Arguably even more spectacular than the richness and variety of Zakouma’s mammal mega-fauna is its birdlife – definitely a highlight of Zakouma. Sandwiched between desert and rainforest, Zakouma National Park is the first suitable habitat after the Sahara and thus vast numbers of water birds and wildfowl crowd Zakouma’s pans – flocks of well over 500 are common and crowned crane are often seen in numbers of over 2,000.
Around the pans, such as Riguek, in March/April locusts arrive in their hundreds and thousands – an explosion of food and energy available that attracts a huge concentration of birds from kites to maribou storks. The Abyssinian ground hornbill stalks the land like a prehistoric predator. The startling dazzle of the blue of an Abyssinian roller darts past. The steps of the maribou stork are measured as if holding his hands behind his back. A Senegal Coucal hides patiently in the shade. Ducks take to the air as one in a squeak of sing-song chatter. Crowned crane take to the air, the beat of their wings ponderous and slow. They seem to be making little headway, frozen in the air and then their efforts pay off. The fluttering hover of the carmine bee-eater. High above, a Batleuer eagle floats scanning the grassy plan for snake and frogs.
But best of all were the pelicans. They are skittish and difficult to get close to and inevitably in trying to do so one takes flight, triggering wave after wave after wave of pelican filing onto the runway like WWII bombers. Within minutes several hundred pelicans are airborne gliding the thermals, not a beat of their wings. The transformation is as dramatic as it is beautiful.
The kaleidoscope of birds includes the Egyptian Plover and the Black-capped Gonolek.