The Birds of Nkwashi

Chena AIR
4 min readNov 10, 2021


Words and images by Namukolo Siyumbwa

Hello birdwatchers! The Nkwashi Dam attracts a wide range of waterfowl who are permanent or temporary tenants. And why wouldn’t they be, when it has prime estate like this? The trees in the lake provide security for the birds away from possible predators like snakes.

Nkwashi Dam
Partially submerged trees in the dam

Best seen via canoe ride, the first bird that you might spot immediately is the white breasted cormorant, which is one of the most common bird at the dam.

White Breasted Great Cormorant
Cormorants in basking on a tree

The African darter, also called the snake bird, looks similar to the cormorant from a distance but can be distinguished by its long slender neck, darker crest and it habit to dive under the water in order to feed. One may see this bird mostly submerged with only its head showing above the water. Because of this frequent diving, it will also be seen stretching out its wings to dry in the sun.

The cormorants and darters are often seen nesting together in the same trees.

African Darter
African darters and cormorants share a tree for nesting

Egrets (below)are also quite common and will appear in the dry season towards the wet season. They are also usually seen roosting with cormorants, African darters and other storks.

White egret
African fish eagle

A pair of African fish eagles, can sometimes be seen, but most likely heard, around midday when they take advantage of the hot air currents caused by the noon sun and soar high above the dam.

African fish eagle in flight
Blacksmith lapwing

If one walks along the banks, one might come across the Blacksmith lapwing; a smart looking, chirpy bird with black and white plumage. Despite its size, this medium sized bird will readily protect its territory especially if it has chicks or eggs, by flying around the intruder and performing mock dives until the intruder leaves.

Blacksmith lapwing in flight
Egyptian goose pair

An attractive pair of Egyptian geese are returning residents of the dam, and have golden brown, red, white and black feathers. They spend most of the day close to the water banks feeding.

White faced whistling ducks

If you’re lucky, you may come across the white faced whistling ducks which move in large groups, with our current group of about thirty-plus strong. The flock stays together for safety and are quick to fly away when approached. They are easily recognised by their aptly named white faces, golden brown torso and dark wings.

Pied kingfisher hovering before taking a dive

Other birds you may see are the blue heron, weaver bird and the pied king fisher.

So the next time you come by, bring a pair of binoculars and a camera. You may never know what else you might see on the water.



Chena AIR

Artists in Residence Powered by Chena Art Gallery. Welcome to the Artists’ perspective.