Dr. Dayo Osinubi’s travels all over Africa studying the behaviour of birds in relation to their environment. He took a little time out from his busy schedule to give us the low down on where to find Accra’s feathered friends, and also some advice on how to encourage them to visit your private garden.
Please tell us a little about yourself, and your experience working with birds in Ghana.
My name is Samuel Temidayo Osinubi, but everyone calls me Dayo. I am presently a postdoctoral fellow at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. However, when I lived in Accra, I was working for BirdLife International as a Flyways Officer. Working with birds in Ghana was mainly centred around supporting the efforts of the Ghana Wildlife Society in monitoring birds in Ghana. One key initiative that I was involved in setting up was a monthly bird walk at sites in and around Accra, and this is still on-going.
What are the most interesting things you have witnessed about Accra's bird populations?
Accra offers a myriad of habitats, from saltpans to green areas within the city. This diversity of habitats provides refuge to different bird species. This means that depending on the spot you pick within and around Accra, you will easily stand a chance at observing particular types of birds. For example, the Botanical Garden of the University of Ghana is one site where I have seen three species of parrots: African Grey Parrot, Senegal Parrot and Rose-ringed Parakeet. I have also seen two species of hornbills there: African Grey Hornbill and Piping Hornbill.
What's the most exciting sighting you have experienced in Accra?
Okay, that's a tough one. It might sound a bit disappointing to some, but one of my most exciting sightings was of a Grey-Headed Bush-Shrike within the office premises of the Ghana Wildlife Society. However, to take the question further, one of the most exciting bird sightings in Ghana that hasn't happened yet, but that I am looking forward to, is the White-Necked Picathartes. For this, you need to head towards Akosombo!
Which is your favourite birding site in/near Accra? Why?
My favourite birding site in Accra is the Botanical Garden of the University of Legon. This site is relatively easy to access, both with a private car and via public transport. The site offers an island of natural tranquillity in an ocean of the hustle and bustle of Accra. Dawhenya Dam is a close second because this site offers a chance to observe water birds, farmland birds and savannah birds.
What birds can one expect to see in a domestic garden in Accra?
Well, the Common Bulbul does live up to its name in Accra, in being common. Also, the raucous call of the Pied Crow can be heard in many gardens in Accra. Other garden birds to look out for are sunbirds, sparrows and weavers.
What are the advantages of having birds visit your garden?
Birds are beautiful and serve a variety of functions in our environment. The natural beauty of birds in your garden will help to make it a true refuge from the iron and concrete of the rest of the city. Some birds are pollinators, as well as seed dispersers. So, the presence of birds in your garden will naturally improve the quality of the garden and its plants.
What can one do to encourage birdlife in their domestic garden in Accra?
You can invite birds into your garden by first providing a welcoming area for them. This can be in the form of a water bath, feeding tray or tube, and/or by planting flowering or fruiting plants. Even small balcony gardens or hanging gardens attract birds. Hanging gardens with flowers will attract birds as well as butterflies, and create a floral-scented haven for you. You can also add herb or vegetable boxes to the hanging garden to make it useful for the kitchen! Garden lawns can also be useful for birds, as healthy lawns have earthworms aerating the soil... and everybody knows that it is the early bird that gets the worm. So, look out for birds like the African Thrush on your lawn, as they hunt for worms.
How can people support bird conservation in Accra / Ghana?
Supporting the Ghana Wildlife Society, which is the BirdLife Partner in Ghana, is one good way to get involved with conservation work in Accra, and in Ghana at large. Various levels of memberships are open to the public, as well as several different events that include the monthly bird walks mentioned earlier. The Ghana Wildlife Society also runs a Wildlife Club for students. Please pay a visit to the Ghana Wildlife Society office right next to the Efua Sutherland Children's Park at Ridge for more information.