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  • Writer's pictureSamantha Brueggeman

Goederts in Ethiopia Week 10: The Birds of Ethiopia

There are so many things that fill our day with joy like the birds and their songs in the early morning. We particularly enjoy the green parrots that are hard to see as they blend into the tree foliage. Ethiopians call them Love Birds because they are monogamous pairs who bond and sit together when not working, sometimes with their small flock. They are social and affectionate, and they do fill your heart each time you see their colorful behaviors.

A couple of ‘love birds’ decided to move into our building rent free. They chipped their way through the concrete surface of the building and built a home inside the wall (see left photo). We typically see them in the evenings with their head out of the hole that is directly across from the stairwell. They are shy. If we get too close to the window, they dart away into the trees.

Doves have always reminded me of the presence of angels in my life and our balcony railing seems to be a favorite location for them to rest. They are often seen walking the rail unconcerned with our presence just a few feet away from our balcony door. I was reading quietly on the balcony last week when a pair of doves decided to join me. They were so close that I could have touched them. However, I was so enamored by their presence that I was able to enjoy them walking around the legs of my chair before moving on. What a blessing!!!

On another day we were awakened by a terrible racket that we knew was one of the local birds but this one was loud. A Hemrich’s Hornbill decided that our railing was the perfect place to send out its obnoxious call to its partner. It stayed long enough that I was able to take several pictures and then get video footage of the way it stretches out in preparation for sending its call from deep down in its throat (

We often see Yellow-billed Kites and African Fish Eagles soaring overhead in the thermals too far in the distance for a picture. We were surprised during lunch one day at an outdoor restaurant when a Kite landed in the tree next to our table. It was no doubt looking for a lunch made easy by the rodent population cleaning up after us. Fish eagles, however, remains elusive as they swoop near our proximity while diving for an unsuspecting fish venturing near the water’s surface. They resemble our American Bald Eagle, and it is difficult to tell them apart. The Bald Eagle is bigger and the white on the African Fish Eagle extends down the neck and chest.

Recently we have become enamored with the Blue Nile Hotel restaurant on a peninsula extending into Lake Tana. There is a small balcony with three tables and nine chairs outside the deck that faces northwest. A short distance to the north is another peninsula creating a bay. From our table we can watch Little Grebe ducks swimming around in circles while Kingfishers flutter a few feet over the water then suddenly dive for a meal. We watched one evening as a Kingfisher caught a fish that was too big to swallow. The bird was not about to let go of this catch. No matter how many times the bird readjusted the angle of its hold, there was no way this fish was going down that small throat. The Kingfisher was an optimist, flipping the fish over and over but never allowing an airborne assault because of the nearby competitors.

The western part of the bay is filled with large papyrus growing in the shallows of the lake. We love to watch the sun set over the papyrus field. When the sun is just right you can see the mosquitoes rising from within the grasses. They are so thick at times that they resemble a drizzling rain. This smorgasbord brings out the swallows and the show begins as bugs scatter, zigzagging in every direction as hundreds of hungry swallows’ dart through the insect swarm in a feeding frenzy. The problem with watching this evening serenade of bugs and birds is that those malaria carrying mosquitoes are rising from the depths because they are also hungry and looking for an evening meal which happens to be us sitting on the balcony watching the sunset. Luckily, I bring Martha along because mosquitos prefer her. It is my second line prevention for malaria.

A variety of birds can be found almost anywhere along the lakeshore like this Egyptian Goose that can often be seen swimming with its mate (left). Or these cormorants that dive underwater for their meals (right).

Other birds prefer the land, making this a bird watchers paradise.

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