You are currently viewing Sandgrouses, Doves and Parrots in East Africa
Red-bellied Parrots are endemic in NE Africa. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Sandgrouses, Doves and Parrots

Order Pterocliformes – Sandgrouses has 1 family

Sandgrouse – Family Pteroclidae has 16 species in Africa and Asia. They are short-legged, cursorial birds of arid and semi-arid grassland and savanna. Flocks fly to water at fixed times every day – so if you are lost in the bush follow the Sandgrouses. Males have special breast feathers working like a sponge. They dip them into water and carry so around 22 ml water each time to the young in the nest on the ground. 2 – 3 times a year the female lays around 3 eggs in a nest dug into the ground. They are found in pairs but also in large flocks. Most are nomadic.

Females are well camouflaged, males more colourful. They mainly feed on seeds but also take green shoots, bulbs and berries.

Sandgrouses and doves as well are the only birds that can suck water.

Pigeon and Doves – Order Columbiformes has 1 family with 344 species in 50 genera. In English the smaller species are called doves, the larger pigeon. But note, it is not scientific since in most languages there is only 1 name.  They feed on fruits, seeds, berries and other plant material. They build lousy nests with sticks and debris on rocks or buildings. Doves and pigeons produce crop milk to feed their young. This is a secretion from the lining of the crop of parent birds (males and females) that is regurgitated to the young birds.

Doves and pigeon occur almost world wide. Some have been domesticated and you might remember the doves carrying messages before telephones were widely distributed.

Pigeon and Doves – Family Columbidae we introduce the wild species of East Africa

Typical Pigeons and Doves – Subfamily Columbinae contains the genera Columba, Streptopelia, Turtur and Oena in Africa

Fruit Pigeons – Subfamily Terorinae are green, quite large and roundish fruit eaters. They are mainly green and decorated with other colours. When feasting in a tree with fruits they are hardly visible.

Parrots – Order Psittaciformes is divided into 3 superfamilies – True parrots Psittacoidea which are found in Africa and Southern America. Parrots are mainly tropical and subtropical birds. Characteristic are the strong legs and the strong, curved bill with a sharp tip. The seize is from large (Macaw) to small (Lovebirds). There is only little sexual dimorphism.

Parrots are the only creatures that display tripedalism using their neck and beaks for locomotion. They are also among the most intelligent birds and some have learnt to talk in captivity.

Parrots feed on seeds, fruits, buds and other plant material. Few sometimes take carrion. Their nests are in tree holes. Sadly the exploitation for pet trade is extremely high, probably higher than in any other bird species. Many die during the transport or later when not kept according to the requirements the birds have.

Watching the intelligent parrots is an very interesting

Holotropical Parrots – Family Psittacidae. The subfamily Old world or Afrotropical – Psittacinae are the African Parrots which we describe here.

Old World Parrots – Family Psittaculidae consists of 6 subfamilies. We describe the African Subfamilies Psittaculinae and Agapornithinae which are restricted to Africa.

To give you as actual information as possible we use Avibase, the books “Birds of South of the Sahara”, “Birds of East Africa”, “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”. Then we put the most characteristic information to the photo.

You can also follow us on Facebook “Bird photography Safaris Kenya” and see the numerous species as well as the beautiful photos from Lorenzo Barelli.

Depending on the species you are keen to see the time of the year plays a big role. 

We tailor-made most of our safaris according to your wishes and visit those areas offering the highest chance to find your dream bird species. Sometime travelling over long distances is required, but it is also possible to fly from one corner to the other to safe time and some long journeys on the roads.

Click on the photo for larger view. The name of the photographer is on the photo and in the text. Without the generosity of several amazing bird photographers it had not been possible to create the pages with so many bird species. Those photos without name are from Elvira Wolfer.

On this Tanzania Safari you can meet a number of species we are describing here.

The different parrot species are not found in the same region. Therefore some travelling is required.

Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus olivascens) is the subspecies of East Africa. They are found through dry thornbush up to grassland and savanna.

Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse (Pterocles lichtensteinii sukensis) is the subspecies occasionally to encounter in Northern Kenya and NE Uganda. They are nomadic. Samburu

Black-faced Sandgrouse (Pterocles d. decoratus) is found in SE Kenya and Eastern Tanzania in dry areas. Tsavo East and West

Black-faced Sandgrouse (Pterocles decoratus ellenbecki) is found in Northern Kenya, Northern Uganda, Ethiopia and Somalia. Samburu. The 3rd subspecies loveridge in East Africa occurs in West Kenya and West Tanzania.

Yellow-throated Sandgrouse (Pterocles gutturalis saturatior) is found in grass land and savanna from Central Kenya to SW and SW Tanzania. Sometimes you can find them in large flocks near water.

Four-banded Sandgrouse (Pterocles quadricinctus) is a local resident and intra-African migrant from West Africa to Northern Kenya. Photo Adam Scott Kennedy, Lake Turkana area

Speckled Pigeon or African Rock Pigeon (Columba g. guinea) is a large pigeon wide spread where there are rocks or buildings from 500 – 3.000 m.

Eastern Lemon (Cinnamon) Dove (Columba (Aplopelia)l. larvata) is a shy dove living on the forest floor and understorey. The subspecies jacksoni can be found in W Uganda and W Tanzania. Photo Moses Kandie, Nairobi Arboretum

African Olive-Pigeon or Rameron Pigeon (Columba arquatrix) flocks are common in highland forests mainly above 1.500 m. At The Ark, Aberdare National Park

Western Bronze-naped Pigeon (Columba iriditorques) occurs from Western Uganda to Ivory Coast in forested areas. Photo Per Holmen

Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon (Columba delegorguei sharpei) is uncommon and localised in forest canopies in East Africa. Photo Per Holmen, Mt. Kenya

Red-eyed Dove (Streptopelia semitorquata) is a common dove in many regions in Africa. It is found in woodland, forests and gardens mainly in pairs.

African Mourning Dove or Mourning Collared Dove (Streptopelia decipiens perspicillata) is found in Central and Western Kenya to Central Tanzania. The subspecies elegans is in Southern Ethiopia, S Somalia and NE Kenya south to Malindi. In the West the subspecies longonensis occurs. Habitat: dry bush and acacia below 1.500 m. Photo from Lake Baringo

Vinaceous Dove (Streptopelia vinacea) occurs from Uganda to West Africa in dry wood and scrub land. Photo Adam Scott Kennedy

Cape Turtle (Ring-necked) Dove (Streptopelia capicola somalica) is found in Ethiopia, Somalia South to Ewaso Nyiro River (Samburu)

Cape Turtle (Ring-necked) Dove (Streptopelia capicola tropica) is widespread in other parts of Kenya South to South Africa. Nairobi National Park

Dusky (Pink-breasted) Dove (Streptopelia lugens) is found in a large variety of habitats from bushland to forest in the Horn of Africa.

Laughing Dove or Palm Dove (Spilopelia s. senegalensis) is a smaller and widespread dove in a variety of habitats from Arabia to Africa.

Black-billed Wood-Dove (Turtur abyssinicus) occurs in dry savanna from NW Uganda to Westafrica. Photo Per Homen, Murchison Falls

Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove (Turtur chalcospilos) lives in forested areas from East to Southern Africa.

Blue-spotted Wood-Dove (Turtur afer) is found in moist broadleaved woodland, forests and thickets from East to West and more South. It is a fairly common resident and local migrant. Photo Per Holmen

Tambourine Dove (Turtur tympanistria) lives in forests, thickets and tropical plantation in many African countries. Photo Jacques Pitteloud, Kakamega Forest

Namaqua Dove (Oena c. capensis) is found in arid and semi-arid savanna and open woodland South of the Sahara. Male from Kalacha, female Nairobi

African Green Pigeon (Treron calvus brevicera) is found SW Ethiopia, to Tanzania East of the Rift Valley. At the coast and NE Tanzania the subspecies wakefieldii while in SW Tanzania salvadorii occurs. Subfamily Treroninae

Grey Parrot (Psittacus e. erithacus) is sadly endangered due to pet trade and loss of habitat. Few are left in Kakamega Forest and more further West in rain forests. They like fruits of palm trees. Photo Marina Meger

Red-fronted Parrot (Poicephalus gulielmi massaicus) is the subspecies found in Kenya (Aberdare/Mt. Kenya region, Mt. Elgon) and Northern Tanzania. It loves the red berries of the Podocarpus trees.

Grey-headed Parrot (Poicephalus (robustus) suahelicus) is found in areas with large leaved trees and riverine forest in SW Uganda, Western and Southern Tanzania.

Meyer’s (Brown) Parrot (Poicephalus meyeri saturatus) is the subspecies in DRC, Rwanda, Uganda, SW Kenya and NW Tanzania. In Central Tanzania the subspecies matschiei with blue-green breast is found.

Red-bellied (African orange-bellied) Parrot (Poicephalus r. rufiventris) occurs from Central Ethiopia to Tanzania. The species is endemic in the horn and East Africa in dry savanna.

Brown-headed Parrot (Poicephalus cryptoxanthus tanganyikae) occurs along the coastal region from Kenya to Malawi, Pemba and Zanzibar Islands. Photo Per Holmen

Red-headed Lovebird (Agapornis pullarius ugandae) is a bird of Westkenya, NW Tanzania to DRC and it is found in riparian forests, secondary forests and farmland. Photo Per Holmen

Fischer’s Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri) occurred originally in Tanzania from Serengeti to Lake Victoria. Due to pet trade they were introduced to Kenya where they started crossbreeding with Yellow-collared Lovebirds also introduced from Tanzania. Pure Fischer’s Lovebirds are near threatened.

Yellow-collared Lovebird (Agapornis personatus) is originally a Tanzanian bird from Tarangire further South and extreme NE Tanzania. Also this species was introduced to Kenya. 

Fischer’s x Yellow-collared Lovebird (Agapornis fischeri x personatus). The 2 species introduced to Kenya interbreed. You see a variety of coloration depending on which species has more genetical material passed on.

Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula k. krameri) is in East Africa restricted to Kidepo National Park in NE Uganda. They are not very choosy with the habitat.