Kopij G., Paxton M.

Waterbirds in the panhandle of the Okavango Delta: dry season counts over two seven-year periods

We counted waterbirds along a fixed route in the panhandle of the Okavango River in Mahango Game Reserve in the dry season during two seven-year periods (1991–1997 and 2000–2006). Palearctic migrants represented by 11 species in 1991–1997 and nine species in 2000–2006 together composed only a small percentage of all birds recorded in both periods. The two most numerous foraging guilds were birds foraging in shallow water and those foraging in deep water. The former guild was more numerous in 2000–2006, while the latter guild was more numerous in 1991–1997. The proportion of other foraging guilds varied little between the two periods. The most numerous diet guild was piscivores, they were more numerous in 1991–1997 than in 2000–2006. If the total numbers of birds of each particular species in the years 1991–1997 were pooled and compared with those for the years 2000–2006, then highly significant changes in their numbers between these periods could be seen for 53 out of 93 waterbird species. Over the timespan 1991–2006, 12 species significantly increased in numbers while one species, the Cattle Egret, declined; seven other species showed no significant changes in abundance. The increase can be linked to the volume of water flowing through the river. While during the years 1991–1997 the total volume measured at Mohembo was 45.9 km3 (SD = 1.43), during the years 2000–2006 the volume was 60.9 km3 (SD = 1.41). Diversity was very similar during the two periods (1991–1997: S = 1.4; 2000–2006: S = 1.3), with no difference in evenness. The striking feature is that species diversity and abundance of birds was far greater than any records from other southern African rivers to date.

Doi https://doi.org/10.35513/21658005.2019.1.3

Keywords Population trends; wetlands; Namibia; Ramsar sites

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