Visiting "Heronries" in the Okavango
Every year a very special avian event takes place at certain sites in the Okavango. Various waterbird species come together at well used breeding sites to nest and raise their chicks. The timing and locations are predictable which make for some spectacular birding!
When and Where
There are several known locations that provide the right conditions for the birds to breed. Mostly, these are deeply flooded areas (lagoons) with isolated “islands” of trees (mostly water figs) or mature, thickly matted reed-beds. The birds feel safe in numbers and different species can nest side by side – there can be hundreds of birds at the biggest heronries. This event usually happens between August and November, as temperatures heat up and the water levels drop. However, in our experiences, birds can take advantage of any conditions and can breed out of season.
The known “heronry” sites include:
- Xaxaba – mostly great-white egrets, rufous-bellied herons and slaty egrets. This site is accessible on our mobile boat safaris and from the following lodges: Gunns Camp and Eagle Island.
- Xaxanaka Lagoon – this has become a very small breeding site in recent years but includes marabou stork nests
- Godikwe Lagoon – this is the biggest and most well known site. It is accessible on boats when staying in lodges in Moremi (Camp Moremi, Xaxanaka Camp, Camp Okuti). There is a vast range of species here – yellow-billed storks, African openbills, marabou storks, grey herons, African darters and even Pink-backed Pelicans. On our mobile safaris, you can hire boats from the Xakanaxa boat station to visit this heronry.
- Pom Pom Camp – this lodge has access to a very productive heronry
- Xigera heronry – this one is accessible on our mobile boat safaris and consists mostly of African Darters and reed cormorants.
What really adds to the attraction of these breeding sites is that the birds have become completely habituated to the presence of boats and people. You can really get in close and spend as much time as you want watching the birds behaving completely naturally. The photographic opportunities are endless as the parents feed chicks, tend to nests and ward off predators……
We often come across these heronries on our general itineraries, but do inquire if birding of this quality might be on your agenda!