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Birding in Liberia: A Guide to a Birding Paradise in West Africa

Posted on Wed April 24, 2024.

Welcome to Liberia, a captivating destination waiting to be enjoyed by avid birders! Situated along the West African coast, Liberia contains the largest proportion of the Upper Guinea Forest within its borders, creating a perfect environment for an array of bird species. Read on to learn about the top places for birding in the West African country of Liberia.

.            Jerry Garteh, a local birding guide and enthusiast, gives a birding tour in Gola National Park

Birders in Liberia will experience the country's fantastic biodiversity and scenery without the crowds. As you explore Liberia's pristine rainforests, wetlands, and savannas, you will feel part of one of Africa's best-kept secrets. 

Here's why you should consider adding Liberia to your list of birding destinations.

Why Liberia?

Upper Guinea Forest: Liberia is home to the largest proportion of the Upper Guinea Forest, a biodiversity hotspot spanning from Guinea to Ghana. This lush and diverse rainforest is a habitat for numerous Upper Guinea endemic bird species.

Diverse Habitats: From lush rainforests to savannas and coastal mangroves, Liberia offers a variety of habitats, each teeming with unique bird species.

Abundant Birdlife: Liberia has abundant birdlife, with 695 species recorded, including all 15 Upper Guinea endemics. Liberia is located on the East Atlantic Flyway, where millions of shorebirds fly between their breeding and wintering habitats.

Breathtaking Landscapes: Liberia offers the allure of unspoiled landscapes ranging from misty mountains and gorgeous rivers to pristine palm-lined beaches, providing birders with the thrill of exploration. 

Key Highlights

Upper Guinea Endemics: All 15 Upper Guinea endemics live in Liberia, including the Sierra Leone Prinia, White-necked Rockfowl, Gola Malimbe, Rufous Fishing Owl, and the Nimba Flycatcher. 

Accessibility to Hotspots: Several of the best places to see birds in Liberia are accessible by roads and waterways, such as the East Nimba Nature Reserve with its old mining roads or the Marshall Wetlands with its rivers and inlets, making it possible to visit multiple locations on one trip. More remote locations, such as Sapo National Park and Gola Forest National Park, can be excellent for more adventurous birders interested in experiencing an off-the-beaten-path adventure. 

Accessing birding hotspots by boat in the Marshall Wetlands, Liberia, Photo credit: Solimar International

Liberian Birding Hotspots

1. Sapo National Park

Location: Southeastern Liberia

Highlights: Liberia's oldest and largest national park is one of the largest remaining areas of primary rainforest in West Africa. Its dense rainforests abound with avian life, including the White-necked Rockfowl (picture to the left), White-breasted Guineafowl, Great Blue Turaco, and Timneh Parrot. 

Sapo National Park is accessible in the dry season by road with a 4x4 vehicle. Although the journey will take a full day, the drive takes you through rainforests and villages to experience a glimpse of life in Liberia.

2. East Nimba Nature Reserve

Location: North-Central Liberia

Highlights: East Nimba Nature Reserve includes Mount Nimba, sub-Saharan Africa's highest mountain west of Mount Cameroon. This beautiful mountainous setting boasts species like the Nimba Flycatcher and the Sierra Leone Prinia in the higher elevations and the Gola Malimbe, Yellow-bearded Greenbul (pictured to the left, photo credit; Nik Borrow), and Black-headed Rufous Warbler in the lowland areas. The reserve and surrounding forests are home to many birds of interest, and due to iron-ore mining that ended 50 years ago, mining roads have made the mountain and surrounding lowland areas easily accessible.

 

 

 

East Nimba Nature Reserve

3. Marshall Wetlands

Location: 30 km Southeast of Monrovia

Highlights: Conveniently located only 30-45 minutes from the capital, Monrovia, the Marshall Westlands comprises three rivers with sandy shores and abundant mangroves. The area is home to the Glossy Ibis (pictured to the left), Lesser Kestrel, and Common Pratincole species. The number of resident and migratory bird species in the Marshall Wetlands likely exceeds 200, and the landscape allows for excellent birding experiences both by land and water. There is strong evidence of Rufous Fishing Owls being present within the landscape.

Marshall Wetlands, photo credit: Peter Damerell

4. Robertsport and Lake Piso Multi-use Reserve

Location: Northwestern Liberia

Highlights: Lake Piso is the largest coastal lagoon in the country and borders Robertsport, a fishing village with stunning beaches. Forested hillsides, including a tropical rainforest, surround Lake Piso. Lake Piso's coastal area and mangrove swamps serve as a feeding and roosting place for large numbers of shore and seabirds, such as the Water Thick-knee, Collared Pratincole, and wintering herons/egrets and waders. Other birds of note include the Helmeted Guineafowl and Oriole Warbler (pictured to the left).

 

5. Gola Forest National Park

Location: Gola National Park, Photo credit: Solimar International

Gola Forest National Park, located in the western part of Liberia, is one of the largest remaining areas of primary rainforest in West Africa. The park spans across the border with Sierra Leone, forming part of the larger transboundary Gola Forest Reserves

Location: Western Liberia

Highlights: One of the largest and most beautiful remaining areas of primary rainforest in West Africa, the Gola Rainforest spreads across Sierra Leone and Liberia and is listed as an Important Bird Area as it holds a high proportion of threatened and endemic species. The birds that occur in the park include the White-necked Rockfowl, Rufous Fishing Owl (pictured to the left, Credit: Nik Borrow), White-breasted Guineafowl, Gola Malimbe, and Yellow-casqued Hornbill, among others. Other attractions to the park include numerous waterfalls and rivers.

 

 

Best Time to Visit Liberia for Birding

Liberia experiences distinct wet and dry seasons, influencing the accessibility of birding areas. Visiting Liberia during the dry season is recommended for the reasons listed below. 

  • Dry Season (November to April): During this period, accessing more remote areas like Sapo National Park and Gola Forest National Park is much easier due to the better conditions of the dirt roads leading you there from Monrovia. The vegetation is also less dense during this time, allowing for better visibility in the forests across Liberia. 

Liberia Birding Tours, Guides, and Resources

Regarding packaged birding tours to Liberia, Birding Africa has a tour that includes Liberia and Sierra Leone that focuses on Upper Guinea endemics.

Local guides can also be hired to improve your chances of crossing several birds off your birding list. Inquire through your guest house or lodge about birding tour opportunities. Here is a list of popular websites to learn more about birding in Liberia:

  • Liberia Birder - Support bird and nature conservation through awareness, citizen engagement, and capacity building in Liberia
  • The Fendell Bird is run by a group of students at the University of Liberia who want to learn about birds around their homes. 
  • Society for the Conservation of Nature in Liberia - The Society for the Conservation of Nature of Liberia (SCNL) is Liberia’s oldest conservation organization, and they run a birding group
  • African Bird Club - Birds, birding, birdwatching, conservation and travel in Africa

Embark on a birdwatching journey in Liberia, where the symphony of bird calls echoes through lush forests, and each sighting unveils a piece of the country's natural charm. Whether you're a seasoned birder or a novice enthusiast, Liberia's diverse landscapes promise an unforgettable avian adventure.