Birds on a tree in Tsavo West National Park

Bird Watching in Kenya

Kenya, a Bird’s Paradise

Birds in flight have long been a fascination for the old and young alike. Part art, science, sport and addiction; the colour, song and grace of birdlife is what bird watchers love and call ornithology. Armed only with binoculars enjoy east Africa’s rich assortment in birdlife on a rare safari experience. Kenya is home to 1092 species protected under Kenyan law. Nairobi national park is blessed with over 500 species of birds; it is possible to spot 100 species in one day.

The multiplicity in landscapes across Kenya is why so many diverse species here exist in the forest woodlands, marine and highland habitats. Most of Kenya is open plains and grassland making it an ideal destination for bird watching enthusiasts.

Birds change their plumage depending on the time of year; the most brilliant are paraded during the mating season. It takes little time before identifying species becomes easy, some birds appear identical but one difference in eye colour or that of the retris in the tail feathers differentiates them. Fascinatingly a bird’s call changes regarding the time of day, incidence and activity. The greatest numbers of birds gather between October and April. In this time, up to 120 species of migratory birds flock in Kenya, some species like the open-billed stalk journey from as far as the arctic.

On safari in the savannah, expect to see tall secretary birds, ground hornbill and ostrich among land dwelling species. Smaller species of plains birds include the ox-pecker, sunbirds and snowy white egrets. Patrolling the skies are powerful birds of prey, falcons, eagles, goshawks, buzzards and dreaded vultures.

Lakes Baringo, Bogoria, Naivasha and Nakuru in the rift valley offer wonderful game and bird viewing. By the water look for splendid pink Flamingos, Jacanas, Kingfishers, Cranes and the legendary African fish eagle. Lakes in the rift attract masses waterfowl species that also frequent Amboseli.

The virgin forests of Mt. Kenya and the Aberdare are home to Barbets, Bee-eaters, Drongos, Hornbills, Guinea Fowl, Shrikes and lovely lilac-breasted rollers. In the wake of the Aberdare range, there is a special bird endemic to Kinangop. This is the endangered Sharpe’s long claw. More endemic species include Hinde’s Pied Babbler, Chapin’s Flycatcher and the Lappet-faced vulture amongst others. In the highlands east and west of the rift valley is Kenya’s only tropical rainforest, Kakamega forest national reserve. The indigenous forest is home to hundreds of bird, endemic reptiles and insects in.

At the coast, vast flocks of water species assemble at Mida creek and Sabaki estuary. In the sacred Arabuko Sokoke forest are endemic species called the Sokoke Pipit and Sokoke Scops owl. In Diani, on the south coast, lives the silver-cheeked hornbill.

There are a number of tour operators offering specialist bird tours. Since safari has long been focused on the big 5, keen birders should look to book a custom tour where you decide for what and where the vehicle stops. This is more expensive. Alternatively, be grouped with a birders tour bus. Remember to dress in earth colours, bring your binoculars and a book to help identify birds. There are over 100 experienced bird guides in Kenya’s parks and reserves. Now you know, so let’s journey Kenya!

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Profile photo of Leah Wangondu
on Mar 30, 2014

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