The Gambia's Kartong Bird Observatory (KBO) overlooks
a disused sand mine. During the rainy season the pits
fill with rainwater creating one of the best bird
watching sites along the coast of The Gambia.
The ringing of birds started in 1996 in Kartong with
the ground-breaking efforts of John High and Mike King.
In order to continue their work a team of professional
ringers from the UK has now established a permanent
ringing unit in Kartong.
Bird Watching At KBO:
Over 260 bird species have been recorded at Kartong.
The wetlands form the focus of their recording local.
Other neighbouring habitats include, Savannah scrub,
foreshore, cultivated rice fields, sand dunes, remnant
of high forest and tidal mud flats. The wetlands hold
water all year, although the water levels are greatly
reduced after April this fresh water is an irresistible
lure for water birds and migrants.
The widespread rush beds and reeds offer breeding sites
and roost refuge for some species which are otherwise
problematic to find in The Gambia. Many of the bird
species here are quite approachable and provide superb
photo opportunities for ornithologists.
Among the many birds recorded are the Brown Noddy, Dwarf
Bitten, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, African Crake, Cassin's
Honeybird, Allen’s Gallinule, Little Bitten, African
Reed Warbler, Painted Snipe, Hooded Vultures, Osprey,
Black-crowned and the Crane, Pygmy Goose among others.
Palaearctic migrants includes the Great Reed Warbler,
Temminck's Stint, Lesser Kestrel, European Roller, Marsh
Sandpiper, Woodchat Shrike and the Wryneck. What
is arguably the most impressive event of the day is
the heron roost. Just before sunset between 900 and
1,600 herons from eight species fly to the reeds to
feed and sleep.
In one year they had ringed in excess of 2,800 birds
belonging to 120 species. A significant number of these
species have been captured in large numbers allowing
them to create new sexing and ageing criteria for an
avifauna that is little studied. They have captured
many migrant birds from the Palearctic eco-zone and
they hope to enhance knowledge of their migration patterns
through this sub-region of West Africa and further afield.
The Kartong Bird Observatory has regular bird ringing
courses for bird ringers from the United Kingdom and
aim to expand the courses to include ringers from other
countries. Each course sponsors a selection of Gambian
pupils to acquire useful work experience learning the
techniques of bird ringing.
Services & Facilities:
They have a range of services for visitors to Kartong.
Their broad local knowledge means they can enhance your
visiting experience in a number of ways.
• Bird Guiding
They welcome everyone visiting Kartong even if their
interest in ornithology is minimal. They offer guided
birding trips around their recording area and beyond
if there are particular species birders are looking
for. KBO provides escorted boat trips along the Halahin
River to see the spectacular bird life there. They have
the contacts for the best Gambian bird guides and can
help organise birding trips throughout the rest of The
• Bush Walking
• Gambian Cooking
Location: 13-05'05N 16-45'39W
The Kartong Bird Observatory (K.B.O) is located on the
west side of Kartong village next to the wetland area.
If you are driving into Kartong from the north, turn
right off the main highway just after the village sign
post then continue for about 1km along the dirt track.
KBO is sign posted on the left.
Accommodation & Food:
They do not provide accommodation for bird watchers
at KBO but they can organise stays at local Lodges.
KBO can provide food and drinks at their cafe-bar. A
pair of binoculars can also be provided. They also sell
a range of prints, cards prints and birding DVDs.