Are you trying to identify a bird found in Mali?
Some of the wildest and most colorful birds you could imagine are found here. From gigantic, flightless birds to colorful showstoppers, there’s something to catch everyone’s attention!
Due to the sheer number of species, there was no way to include every bird in Mali in this article. So instead, I tried to focus on the birds that are most regularly seen and observed.
16 COMMON types of birds in Mali!
#1. Abyssinian Roller
- Coracias abyssinicus
- Adults are 28–30 cm (11–12 in) long.
- The butterscotch brown back and face contrast sharply with its otherwise brilliant blue plumage.
- They have two unusually long tail feathers that look like streamers in flight.
The Abyssinian Roller is an unmistakably beautiful bird in Mali!
However, its appearance is just one of its many incredible traits. For example, check out their attack pattern, which is how they earned their name. They tumble and roll as they try to catch escaping prey.
Abyssinian Rollers fly through forests decimated by fire, looking for disturbed rodents, snakes, invertebrates, and reptiles to hunt. They’re also aggressive at defending their territory. They juke and somersault, dive-bombing humans or other threats.
Although unrelated to corvids, these flashy birds make a crow-like sound of “GawwwK” or a screechy “Arrrg.” These mimicking sounds are deliberately intimidating, and this fearless species has the personality to back them up. LISTEN BELOW!
#2. African Grey Hornbill
- Lophoceros nasutus
- Adults are 45–51 cm (18–20 in) long.
- They are white, grey, and dusty brown. The wings have a scalloped pattern, and the dark grey head fades into white underparts.
- The beak is prominent, strong, and hooked downward.
The first thing you’ll notice about the African Grey Hornbill is its large beak. They look somewhat top-heavy, but the bill has internal supports and hollow chambers that keep it fairly light. Nevertheless, its top two neck vertebrae are fused, probably for additional support.
African Grey Hornbills have the most unusual breeding habits of any bird in Mali!
The mother sheds all her flight feathers just before nesting time in preparation for the coming months. Then, the female encloses herself and the eggs inside with mud, poop, and fruit purée! The male brings food to the incubating mother and passes it through a tiny hole in the chamber wall. While she is incubating the eggs, she regrows her flight feathers.
Once the nestlings outgrow the hollow, she breaks out, reseals it, and then both parents feed the young through the small hole that remains. They probably deserve an award for their dedication to making more little African Grey Hornbills!
#3. African Paradise Flycatcher
- Terpsiphone viridis
- Adults are about 17 cm (6.7 in) long, but their tail streamers can double this length.
- The coloring is typically black across the head, neck, and body, with chestnut wings and tail feathers. However, coloring is variable across subspecies. Its legs, beak, and rings around the eyes are blue.
- In the light morph, the chestnut coloring is replaced with white.
The African Paradise Flycatcher confuses birders in Mali because its coloring is highly variable. Although the wings and tail feathers usually contrast with the head and body, everything else about these birds’ coloring depends on their location and environment.
Look for this species in dense, moist forests, bushlands, and plantations. It can even be seen in gardens or catching pest insects in orchards. When eating, they flutter their tail and use wing downbeats to hover in place. Their main food source is insects and spiders from the undersides of leaves.
The call of the African Paradise Flycatcher is as varied as its coloring but generally sounds like a shrill, loud “ahh-ahh.”
#4. Beautiful Sunbird
- Cinnyris pulchellus
- Adults are 10 cm (4 in) long.
- Males are black on the face and belly, with metallic green on the head, back, and underparts. The chest is a vibrant red, bordered with bright yellow.
- Females are brown, with yellow-brown underparts.
These colorful, flashy birds in Mali feed primarily on nectar, like the hummingbirds of the western hemisphere. They like to feed upside down, hanging from a branch to get to inverted flowers. This position can make them look a little like a traffic light. Beautiful Sunbirds have a tubular tongue with a brush-like tip to aid in nectar collection.
Hotel proprietors often plant their preferred flowers to attract them to entertain visitors. Their vivid coloring and vocal nature make them a true joy to watch!
The Beautiful Sunbird’s song is a chu-chu-chu repeated in triplets or irregular groups and at irregular intervals.
- Scopus umbretta
- Adults stand about 56 cm (22 in) tall.
- Brown all over, with a dark brown to black bill and legs.
- This waterbird has an unusual crest, making its head appear elongated toward the back.
An easy way to identify this bird in Mali is to look for its incredible nest. They build a huge nest (up to two meters tall) in a tree fork, with only a tiny side entrance. The same nest can be used for up to four years unless it is disturbed in some way, which happens more often than you might think.
They’re also rather noisy, cackling and yapping while they hunt and socialize.
#6. Helmeted Guinea Fowl
- Numida meleagris
- Adults grow up to 53-58 cm (21-23 in).
- Their coloring is black with white spots. The legs are black, and the featherless head is bright blue with red on the face.
- This species has a large, round body and a very small head and neck.
These chicken-like birds in Mali are capable of flight but only do so when in danger.
Instead, they walk up to 10 kilometers (6 miles) daily in their quest for food. They’ll eat anything from small mammals and lizards to worms, insects, frogs, small snakes, snails, seeds, fruit, and spiders.
Outside breeding season, they form flocks of up to 24 birds and roost communally so they can alert each other to predators. They have an explosive take-off and only flap for short distances, gliding for longer flights. They prefer to flee from predators on land and can run 35 kph (22 mph) on land.
Helmeted Guineafowl have various calls, and some are more pleasant than others. For example, their whistling tune is much nicer on the ears than the raucous and irritating one found here.
#7. Little Bee-Eater
- Merops pusillus
- Adults are 15–17 cm (6-7 in.) long.
- They have a green back, a bright yellow throat, and a black collar. Their bellies are a deeper brownish-yellow.
- This species is slender and upright, with a pointed black beak.
Little Bee-eaters are the smallest species of African bee-eater. These birds are quite tame and friendly. They make practically no sound except for a quietly trilled “s-s-e-e-e-p.”
As their name implies, these little birds subsist on hornets, wasps, and bees. But, they’ve found an efficient way to avoid being stung by their favorite foods. Before they eat them, they smash their prey’s stinger into a hard surface several times to extract it.
Look for groups of Little Bee-eaters lined up, roosting communally on a branch. These tight-knit communities spend time together year-round. For example, a non-breeding pair will help feed chicks and even sit on the eggs to help out. Some nesters can have as many as five helpers raising the nestlings.
#8. Marabou Stork
- Leptoptilos crumenifer
- Adults reach heights of 152 cm (5 feet) and have a wingspan of 3.7 m (12 ft).
- Its back and wings are black, with a white underside and bald, pinkish-white head and neck.
- This species is very large, with a pelican-like shape, huge bill, and long legs.
The Marabou Stork is the largest carrion bird in Mali!
This gigantic species stands taller than some adult humans and has an incredibly large wingspan.
Look for these birds, also called “Undertaker Birds”, circling above carcasses or garbage dumps. They fly with their neck retracted but keep their feet out, using them as a steering rudder. They occasionally take live prey, including flamingo chicks and crocodile hatchlings.
#9. Northern Red-Billed Hornbill
- Tockus erythrorhynchus
- Adults are 50-60 cm (20-24 in) long.
- These black, white, and gray birds have large, bright red beaks.
- Their tails are long, and they are low to the ground when standing.
Look for Northern Red-billed Hornbills in dry forest habitats. They are ground foragers and omnivores, eating small animals, insects, fruits, and eggs. Although comfortable on the ground, they can also be seen soaring from tree to tree.
If this species looks familiar, it might be that you remember it from a movie! The Northern Red-billed Hornbill was the model for the character Zazu in The Lion King. I don’t think it takes much imagination to see the resemblance. 🙂
#10. Pied Crow
- Corvus albus
- Adults are 46-52 cm (18-20 in) long.
- Their coloring is completely black, except for the stark white “vest” between their wings and across their chest.
If you’ve ever wondered about the difference between a crow and a raven, studying the Pied Crow is a good way to learn! This bird in Mali is considered a “link” between the two related families. It has the larger bill and long legs of a raven, as well as wider wings and a longer tail. However, its beak is small and straight like a crow’s, and it also has the typical “caw” call.
Pied Crows are often found near humans, but they don’t interact with people very much. They seem to like villages and towns, probably because of the abundance of food due to human refuse.
They are social and may congregate near an abundance of food but are generally found in pairs or small groups. Pied Crows eat reptiles and mammals, nestlings and eggs, insects and invertebrates, peanuts, grains, carrion, and human trash. If there is a slaughterhouse in the vicinity, you’ll almost certainly find them there, too.
#11. Pied Kingfisher
- Ceryle rudis
- Adults grow to 25 cm (10 in) long.
- Their coloring is white, with small black spots on the face, head, wings, tail, and shoulders.
- This species has an extremely long and sharp beak.
Pied Kingfishers are the largest hovering bird in Mali.
They often hover over a body of water, hunting until they spot a likely victim. Then, they drop vertically into the water, grab their prey, and leap out again. In addition, they often eat small prey in flight, allowing them to hunt small insects continuously without the need to return to shore.
Compared with other kingfishers, this species is gregarious and friendly. They often roost together in large groups at night. Pied Kingfishers are nearly always found close to large bodies of water.
#12. Red-Throated Bee Eater
- Merops bulocki
- Adults are 20-22 cm (8-9 in) long.
- These birds have a distinct color pattern: green on the wings and head, rusty brown on the belly, with a red throat and deep blue under the tail.
- They have a black streak over the eyes and a long, pointed beak.
Red-throated Bee Eaters are a communal species, nesting in colonies all year round. Like other bee-eaters, they dig a tunnel in a sandy or muddy bank early in the season before the soil dries and solidifies. To create the tunnel, these birds dig with both feet, throwing material behind them like a dog.
They eat small bees, stingless bees, grasshoppers, flying ants, and locusts. To catch a meal, the Red-throated Bee Eater watches from a perch and then plucks an insect out of the air, gobbling it up as it flies.
Their sound is rather penetrating and can be quite startling if you’re not expecting it. Of course, such a tiny bird is not expected to be that loud.
#13. Speckled Pigeon
- Columba guinea
- Adults grow up to 41 cm (16 in) long.
- Their coloring is slate gray overall, with rusty wings and white tips on the flight feathers.
- They have a ring of red skin around the eye, giving them a wide-eyed look.
It’s not uncommon for hundreds of Speckled Pigeons to form a flock and inhabit the exterior of large human structures. They’re the primary food source for birds of prey that live in large cities.
Although their shape and behavior are similar to typical urban rock pigeons, Speckled Pigeons are much larger. This species is the largest pigeon in Mali at nearly 41 cm (16 inches) long.
Even if the Speckled Pigeon’s call is understated and melodic, it can be overwhelming when hundreds are singing at once. It sounds like “OooOOOuu” repeated a dozen times or more in a row.
#14. Village Weaver
- Ploceus cucullatus
- Adults are 15–17 cm (6-7 in) long.
- Males have a black face with a bright red eye, a bright yellow chest, a brown cowl down the back of the head, and splotchy black and yellow wings.
- Females are largely yellow (including the head), with pale olive stripes on the upper parts and buff-yellow chest and underparts.
The Village Weaver has some of the most interesting nesting habits of any bird in Mali.
For one, the nests themselves look like Christmas ornaments! They’re woven balls of grass and feathers that hang from the branches of trees. Additionally, male Village Weavers build the nests alone and defend them to attract a mate. Think of this as showing off your big, new house to your date!
Once a female chooses a nest (and a mate), she fills it with bedding and lays her eggs. Then, the male finds another mate and begins the process again! Despite having up to five broods at a time, the male Village Weaver contributes to the feeding and care of all his hatchlings.
These communal birds can be quite noisy, as they spend most of their time in their nests calling to one another.
#15. White-backed Vulture
- Gyps africanus
- Adults are 78-98 cm (31-39 in) long and have a 1.96-2.25 m (6-7 ft) wingspan.
- Its coloring is muted brown, except for its off-white back. The face and wings are darker brown than the body.
- This species has a bald face and short, downy feathers on the head and neck.
This species has seen the most rapid decline of any bird in Mali.
Its conservation status has gone from Least Concern to Critically Endangered in just fifteen years. Power lines, poisoned carrion, pesticides, and poaching are also contributing factors.
Part of the reason for their decline is that White-backed Vultures are very tame and will happily wander into town to look for food. Unfortunately, it’s vulnerable to kidney failure due to poisoning from diclofenac, a drug widely used by humans for pain, inflammation, arthritis, and gout.
In addition to diclofenac poisoning, fires have recently eliminated much of their breeding territory, adding to the decline. Their extremely long breeding cycle is another strain on their population. White-backed Vultures have to incubate their eggs for two months and care for nestlings for four to five months.
#16. White-Throated Bee Eater
- Merops albicollis
- Adults are 19–21 cm (7.5-8.5 in) long, with males gaining an additional 12 cm (5 in) from their tail streamers.
- Look for this species’ white throat and white eyebrow on either side of its black eye stripe to differentiate it from other Bee Eaters.
- Their coloring is bright green to white on the belly with a pale blue rump, a black collar underlined in turquoise, and bright yellow-orange on the back of the head.
White-throated Bee Eaters congregate in large groups, which protects them from predators. They also raise their young communally, sharing the duties of protecting nests and bringing food to nestlings.
Like others of their family, White-throated Bee Eaters eat hornets, wasps, and bees, catching them in mid-flight by leaping from a low perch. Before they eat them, however, they remove their prey’s stinger by jamming it into a hard surface several times to extract it. That’s a straightforward way to make sure your meal is safe to eat!
This species has a dry, high-pitched, rattling call.
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Which of these birds in Mali have you seen before?
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