Walliyya aka Abdim's Stork


A bird commonly seen in W. Africa is the Abdim’s Stork, also known by its Songhai name, walliyya. This bird summers north of the equator and “winters” in southern Africa. I use the parentheses around “winters” because though it is “winter” in W. Africa, it is summer in southern Africa when the stork lives there, so you might say it’s a real “snow bird,” if that expression can be applied to Africa. It likes to be where there is eternal summer.

The Abdim’s stork usually appears in W. Africa in April and migrates back to southern Africa in October. This corresponds roughly to the hot, humid period in our part of the world. In April one of the common questions you may hear will be, “Have you seen a walliyya yet? The walliya is supposed to be a harbinger of the coming rainy season (June-September in Niger), and when you see one, you know that the rains are on their way.

Interestingly, the Abdim’s stork nests only when it is north of the equator. It is very gregarious and usually builds a nest in a tall, leafy tree in a town or a village near a water source. The brood consists of 2-4 eggs. During the rainy season, the chicks hatch and learn to fly, and by September, they’re ready for the long trek to southern African with their parents.

So it was quite a surprise one day this month (November, 2007) to see a walliyya walking around in the street outside out gate. They should all have been long gone by now. And this one wasn’t flying. Either it was injured in some way or it hatched late and was too young to fly when the migration took place. Earlier this week, the walliyya came into our yard looking for food, and we snapped these pictures of it.

It’s not the prettiest bird. Actually, it’s rather gangly and ugly, but it does play an important role in encouraging everyone during the long W. African hot season (March-June). You might call it the “rain bird.”