Kenya Birding Safaris | Birding Safaris & Tours | Bird Watching Safaris | Kenya Bird Watching Tours
East Africa is one of the richest bird areas in the world. With a wealth of different habitats, often close to each other, it’s quite easy to spot over 100 species in one day. Although many of the birds are brightly colored and exotic looking, they are generally quite easily recognized; within a day or two you will be identifying the various species with ease!
Kenya has varied habitats with different vegetation that suit different types of birds numbering over 1000 species (11% in the whole world). From tropical rainforests, coastal forests, montane forest, the scrubs and grasslands to semi arid areas. It is vital to note that Kenya is ranked second after Zaire as far as habitat diversity is concerned though four times bigger.
Kenya has one of the richest birdlife in Africa with around 1090 bird species recorded. At least eight of these are national endemics. Around 170 species of Kenya’s birds species are Pale arctic migrants (11 species of them with a local breeding population too), mainly from Eastern Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Siberia. Another 60 species migrate regularly within the Afro tropics or from Madagascar. Some 335 species are found in forest; 230 species are entirely forest dependent and 110 species are “forest specialists” requiring intact, undisturbed habitat and forty species of global conservation concern are known to occur in Kenya.
Four of these are critically endangered, two Endangered and 16 species are Vulnerable.
On or near water, you will find bright pink Flamingos, Hammerkops, iridescent Kingfishers, Plovers, Herons, Storks, Geese, Cranes, Jacanas and of course the magnificent African Fish Eagle.
In certain places along the coast there are breeding pairs of Osprey as well. The open savannah plains, where the majority of the big safaris take place, offer excellent bird watching opportunities for some unusual ground dwellers. The Ground Hornbill, at nearly 110 cm. tall is one of the largest and most visible; the tall Secretary bird is also spotted often. Eagles, vultures, and ostrich, the largest bird on earth, are also spotted frequently.
The smaller plains birds, such as the Ox-peckers, snowy white Egrets, brilliant Sunbirds and bustards are also found in abundance; you can’t miss seeing birds on any game drive! Near the woodlands, you’ll find yet more species with starlings of every color, Bee-eaters, Drongos, Hornbills, Shrikes, the beautiful Lilac-breasted Roller, Barbets and Guinea Fowl.
Arriving into the big city airports, frequently the first birds spotted are the urban and farmland dwellers, such as the Wagtails and Weaverbirds, with their huge nest colonies. Even a short two or three day safari will provide an excellent species count for the ardent bird watcher; a longer trip will ensure a superb introduction to the over 1,000 species found in East Africa.
The grassy highlands plateau provide an haven for the endangered species like the Sharpe’s Longclaw just as it is for the Papyrus Gonolek in Lake Victoria’s papyruses. Of ornithological interest is the fact that the habitat changes greatly within short distance thus presenting different species in a short duration.
The presence of game in numerous parks and wild tend to woo different bird species, for instance predators like Eagles and Vultures, scavengers and others which are commensally dependent on the game. Kenya also lies on bird migration route which happens between October and April for birds from the Northern hemisphere and others from the Southern hemisphere between April and October. Though migrants form 10% of Kenya’s birds, it is vital for research, counting and ringing which is done at Ngulia in Tsavo area.
Birding popularity in Kenya has created birding tradition amongst the population all over the country, which gives visiting birders a better chance in locating endemic species in various areas, as no matter where, there is a helping hand from a Birding pal.
Country or region: Kenya
Number of species: 1116
Number of endemic: 9
Taita -ThrushTurdus helleri, Tana River –Cisticola Cisticola restricts, Aberdare- Cisticola Cisticola aberdare, Taita -White-eye Zosterops Silvanus, South Pare White-eye Zosterops kulalensis, Hinde’s Pied-Babbler Turdoides hindei, Williams’s LarkMirafra williamsi, Sharpe’s Pipit Macronyx sharpie, Clarke’s Weaver Ploceus golandi,
Number of globally threatened species: 34
Number of introduced species: 3
Kenya has smaller portions of three other Endemic Bird Areas: the Tanzania– Malawi Mountains with 3 out of 37 species, all in the Taita Hills, the Serengeti plains 3 out of 6 species, and the Jubba and Shabeelle valleys with 1 out of 5 species; Jubba and Shabeelle valleys touches Kenya in the extreme north-east of the country. The Taita Hills are geologically the northernmost representatives of the Eastern Arc Mountains of Tanzania and Malawi, but have no restricted-range bird species in common with the rest of the Endemic Bird Areas. Secondary Areas include the Kakamega and Nandi forests, with Chapin Flycatcher Muscicapa lendu, the North Kenyan short-grass plains with Williams’s Lark Mirafra williamsi and Mount Kulal with South Pare White-eye Zosterops kulalensis.
The most significant biomes are the Somali–Masai- Kenya has 94 of its 129 species, the East African Coast- 29 out of 38 species, the large Afrotropical-70 out of 226 species, and the small Lake Victoria Basin- 9 out of 12 species. The easternmost outliers of the Guinea–Congo Forests biome also occur in Kenya- 43 out of 277 species, along with a small portion of the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome-13 out of 55 species. Many sites in Kenya are important for congregatory birds. The coast, with its creeks, reefs and beaches, is a major flyway for migratory waterfowl from the Palearctic, as is the chain of lakes stretching along the rift valley from Turkana in the north to Magadi in the south. The rift’s alkaline lakes also provide periodic feeding stations for enormous numbers of Lesser Flamingo Phoenicopterus minor. Several small coral islands off the coast shelter important breeding colonies of Roseate Tern Sterna dougallii and other seabirds.
Best Bird Watching Time
For amazing numbers, the best time is between October and April when more than 120 migrant species have arrived from the Northern hemisphere, mostly from the Palearctic but with some African migrants such as Forbes-Watson’s Swift; there is also the chance of finding one of the passage migrants such as the Sooty Falcon in March-April and October-December.
The coast is particularly good during this period with large flocks of waterfowl congregating at Mida Creek and Sabaki Estuary, while The Rift Valley lakes and Amboseli attract a lot of northern waterfowl.
From April to October the Northern Migrants are replaced by birds from the southern hemisphere and Madagascar, but these are much fewer, no more than 10 or 12 species. It is however the time when many of the birds are in breeding plumage following the long rains, which makes species such as the various weavers much easier as well as much more colourful. This is also the best time of the year for game viewing. In July and August the huge herds of wildebeest and zebra enter the Maasai Mara and provide spectacular game watching. This also makes vultures sightings much easier due to the large numbers of mammals that never survive the migration. The Mara River regularly collects mixed flocks of vultures and Marabou Storks feeding on the animals that failed to cross the river. There are usually healthy numbers of crocs as well!
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