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Madagascar has five endemic families of birds:

  • the Vangas (except for the Comoro Blue Vanga, which is found only in the Comoro Islands), a family of about 20 species of passerine birds who build their stick nests in trees and do not migrate;
  • the Couas, technically a sub-family of the cuckoo family, mostly terrestrial birds featuring brightly-colored fleshy areas around the eyes; four species occur in rainforests and another six are found in the dry forests of the West and the spiny thicket of the South;
  • the Ground-rollers, related to the kingfishers and rollers, most with striped or flecked plumage; They nest as solitary pairs in holes in the ground which they excavate themselves;
  • the Mesites, near-flightless birds with a somewhat pheasant-like appearance, living in forest and scrub;
  • the Asities, technically a sub-family of the broadbills, mostly small forest birds with sexually dichromatic plumage and brightly colored wattles around the eyes of the males; these wattles, which are most conspicuous during the breeding season, get their color from arrays of collagen fibers, a method of pigmentation that is unique in the animal kingdom; they possess twelve tail feathers on extremely short tails, and they have forked tongues adapted to the extraction of nectar;
  • the Cuckoo-roller (also found in the Comoro Islands), a family onto itself, and also known in English by its French name, courol; with a total length of up to 20 inches, the Cuckoo-roller is sexually dichromatic, with the male distinguished by a velvety gray chest and head, a dark iridescent green back and tail, and black crown and eye-stripe, while the female is mostly brown with strongly dark-spotted pale underparts;
Many more species are endemic to the island. Some of the more notable include the Madagascar Pochard, the Madagascar Fish Eagle, the Madagascar Serpent Eagle, the Madagascar Red Owl, the Madagascar Green Pigeon, the Madagascar Blue Pigeon, Appert's Greenbul, the Madagascar Fody, the Madagascar Magpie-robin, the Greater Vasa Parrot and the Lesser Vasa Parrot (also found in the Comoros), the Madagascar Coucal (also found in Aldabra), the Madagascar Paradise Flycatcher (also found in the Comoros), the Crested Drongo (also found in one of the Comoros), and the Madagascar Pygmy-Kingfisher.

All the forests offer great bird-watching opportunities, including the rainforests, the dry forests of the West, the spiny thicket of the South and the Southwest. All the wetland areas are excellent venues too, including Ankarafantsika, Alaotra and indeed all the lakes around the island.

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