The continuing lack of ornithological research capacity in almost all of West Africa
West Africa has high bird diversity and is a crucial non-breeding area for over one-third of European breeding species, yet local capacity for ornithological research and so targeted bird conservation is perceived to be limited. I reviewed all the published literature on the Web of Science™ classified as ‘ornithology’ with an accompanying keyword of a country’s name, over the last three decades, from the 16 countries within West Africa and compared it with that from 16 Western European countries. Inclusion of the country’s name as a search term identified any papers produced by local authors, and so should provide an index of local ornithological capacity. Overall only 129 papers were produced from 1987 to 2016 with West African authors (range: zero Burkina Faso to 45 Nigeria), significantly fewer compared with 12 380 with European authors (range: 71 Greece to 2 745 England). The number of papers produced increased significantly at similar rates over the three-decade period in both continents. The number of papers produced by local authors in West Africa and Europe approximately doubled each decade, but variation between countries was large, particularly in West Africa. The results are broadly the same when paper output is adjusted for the population of each country. Of the three West African countries that showed a consistent increase in numbers of locally authored ornithological papers, only Nigeria showed a highly significant increase and this increase was down to a single ornithological research institute established there in 2002. The results confirm that there is little local ornithological capacity in West Africa and this is not changing except in Nigeria, where even a single new research institute can make a significant difference because of the very low baseline.