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São Tomé birds looking for ID


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I am new to the forum. I am a keen amateur birds photographer. During my recent trip to São Tomé I have taken a couple of photos of birds I have a problem to identify. Have you got any guesses about them? Thanks in advance!


With all the best, Marcin







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Hi and welcome to SafariTalk, great to have some one else who has visited São Tomé, I am to my knowledge, the only other member here who has been to STP, I am also quite keen on birds, so I should be able to help. Having said that due to our flight from Libreville to São Tomé being seriously delayed our one scheduled trip to go birding in Obo NP on ST had to be cut short, I only had one night on the island before moving on to Principe. The only real birding I got to do was on Principe, however, after refreshing my memory by downloading a checklist of the bird of São Tomé from the African Bird Club website, (you can get a checklist just for ST or one for both islands), I’ve had a go at identify them.


Checklist of the birds of São Tomé 


I’m not sure about number 1 it is certainly a weaver and it looks like a female, I’m sure it’s not a São Tomé weaver, that just leaves southern masked (Ploceus velatus) , village (Ploceus cucullatus) or giant (Ploceus grandis), my thought was it might be giant but the eye colour doesn’t look right and the beak seems just not quite big enough, however, I don’t think it looks that close to either of the other two. So, I’m not certain on this one.


Number 2 my best guess is that this could be a female white-winged widowbird (Euplectes albonotatus) I wondered about a non-breeding male but a male should have a small patch of yellow on the shoulder.


Number 3 is definitely a female giant weaver (Ploceus grandis), nothing else has such a huge beak, I don’t know if it’s just the angle, but the beak looks much bigger than the beak of bird number 1 which is why I’m not certain if that is the same bird.


I think the remaining birds are all the same and I think that they are all golden-backed bishops (Euplectes aureus) non-breeding males and or females.


The book The Birds of Western Africa by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey very helpfully has all of the island endemic species/subspecies on separate plates at the end, you still have to look for the non-endemics on the main plates, the problem with the book though is that the illustrations are in my view pretty awful. The illustrations in Birds of Africa South of the Sahara are better I think. Since only a relatively small number of birders ever make to STP, there aren’t that many photos of the endemics online, and photos generally tend to be more often of male birds and birds in breeding plumage. So, finding photo matches for these birds online wasn’t as easy as it can be sometimes when trying to identify birds, even so I’m glad I could be of some help and offer some suggestions.


I and I’m sure others would be interested to read a little more about your trip to São Tomé if you felt inclined to write a trip report, it needn’t be anything very long or you could just post a few more photo if you want, either way I hope you will hang around and make further use of SafariTalk.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Inyathi,


Sorry to be late with my response, but I vae been away from computer for a longer while. Thank you very much for your suggestion about ID and about the book. Myself, I hav purchased once Bird of Africa south of Sahara, but the book seems not to have so detailed illustrations often miising plumage of females and juvenile birds.

As or a trip report as far as I publish my photos on my website I will get back with a link where you could see some of my favoritue pictures from these peaceful and friendly islands:)

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one more thing - image nubmer one and  three was taken in almoast the same location, but on different days, so I had similar feelings it could be the same bird.

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would like to return two bird from photo number two. I have another picture where it is sitting with Euplectes aureus  (identified by you) - so maybe they are both Euplectes aureus ? photo below.


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  • 3 months later...

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