Birding in Kakum
Located 12 miles north of the seaside town of Cape Coast in Ghana's Central Region, Kakum National Park and the adjacent Assin Attandaso Resource Reserve cover approximately 135 square miles of tropical moist forest. The area provides habitat for the globally endangered forest elephants, bongo, yellow-backed duiker and diana monkeys, an estimated 550 butterfly species, 100 mammal, reptile, and amphibian species, and 269 species of birds. A canopy walkway, suspended 100 feet above the ground, offers bird-watchers an unusual opportunity for up-close viewing of many species.
A good telescope is essential for identification of many of the canopy birds. It is also helpful to have a good pair of waterproof binoculars because the excessive humidity and frequent rain showers can cause fogging. Compact binoculars with their reduced light-gathering capability and narrow field of view are not a good choice for forest birding.
There are 269 bird species whose presence in Kakum has been confirmed, and an additional 56 species on the hypothetical list. There are many good birding areas throughout Kakum. However, for visiting birders with a limited amount of time available, the best strategy will be to spend more time in some of the best spots. A few of these areas are listed below.
The first two days can be spent around Abrafo on the forest trails near the park headquarters and on the canopy walkway. This is one of the best spots to bird in all of Kakum because of the high visibility of canopy birds. Arrive at the park headquarters before dawn and listen to the dawn chorus. Watch for birds around the visitor center and along the road until it begins to warm up and bird activity slows down, then go into the forest along the prepared trails or onto the canopy walkway. This approach can be varied, with an early morning in the forest to look for species such as Ruleus-sided Broadbill and Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo.
Forest understory birding is "feast and famine," and you will not see much unless a mixed-species flock is located. Mixed-species flocks are largest and most vocal January through March and the rewards for finding one are great. The best chance to see the threatened Yellow-throated Olive Greenbul is in mixed-species flocks along the back of the Kuntan trail.
After Abrafo, the place to visit is Antwikwaa. The road to Antwikwaa passes through a mosaic of secondary forest, cocoa plantations, cultivation, and thickets and there are many good birding opportunities. Many forest canopy, secondary forest, forest edge species, and species typical of modified habitats and savanna across Africa, can be found there. These include: Harrier Hawk, Cassin's Hawk Eagle, Pygmy Kingfisher, Shining Blue Kingfisher, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Honeyguide Greenbul, Rufous-crowned Eremomela, Whistling Cisticola, Splendid Glossy Starling, Black Bee-eater, and many others.
Some of the best forest remaining in Kakum is in the Kruwa sector. At Kruwa, there is an old logging road through the forest which offers good views of the canopy. There are also several fruit trees along the road that seasonally attract many species of frugivorus birds. This is the best place to see some of the many species of greenbuls and other frugivores in Kakum. In a good fruiting tree it is possible to see Plain, Slender-billed, Serine, Little, Yellow-whiskered, Honeyguide, Little Grey, and Spotted groenbuls. You also might see Swamp Palm (White-tailed) Bulbul, Naked-faced, Bristle-nosed, Hairy-breasted, and Yellow-spotted barbels, Yellow-rumped, Red-rumped, and Speckled tinkerbirds, Green Pigeon, Great Blue Turaco, White-breasted Negro Finch, and three or four species of hornbills. Many of these species come and go, and a fig tree can provide a whole morning of great birding.
If time permits, an excursion to Aboabo at the northwest corner of the park may prove to be worth the two-hour drive. At Aboabo there is a good gravel road that runs through Assin Attandanso Resource Reserve for several kilometers. Good views can be had of the canopy, but the forest along this road is nearly impenetrable. This is the best place to see Crowned Eagle, Great Blue Turaco, Bristle-nosed Barbet, Violet-backed Flycatcher, Shrike Flycatcher, Golden-backed Weaver, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye and Blue-bill.
Clothing for birding in Kakum will vary depending on where you will be going in the park. In general, light cotton clothes and good walking shoes are best. Long pants are helpful to deter biting insects (remarkably few in Kakum) and scratches from prickly vines and undergrowth plants. Some areas of the forest are flooded seasonally. When birding along the boundary at Antwikwaa, or in any of the Raphia palm swamps, it is helpful to have a good quality, broken-in pair of Wellington gum boots along. At the very least, you should have several pairs of walking shoes in case one pair becomes wet. A light day pack is useful for carrying water, snacks, and other needs. In the forest it is necessary to increase fluid intake beyond normal levels because of excessive sweating.
For more information on Kakum National Park visit The Ecotravel Center.
Special Thanks to Conservation International for providing this information.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication