’re actually not an eagle and are so unique that they are in their own family: Sagittariidae. It is a true pleasure to introduce you, Wayne–many thanks for your visit and comment.

      • The African Fish Eagle and North American Bald Eagle are in the same Family (Accipitridae) and Genus (Haliaeetus), aka sea eagles. And I think your speculations are exactly right, Wayne. lol. Your eagles are probably a bit bigger, too, and would indeed chase the African Fish Eagle away. Eagles are such a joy to watch and to have on this planet. Thanks so much, Wayne, I appreciated your comment and thoughts. You gave me a smile today, too, thank you.

  19. What a lovely post! Okavango Delta is still on my bucket list, although I have visited Botswana. It is an amazing eco system as witnessed by your posts. The Jacana is a beautiful bird that I have not seen before, and the Fish Eagle is always majestic. I remember seeing them sitting high up in trees along rivers in Africa.

    • I hope you get a chance to visit the Okavango Delta someday, Helen, and if you do, you’ve now had a sampling of a few of the many impressive birds there. Jacanas are always great fun to watch because with their long toes they walk atop the lily pads in a magical way. And you described the fish eagle well, often sitting up high in trees lining the rivers. Great fun to share the Delta with you, thank you for your visit.

  20. I love all the birds and your explanation of the area. With all these special birds, I can see why you might not be a cat person! 😀
    400 bird species in all of Canada, sounds like a lot, then again, I thought there’d be more. I’ll bet there’s birds that aren’t here anymore.

    • Places with warm weather are naturally more attractive to most birds, where they can reproduce with success. But how fortunate we are in on this planet to have 10,000+ species living on all the continents. Lovely to have you visit, Resa, thank you so much for stopping by.

  21. This sounds like a land of contrasts. Given the scarcity of water, I’m not surprised at this flurry of life when the lands are wet. I expect with the environment under pressure, many species are threatened here.

    It must have been very impressive to observe. Were you on a tour or travelling independently?

    • You are exactly right in your thoughts on the Okavango Delta, Draco — it is a land of contrasts, and many species are unfortunately threatened. It was a true joy to be there. For the Okavango Delta we were with a group, and the Luangwa Valley, the week before, we did a safari with another couple. Thanks so much for your visit and interest, my friend~~

  22. My smile grew and grew as I read through this beautiful post Jet. I feel a sense of kindred spirit now that we have seen, albeit in different times, the same African species. Oh my Athena has a skill with the camera. I must say that the lead photo of the Saddle-billed stork made me think a tiny traffic pylon had been stuck on the poor fellows beak! Amazing and definitely recognizable. Also thanks for the photo of the Egyptian goose. I have a picture of a bird and didn’t know what it was.

    • I had so much fun putting this two-part post together, Sue, it actually enhanced the visit, thinking about all the beauty we saw in this Delta, and trying to narrow down the photos. I am lucky Athena worked so hard to produce these photos and memories. Thanks so much for your generous comment, and I’m delighted the goose photo helped you with id.

  23. Great photos! I loved the stork, the wild dog and the hippo in particular. My partner Andy and I love storks. I have a poetry blog here on WordPress and today’s poem is about storks in case you have time to look? Have a good afternoon, Sam 🙂

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