Vernacular Names For Zambian Birds

Zambia has 779 indigenous bird species. This is not counting those that have been introduced to this region artificially by humans. And yes, we are talking about real birds!

As a child, I remember walking down to Chimwemwe stream to watch the rich bird varieties in the thick growth of reeds that grew all along the river banks. My favourite was  the red-collared widow-bird in mating season. With its long tail and dashes of red plumage, noisy bird song and bursts of frequent low-level flight, it was just sheer exhibitionism.

Nowadays the stream is bare (and mosquito free). Fortunately there are still bird sanctuaries where it's possible to observe birds going about their business in a more natural environment. Around Kitwe, Kumasamba Lodge and Chembe Bird Sanctuary offer the visitor a chance to bird watch.

In the villages, It's well known that the Greater Honeyguide  displays deliberate behavior to attract human attention and lead them to beehives.When humans get the honey, the birds benefit from the massive numbers of bees whose home has been destroyed.

Outside the Copperbelt, the wild life becomes even richer. "Zambia features some of the most remote and unspoiled ecosystems in southern Africa, as well as the broadest range of activities by which to fully experience the adventure of safari." (Classic

Here we present pictures of 45 common Zambian birds and include their vernacular (Bemba) and scientific names. The post would not be complete without a table! So, we have gathered all the info in a table for easier reference.

We welcome your comments and contributions. Remember there are 72 other columns waiting to be filled with the equivalent names in all Zambian languages. Send in your suggestions and contributions.

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The Photos below show the bird with its Bemba, English and Scientific(in brackets) names, in that order (below each photo)

African Fish Eagle
Cembe  = The African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)

Racket-tailed Roller
Cikwekwe = The Racket-tailed Roller (Coracias spatulatus)
Marabou Stork
Cipampa = Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus):
Source: Wickipedia
Turtle Dove
Icipele = Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur)
Icipingila = Common Quail (Coturnix coturnix)
Icipululu = Owl – Grass Owl (Tyto capensis)
Bateleur Eagle
Icipungu = Bateleur eagle (Terathopius ecaudatus)
Cisokopela = Weaver (Euplectes psammocromius)
(male Mountain Marsh Widowbird in mating season plumage)
Pwele = Black-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus)
Wax bill
Uluseba = Wax bill (Serinus striolatus)
Umulumbelumbe = White-fronted bee eater(Merops bullockoides)
Ikanga = Crested Guineafowl (Guttera pucherani)
White Stork
Inkowa = White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)
Source: Wickipedia
Mwankole = Pied Crow (Corvus albus)
Barn swallow
Akamimbi = Barn Swallow(Hirundo rustica)
Night Jar
Ulumbasa = Black shouldered Night Jar (Caprimulgus nigriscapularis)
Chanting Go-Hawk
Kakoshi = Dark Chanting Go-Hawk (Melierax metabates)
Senegal Cougal
Mukuta = Cougal (Centropus Burchelli)
Image source: Bird
Ngoli = Crested (or Crowned) Crane = (Balearica regulorum gibbericeps)
Image source: Edinburgh
Crowned Plover
Kakolenkole = Crowned Plover (Vanellus coronatus)
Laughing Dove
Katutwa = Laughing Dove (Streptopelia senegalensis)
Square-tailed Drongo
Muntengu = Square-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus ludwigii)
Kapumpe =Congo Serpent Eagle( Dryotriorchis spectabilis)
Pungwa = Brown falcon (Falco berigora)
Kori Bustard
Namungwa = Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori)
Kapeshi =Red-necked Francolin (Francolinus afer)
White-bellied Go-away bird
Kuwe = White-bellied go-away bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster)
Nkondonkondo = Thick-billed Green Pigeon (Male)(Treron curvirostra)
Great Egret
Inkoba = Great Egret (Egretta alba)
Nsolo = Greater Honeyguide (Indicator indicator)
African Grey Hornbill
Lukoma = African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus)
Mulowa = Woodland Kingfisher ( Halcyon senegalensis)
Muleya = Red-collared Widowbird (Euplectes ardens)
Mwakatala= Ostrich (Struthio camelus)
African Marsh Harrier
Kakoshi Kanika = African Marsh Harrier (Circus ranivorus)
Muchenche = Rose-ringed Parakeet (Psittacula krameri)
White Pelican
Mukanga = White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus)
Mwankole = White-necked Raven (Corvus albicollis)
Mukufi = Roller (Coracias caudatus)
Titi = African Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus baeticatus)
Common Snipe
Kakandamatipa = Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Tondwe = Golden-tailed Woodpecker (Campethera abingoni)
African Pied Wagtail
Katyetye = African Pied Wagtail (Motacilla aguimp)
Mbata = Spur-winged Goose (Plectropterus gambensis)
Sosa = Bronze Sunbird (Nectarinia kilimensis)

  2 comments for “Vernacular Names For Zambian Birds

  1. Kennedy
    January 26, 2016 at 10:51 am

    Very good site! I have sited one or two of the features birds in Lusaka in the mutumbi Meanwood area which is yet to be fully developed for housing! I wish my Nsenga was good enough to give you the Nsenga names of the birds featured.

    • JS
      January 26, 2016 at 11:58 pm

      Hi Kennedy,
      Thanks for your kind comments.
      The sounds of birds singing in their natural environment is something beautiful. I still remember watching birds in the reeds as they made their mating calls and dances, when I was two or three. Beautiful plumage – lasting memories.
      Even if you manage to get just one bird in Nsenga, we’ll be happy to post the information.

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