14th Pan African Ornithological Congress, Dakar, Senegal

16-21 October 2016

"The Pan-African Ornithological Congress (PAOC) meets every 4 years and aims to further the study of African birds, to promote the preservation of African birds as an integral part of the African heritage, to foster the appreciation of birds and discussion of African birds in relation to man, and to disseminate information on African birds through appropriate international meetings (Congresses) and publications (Proceedings of the Congresses)."

From the PAOC web.

Sunday birding

Arriving early on Sunday at Hotel Ngor Diarama, venue for the PAOC, gave time for some birding around the hotel and north to a lagoon. 4 weaver species were found - Some Red-billed Quelea and Village Weavers were foraging in some grass near the beach at the hotel. On the walk a Yellow-backed Weaver was seen near some old nests, which later turned out to be a breeding colony, and opposite a great sighting of a Red-necked Falcon. A male Little Weaver was seen briefly near the hotel.

A colony of Village Weavers were breeding near the hotel swimming pool. Several nests had chicks that were being fed by females, and rarely males.

A BirdMap and other workshops were held. In the evening a large fruit bat flitted about during the outdoor welcoming ceremony.

Red-necked Falcon

Village Weaver male

Village Weaver female feeding chicks

Yellow-backed Weaver female feeding chicks

Monday - Weaver symposium

A weaver symposium was held after the first plenary.

1. Dieter Oschadleus - The ecological significance of weaver nests.

Dieter gave an overview of birds and animals that roost and/or breed in weaver nests.

2. Anthony Lowney, Robert Thomson - Sociable Weaver nests as a resource to the Kalahari animal community.

Robert described the wide variety of organisms that make use of the nests of the Sociable Weaver, an ecosystem engineer, in a harsh environment.

3. Colin Jackson, Fleur Ng'weno - Of undescribed weaver nests - the story of the hunt for breeding Clarke's Weavers.

Colin shared the exciting story of how the first nest of the Clarke's Weavers was found, and noted that there are still 3 weavers where nests have not been found (and another not described formally).

4. Adrian Craig - Iris coloration in weavers - is it a signal?

Adrian reviewed what is known of coloured irises in weavers and other birds, and how iris colour could have a signalling function.

5. Nick Mundy - The genetic basis of red coloration in ploceids, estrildids and other passerines.

Nick described the discovery of the CYP2J19 gene that is responsible for red coloration in passerines, and how the mechanism differs in weavers and estrildids.


Weavers are known for their diversity of nests and bright colours, so it is not surprising that the first 3 talks concerned the nests of weavers, and the next 2 talks focussed on colours of weavers.

For the full program and abstracts for the congress, see PAOC web.

Mid-congress tour

There were several options for the Mid-congress tour, and I had chosen the one to Mbour and Joal. The Institute for Research and Development at Mbour is a research station with a patch of forest. Many bird species were seen on the 3 hour walk. There is also a museum with 3000 bird specimens.

Forest walk
Douda Sylla in the museum

We then proceeded to drive south, stopping at a wetland. A dam wall was constructed less than a year ago, and already there was a massive heronry of mainly White-breasted and Reed Cormorants, and Cattle Egret. A large colony of Village Weavers was active at the edge of the Reed Cormorant nests. We stopped for lunch in Joal, where we saw some seabirds and shorebirds. On the return journey I recorded as many weaver colonies as I could - many were missed, but a good representative sample was obtained - most were Village Weavers, some were White-billed Buffalo-Weavers, and a mixed species colony was photographed. The trip was long but very well organised.

Abyssinian Roller

Spur-winged Plover

Reed Cormorant colony

Village Weaver colony

White-billed Buffalo-Weavers & Village Weavers

Bird Ringing symposium and Rest of the PAOC

On Friday Colin Jackson presented the keynote in the Bird Ringing symposium that was co-hosted by Colin and I. Colin presented an overview of ringing effort in different regions of Africa. This was followed by an entertaining talk by Alan Lee on biometrics of ringed birds. At the closing ceremony Colin Beale, chair of the scientific programme, provided some statistics :

At the closing banquet, Tim Dodman performed his usual entertaining comedy show!

Colin Jackson
Tim, the Professor

Bird ringing in Mbour, 22-26 Oct

After the congress I had organised to spend a few days at Mbour IRD to do some ringing and train 4 forestry students. I travelled with Colin Beale and Nick Mundy who were birding for the day. We stopped at a few places along the way, finding a very productive piece of woodland (opposite the Reserve de Bandia)that had lots of birds, including many Vitelline Weavers and nests.

Colin Beale and Nick Mundy

Vitelline Masked Weaver colony

Here are some of the birds ringed at Mbour IRD.

Little Weaver, female (smaller, bill black)

Yellow-backed Weaver, female (larger)

Village Weaver, male (eye red)

Yellow-backed Weaver, male (eye dark)

Woodland Kingfisher

Grey-headed Kingfisher

Pygmy Kingfisher

Little Bee-eater (primary moult nearly ended)


Black-billed Wood-Dove

A list of birds ringed:

The forestry students

It was very hot and humid in Senegal,
especially while doing field work all day.
Over 20 litres of fluids needed
for the 5 days of ringing!

Species English n
317 Laughing Dove 6
398 African Pygmy-Kingfisher 3
399 Woodland Kingfisher 1
401 Greyhooded Kingfisher 3
410 Little Bee-eater 23
545 Dark-capped (Black-eyed) Bulbul 1
649 Tawny-flanked Prinia 1
797 Village Weaver 28
837 Red-billed Firefinch 1
1168 African Thrush 1
1890 Black-billed Wood-Dove 7
2424 Common (Yellowcrowned) Gonolek 1
2574 Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat 1
3918 Little Weaver 1
3922 Black-headed (Yellow-backed) Weaver 6
3974 Red-cheeked Cordonbleu 1
  Totals 85

Virtual Museum records

Over 200 photographic records were submitted to the ADU Virtual Museum, to provide distribution records. Click on the above bird or PHOtos of Weaver Nests (PHOWN) photos above to see the Virtual Museum record.

Charaxes butterfly



Thanks to all the PAOC organisers for a great cnference! Thanks to the IRD Director, Mr Laurent Vidal, for permission to ring at Mbour IRD. Thanks to Daouda Sylla, ornithologist at Mbour IRD, for his help with the ringing. Thanks to the UCT Research for funding.

Calao Hotel in front, Ngor Diarama at the back where the congress was held