Guide to birds of Dogon country and northern Mali

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Guide to birds of Dogon country and northern Mali.

Jeff Heath, Linguistics, University of Michigan

March 2009 version
There are several published field guides to West African birds, and some recordings of bird calls are available. Because of the many people interested in African birds, there are also a very large number of images and videos on the web. This compilation includes information about which species are known to be present at least seasonally in and around Dogon country, and to some extent farther north in Mali. By no means all of them are familiar to Dogon. The information about higher-level groupings (orders, families) is primarily from Wikipedia and other online sources. Taxonomy at all levels, including the higher levels, is in a state of flux, so any particular scheme quickly becomes outdated. Because of the abundant publicly available resources we have taken relatively few photographs of birds, but those we do have will be available on the project site In some cases the images may be useful as vouchers for our identifications. The five-digit code numbers associated with many species entries below may be more permanent than the scientific binomials, and may be useful in searching for images or for native terms in our spreadsheets.

The "common" English and French names (especially the latter) are sometimes difficult to take seriously, since many are concocted by the authors of field guides or by other ornithologists. Some ornithological organizations have attempted to standardize the English and French common names. Frequently the species modifier is transposed into the common name, e.g. "Levaillant's cuckoo" for Clamator levaillantii, in honor of an 18th century ornithologist who did expeditions in South Africa. In French, even the genera are often simple Gallicizations, e.g. "cisticole" for Cisticola spp. and "euplecte" for Euplectus spp. Needless to say, these common names are not current among French-speaking Malians (or anyone else other than bird-watchers and ornithologists). Furthermore, when a genus and/or species name is changed, the manuals must either reinvent the common name, or stubbornly retain it in spite of a disconnect between the scientific and (artificial) common name. An example of the latter is French cratérope 'babbler', which (I assume) harks back to an obsolete genus name Crateropus.

Comments about distributions of spp. may refer to latitudes. For orientation, Mopti and Bandiagara are a little over 14 N, Douentza Boni and Hombori are about 15 N, Menaka and Gao are around 16 N, Timbuktu and Bourem are around 17 N, and the Adrar mountains are from about 18-20 N.
all-black or blackish body at rest, in descending order of length (bill to end of tail)

Abyssinian ground hornbill, Bucorvus abyssinicus (red neck & throat), 100 cm

brown-necked raven, Corvus ruficollis (crow), 54 cm

long-tailed cormorant, Phalacrocorax africanus (long neck, aquatic), 53 cm

long-tailed glossy starling, Lamprotornis caudatus (shiny, enormous heavy tail), 51 cm

Eurasian coot, Fulica atra (white bill and shield, aquatic), 39 cm

piapiac, Ptilostomus afer (long stiff tapering tail, rear of underwings greyish), 35 cm

fork-tailed drongo, Dicrurus adsimilis (broad forked tail), 23 cm

white-billed buffalo-weaver, Bubalornis albirostris (massive bill not always whitish, many large nests in one tree), 23 cm

black crake, Amaurornis flavirostra (yellow bill, red legs, aquatic), 21 cm

starlings (short-tailed), Lamprotornis spp. (shiny), 21 cm

northern black flycatcher, Melalenornis edolioides (to south, arboreal, mostly silent), 20 cm

northern anteater chat, Myrmecocichla aethiops (white outer wings in flight), 19 cm

fan-tailed widowbird (breeding male), Euplectes axillaris (tail longer than body), 18 cm

pin-tailed whydah (breeding male), Vidua macroura (with long streamers), 12.5 cm

indigobird (male only), Vidua chalybeata (red legs, whitish bill), 11.5 cm

black and white body, by descending length

Abdim's stork, Ciconia abdimii (white belly, green bill with red tip), 77 cm

black stork, Ciconia nigra (white belly, red bill) 98 cm

sacred ibis, Threskiornis aethiopica (black head, neck, and rump), 74 cm

pied crow, Corvus albus (crow), 48 cm

pied avocet, Recurvivorstra avosetta (wader, long grey-blue legs), 44 cm

African skimmer, Rynchops flavirostris (Niger R.), 39 cm

black-winged stilt, Himantopus himantopus (wader, long pink legs), 37 cm

cuckoos, Clamator spp. (head crests, long tails), 36 cm

moorhens, Gallinula spp. (aquatic), 28 cm

freckled nightjar, Caprimulgus tristigma (speckled), 27 cm

pied kingfisher, Ceryle rudis (hovers and dives in water), 26 cm

Allen's gallinule, Porphyrio alleni (aquatic), 25 cm

black wood-hoopoe, Rhinopomastus aterrimus (white spots on outside of tail), 23 cm

African pied wagtail, Motacilla aguimp (pumps long tail on ground), 19 cm

black scrub robin, Cercotrichas podobe (keeps tail erect), 18 cm

northern puffback (male), Dryoscopus gambensis (red eye), 18 cm

white-crowned black wheatear, Oenanthe leucopyga (Saharan), 17 cm

swifts, Apus spp. cm (white band around lower belly), 13-16 cm

white-shouldered black tit, Parus (leucomelas) guineensis (white wing patch), 14 cm

pied flycatcher, Ficedula hypoleuca (no black on underparts), 13 cm

Senegal batis (male), Batis senegalensis (black breastband), 10.5 cm

feed on figs

Crinifer piscator (large grey bird, yellow bill)

Lybius dubius (barbet: black, scarlet, a little yellow, bristly "beard" at base of beak)

Poicephalus senegalus (parrot: green back, grey head, parrot beak)

Onychognathus neumanni (starling: black with some chestnut on side, seen often on fruiting Ficus platypoda in Douentza)
journals (African ornithology)


articles with Malian location records etc.

Balança, G. and M. N. de Vissher. 1993. Notes sur les oiseaux observés sur le Plateau dogon au Mali. Malimbus 14(2):52-58. [see list below]

Clouet, M. & J.-L. Goar. 2003. L'avifaune de l'Adrar Tirharhar -- Adrar des Iforas (Mali). Alauda 71:469-74.

Dawsett, R. 2002. Alauda 70:236. [brief comments on Moulin et al.]

Girard, Olivier & Jean Thai. 2005. La cigogne noire Ciconia nigra au Mali. Malimbus 27(1):42-4. (flock of 8, Jan 18 2000, 80 km west of Mopti)

Lamarche, B. 1980-81. Liste commentée des oiseaux du Mali. Malimbus 2:121-58; 3:73-102.

Moulin, S., G. Dobigny, R. Cornette, & E. Ag Sidiyene. 2001. Observations ornithologiques dans l'Adrar des Iforas (Mali). Alauda 69:527-32.

Spierenburg, P. 2000. Nouvelles observations de six espèces d'oiseaux au Mali. Malimbus 22(1):23-38. [Apus aequatorialis observed in cliffs at Teli village near Bandiatara Oct 13 1989]

Strandberg, Roine & Patrik Olofsson. 2007. Bird observations in Mali. Malimbus 29(2): 123-5. [Chelictinia riocourii in Niono; Asio capensis 'marsh owl' Niono in rice fields north of town along with large flock of Circus aeruginosus and large evening influx of Streptopelia turtur; Prinia fluviatilis in central Niger delta, along riverbanks; Acrocephalus rufescens near Niono; Phylloscopus ibericus in flooded area south of Lac Debo]

Wymenga, E., B. Kone, J. van der Kamp, & L. Zwarts. 2002. Le Delta Intérieur du fleuve Niger: Écologie et gestion durable des resources naturelles. Sevare Mali, Lelystad Netherlands, and Veenwouden Netherlands: Wetlands International, RIZA, and Altenburg & Wymenga.

records for Dogon plateau from Balança & de Vissher (1993)

records near Bandiagara, Sept 20-Oct 10 1990 (few aquatic spp. or winter migrants)

abundant (in its habitat)

Bubulcus ibis

Streptopelia senegalensis

Streptopelia vinacea

Poicephalus senegalensis (vallées boisées)

Psittacula krameri

Cypsiurus parvus, palm swift

Apus affinis (Bandiagara)

Hirundo rustica

Lamprotornis caudatus

Passer griseus

Lagonosticta senegala


Micronisus gabar

Accipiter badius

Butastus rufipennis

Buteo auguralis

Coracias abyssinicus

Lamprotornis purpureus

Ptilostomus afer

Emberiza tahapisi (rocky areas)

Euplectes orix (streams) [now E. franciscanus]


Ardea cinerea

Ciconia abdimii (ponds)

Milvus migrans

Francolinus bicalcaratus

Oena capensis

Columba guinea (widespread)

Crinifer piscator

Halcyon senegalensis

Merops orientalis

Phoeniculus purpureus

Tockus erythrorhynchus

Eremopteryx leucotis

Spreo pulcher

Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Phylloscopus trochilus

Phylloscopus bonelli

Muscicapa striata (widespread)

Ficedula hypoleuca (widespread)

Anthreptes platura

Nectarinia pulchella

Ploceus luteolus

Ploceus cucullatus

Sporopipes frontalis

Vidua macroura

Estrilda bengala

Lonchura malabarica


Butorides striatus (i.e. striata)

Egretta garzetta

Necrosyrtes monachus

Melierax metabates

Falco tinnunculus

Falco biarmicus

Centropus senegalensis

Upupa epops

Corvinella corvina

Lanius senator

Pycnonotus barbatus

Oenanthe oenanthe

Cisticola juncidis

Prinia clamans (now Spiloptila clamans)

Ploceus velatus

Bubalornis albirostris

Vidua chalybeata

1-5 records

Phalacrocorax africanus 1

Ixobrychus sturmii 1

Machaeramphus alcinus (first country record) 1

Elanus caeruleus 5

Polyboroides typus 3

Circus aeruginosus 1 (migrant)

Falco alopex 2

Falco ardosiaceus 3

Falco chicquera 2

Falco peregrinus

Numida meleagris (2 flocks)

Ptilopachus petrosus 1

Ortyxelos meiffrenii 4

Ardeotis arabs 4

Vanellus senegallus 1

Vanellus albiceps 1

Vanellus tectus 3

Calidris alba 1 (migrant)

Tringa nebularia 1 (migrant)

Tringa ochropus 1 (migrant)

Tringa glareola 1 (migrant)

Actitis hypoleucos 1 (migrant)

Sterna caspia 1 (migrant)

Pterocles exustus (2 flocks)

Treron waalia 1

Turtur abyssinicus 1

Streptopilia turtur 1 (migrant)

Clamator glandarius 2

Halcyon leucocephala 1

Halcyon chelicuti 1

Ceryle rudis 2

Eurystomus glaucurus 1

Lybius vieilloti 1

Lybius dubius 3

Jynx torquilla 1 (migrant)

Dendropicos goertae 2

Mirafra nigricans 1 (now Pinarocorys erythropygia)

Calandrella brachydactyla 1 (migrant)

Delichon urbicum 1 (migrant)

Motacilla flava 1 (migrant)

Anthus trivialis 2 (migrant)

Laniarius barbarus 2

Oriolus oriolus 1 (migrant)

Dicrurus adsimilis 1

Onychognathus morio 1 (now Onychognathus neumanni)

Buphagus africanus 1

Cercotrichas podobe 2

Luscinia megarhynchos 1 (migrant)

Turdoides plebejus 2

Sylvia cantillans 2 (migrant)

Prinia subflava 2

Camaroptera brachyura 3

Eremomela pusilla 1

Sylvietta brachyura 2

Remiz parvulus 1 (now Anthoscopus parvulus)

Nectarinia senegalensis 1

Emberiza flaviventris 1

Euplectes afer (1 pair)

Passer luteus 2

Amadina fasciata 2

Estrilda troglodytes 1

Borrow, Nik and Ron Demey. 2004. Birds of Western Africa. (Princeton Field Guides.) Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Barlow, Clive, Tim Wacher, and Tony Disley. 1997. A field guide to the birds of the Gambia and Senegal. Nr. Robertsbridge, East Sussex: Pica.

Brown, Leslie, Emil Urban, and Kenneth Newman. 1982--. The birds of Africa. 7 (heavy!) volumes.


Chappuis, C. 2000. African bird sounds. Vol 2, West and Central Africa. Alauda//Société ornithologique de France. [11 CD's with accompanying text] [can be ordered from Wildsounds, UK]

websites, (may change url's, etc.; cf. also Wikipedia) (database) (video clips, images, and sounds)
orders of birds (Aves) with representatives in interior West Africa, alphabetical:
Accipitriformes [if distinct from Falconiformes and Ciconiiformes, taxonomy in flux]

Accipitridae (eagles etc.)

Pandionidae (osprey)

Sagittariidae (secretary bird)

Anseriformes (waterfowl)

Anatidae (ducks)

Apodiformes (swifts, hummingbirds)

Apodidae (swifts)

Bucerotiformes (see Bucerotidae and Bucorvidae under Coraciiformes)


Caprimulgidae (nightjars)

Charadriiformes (plovers etc.)

Burhinidae (thick-knees)

Charadriidae (plovers, lapwings)

Glareolidae (coursers, pratincoles, Egyptian plover)

Jacanidae (jacanas)

Laridae (gulls)

Recurvirostridae (stilts and avocets)

Rynchopidae (skimmers)

Scolopacidae (plovers)

Sternidae (terns)

Turnicidae (button-quails)

Coliiformes (mousebirds)

Coliidae (mousebirds)

Ciconiiformes (storks etc.) [several families recently shifted to Pelecaniformes]

Ciconiidae (storks, ibises)

Columbiformes (pigeons and doves)

Columbidae (pigeons, doves)

Coraciiformes (kingfishers, rollers, hoopoe, bee-eaters, hornbills)

Alcedynidae (river kingfishers)

Bucorvidae (terrestrial hornbills)

Bucerotidae (hornbills) [s.t. raised to order Bucerotiformes]

Cerylidae (water kingfishers)

Coraciidae (rollers)

Halcyonidae (tree kingfishers)

Meropidae (bee-eaters)

Phoeniculidae (woodhoopoes)

Upupidae (hoopoe)

Cuculiformes (cuckoos) [taxonomy in flux]

Cuculidae (coucals, cuckoos)

Musophagidae (turacos, plantain-eater)

Falconiformes (falcons, eagles, hawks, etc.) [traditionally also included Accipitriformes, taxonomy in flux]

Falconidae (falcons)

Galliformes (fowl)

Numididae (guinea-fowl)

Phasianidae (francolins, partridges, chicken, turkey)

Gruiformes (cranes etc.)

suborder Ralli (s.t. raised to order Ralliformes)

Heliornithidae (finfoot), phylogenetically close to Rallidae

Rallidae (crakes, moorhens, rails)

suborder Grui

Gruidae (cranes)

doubtful, perhaps a separate order

Otididae (bustards)

Musophagiformes (see Musophagidae under Cuculiformes)

Passeriformes (passerines, i.e. sparrows etc.)

suborder Tyranni

Eurylaimidae (broadbills)

suborder Passeri


Campephagidae (cuckoo shrikes)

Corvidae (crows)


Laniidae (shrikes)

Monarchidae (monarch flycatchers)

Pittidae (pittas)


Alaudidae (larks)

Buphagidae (oxpecker)

Cisticolidae (cisticolas etc.)

Emberizidae (buntings)

Estrildidae (estrildid finches)

Fringillidae (true finches)

Hirundinidae (swallows, martins)

Malaconotidae (bush-shrikes, puffbacks, tchagras, boubous)

Megaluridae (grass-warblers)

Motacillidae (wagtails, pipits)

Muscicapidae (Old World flycatchers, chats)

Nectariniidae (sunbirds)

Oriolidae (orioles)

Paridae (tits, titmice)

Passeridae (true sparrows)

Platysteiridae (wattle-eyes, batis)

Pycnonotidae (bulbuls)

Sylviidae (warblers)

Timaliidae (babbler)

Turdidae (thrushes, robins) [see Muscicapidae]

Sturnidae (starlings, oxpecker)

Pelecaniformes (pelicans etc.)

Anhingidae (darters)

Ardeidae (herons, egrets)

Pelecanidae (pelicans)

Phalacrocoracidae (cormorants)

Scopidae (hammerkop)

Threskiornithidae (ibises, spoonbills)

Piciformes (woodpeckers etc.)

Lybiidae (barbets) [formerly included in Capitonidae]

Picidae (woodpeckers)

Indicatoridae (honeyguides)

Podicipediformes (grebes)

Podicipedidae (grebes)

Psittaciformes (parrots etc.)

Psittacidae (parrots)

Pteroclidiformes (sandgrouses)

Pteroclididae (sandgrouses)

Ralliformes [see Rallidae and Heliornithidae under Gruiformes]

Strigiformes (owls)

Strigidae (typical owls)

Tytonidae (barn-owls)


Struthionidae (ostrich)

families of birds (Aves), alphabetical

Accipitridae (eagles etc.)

Alaudidae (larks)

Alcedynidae (river kingfishers)

Anatidae (ducks)

Anhingidae (darters)

Apodidae (swifts)

Ardeidae (herons, egrets)

Bucerotidae (hornbills)

Burhinidae (thick-knees)

Campephagidae (cuckoo-shrikes)

Capitonidae (barbets), see Lybiidae

Caprimulgidae (nightjars)

Centropodidae (coucals), see Cuculidae

Cerylidae (water kingfishers)

Charadriidae (plovers, lapwings)

Ciconiidae (storks, ibises)

Cisticolidae (cisticolas etc.)

Coliidae (mousebirds)

Columbidae (pigeons, doves)

Coraciidae (rollers)

Corvidae (crows, magpies)

Cuculidae (coucals, cuckoos) [coucals s.t. put in separate family Centropodidae)

Dicruridae (drongos)

Emberizidae (buntings)

Estrildidae (estrildid finches)

Eurylaimidae (broadbills)

Falconidae (falcons, kestrels)

Fringillidae (true finches)

Glareolidae (coursers, pratincoles)

Gruidae (cranes)

Halcyonidae (tree kingfishers)

Heliornithidae (finfoot)

Hirundinidae (swallows, martins)

Indicatoridae (honeyguides)

Jacanidae (jacanas)

Laniidae (shrikes)

Laridae (gulls)

Lybiidae (barbets) [formerly included in Capitonidae]

Meropidae (bee-eaters)

Motacillidae (wagtails, pipits)

Musophagidae (turacos, plantain-eater)

Nectariniidae (sunbirds)

Numididae (guinea-fowl)

Otididae (bustards)

Pandionidae (osprey)

Passeridae (true sparrows)

Pelecanidae (pelicans)

Phalacrocoracidae (cormorants)

Phasianidae (francolins, partridges)

Phoeniculidae (woodhoopoes)

Picidae (woodpeckers)

Pittidae (pittas)

Ploceidae (weavers)

Podicipedidae (grebes)

Psittacidae (parrots)

Pteroclididae (sandgrouses)

Pycnonotidae (bulbuls)

Rallidae (crakes, moorhens, rails)

Sagittariidae (secretary bird)

Scopidae (hamerkop)

Sternidae (terns)

Strigidae (typical owls) [cf. Tytonidae]

Struthionidae (ostrich)

Sturnidae (starlings, oxpecker)

Sylviidae (warblers)

Threskiornithidae (ibises, spoonbills)

Timaliidae (babbler)

Turdidae (thrushes, robins)

Turnicidae (button-quails)

Tytonidae (barn-owls) [cf. Strigidae]

Upupidae (hoopoe)
Payne: Lagonosticta virata known between Mopti and Dogon escarpment

Eremalauda dunni gets south to about Mopti

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