Biodiversity & Fisheries


Avifauna of Eritrea

Eritrea's land area is about the size of Hokkaido and Kyushu combined, but its topography and climate are extremely diverse. Eritrea has a coastline of more than 1,350 km, lush forested areas and arid lowlands. The country is also rich in elevation differences, from Emba Soira, the country's highest peak at 3018 meters above sea level, to the Kobar Sink in the Danakil Plain at 116 meters below sea level.

Because of these geographical features, the avifauna (bird fauna) of Eritrea is very unique and fascinating. The number of bird species recorded in Eritrea is close to 600. While much of the country's avifauna is shared with neighboring countries, such as Ethiopia to the north and Sudan to the west, Eritrea is nevertheless unique. In the coastal and island areas, seabirds and waders cover the ground with their nests, and in the forests, colorful birds please the eye. Even in arid lands, there are birds that have adapted to the harsh environment. Some birds are not only colorful and beautiful, but also have unusual habits that cannot be seen in Japan. 
Here, we will take a look at the birds, classified according to their species.

Agro-ecological Zones of Eritrea

source : FAO, 1997. Support to Forestry and Wildlife Sub-sector, Pre-investment Study TCP/ERI/6712 (F), Volume I & II, FAO, ROM, Italy.



Passerines are a group of birds that includes the sparrows commonly seen all over the world, which includes more than half of all bird species. They are characterized by the shape of their toes. The foot of a passerine has three toes directed forward and one toe directed backward, called anisodactyl arrangement. And by their well-developed syrinx(the vocal organ of birds), they chirp frequently. With a few exceptions, they are small birds. Passerines are found on all land masses except Antarctica and, of course, in Eritrea. Birds we see and think of as "little birds" are often passerines. Let us introduce some of the most characteristic ones.



In the forests of Eritrea, small birds can be seen hovering and sucking nectar from flowers. You may be tempted to assume that it is a hummingbird, but hummingbirds are birds of the order Apodoformes, which are distributed in the Americas and are not native to Africa. The nectar-sucking birds of the African continent are categorized into Pessiriformes. Like the hummingbird, it has a tube-like tongue with a brush-like tip. Hummingbirds have degenerated legs and are extremely poor walkers, but the sunbird has no trouble walking or perching on tree branches. They may hover like hummingbirds, but they also tend to suck nectar while holding onto a branch with their strong legs. The name "sunbirds" comes from the fact that they appear to change color depending on the angle at which they are exposed to the sun. This is called structural coloration. Therefore, the actual color may look different from the color in the photograph.

Beautiful Sunbird

Variable Sunbird

Tacazze Sunbird


Weavers are members of the Passariformes. They have interesting nesting habits. They are dexterous weavers of grass and other plants, building spherical or cone-shaped nests that hang from tree branches. Several kinds of weavers are found in Eritrea,

Baglafecht Weaver

Red-billed Oxpecker

As the name suggests, the red-billed Oxpecker pecks at cattle and other livestock with its red beak. They eat ticks, fleas, lice, and other parasites off their big friends.

Red-billed Oxpecker

Northen Red bishop : the little bird wearing a striking red coat
The Northern Red Bishop is named for the color of the male's plumage, which is reminiscent of the vestments worn by Roman Catholic bishops.

Northern Red Bishop

Other passerines

Greater Blue-eared Starling

White-rumped Babbler

Common Rock Thrush


Rollers are distributed all over the world, including Africa. The name "roller" was given to this bird for the dives and somersaults they perform during the display flights in courtship.

Abyssinian Roller

European Roller

Blue-breasted Bee-eater

Doves and Pigeons

Doves are also familiar birds in Japan, and their families are distributed all over the world. Their well-developed pectoral muscles stout body-shape are all indications that they belong to the pigeon family. In Eritrea, there are laughing doves, whose calls sound like human laughter, and Bruce's green pigeons, which love fig nuts.

Laughing Dove

Bruce’s Green Pigeon

Lichtenstein's sandgrouses are pigeon-like birds which have adapted to arid regions. Their body shape resembles that of a pigeon. They were once considered to be close to pigeons, but are now treated separately in the order(Pterocliformes). They are able to absorb water and retain it in the feathers of the belly and carry water back to their nests several kilometers away to satisfy the thirst of their chicks.

Lichtenstein's sandgrouses


Seashore birds and waders are introduced on the "Biodiversity" page, but now that new photos have arrived, we would like to introduce several waders. There are many unique birds along the coastline, such as the African black ibis, which was regarded as an incarnation of a god in ancient Egypt, and the crab plover, which eat crabs almost exclusively.

The African Black Ibis

the Crab Plover

Endemic Birds and the National Bird

There are 30 species of birds endemic to Eritrea and Ethiopia. The majority of these birds are highlanders. Both Abyssinian rails and Wattled Ibis, pictured below, can be found in the highlands.

Abyssinian Rails

Wattled Ibis

Lastly, let us introduce the national bird of Eritrea.
Turaco are birds found only on the African continent. They have long, extended head feathers(crest). The white-cheeked turaco is a species of this family. In addition to its prominent crest, the white feathers on its cheeks are very impressive.
The white-cheeked turaco sometimes appears on the website of the Embassy of Eritrea to Japan and on publicity materials as an official mascot.

White-cheeked Turaco

If you are interested in the endemic birds of Eritrea and Ethiopia, the following book is recommended.
Jose Luis Vivero Pol, “A guide to Endemic Birds of Ethiopea and Eritrea” : Shama Books, 2001



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