Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone 6

My daily work routine in Freetown, Sierra Leone has me sitting at a desk, facing a yard full of fruit trees. Every day the fruit trees fill up with birds of all descriptions, and as I couldn’t find a Birds of Freetown website to help me identify the species I was observing, I decided to make my own.

NOTE: I am not an ornithologist; if I have made any misidentifications please let me know and I will correct them.

Birds of Freetown

Western Plantain-eater (Crinifer piscator)

Western Plantain-eater, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Western Plantain-eater. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Western Plantain-eater is a type of turaco (cousin to the spectacular Violet Turaco and Great Blue Turaco). A family of Western Plantain-eaters live in the fruit trees in the yard; they perch on the uppermost branches of the trees (even in the rain) and feed on, in this case, not plantains but mangos and rose-apple.

Village Weaver (Ploceus cucullatus)

Village Weaver, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Village Weaver. Photo credit: Benjamin White

A flock of Village Weavers flies into the large mango tree in the yard every morning at about 9am. The colourful males (pictured) and their drab-by-comparison females spend about an hour in the tree, picking it clean of every insect they can find.

Spectacled Weaver (Ploceus ocularis)

Spectacled Weaver, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Spectacled Weaver. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Usually several Spectacled Weavers will join their Village Weaver cousins in the mango tree for an unhurried breakfast.

Veillot’s Black Weaver (Ploceus nigerrimus)

Vieillot's black weaver Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Vieillot’s Black Weaver. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The final member of the weaver family that comes to breakfast in the yard each morning are the Veillot’s Black Weaver.

African Thrush (Turdus pelios)

African Thrush, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

African Thrush. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The African Thrush has been given a terrible name (its genus, Turdus, is no better), but on a more positive note it is related to the European Song Thrush, whose melodic calls have inspired lines in poetry by Robert Browning, Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas, and William Wordsworth.

Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus)

Hooded Vulture, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Hooded Vulture. Photo credit: Benjamin White

A pair of Hooded Vultures cruise over the house several times a day, making their way across the landscape in long, sweeping circles. With a wingspan of 1.5m, they ride air currents effortlessly, searching for carrion – or discarded bags of domestic waste – on which to feast.

Woodland Kingfisher (Halcyon senegalensis)

Woodland Kingfisher, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Woodland Kingfisher. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Woodland Kingfisher hunts by sitting quietly, circumspectly on a tree branch, then pouncing swiftly on its prey.

Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus)

Common Bulbul, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Common Bulbul. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Common Bulbul is a highly successful bird species in the sense that it has made a home for itself across most of the continent of Africa.

Variable Sunbird (Cinnyris venustus)

Variable Sunbird, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Variable Sunbird. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Variable Sunbirds are nectar eaters and can feed when hovering in the air just like hummingbirds.

Senegal Coucal (Centropus senegalensis)

Senegal Coucal, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Senegal Coucal. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Senegal Coucal scrunches up its body (as pictured) in order to make its distinctive ook-ook-ook call.

African Pied Crow (Corvus albus)

African Pied Crow, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

African Pied Crow. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The African Pied Crow are the troubled teens of the neighbourhood; they are always making noise and up to mischief. They can be seen lampooning about throughout the day, often chasing one another off roofs and trees, and somersaulting and pinwheeling through the air.

Bronze Mannikin (Lonchura cucullata)

Bronze Mannikin, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Bronze Mannikin. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Bronze Mannikin is a type of finch. This bird is an incessant nest-builder; it is often seen carrying grass in its beak (as pictured) for nest-building purposes. Bronze Mannikins are often taken from the wild and sold as pets.

Laughing Dove (Spilopelia senegalensis)

Laughing Dove, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Laughing Dove. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The Laughing Dove, with its distinctive blue-grey banding on the wings, is quite friendly towards humans. They often fly to my window after I have opened it, and sit on the window grille, all the while looking at me enquiringly, and singing their croo-croo-croo call.

African Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae)

Grey Woodpecker, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

African Grey Woodpecker. Photo credit: Benjamin White

The African Grey Woodpecker has stiff tail feathers that function like an additional limb. They on balance on the tail feathers while tapping on branches, and poking holes in soft timber, in search of grubs and insects.

Shikra (Accipiter badius)

Shikra, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

Shikra. Photo credit: Benjamin White

Shikra is the Urdu word for hunter. This bird, common across Africa and Asia, was held in high regard by falconers in India and Pakistan. The Shikra was often deployed to catch small game to feed the most prestigious falcons.

This shikra had just caught an agama lizard and calmly devoured it on this branch, much to the annoyance of the sunbirds and bulbuls in the yard.

The fruit-tree-filled yard

The fruit tree filled yard, Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

The fruit-tree-filled yard. Photo credit: Benjamin White

I thought I would include a photo of the fruit-tree-filled yard and the glimpses of Freetown it provides.

The smaller water body you can see is Aberdeen Lagoon; beyond that is a narrow strip of land that is Lumley Beach, and beyond that: the infinite blue of the Atlantic Ocean.

To be continued…

That’s it so far, but this is just the start of my Birds of Freetown page. There are many more birds in the garden whose photos I am yet to capture. I’ll continue to update the page as I photograph and identify additional species.

Tools used to identify the birds of Freetown:

I used the following two websites to identify the majority of the birds on this page:

BIRDS of THE WORLD – An Online Bird Book –

More on birds:

Macaw Mountain, Honduras

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6 thoughts on “Birds of Freetown, Sierra Leone

  • Andy McFarlane

    Lovely photos that brought back some fab memories. If you were interested, you could track down David, whose site you used for identification purposes, as he was back in Freetown with the EU and I think still is. He’s a font of knowledge, a great photographer and could shown you some great birds.

    • Benjamin White Post author

      Hi Andy, thanks for your comments. To be honest, I’m not all that much of a bird person. Although I’m interested in knowing what birds are around, I’m not likely to go out and specifically look for birds. I think I’ll just slowly add to this collection as I see them. All the best. Ben

  • Steve Thorpe

    Hi Benjamin, a nice little blog here that I hope you will continue to observe and add to, as there are very little resources about Freetown itself. I have just come back from a business trip to Freetown (therefore very little time to actually “birdwatch”) but watched from my hotel up on the hill every morning and some afternoons. I was able to see 45 different species and think that Freetown is rather under-rated. Keep looking and posting, well worth the effort for anyone visiting the area. Thanks!!

    • Benjamin White Post author

      Hi Steve, thanks for your comments. I don’t think I’ve seen 45 species here yet, but I’m just an engineer who knows very little about birds 🙂
      I also think Freetown is a great city; I’ll eventually get around to putting up some more Freetown-related posts.

  • Karen White

    You certainly have a lot of birds in your garden. I love the kingfisher and the coucal. Will look forward to seeing more birds as you photograph them. Nice views of Freetown as well.