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The most famous birding site in Gambia, Abuko was established in 1967 to protect part of the rapidly dwindling primary forest, now a rare habitat in this small West African country.
The reserve includes the 'Crocodile Pool' and around the central forest area is more open savanna woodland. There are hides (including a private photo hide which requires prior booking) and marked trails, toilets, refreshments and an 'Animal Orphanage' with a few captive animals.
Well over 250 bird species have been recorded at Abuko and the list is ever-growing as this is a regular destination for birdtour companies.
The main attraction for birders is the range of primary forest birds to be found here that are difficult to see elsewhere in Gambia. Among these are African Goshawk, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, White-spotted Flufftail, Guinea Turaco, Verreaux's Eagle Owl and Spotted Tinkerbird. Passerines include Yellow-breasted Apalis, Green Hylia and Western Bluebill. The pool regularly attracts African Darter, herons such as Black-crowned Night Heron, Black and Black-headed, as well as Hamerkop, African Black Crake and Giant Kingfisher. Scarcer species are possible including White-backed Night Heron, African Finfoot and African Crake.
Birds you can see here include:
African Darter, Green-backed Heron, White-backed Night Heron, Black-crowned Night Heron, Squacco Heron, Cattle Egret, Western Reef Heron, Black Heron, Black-headed Heron, Purple Heron, Hamerkop, Black Kite, Hooded Vulture, Palm-nut Vulture, African Goshawk, Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Shikra, Lizard Buzzard, African Harrier Hawk, Ahanta Francolin, Stone Partridge, African Crake, White-spotted Flufftail, African Jacana, African Finfoot, Senegal Wattled Plover, Spur-winged Plover, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper, Speckled Pigeon, Laughing Dove, Red-billed Wood-Dove, Guinea Turaco, Violet Turaco, Western Grey Plantain-eater, Klaas's Cuckoo, Senegal Parrot, Mottle-throated Spine-tailed Swift, Long-tailed Nightjar, Standard-winged Nightjar, White-faced Scops Owl, Verreaux's Eagle Owl, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Senegal Kingfisher, Little Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Lemon-rumped Tinkerbird, Bearded Barbet, African Pied Hornbill, Black-throated Honeyguide, Spotted Honeyguide, Lesser Honeyguide, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Fine-spotted Woodpecker, Grey Woodpecker, Fanti Saw-wing Swallow, Pied-winged Swallow, Red-chested Swallow, Red-shouldered Cuckoo Shrike, Grey-headed Bristlebill, Little Greenbul, Leaf-love, Common Bulbul, Snowy-crowned Robin Chat, White-crowned Robin Chat, West African Thrush, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Green Hylia, Oriole Warbler, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Northern Black Flycatcher, African Paradise Flycatcher, Pygmy Sunbird, Collared Sunbird, Sulphur-breasted Bushshrike, White Helmetshrike, Purple Glossy-Starling, Splendid Glossy-Starling, Glossy-backed Drongo, Western Bluebill, Cut-throat Finch, Red-cheeked Cordonbleu, Lavender Waxbill, Red-billed Firefinch, Village Weaver, Black-headed Weaver, Black-necked Weaver, Vitelline Masked-Weaver
Mammals are few but include Patas, Vervet and Western Red Colobus Monkey and Gambian Sun Squirrel. Sitatunga was reintroduced but has died out again due to lack of suitable habitat. Western Bushbuck are numerous, but the elusiveMaxwell's Duiker are more difficult to see (try the private hide where they often come to drink from the pool). Marsh Mongoose can often be seen around the crocodile pool while Egyptian Mongoose are also common. Nile Crocodile can be seen in the pool and venomous snakes also occur including Green Mamba and Black Cobra but these are very rarely seen. Nile Monitor is common, while Rock Monitor also occur in the dryer areas.
History and Use
Areas of Interest
Access and Facilities
Abuko is situated on the main road between Banjul and Basse about 7km from Serekunda and there is an entrance fee. The easiest way to visit is by tourist taxi, arranging to be picked up at a pre-arranged time later in the day. It is also possible to take bush taxis and buses to Abuko but time can then be a limitation. Although Abuko is a small reserve there is much to see and a quick rush around the trail is unlikely to produce much of a list. The pool, in particular, attracts different birds throughout the day and should be visited more than once.
Content and images originally posted by Steve
neilmc's review The tourist taxis round the hotel strips offer tours to Abuko and many other places at a fixed rate including a two-hour stopover; I'd recommend paying extra for three hours, and getting there early. The guides are good and not money-grabbing although they don't get paid a lot if at all - we've used a couple for private trips elsewhere and they were excellent, and it puts good money in the hands of people who care about birds. Don't expect Minsmere facilities - it's all rather basic if adequate, but who cares when you're seeing turacos?
- Great hassle-free environment if you get tired of the kind of interruptions you get elsewhere in Gambia.
- Not many. The zoo's a bit tacky. Occasional arrogant western birder throwing his weight around.
cassowary's review There were species mentioned in the review which are simply only records of the reserve. However, Green Hylia, Western Bluebill, Ahanta Francolin, Klaas's Cuckoo, Collared Sunbird, an apalis I can't remember the name of (I think yellow breasted) Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Green Turaco are not too difficult are some of the specialties of the reserve that can be hard elsewhere. Good luck with White-spotted Flufftail.
The marsh across the road (from the entrance)regularly holds Greater Painted Snipe
Tip-learn the call of klaas's cuckoo and you can call them in - great fun.
Also the call of the Pearl-spotted Owlet attracts not only the owl itself but also the smaller birds possibly more useful in more open areas of the gambia.
- excellent birding in a small area
- Be the first visitors in the morning or you will probably miss the harder birds particularly ahanta francolin. Karamba Touray is the possibly the best (fairly inexpensive) guide for this reserve