Kenya is a True Hotspot for Birding and Biodiversity in Africa.

Kenya habour some of the continent’s most spectacular landscapes and wildlife. Its extraordinary biodiversity is inextricably linked to its diverse and complex landscape.Habitats range from coastal beaches,reefs and creeks,through deserts,arid and semi-arid country ,a great range of bush,grassland and woodland,lowland to montane forest, and extensive freshwater and alkaline lake system.

Nice Birding habitat in Mt.Kenya,Photo by Joe Aengwo

It has a bird list of nearly 1134 species,nearly twice the total for Europe,and well over the total for the whole of North America. This in itself is sufficient incentive for any birdwatcher to come to Kenya.The fact that any birder taking a three weeks birding trip across the country can easily pocket over 700 species is a reminder of the incredible birding possibility in this country. In Kenya, you don’t need to go far to see a lot and many sites with quality habitat which are easily accessible. All you need is to know where to visit,stay focused,and you can see literally see hundred of species.We have the second-largest collection of birds on the planet.

Lesser Flamingos at Lake Bogoria,Photo By Jan F.L Van Duinen

Going by the second edition of Bird of East Africa by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe, Kenya has eleven endemic species .They are William’s Lark,Sharpe’s Longclaw,Aberdare Cisticola,Tana River Cisticola,Kulal White-eye,Taita White-eye,Kikuyu White-eye,Taita Thrush,Taita Apalis,Hinde’s Babbler and lastly Clarke’s Weaver.The East Africa region in general is an extraordinary centre of endemism with over 71 species only found in this part of the world.Among the areas with rich endemic  profile are the Eastern Arc Mountains of South Kenya and Tanzania,the East African Coastal Region and the reknown Albertine Rift region .

Wildebeest migration in Masai Mara,Photo By Jurg Hosang

Lastly, Kenya has over 67 Important Bird Areas (IBA’s) most of them with well developed infrastructure to enable enjoyable birding experience.Network of hotels,lodges and campsites exist, and highly qualified ecotourist guide,many of them skilled birders are available.Specialist bird tour companies offer tours that visit many of these IBA’s,with itineraries designed to find hard to see species,including regional and national endemic.

Dedication to the Global Big Day, 8 May 2021.

The eBird Global Big Day is a bird sighting event where birders all over the world observe birds on the same day and submit their observations on the eBird website. … Kenya took the leading position in Africa and emerged eleventh in the world, after 85 groups or individuals all over the country recorded 613 bird species.This year again,the event is happening on 8 May 2021. Any birder anywhere in the world is welcome to participate through your country technical committees who are leading the event.

Participating is easy—you can even be part of Global Big Day from home. If you can spare 5 or 10 minutes, report your bird observations to eBird online or with thier free eBird Mobile app. If you have more time, submit checklists of birds throughout the day. You never know what you might spot. Your observations help eBird scientist and biologist better understand global bird populations through products like these animated abundance maps brought to you by eBird Science.

Such kind of events encourages citizen science and active lifestyle which is generally a healthy way of spending time. Team Kenya is determined to out perform its previous records and perhaps challenge the South America giants like Colombia,Costa Rica,Ecuador,Brazil and Peru. With the leadership of Pete Steward,Washington Wachira and Doris Schaule ,Kenya is expected to perform exceptionally well during this year eBird Global Big Day.

Last year, Global Big Day brought more birders together virtually than ever before. More than 50,000 people from 175 countries submitted a staggering 120,000 checklists with eBird, setting a new world record for a single day of birding. You might want to help eBird surpass thier last year’s records? However you choose to participate, please continue to put safety first and follow your local guidelines.

How to participate

  • Get an eBird account: eBird is a worldwide bird checklist program used by millions of birders. It’s what allows us to compile everyone’s sightings into a single massive Global Big Day list—while at the same time collecting the data to help scientists better understand birds. Sign up here. It’s 100% free from start to finish.
  • Watch birds on 8 May: It’s that simple. You don’t need to be a bird expert or go out all day long, even 10 minutes of birding from home counts. Global Big Day runs from midnight to midnight in your local time zone. You can report what you find from anywhere in the world.
  • Enter what you see and hear in eBird: You can enter your sightings via our website or download the free eBird Mobile appto make submitting lists even easier. Please enter your checklists before 11 May to be included in our initial results announcement.
  • Watch the sightings roll in: During the day, follow along with sightings from more than 170 countries in real-time on our Global Big Day page.

On 8 May, we hope you’ll be a part of our global birding team. Have fun, enjoy the birds you find, stay safe, and share your sightings on eBird. Because in our world, every bird counts.

Lesser Jacana (Microparra capensis) is a Nice Record for Lake Baringo.

African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus) is the common specie on the shores of Lake Baringo,one will therefore understand my excitement with the sighting of Lesser Jacana is this area, a new thing for us.In birding we like that element of surprises!. My thinking is that the current flooding experienced in the Lake as encouraged this species to venture out.

Photo by Joe Aengwo

Lesser Jacanan is the smallest of all Jacanas in the planet.Females are larger than males;infact in some species,they weigh two-third more.Jacanas sometimes described as lilytrotters are colourful,long-legged water birds that resemble rails and are found almost exclusively in tropical regions.Their long,spidery toes enables them to walk easily over lily pads or other floating plants,giving them the appearances of walking on water.

Photo by Joe Aengwo

The species spend long periods foraging in aquatic vegetation.It prefer wetland habitat;also reedbed,swamp,and areas of deeper water with suitable surface cover.Occasionally,the birds are also seen in fields and agricultural areas near wetland.

With the only exception of Lesser Jacana, Jacanas are polyandrous in nature(female mate with more than one male) and they also exhibit sex-role reversal.Males tend the nest and care for chicks while the larger, more aggressive females defend the territory from predators. Researchers have theorized that jacanas may have evolved with this unorthodox system to compensate for a high rate of egg and chick loss, which typically is greater than 50% due to their unstable aquatic habitat and attacks by water snakes, turtles, and larger birds.

Photo by Joe Aengwo

If females can spend less time sitting on the nest and more time mating with multiple partners, scientists argue, they can lay more eggs and contribute to the overall success of the species.

Other than this an expected sighting, Lesser Jacana are found in Kenya highlands wetland lands,ponds and man-made dams.

Beautiful Sunbird (Cinnyris pulchellus)

Photo by Tony Crocetta

Given the array of color presented by the male’s plumage the name seems appropriate: a pair of yellow bands on either side of a red chest, green on head and back, blue on the lower back and black on the belly and tail. The females are plumaged instead to be inconspicuous and safer from predators: yellowish chest and belly with gray-brown back. Beautiful sunbirds take flower nectar and insects as food. It is a very common species in arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya especially Samburu, Tsavo West,Lake Baringo and Amboseli.

They generally frequent flowering plants and therefore provide necessary conditions for photography.

“The Crimson Winged”

The tall, pink flamingos are an instantly recognizable group of birds, which have been known from earliest times and often celebrated in popular stories. They belong to one of the bird families, dating back at least 30 millions years, when their range extended to North America and Australia.

Photo By Jan F.L Van Duinen

All species have a long, slender neck and tall, spindy legs, a fairly small body, and large, specially adopted, drooping bill. Their plumage varies between pale and deep rose-pink, with crimson and black wings.

Flamingos are extremely sociable and usually occur in large flocks. At times, they form the biggest concentration of non-passerine birds: on occasions, more than a million gather at feeding sites. The birds forage by wading knee-deep at the edges of alkaline or saline lakes and lagoons.

They turn their head upside down and sweep the bill through the water, sucking in mouthfuls. As they squeeze out excess water with their tongue, comb like structures called lamellae trap tiny particles of food.

Flamingos breed in large colonies at the edge of lakes or on island. In East Africa, the only reliable breeding site is Lake Natron in Northern Tanzania. The nest is circular mound of mud baked hard by the sun, into which the female lays on white egg. The chicks look like fluffy duck-lings on hatching, and are fed on a milky mash regurgitated by their parents.

After a few days, they join a large group of youngsters within the colony, but continue to be fed by their parents for about 10 weeks longer, until they can fly and become fully independent.

Golden-breasted Starling at Tsavo East National Park.

Photo@Joe Aengwo
Photo@Joe Aengwo

Named for its striking coloration, the golden-breasted starling has metallic blue wings, a yellow breast and belly, a violet throat and a vibrant green head. Found in savanna and dry-thorn bushes.

This is perhaps the most beautiful Starling you can encounter in any of your safari trips in Tsavo East, Tsavo West and Samburu game reserve. Its stunning appearance can attract attention for even non-birders.

The golden-breasted starling lives in family groups of 3-12 individuals in the wild. Females lay their eggs in tree holes abandoned by woodpeckers, lining the nest with straw and leaves. Entire family groups cooperate in raising young by gathering food and nesting materials. Keep birding!

African Skimmer at Lake Bogoria

I recently visited Lake Bogoria National Reserve after the heavy rains of November and part of December and the lake appeared to be flooded! which is common occurrence in all the lakes at the moment. Literally, we could see the flamingos from the gate. The concentration of the Lesser Flamingos was amazing! A real sight to behold. However, the bird that made my day on this particular visit was the stylish African Skimmer!an attractive long-winged, short-tailed tern-like bird most noted for its laterally compressed red bill with a pale tip with the lower mandible longer than the upper.

Skimmers fly in lines over calm waters, and dip their lower mandibles in the water to feed. When the mandible touches a fish, the skimmer snaps its mouth shut. They feed mostly at dawn and dusk and have good night vision.

Photo@Joe Aengwo
Photo@Joe Aengwo

Why the excitement you may ask! the last time I saw this species in my area was in 2007 in Lake Baringo!. So it was kind off a sweet reunion of some sort!

Red-headed Weaver(Anaplectes rubriceps) breeding at the base of Tugen Hills.

Photo@joe.aengwo

The photo appearing above is an adult male red-headed weaver, Anaplectes rubriceps, also known as the red-headed Anaplectes or the red-winged weaver, photographed at the  bases of Tugen Hills, 14 kilometers from Lake Baringo.

The Red-headed Weaver Anaplectes rubriceps, a striking weaver bird with bright red head in the breeding plumage of males. In East Africa the male has a black mask (leuconotus); one race in East Africa has a red plumage (jubaensis). The female is yellowish or brownish. Both sexes have a distinctive thin pinkish orange bill. 

In Kenya it is easily seen in Amboseli national park, Tsavo west and East, Samburu national reserve, Lake Baringo and kerio Valley.

Blue-shouldered Robin-chat (Cossypha cyanocampter)

Photo by Juhani Vilpo.

In Kenya this species is redistricted to the remaining tropical rain forest patches in western kenya, mostly in Kakamega and South Nandi forests. It is not an easy catch, but with patience, this shy and difficult to observe bird can be seen.

The Cryptic Slender-tailed Nightjar at the Rocky Cliffs of Lake Baringo!

Nightjars are largely nocturnal family. They look like owls, with large heads and eyes and a cryptic plumage. The family name caprimulgidae was given to them after some superstitious belief that because of their wide mouths, the birds suckled goats.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

In Kenya we have 13 different species of Nightjars, wide spread in different habitats across the country. The photo appearing above was taken at a rocky countryside of Lake Baringo. Most species are nocturnal or active at dusk, and are solitary and retiring . They concentrate their foraging bouts during twilight hours.

Photo@ Joe Aengwo

By day, they roots on exposed grounds or rocks, in leaf litter, or on branches. When roosting , they adopt a horizontal posture, in contrast to owls.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

Nightjars have very large eyes, adopted to low light condition. They eye have a tapetum, a reflective membrane that increases the amount of light entering the eyeball. Its presence causes reflective “eye-shine” when the eye are illuminated by artificial light.

Photo@Joe Aengwo