Few places in the world are as threatened as the native environments of Madagascar and its nearby islands. Fortunately, international conservation agencies have come to the aid of Madagascar, and more areas are being set aside as reserves and national parks. Each year new species are discovered and described, and species previously thought extinct or nearly so are rediscovered. You will be able to observe these birds in national parks, generally all over the island on our different tours, where you will enjoy watching these magnificent birds, spot their song and better know them. In addition, there is a growing realization that foreign tourists are interested in the wildlife of Madagascar; as a result, the infrastructure is improving and attractive lodges are being built in some of the best birding areas. You may rest from your trip later on, on the dreamy beaches of our Red Island.
*Eastern Rainforest: The now highly fragmented rainforest band known as the great Madagascar Sylva, once covered almost all of humid eastern Madagascar. Some impressive rainforest blocks remain intact today and in these are situated several splendid National Parks which attract birders from around the globe. Malagasy rainforest birding is best in the Austral Spring and early summer (end August to late December). Always be sure to enter the rainforest just before daybreak, as then birding becomes really rewarding. And if it rains while you're in there, don't be deterred! As the local saying goes, it takes a lot of rain to have a good rainforest flourishing and rainforest-dependent wildlife tends to be just as active during rainy spells.
*East Madagascar: The world-famous Analamazaotra Special Reserve and Mantadia National Park can boasting almost all of the eastern rainforest endemics. Specials: All the eastern rainforest endemics have been recorded, with the exception of Bernier’s Vanga Oriolia bernieri (though Madagascar Serpent Eagle Eutriorchis astur, Helmet Vanga Euryceros prevostii, Red-tailed Newtonia Newtonia fanovanae, Madagascar Yellowbrow Crossleyia xanthophrys, Yellow-bellied Asity Neodrepanis hypoxantha and Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor are very rare here). This is an especially good site for Madagascar Grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii, Madagascar Crested Ibis Lophotibis cristata, Madagascar Water Rail Rallus madagascariensis, Madagascar Wood Rail Canirallus kioloides, Madagascar Long-eared Owl Asio madagascariensis, Collared Nightjar Caprimulgus enarratus, all 4 rainforest Ground Rollers, and Nuthatch-Vanga Hypositta corallirostris.
*The Highlands: Ranomafana National Park offers a superb selection of eastern rainforest specials, including some that are rare or absent from the Andasibe area. Specials: Almost all of Andasibe’s specials are also present at Ranomafana, though Henst’s Goshawk Accipiter henstii, Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor, Madagascar Yellowbrow Crossleyia xanthophrys, Brown Emu-tail Dromaeocercus brunneus, Yellow-bellied Asity Neodrepanis hypoxantha and Pollen’s Vanga Xenopirostris polleni are much easier here.
*Antananarivo: Almost all visitors to Madagascar fly into the country’s capital city and encounter their first Malagasy birds, usually Mascarene Martins Phedina borbonica overhead or Squacco Herons Ardeola ralloides in roadside rice paddies, on the drive into town from the airport. Whilst all of Tana’s birds may be found elsewhere, birders with time to spare should consider visits to Lake Alarobia for the spectacular heronry (one of the best places to study Madagascar Pond Herons Ardeola idae in their nuptial finery) and waterfowl (formerly Meller’s Duck Anas melleri, but no recent records), and Tsimbazaza Zoo for Madagascar Grebe Tachybaptus pelzelnii, Torotoroka Scops Owl Otus madagascariensis, Hamerkop Scopus umbretta and small passerines such as Madagascar White-eye Zosterops maderaspatanus, Madagascar Mannikin Lonchura nana and Madagascar Red Fody Foudia madagascariensis.
*North Madagascar: The mid-altitude forest on Montagne d’Ambre is most famous amongst birders as the only site on Earth for the highly localized and appropriately named Amber Mountain Rock Thrush Monticola erythronotus (not on the checklist). This beautiful bird is usually easily found in the campsite at Station Roussette, along the 200 m trail to the Petite Cascade, or along the road up to the crater lake of Lac Vert. Pitta-like Ground Roller Atelornis pittoides, Cuckoo Roller Leptosomus discolor, Short-billed Tetraka (Spectacled Greenbul) Xanthomixis zosterops and Hook-billed Vanga Vanga curvirostris are also all fairly common and easily found in the park, which lies about 30 km of Antsiranana in the Northern Madagascar.
*Tropical Dry Deciduous Forest: The hot western lowlands of Madagascar hold the last few stands of tropical dry deciduous forest. Here, woods are much lighter and birding is rewarding year round - Ankarafantsika National Park and Ampijoroa Forest Station. The place included on all birders itineraries is Ampijoroa Forest Station, the tourist-accessible part of the Ankarafantsika National Park. The local specials are mostly not hard to find: look for White-breasted Mesite, Coquerel's and Red-capped Couas and Van Dam's Vanga. Less easily seen is the Schlegel's Asity. Several vangas are quite common, including the Sicklebill, Rufous, Hook-billed, Blue and Chabert's Vangas. Raptors abound, including the very rare Madagascar Fish Eagle, Madagascar Gymnogene, Madagascar Buzzard, Madagascar Sparrowhawk and Frances's Sparrowhawk. More generally distributed species often encountered here include Madagascar Crested Ibis, White-throated Rail, Greater Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Green Pigeon and Madagascar Pygmy Kingfisher. At nearby wetlands, you might find Humblot's Heron, Madagascar White Ibis, Madagascar Jacana, Madagascar Pratincole and if you are very lucky, the rare Madagascar (Bernier's) Teal.
*North-West Madagascar: Mahavavy-Kinkony complex presents great ornithological diversity, especially in aquatic avifauna.
*South-East: New Protected Area Tsitongambarika. The area was assessed by BirdLife International to be an Important Bird Area in 2001 and since 2005, Asity Madagascar have been working with local communities to manage the area. An area of 600 km2 received government protection in 2015. Despite legal protection Birdlife International considers the forest to be in danger. Among bird species, Tsitongambarika holds most of the bird species of the rainforests of Madagascar, including threatened species such as the Madagascar Red Owl, Brown Mesite, Short-legged Ground-roller, Scaly Ground-roller, Madagascar Crested Ibis and Red-tailed Newtonia. The avifauna of Tsitongambarika is characterised by a very high endemicity rate: 57 of the 97 species recorded at Tsitongambarika (59%) are found only in Madagascar. The brown mesite (Mesitornis unicolor) is a ground-dwelling bird of undisturbed primary, evergreen, humid forest and its population is thought to be declining rapidly. It is listed as vulnerable due its habitat along the eastern seaboard of Madagascar being fragmented. Other key species include Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Madagascar Wood-rail, Nuthatch Vanga, Red-fronted Coua, Pollen’s Vanga, Wedge-tailed Jery, Spectacled Tetraka and White-throated Oxylabes. In addition, the globally threatened Meller’s Duck, Madagascar Grebe and Madagascar Pond-heron were recorded on wetlands close to, but outside, Tsitongambarika forest. Andohahela National Park protects a range of habitats from eastern rainforest to Alluadia-rich “spiny desert”. Whilst most of its birds are more easily seen elsewhere, Andohahela has been recognised as a reliable and accessible site for the scarce and localised Red-tailed Newtonia Newtonia fanovanae.
*Transition Forest: The RN7 national road between the Isalo Massif and the southern coastal town Tulear is the transition forest of Zombitse-Vohibasia National Park, where western and southern forest types merge. The megatick in this very rewarding birding hotspot is the Appert's Greenbul, which exists nowhere else. You should also see a wide variety of other endemics, including Madagascar Sandgrouse, Madagascar Partridge, Giant and Olive-capped Couas, Lesser Vasa Parrot, Madagascar Hoopoe, Thamnornis Warbler, Common Newtonia, Common Jery, Long-billed Green and Souimanga Sunbirds and Sakalava Weaver. Zombitse makes for an ideal picnic stop and birding is excellent there all year.
*Southern spiny bush: This bizarre habitat features an assemblage of coated and thorny, drought resistant trees and plants. It varies considerably in appearance across the region. All the southern sub-desert endemics are concentrated in a small area along the south-west coast, from Ifaty-Mangily to Saint Augustin Bay. Birding in the semi-arid south is good year round. The surreal landscape inland of the fishing village of Ifaty-Mangily hosts some of Madagascar’s strangest, most sought-after and most threatened endemics, including Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi and Long-tailed Ground Roller Uratelornis chimaera. Specials: Banded Kestrel Falco zoniventris, Subdesert Mesite Monias benschi, Madagascar Plover Charadrius thoracicus, Grey-headed Lovebird Agapornis canus, Running Coua Coua cursor, Green-capped Coua Coua (ruficeps) olivaceiceps, Long-tailed Ground-Roller Uratelornis chimaera, Archbold’s Newtonia Newtonia archboldi, Thamnornis Thamnornis chloropetoides, Subdesert Brush-Warbler Nesillas (typica) lantzi, Sickle-billed Vanga Falculea palliata and Lafresnaye’s Vanga Xenopirostris xenopirostris. The St Augustin Road, Anakao and Nosy Ve. The about 30 km track south along the coast from Toliara to the village of St Augustin (Anatsognaro) passes through unique “coral rag scrub” that is home to a handful of highly localised endemics, most famous of which is the recently discovered Red-shouldered Vanga Calicalicus rufocarpalis. Specials: Madagascar Heron Ardea humbloti, Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubricauda, Madagascar Sandgrouse Pterocles personatus, Verreaux’s Coua Coua verreauxi, Littoral Rock Thrush Pseudocossyphus imerina and Red-shouldered Vanga Calicalicus rufocarpalis.