Jana loves compiling and sharing lists about the natural world, science, and history.
Africa's Most Beloved Symbols
There are plenty of national birds from Africa, but keeping things short and sweet, here are the five most colourful, daring, bizarre, and biggest birds that impressed their nation enough to become an icon.
The Kori Bustard
The Kori Bustard (Botswana)
What makes the Kori so special is that the speckled wonder is Africa’s heaviest flying bird. Clocking in at 19 kilograms (41 pounds), the birds love to traipse around on the surface and scour the earth for their favourite snacks. They feast on berries and snakes alike.
The bird is known for its unusual but attractive appearance. The creature is covered with a set of autumn-flavoured feathers but when a Kori goes on display, that is when they become downright mesmerizing. When they do, the birds fluff their striped throat plumage into a thick ball-like shape and lift the tail, distantly resembling the way that turkeys spread their tails (just more pressed together).
A Kori Doing A Display
The Blue Crane
The Blue Crane (South Africa)
The Blue Crane is a spectacular bird. Standing at a majestic 120 cm (47 inches) in height, the powder blue birds live throughout South Africa. Their beauty is not their only star quality. Blue Crane mating dances are elaborate and spell-binding to watch. A love-struck male will dip its neck and hop into the air with open wings to impress a potential mate.
While a Blue Crane grazes mainly on plants, the bird also loves to gulp a grasshopper or two and might even snatch a small mammal given the chance.
There are only 25,000 left. However, the South African government has given them legal protection, sparking the hope that, in the future, flocks of these blue beauties might fly through the skies again.
Blue Cranes Courting
The African Fish Eagle
The African Fish Eagle (Namibia)
Namibia could not resist picking this regal creature as their national bird and it’s not hard to see why. The large eagle has an impressive wingspan, dark body and a white neck. This colour combination gives the African Fish Eagle a rather butler-like appearance!
As their name suggests, the raptors swoop down on fish to provide dinner for themselves and their chicks. However, due to its strength, this eagle can also take down other water birds like geese and even flamingos.
The eagles are most famous for their distinct calls which have a commanding and yet haunting quality. Locals love it so much that the eagle’s cry has become known as the “Voice of Africa.”
Call Of The African Fish Eagle
The Black-Crowned Crane
The Black-Crowned Crane (Nigeria)
This crane has an iconic hair-do. But besides sporting spike-like feathers on its head, the crane also has fetching white/red cheeks and a puffy black forehead.
The endangered crane became the national bird of Nigeria in 1985 which is an honour that it shares with an eagle. They are the smallest of the crane species and also the only ones to roost in trees when they rest or sleep.
Locally, they are linked to superstition. When people see a Black Crowned Crane, it’s an omen that rain is coming and there is some truth to it. The birds migrate to the wetlands when both the rainy and their breeding season are about to start. True to being a crane, they also engage in elaborate dancing to win a mate.
Black-Crown Cranes Courting
The Lilac Breasted Roller
The Lilac Breasted Roller (Kenya)
You don’t have to be a fierce eagle or large crane to capture the heart of a nation. Sometimes, all you have to do is to be ridiculously colourful. That is what happened with the Lilac Breasted Roller of Kenya.
Thanks to the bird’s rainbow colours, fans often mentioned it as one of the most beautiful birds on Earth. The chest has pastel lilac feathers, while the wings are blue and a pleasing amount of other soft colours decorate the belly, back and face.
These acrobatic birds can live for as long as 11 years and daringly hunt scorpions. As meat-eaters, they also lunch on amphibians, reptiles, snails, mammals, and other small birds.
Lilac Breasted Roller Singing
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Jana Louise Smit
Umesh Chandra Bhatt from Kharghar, Navi Mumbai, India on August 16, 2021:
Nice article. Well presented.
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 16, 2021:
Thanks for telling us about these birds of Africa. It is always interesting to know about the different kinds of birds around the world.
Jana Louise Smit (author) from South Africa on August 16, 2021:
Hi Srushti Gamit. Thank you for reading the article. I agree, the roller is an absolutely stunning bird. :)
Srushti Gamit on August 16, 2021:
Thank you for sharing this informative article with us. Lilac breasted roller is actually so beautiful but the other four are also beautiful in their own kind.