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.

Verreaux’s Eagle, also known as Black Eagle (Aquila verreaux’s).

Photo@Joe Aengwo

Verreaux’s Eagle is a large bird of prey that is highly specialised, with its life history and distribution revolving around its main prey of rock hyraxes and preferred habitat of hilly and mountainous terrain. It is wide spread throughout Kenya, especially around Samburu game reserve, Lake Baringo, Lake Magadi and Tsavo West national park. It feeds primarily on rock hyraxes but it also preys on other animals such as small mammals, birds and reptiles. Its populations are stable and have been less impacted by human encroachment due to the isolation and the inaccessible terrain of its habitat.

When perched or at rest adult Verreaux’s Eagles are entirely black in appearance, except for a white ‘V’ above the wings on the back and yellow feet (talons) and cere. In flight, the unfolded wings expose a white rump and whitish panels on the outer wings. The wings have a distinctive shape that is broad in the middle and tapering at the tips. Sexes are similar, but females are slightly larger than males. Juveniles have a yellow-brown plumage and the head and back of the neck have a distinctive reddish-brown colour. The face and throat are black. Juveniles achieve adult plumage in 4 years. The photos appearing here were all taken in western cliffs of Lake Baringo.

Photo@Joe Aengwo

The elegant Long-crested Eagle (Lophaetus occipitalis)

Photo@Jan F. Van Duinen

Widespread and locally common in higher rainfall areas up to 3000m, though generally uncommon above 2000m. Long-crested Eagle is an adaptable woodland and forest edge species which is especially common in areas partially cleared for agriculture, even when heavily settled. It takes large numbers of rodents and his generally considered beneficial to man.

Long-crested Eagle adult is dark brown or black. It has long white patches at the joint of the wings, visible when perched, forming white lines on each side of the breast. Underwing coverts are white, with black spots. It has broad dark tail strongly barred of white. Tarsi are whitish. Wings are long and broad.
Hooked bill is yellow with dark tip. Eyes are golden or reddish-brown. Feet are yellow with slender talons.

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

The Reticent Cinnamon Braken Warbler !

This warbler prefers undergrowth vegetation of montane habitat and mostly noticed by its loud call. Though easily heard than seen, but on a good day, you might even sneak a photo, although patience is advised for better photographic results.

Photo@ Agnes Coenen

The above photo was taken by my client from Belgium who had impressive passion for Psittaciformes family. She purposely travel to kenya to see four species of parrot ; Red-fronted (jardine’s ), Meyer’s , Orange-bellied and Brown-headed Parrot. She had similar intention for Tanzania, Uganda and Ethiopia.

Yellow-spotted Barbet is One of the Most Beautiful Forest Dwelling Barbet.

Photo by Juhani Vilpo

Western Kenya forest fragment is the places you can see this species in Kenya. They are off course very common in the southern part of Uganda. The boldly marked blue-black with extensively spotted and barred with yellow and a shinning scarlet forehead patch best describe the adult male. Singles and small groups are common residents of western forest, being active in the canopy and around fruiting trees, often in mixed species flocks.

Other species of Barbet found in the tropical rain forest of Kenya includes; Hairy-breasted, Yellow-billed and Grey-throated Barbet, appearing below.

Photo by Juhani Vilpo


Top 5 Tips when you are bird watching in Kenya

With around 1089 different species of birds, Kenya is a bird watchers paradise. The diversity in habitats, good climatic conditions along with beautiful geographic features attracts a variety of birds to migrate to Kenya. Nairobi, the capital city itself boasts of 600 plus species of birds that are resident as well as migrants. 

Kenya is home to a variety of endangered species. A bird watcher or enthusiasts should consider camping in the forest or even highland grasslands to watch some of the rarest species. Near Malindi is the Arabuko-Sokoke forest, where you will find the endemic species like Clarke’s Weaver, East Coast Akalat (Gunning’s Robin), and Sokoke Pipit. At the Papyrus Swamps near Lake Victoria, you will find the endemic species of the Papyrus like the Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, and Papyrus Yellow Warbler. Kenya is a place that you can visit all around the year for bird watching.

Common Ostrich roaming the extensive savanna of the Masai Mara . Photo by Tony Crocetta

Here are a few tips if you’re planning your next bird watching trip to Kenya.

A Bird Book Guide

A bird watcher should look up online or in a bird guide to know about the different species of birds you can find in Kenya. Kenya has a large variety of bird species. Do extensive researches to learn about the different species found in different areas of Kenya, and you will have a wonderful birding experience. If you’re new to birding, it is imperative to study on how to differentiate between bird families. You can pick up a local bird book, and it will give you valuable information about the birds in the region.

Hire a Local Guide

There are birds everywhere in Kenya. You will be mesmerized to see the variety of species you will see when you take a walk around your hotel or even the garden. However, a local guide can take you to numerous sites and help you in identifying various species of birds that you may have never seen. They can take you on a safari, and you will never forget the birding experience in Kenya.

Don’t Forget Your Binoculars

Binoculars are essential for a rich and fruitful bird watching experience. It is not possible to get a good view of a bird flying high in the sky or in the highland grasslands if you don’t have a binocular. Always have your set of binoculars to watch the birds in the distance. Never miss an opportunity to watch the rarest or endemic species with a binocular in your hand. You can check the reviews and prices of the best binoculars under $200 here.

Camera

Capture your memories of birding experience in your camera. There are a variety of digital cameras that will give you clarity, and zoom-in and Zoom-out feature. You can refer to the pictures later in the comfort of your home and study the different species of birds.

Plan your Visit

There are a variety of locations you can visit in Kenya. Make a list of where you want to go and what kind of birds you want to see. The bird watcher should include these places on their list, Aberdares, Arabuko Sokoke Forest, Baringo, Chyulu Hills, Kakamega Forest, Lake Victoria, Magadi, Sabaki esaturary,  Watamu, Meru, Maasai Mara, Mount Kenya, Mount Elgon, Nakuru, Nairobi City, Ruma National Park, Shimba Hills, South Coast, Samburu, Tsavo, Tana River Delta, Samburu National Reserve and Taita Hills.

Plan your next visit to the best bird watching destination and enjoy a wonderful birding experience in Kenya.