Giant Coua (Coua gigas)

The Giant Coua (Coua gigas) is a bird species from the Coua genus in the cuckoo family that is endemic to the dry forests of western and southern Madagascar. It is suggested that Couas probably originated from a particular Asian ground-cuckoo (Dinets 2007). Genus Coua contains 10 species, more than any other genus in Madagascar (Moreau 1966).

I took these photos in Ankarafantsika National Park.

IMG_5505 IMG_5503 IMG_5419Giant Couas have a very large range and are one of 10 members of the Madagascar endemic Coua family.  You can find various Couas all over Madagascar.  I saw them several times in Ankarafantsika NP.




Xeno Canto


Unlike the ones I saw, this Giant Coua has no aspirations to lead a birding group and was content to stay still and be filmed.

Ankarafantsika – Coquereli Circuit

Since this is such an amazing place to go birding, I will be looking at each circuit offered in detail.  Let’s start with the Coquereli Circuit which is the best intro to Ankarafantsika NP.


Duration : 2 – 3hours
Distance : 2 – 3 km

Guide Fees:
Ar 15,000 for 1 to 5 persons/day
Ar 21,000 for more than 7 persons / day


Beginning of the trail


A Giant Coua led the way, maybe he was worried we would get lost?

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Blue Vangas in a nest


And our friendly Giant Coua still leads the way!

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Some bird is hiding in there!


Greater Vasa Parrot

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Not sure, he’s hidden, anyone know what this is?


Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher

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Blue Vanga

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Rufous Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher

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Broad-billed Rollers


Madagascar Magpie-Robin male and female

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A different Giant Coua to help us find the way out

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Another Lesser Vasa Parrot

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Visiting Ankarafantsika National Park, Madagascar

Ankarafantsika (also known as Ampijoroa) was hands down my favourite birding site in Madagascar.  The birding started even before entering the park as Grey-headed Lovebirds and various lemurs could be seen in the car park!  If you are keeping a life list, this is a great place to come to see many Madagascan species!

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This is the main building with a few exhibits and an observation deck upstairs.


The parking lot has several logs like this to sit on and watch birds even before you enter the park.  There are also BBQ/picnic areas.

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This is the office where you will buy your tickets and be assigned a guide if you are not in a pre-arranged tour group.  There are a few informational boards outside to help you plan your trip.

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The park also has very nice bungalows for rent.  They do tend to be booked up with birding tour groups so you should try to organize one in advance.  This is the only accommodation in/near the park.  The place we stayed, Blue Vanga Lodge was about 5km down the road in the village.

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The fees to enter the park are very straightforward.  We are “etranger” category so the fees range from 25,000 – 50,000 depending on how many days you need.


In addition to the entry fees, you must also hire a guide and do one of the circuits as pictured below.  Most people start with the Circuit Coquereli as an excellent introduction to the park.  We saw lots of birds and lemurs on this trek.  In this and all circuits, the price of the guide is determined by how many people you have.  1-4 people pay 25,000 Ariary for the guide, if there are 5-6 people the cost is 35,000 Ariary.

I really like this system.  Guides are mandatory which is a good idea as it is very important to supply local people with jobs and an incentive to protect their wildlife.  You can design your own program, just choose your circuits and pay in the office for both the park fees and the guide so everything is above board.  Make sure you ask for a guide who knows birds well, although in this location which attracts mostly birders I think all the guides know birds well.

For the two full days we were here, we did the Circuit Coquereli in the first morning and the Circuit Bateau – Lac Ravelobe in the afternoon.  The 2nd day, we did Circuit Retendrika in the morning and since I ran out of cash had to be content with birding the car park and roadside in the afternoon.  I will be blogging more in detail about each circuit.

Only cash is accepted here, no credit cards in either the ticket office or restaurant so be prepared!

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Here we have the prices of the bungalows and gites.  The gites are very primitive, have shared bathrooms and only recommended for experienced backpackers but the bungalows are very nice, the high-priced birding tours stay here.

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The restaurant is very nice and serves generous portions of food at very reasonable prices as you can see by the menu photos.  You can choose a set-price meal or order ala carte.  Cash only, no credit cards!


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The tables have nice views over the forest and are a pleasant place to while away an afternoon while waiting for the next birding walk.

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Just down the road is a small market with locals selling honey and a small shop with a few snacks.

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There is more information on their website.


Malagasy Paradise Flycatcher (Terpsiphone mutata)

The Malagasy paradise flycatcher (Terpsiphone mutata) is a species of bird in the Monarchidae family. It is found in Comoros, Madagascar, and Mayotte. Its natural habitats are subtropical or tropical dry forests and subtropical or tropical moist lowland forests.

There are two colour morphs of this beautiful bird – white and rufous.  The reason for this is still not certain but you can read more about it here.  They often co-exist in the same habitat.  I took these photos in Ankarafantsika NP, Madagascar.

White Morph

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Rufous Morph

IMG_5491 IMG_5481 IMG_5494The good news is this intriguing and beautiful bird has a very large range and can be seen in most forested parks in Madagascar.  We found them easily in Ankarafantsika with both morphs in close proximity to each other.




Mulder Lab



I couldn’t find anything embeddable, but if you go to IBC, you can see videos of a white morph male building a nest and a rufous female building a nest, both filmed near Ranomafana NP.

Grey-headed Lovebird (Agapornis canus)

The Grey-headed Lovebird or Madagascar lovebird (Agapornis canus) is a small species of parrot of the lovebird genus. It is a mainly green parrot. The species is sexually dimorphic and only the adult male has grey on its upper body. They are native on the island of Madagascar and are the only lovebird species which are not native on the African continent. They are the smallest of the lovebird species.

In the first of these photos I took at Ankarafantsika NP, you can see a pair of lovebirds and the distinctive grey head on the male.

IMG_5735 IMG_5732 IMG_5730 IMG_5562 IMG_5543 IMG_5339Grey-headed Lovebirds’ range is all around Madagascar except for the interior.  The easiest place to see them is Ankarafantsika NP where they are all over the trees surrounding the car park.  You don’t even have to enter the park!  This turned out well as we couldn’t enter anyways until the office opened and we bought tickets and hired a guide.  The lovebirds are there all day, you can see them even during lunch time although they are much quieter then.

GHLB Range



World Parrot Trust



The Road To Ankarafantsika, Madagascar

After finally breaking free of the horrendous traffic in Tana, we were once again on a good road with pretty scenery.  Highway 4 is the main road between Tana and Mahajunga and is a well-kept, paved road.

Ankarafantsika RoadIgnore what Google says.  It will take a good 7-8 hours to make the trip.  The road traverses a mountainous area where you can’t drive at speed and you will also have to deal with slow moving vehicles as this is a major road but only one lane.

As I mentioned before, make sure you have plenty of cash.  No one anywhere near the Ankarafantsika National Park takes credit cards and there are no BNI branches where you can use foreign ATMs.  Visit the ATM before you leave Antananarivo and stock up with cash.  You will also need to top up your petrol as most vehicles won’t make it there and back and will need to refuel along the way and you must pay in cash.

Leaving the outskirts of Tana, there are lots of farms and small villages.

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After about 100 km, you enter the mountainous area.

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Maevatanana which means “beautiful village” according to our driver is a good place for a meal break.

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Hotel Restaurant Chouchou has good, cheap food, clean toilets (a rarity along this road) and also cheap rooms if you want to stay here enroute.  We only had a late lunch here.

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We are getting closer to the park from here on. Here are some scenes of typical village life.

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