When you hear the word Nigeria, birdwatching and wildlife are perhaps the last things which come to mind. However, if you decide to go birdwatching in Nigeria, IITA Ibadan is the place to go. Let’s explore IITA Ibadan with my original photography of the birds and wildlife I saw.
What is IITA Ibadan? IITA is the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture in Ibadan. No doubt they are doing fantastic work here to create agricultural innovations to fight hunger, malnutrition, poverty, and natural resource degradation throughout the continent. Nonetheless, our purpose here is to see the birdlife in this rarely explored part of Africa. To explore IITA Ibadan you must book yourself into the onsite hotel. I won’t go much into the hotel but it’s lovely with a swimming pool and good value restaurant. You certainly won’t need to leave the IITA complex unless you have a strong desire to visit Ibadan or the Suspended Lake.
Secure Area to Explore at IITA Ibadan
Once onsite and checked in you’re free to explore the 1000 hectares of green area. IITA Ibadan is a safe area to explore as it’s securely fenced and protected by security. As a result, you can walk around freely with your camera in search of rare birds.
Birdwatching at IITA Ibadan
IITA Ibadan has forest areas, swamps areas, open green areas and several lakes. As a result, you’ll see a huge variety of birds. Be sure to take your binoculars! Now, let’s explore the birdlife with my original photography taken over a few days at IITA Ibadan.
the Ibadan malimbe is endemic to Nigeria, specifically the south west of Nigeria. As a matter of fact, it’s named after the city, Ibadan where IITA is located therefore your chances of seeing this rare bird are high here. I saw several Ibadan malimbes, and they were in the grassy areas in front of the hotel. If you visit IITA Ibadan looking only for this bird, I’d give you a 95% chance of seeing one.
The Senegal coucal is part of the cuckoo family and common throughout Nigeria. It’s highly likely you’ll see one and if you’re lucky they’ll perch close to you. Having said that, they are quite shy so just seeing one does not guarantee you’ll get close and get a good picture. Lastly, with these cuckoos, I noticed they seem to perch in the golden sun during sunrise and sunset as oppose to disappearing between leaves throughout the day.
If you’re very lucky you may see a Levaillant’s cuckoo. I saw only one throughout my time birdwatching in Nigeria. Although they’re common birds they don’t show themselves often like the Senegal coucals. Finally, in my experience I’ve only seen this bird on the edge of forests near water and that’s where I found it at IITA Ibadan.
The grey kestrel, I saw him everyday during my stay. He stays in savannas, open woodland and forest clearings. It’s highly likely you’ll see a grey kestrel flying between palm trees near water. It will likely perch on exposed branches, telegraph poles as well as wires. Manoeuvre yourself towards him in the correct manner and you should be able to take clear pictures of this unusual kestrel. Lastly, although I was excited to see one at first, he eventually disturbed me because he kept chasing the Congo grey parrots away.
You probably have common kestrels living around your town / city at home. Common is their name for a reason and I expect you’ll see them at IITA Ibadan.
It’s always exciting to see a kingfisher and IITA Ibadan is home to several different species. Around the water areas is the place to see malachite kingfishers. With such huge water areas it can seem a daunting task to find these beautiful tiny birds. During my time in IITA Ibadan I saw 2 malachite kingfishers around the largest lake, good luck spotting one!
Pygmy kingfishers are one of the smallest species and they’re also quite common around IITA Ibadan. They different to malachite kingfishers as they have a purple patch on their cheeks and they’re a little smaller. Additionally, they live away from the water and feed on insects. That kingfisher diving from a tree to the floor can be diving for a dragonfly. Lastly, although small and hard to spot, pygmy kingfishers are very common throughout IITA Ibadan and you should not only be able to see one but also be able to position yourself close for a Nat Geo style photo.
The woodland kingfisher is the most common kingfisher at IITA Ibadan. As a matter of fact, it’s so common I’d give you a 100% chance of seeing one. You’ll likely hear its distinct call before you locate it in the tree. These woodland kingfishers were flying all around the hotel, even sitting on the tennis court fencing.
Blue Breasted Kingfisher
The blue breasted kingfisher is the hardest kingfisher to find at IITA Ibadan. I was lucky enough to that he flew in front of me flashing his distinctive dark blue wings. Afterwards he perched in a tree for a split second before disappearing never to be seen again.
The lizard buzzard somewhat resembles a demon in the woods. Also known as the lizard hawk, I saw 2 of these birds of prey on the edge of forests. After observing several empty branches, there’s always that one time you see something looking back at you! Finally, the lizard buzzard is a shy bird so it won’t hang around for long once it sees you looking at it.
Black Kite / Yellow Billed Kite
Needless to say from my picture, the black kites and yellow billed kites are in abundance at IITA Ibadan. Not only will you see a wake of kites in the trees but you’ll also see them flying close by and also walking on the floor. As a result, there’s no excuse for not taking a perfect picture of a black kite / yellow billed kite.
Peregrine falcons are the fastest animal of the planet. During my birdwatching in Nigeria experience at IITA, I found a pair of resident peregrine falcons and their nest. The picture gives away their position on the satellite pole in the centre of the complex. On the subject of the satellite, the internet is excellent at IITA unless of course there is a serious thunderstorm which blocks any signal. In contrast, these resident peregrine falcons didn’t build their nest here for the good internet signal!
I must be honest, I’m not really a fan of the palm nut vulture. However, you’ll likely see one whether you’re looking or not. It’s a huge bird which often perches on a branch in plain sight on top of a tree. As well as seeing them perched I also saw them in flight.
African Harrier Hawk
The African harrier hawk is a bird that I only saw in flight from a distance at IITA Ibadan. I’d have loved to see this bird a little closer or perched on a tree but as I’m only providing my original photography in this post I cannot provide a better picture. Nonetheless, it’s good to know they are here which gives you a chance to see one a little closer.
The African cuckoo-hawk is a hawk which resembles the common cuckoo. It’s hard to find this bird as it hunts in the woodland. I saw this bird a couple of times, between the large lake a dense woodland. If you see something large flying around the woodland, it could be this shy cuckoo hawk.
The northern red bishop gets its name as the male resembles a bishop. At IITA Ibadan between the hotel and large lake are some corn fields. If you listen and look closely you may see a red bishop flying over and perching on the crops. Walking towards them will scare them away but once you stand still at the side of the tall crops they’ll act like you’re not there. I was lucky enough to have some fly close to me and show me exactly why they’re named after the bishop. Lastly, the red bishop is a beautiful and rewarding bird to photography.
The orange cheeked waxbill is not really the bird people go looking for. However, you’ll likely see these as you’re looking for other birds. If you get close enough and zoom in with your camera you’ll discover these are quite a beautiful bird,
The black-necked weaver is a common bird found throughout Nigeria. As a result of it being so common, it’s often overlooked. However, I recommend you take advantage of such a beautiful bird being so common and snap a few good pics of it. Once you get your perfect picture of a black-necked weaver, donate your time to the rarer birds.
African Grey Woodpecker
A woodpecker sighting is always a pleasant surprise. The only woodpecker I saw at IITA was the African grey woodpecker. I’m sure there are more colourful species out there and I hope you see one as well as the African grey!
When I first saw the white-crowned lapwing I thought it had a piece of banana skin stuck in its beak. After zooming in I realised it was a yellow facial wattle. Later, I saw hundreds of these birds and I also give you a 100% chance of seeing one. Walk slowly and you’ll be able to get a close up shot of a white-crowned lapwing, even a deceit of lapwings.
You’ll see several spur-winged lapwings around the large lake if IITA Ibadan. However, they get loud when they see you which disturbs other birds which you want to see (such as the malachite kingfisher). They are named after a small claw which is under their wings. This claw is used to attack anything threatening their eggs.
The hadada bis is one of the shyest birds around the lakes of IITA Ibadan. As you observe the wader birds, the hadada ibis will be the one to fly away first. For this reason, good luck in taking your photograph.
Senegal thick-knees congregate around the large lake. These birds are not shy and you can easily sneak up close to them for a photo. You have a 100% chance of meeting a Senegal thick-knee birdwatching in Nigeria.
The African jacana is found throughout sub-Saharan Africa. It’s often on a birdwatchers wish list but even when you see one there’s no guarantee of getting up close. Around the large lake at IITA Ibadan are a few palm trees which provide perfect cover as you sneak up close to them. Not only can you take a good clear photograph but you can also observe them and their behaviour. Once they see you, no doubt they’ll fly away with their legs dangling as jacanas do.
White Faced Whistling Duck
Whistling ducks are famous because of the large flocks they form which are sometimes in the thousands. I didn’t see such a large flock but did see a flock of over fifty of them. It’s good to see them but like lapwings they are noisy and can warn other birds of your presence.
The black-headed heron is a huge heron which you can’t help but notice. I saw these huge herons both in flight and sitting on top of palm trees. Catch them in good light to admire this beautiful heron.
Sandpipers are very common around the large lake of IITA Ibadan. There’s no need to look for one, I’m sure there’ll be a time when one is standing very close to you.
African Pied Hornbill
The eagle eyed birdwatcher will see pied hornbills in the trees around the hotel at IITA Ibadan. I saw several and you can manoeuvre yourself around under the trees to get close to the pied hornbill without disturbing it. In fact, if you get close enough you’ll see some long lashes which many a lady will envy.
The pin-tailed whydah during breeding season is a beautiful bird to watch. There’ll be several females following the male with his long tail. I saw several pin-tailed whydahs on the grassy areas alongside the banks of the large lake. What’s more, this bird is not so shy and you can get quite close for some action shots.
The African firefinch is a common bird found all over Africa and IITA Ibadan is no exception. Nonetheless, it’s a striking bird and it’s always rewarding to photograph and therefor worth a mention in this birdwatching in Nigeria blog.
As you explore IITA Ibadan, you’re guaranteed to see a variety of different sunbirds. I found the best place to photograph these was around the hotel at sunset. They are tiny shy birds so you must get close to get a good shot and the flowers around the hotel are a good place to start.
Nigeria and indeed all of West Africa are home to the western plantain-eater. No doubt you’ll see and hear these birds in the trees around the hotel. they are actually part of the turaco family although they lack any exciting colours!
European bee-eaters winter in tropical Africa and it’s good to see them here. Another bee-eater you may come across is the little bee-eater.
Brown Throated Wattle Eye
The brown-throated wattle eye is a very distinctive insectivore. Once you see the red around the eye you know it’s something special. You can only find this bird in west, central and northeast central Africa. You’re not guaranteed to see the brown-throated wattle eye but it’s rewarding when you do.
Capture the glossy-backed drongo in good light and it’s a very special picture. I saw these birds around the residential areas and this one in good light I took on the golf course.
Congo Grey Parrot
The Congo grey parrot is a very rare bird to see in the wild. Most people see these in cages or as pets. The reason these birds are kept as pets is because they are the best at mimicking noises. When searching for these in the wild you’ll first hear them talking to each other in the trees. What’s more, as they are comfortable with humans once they see you they’ll continue eating, talking and going about their business. As a result, the hard part is finding them, not photographing them. Finally, as I mentioned earlier, the grey kestrel does not like these grey parrots and would chase them away.
While birdwatching in Nigeria you’ll see lots of squirrels in addition to birds. African giant squirrel as well as ground squirrel. I also saw some African bush rat which is eaten in parts of Nigeria.
Whilst birdwatching from the unpaved road through the forest I was lucky enough to see a duiker. You won’t see these when they’re in the deep forest but if you’re lucky they may come out into the open. In this case, be very quick to snap the photo as evidence! These duiker are also eaten in Nigeria therefore this guy is lucky to be within the secure gates of IITA Ibadan.
Enjoy Your Birdwatching in Nigeria Experience
I recommend you take a week at IITA Ibadan to explore the 1000 hectares. It’s a rewarding way to enjoy birdwatching in Nigeria safely. Every time you go out different birds reveal themselves to you and you can always explore different routes at different times of the day. Finally, the birds I shared with you are just the birds I saw when I was there, there are likely many others which I didn’t see. Enjoy.
Visiting Nigeria? Explore Lekki Conservation Center, the Suspended Lake and the IITA Hotel. Read about birdwatching in Rwanda.
I live in Nigeria and I’m coincidentally visiting Ibadan on a retreat. The centre I’m in has a few birds and as an amateur birdwatcher I decided to check out other possible places for birdwatching in Nigeria only to find this goldmine of a post about a place not too far from my current location.
Thank you! This was very interesting to read and watch. I’ll be sure to visit IITA soon.
Fabulous post … makes me fee l I should just pick up camera and head to IITA
One of the best and unknown places in the world for birdwatching! Best wishes Dr Suraj.