Birding in Kenya

Kenya is a prime destination for a birdwatching. Tremendous geographical range gives Kenya a variety of climates and landscapes, hence the second highest number of species in Africa. From the world’s biggest bird, the Ostrich, to spectacular flamingos that congregate in their millions at the various Lakes of the Great Rift Valley and camouflage them in pink, Kenya holds some remarkable birding sights. Kenya holds the world-record ‘bird watch’ – with 342 species seen in 24 hours!

Bird watching is good all year round in Kenya. The rainy seasons of April and November coincide with migration of birds from and to Europe and Asia, and some of the top day’s totals have been recorded at that time. Migrants make up only about ten percent of Kenya’s birdlife. Spectacular birds of the bush –guinea fowl, go-away birds, rollers and barbets, to mention but a few – are active all year.

To see Kenya’s rarest, indigenous and unfortunately endangered birds, the bird enthusiast needs to seek out forests or highland grasslands tucked away amongst various farmlands. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest near Malindi, tops the list, with the six threatened bird species of the Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, Spotted Ground Thrush, East Coast Akalat, Amani Sunbird and Clarke’s Weaver. Some other areas including the forest “islands” at the top of the Taita Hills, near Voi, is home to the beautiful but critically endangered Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis, as well as the endangered Taita White-eye. Sharpe’s Longclaw and Aberdare Cisticola, native and endangered, live in the highland grasslands near the Aberdare mountain range. In western Kenya, Kakamega Forest is a little patch of Guineo-Congolian rainforest in Kenya. Among the many rainforest species found are spectacular Turacos and Hornbills, and the tiny, endangered Turner’s Eremomela. The scarce and threatened Papyrus Yellow Warbler is found in papyrus swamps on the shores of Lake Victoria, alongside the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Canary, all papyrus endemics.

Kenya’s national parks make excellent centres for bird watching in Kenya – the Maasai Mara for the rosy-throated longclaw and magpie shrike; the Samburu for the rare shining sunbird and pink breasted lark; and Nairobi for the northern pied-babbler and Pangani longclaw. Kenya’ handful of endemics include the Tara River cisticola, the Aberdare cisticola; Hinde’s pied-babbler; William’s lark; Sharpe’s pipit; and Clarke’s weaver. This diverse range of habitats supports a great diversity of bird species – and makes a birdwatching holiday in Kenya very rewarding!

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