Dr Callan Cohen

PhD (Cape Town)

Activities and research interests

Callan has been doing research in association with the Fitz since 1998 and his research and publications focus on bird systematics and taxonomy, endangered species surveys, documenting new discoveries of range and vocalisations and popularising birding destinations.

He is currently writing up findings from his PhD on the phylogenetics, taxonomy and biogeography of African arid zone terrestrial birds, co-supervised by Rauri Bowie from UC Berkeley.

Callan has had a life-long dedication to birds and has spent much of his life traveling to the remotest parts of Africa in search of birds, with his highlights being finding Congo Peafowl after 17 days of walking in Africa's largest rainforest, Warsangli Linnets in the Daalloo mountains of Somalia, and rediscovering Namuli Apalis in Mozambique, not seen since it was described to science in 1932. He’s also a dedicated natural historian and has a passion for all things natural, including flora & trees, dragonflies, butterflies, mammals, frogs, reptiles and more.

One of Callan's main objectives is popularising Africa's birds and sharing them with others. He has written many popular articles and has co-authored two birding books, including the Southern African Birdfinder, a guide to finding over 1400 species in the southern third of Africa and Madagascar. Callan had led over 100 tours and expeditions to 23 African countries for Birding Africa, a bird tour company he founded in 1997.

Selected peer-reviewed, popular and book publications

Klaas-Douwe B. Dijkstra and Callan Cohen. 2021. Dragonflies and Damselflies of Madagascar and the western Indian Ocean Islands. Association Vahatra Antananarivo, Madagascar. 198 pages. 

Cohen, C., Liltved, W.R., Colville, J.F., Shuttleworth, A., Weissflog, J., Svatoš, A., Bytebier, B. and Johnson, S.D. 2021. Sexual deception of a beetle pollinator through floral mimicry. Current Biology 31(9), pp.1962-1969.

Cohen, C., Collar, N.J., Dagnee, A., Fishpool, L.D.C., Marsden, S.J., Spottiswoode, C.N. and Wotton, S.R.. 2021. Status of Taita Falcon Falco fasciinucha in Ethiopia and the identification problem posed by African Hobby F. cuvierii. Bull ABC 28(2): 225-233.

Mills, M.S.L., Francis, J.,Borrow, N., Redman, N., Wachira, W. and Cohen, C. 2021. English bird names in common use: a framework to achieve a stable world list despite ongoing taxonomic changes, and a call to establish a broad-based African Bird Names CommitteeBull ABC 28(1): 93-98.

Cohen, C. 2021. Deciphering South Africa’s first Crested Honey Buzzard. African Birdlife 9(4): 26-29.

Cohen, C., Winter, D. and Buckham, M. 2021. Better Birding Webinars: Honey Buzzard Identification and Hybridization. 3 March 2021. Download here

Allport, G. and Cohen, C. 2016. Finding Steppe Whimbrel - discovery and identification in southern Africa. African Birdlife 4(6): 48-54.

Cohen, C., Mills, M.S.L. and Francis, J. 2015. First records for Somalia of Bonelli’s Eagle Aquila fasciata, Short-toed Snake Eagle Circaetus gallicus and Red-breasted Wheatear Oenanthe bottae. African Bird Club Bulletin 22: 225-8.

Mills, M.S.L. and Cohen, C. 2015. Are Yellow-throated Seedeater Crithagra flavigula and White-throated Seedeater C. xanthopygia conspecific? Observations of seedeaters from Djibouti. African Bird Club Bulletin 22: 190-5.

Mills, M.S.L., Cohen, C., Francis, J.E. and Spottiswoode, C.N. 2015. A survey for the Critically Endangered Liben Lark Heteromirafra archeri in Somaliland, north-western Somalia. Ostrich DOI: 10.2989/00306525.2015.1049670

Mills, M.S.L. and Cohen, C. 2015. Birds of Somalia: new records, range extensions and observations from Somaliland. Scopus 34: 31-39.

Bowie, R.C.K., Cohen, C. and Crowe, T.M. 2013. Ptilopachinae: a new subfamily of the Odontophoridae (Aves: Galliformes). Zootaxa 3670(1):97-98.

Spottiswoode, C.N., Olsson, U., Mills, M.S.l., Cohen, C., Francis, J.E., Toye, N., Hoddinott, D., Dagne, A., Wood, C., Donald, P.F., Collar, N.J. and Alström, P. 2013. Rediscovery of a long-lost lark reveals the conspecificity of endangered Heteromirafra populations in the Horn of Africa. Journal of Ornithology 154(3):813-825.

Cohen, C., Wakeling, J.L., Mandiwana‐Neudani, T.G., Sande, E., Dranzoa, C., Crowe, T.M., & Bowie, R.C.K. 2012. Phylogenetic affinities of evolutionarily enigmatic African galliforms: the Stone Partridge Ptilopachus petrosus and Nahan's Francolin Francolinus nahani, and support for their sister relationship with New World quails. Ibis 154(4):768-780.

Cohen, C. 2011. The phylogenetics, taxonomy and biogeography of African arid zone terrestrial birds: the bustards (Otididae), sandgrouse (Pteroclidae), coursers (Glareolidae) and Stone Partridge (Ptilopachus). PhD thesis, University of Cape Town. (Supervisors: T.M. Crowe & R.C.K. Bowie).

Cohen, C., Mills, M.S.L. and Francis, J. 2011. Endemic and special birds of Somaliland. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 18:86–92.

Cohen, C., Ryan, P., Claasen, M. and Ntoyinka, C. 2010. Birding Rwanda - in search of Red-collared Babbler Kupeornis rufocinctus, Albertine Rift endemics and more. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 17:229-237.

Crewe, M and Cohen, C. 2009. Viridithemis viridula (Fraser, 1960) – discovery of the first known male. Agrion 13 (2): 54-55.

Mills, M.S.L. and Cohen, C. 2007. Brazza’s Martin Phedina brazzae: new information on range and vocalisations. Ostrich 78:51-54.

Cohen, C., Spottiswoode, C. and Rossouw, J. 2006. Southern African Birdfinder: where to find 1400 species in southern Africa and Madagascar. Cape Town: Struik New Holland Publishers, 456 pp. Reprinted 2007, 2012.

Cohen, C., Spottiswoode, C., Mills, M. and Murison, G. 2005. Kirsten Louw: 20 February 1979 – 12 May 2005. Promerops 263:4-5.

Contributed 10 species accounts in: Hockey, P.A.R., Dean, W.R.J. and Ryan, P.G. (Eds). 2005. Roberts' Birds of Southern Africa. Seventh edition. Cape Town: John Voelcker Bird Book Fund.

Cohen, C. and Mills, M. Birds of Western Africa. Book Review. Africa Birds and Birding and Dutch Birding.

Cohen, C., Mills, M., Ryan, P.G., Sinclair, I., Vaz Pinto, P. and Spottiswoode, C. 2004. Angola's neglected mountain endemics. World BirdWatch 26:5.

Ryan, P.G., Wright, D., Oatley, G., Wakeling, J., Cohen, C., Nowell, T.L. and Crowe, T.M. 2004. Systematics of Serinus canaries and the status of Cape and Yellow-crowned Canaries inferred from mtDNA and morphology. Ostrich - Journal of African Ornithology 75(4):288-294

Ryan, P.G., Sinclair, I., Cohen, C., Mills, M.S.L., Spottiswoode, C. and Cassidy, R. 2004. The conservation status and vocalisations of threatened birds from the scarp forest of the Western Angola Endemic Bird Area. Bird Conservation International 14:247-260.

Cohen, C. and Louw, K. 2003. Table Mountain: a new wintering area for Honey Buzzards at Africa's south-western extremity? Promerops 255:18-19.

Cohen, C. and Winter, D. 2003. Great Knot Calidris tenuirostris: a new species for sub-Saharan Africa. Bulletin of the Africa Bird Club 10(2):120-121.

Mills, M. and Cohen, C. 2003. Birding Cameroon, part 1. Northern Cameroon: Guinea Woodlands to Sahel. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 10(2):111-116.

Spottiswoode, C. and Cohen, C. 2003. Top 50 birds of the world: Congo Peafowl Afropavo congolensis. Birdwatch Suppl. 9.

Cohen, C. and Mills, M. 2002. First photographs of Mount Kupé Bush-shrike Telophorus kupeensis in the wild. Bulletin of the African Bird Club 9(2):94-94.

Spottiswoode, C. and Cohen, C. 2002. Birding the Tanqua Karoo: the long unwinding road. Africa Birds & Birding 7(1):52-59.

Cohen, C. and Spottiswoode, C. 2000. Essential Birding in Western South Africa: Key routes from Cape Town to the Kalahari. Cape Town: Struik New Holland Publishers, 136 pp. Reprinted 2001.

Cohen, C. 2000. Bustards. Living clues to Africa's past. Africa Birds & Birding 5:14.

Ryan, P.G., Bento, C., Cohen, C., Graham, J., Parker, V. and Spottiswoode, C. 1999. The avifauna and conservation status of the Namuli Massif, northern Mozambique. Bird Conservation International 9:315-331.

Cohen, C. 1998. Phenotypic structure and ecology of a hybrid zone between two non-sister species of African larks. Honours Project, University of Cape Town. (Supervisor: P.G. Ryan).

Cohen, C. 1998. Ecological correlates of relict plant species in the Cape Floristic Region, South Africa: implications for floristic history and conservation. Honours Project, University of Cape Town. (Supervisor: H.P. Linder).

Contributed 20 species accounts in: Harrison, J.A., Allan, D.G., Underhill, L.G., Herremans, M., Tree, A.J., Parker, V. & Brown, C.J. (Eds). 1997. The Atlas of Southern African Birds. Johannesburg: BirdLife South Africa.

Cohen, C., Leslie, R., Winter, D. and Eksteen, J. 1997. Second record of Mascarene Martin for southern Africa. Africa Birds & Birding 2(4):14.

Winter, D. and Cohen, C. 1992. Cape Sugarbird suffering heat stress. Promerops 203:15.