violet-backed starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)

Violet-backed Starling.Maanzoni.
Photo@Jan F. Van Duinen

The Violet-backed Starling  belongs to the family of birds classified as Sturnidae. This species, also known as the Plum-coloured Starling or Amethyst Starling, is the smallest of Kenya starlings, reaching only about 18cm in length. It is a successful breeder, and is fortunately not listed as a threatened species.

The sexes are strongly sexually dimorphic, meaning that there is a distinct difference in the appearance of the male and female. The breeding male is brilliantly coloured, with feathers an iridescent shining plum violet colour along the length of is back, wings, face and throat, contrasting with bright white on the rest of the body. Females (and juveniles) are a streaky brown and buff colour, and can easily be mistaken for a thrush.

Less noisy than other starlings, this bird is a monogamous species, and will remain so unless its mate dies. Under those circumstances it will seek a new mate in replacement. These starlings are normally seen in small flocks in summer, just before the breeding season when they will break off into pairs to nest.

Violet-backed starlings will nest in cavities such as tree holes high off the ground, holes in river banks, even in old hollow fence posts, lining the nests with dung, leaves and other plant material. They have been known to reuse nests in successive breeding seasons

In Kenya, they are found a long riverine vegetation in big dead tree trunks in Machakos, the low areas of Tugen hills, Lake Nakuru and Nairobi national park.







Buff-crested Bustard (Eupodotis gindiana)

Photo@Raymond Galea.Taken in Samburu National Reserve.

Buff-crested bustards are small in size compared to other species that we have in Kenya. They are cryptically colored to help them blend into their environment. They also are sexually dimorphic. Male buff-crested bustards have an olive colored crown, a black stripe down the front of the neck, and a black chest and belly. The upper feathers contain light orange-brown coloration. The females have brown heads, a much reduced crest, and are buff colored in the throat, chin, and breast area.The buff-crested or crested bustard prefers drier acacia scrub and woodland of northern arid and semi-arid regions of Kenya, especially in regions like Samaburu and Meru National park, Lake Baringo and Bogoria  and further north in areas like Kapedo.



African Hawk Eagle (Aquila spilogaster)

Photo@Michael Sammut

African Hawk Eagle (Aquila spilogaster) are large birds of Prey  that occur naturally in Kenya, where they inhabit wooded hills.In Kenya they mostly seen in birding hot spot like Masai Mara,Tsavo West and East,Nairobi National Park,Hell’s Gate, and Lake Nakuru National Park.

African Hawk Eagles are large eagles that measure about 55 – 65cm in length.The plumage above is blackish. Below they are mostly white, heavily streaked with black. Theunderwing feathers are white with a black trailing edge. The wings below are blackish with white spots.Males and females look alike, but young birds are brown above and rufous colored below.

Their large platform nests are built out of sticks and are about 3 meters in diameter.They are typically placed in the forks of large trees.The average clutch consists of one or two eggs.

Magpie Starling (Speculipastor bicolor)

The magpie starling is a northeast African endemic and an occasional non-breeding visitor to northeastern Tanzania. The male is black and white; the female, brown and white both with bright red eye which aid identification a great deal. The best place to see them in Kenya is Lake Baringo where is frequently spotted feeding in big fig trees along the cliffs.

Trip Report: January 25 – February 8, 2012

Hello my fellow birders!

I’ve finally posted my trip report under Birding Trip Reports for January 25 – February 8, 2012. I will be updating it with photos shortly.

Here is an excerpt from the report! Click the link above to view the full report.

Trip Leader Joseph Aengwo

Participants: 5 Clients

Bird Species Recorded: 445

Animal Species: 34

For many bird people across the globe, the beginning of the year is a wonderful time. Yearly lists can start anew, and who knows what the next twelve months will bring? While rarities whet the appetite of any birder, the expected birds are much more frequently counted. And this was not any different for us when we started our 14 days birding trip that took us to birding hotspot found in eastern and coastal part of Kenya.

There were of course numerous avian highlights during our grand tour of that part of the country and of the nine or ten Kenyan endemics we encountered four, namely;

  1. Taita Thrush
  2. Taita Apalis
  3. Taita White-eye
  4. Clarke’s Weaver

We also saw rarities and restricted-range species such as:

  1. Sokoke Scops Owl
  2. Friedmann’s Lark
  3. Malindi and Sokoke Pipits
  4. Golden Palm and Taveta Golden Weavers

Of the other near-endemics and specials rarely recorded on other tours we also managed to record the following:

  1. Somali Ostrich
  2. Mountain Buzzard
  3. Shelley’s Francolin
  4. Vulturine Guineafowl
  5. Somali Courser
  6. Sooty Gull
  7. Black-faced Sandgrouse
  8. Fischer’s and Hartlaub’s Turacos
  9. African Barred Owlet
  10. Montane Nightjar
  11. White-headed Mousebird
  12. Eastern Green Tinkerbird
  13. Brown-breasted, White-eared, Red-and-yellow and D’Arnaud’s Barbets
  14. Pallid Honeyguide
  15. Mombasa and African Grey-headed Woodpeckers
  16. Fawn-coloured, Pink-breasted and Red-winged Larks
  17. Fischer’s Sparrow Lark
  18. Golden Pipit
  19. Pangani Longclaw
  20. Stripe-cheeked Fischer’s and Tiny Greenbuls
  21. Northern Brownbul, Dodson’s Bulbul, Scaly and Northern Pied Babblers
  22. East Coast Akalat
  23. Ashy Cisticolas
  24.   Quil-Plover
  25. Somali Long-billed and White-browed Crombecs
  26.   Red-throated Tit
  27. Little Yellow Flycatcher
  28. Forest Batis Long-tailed
  29. Taita  Fiscal
  30. Three-streaked Tchagra
  31. Black-fronted Bush-shrike and Rosy-patched Bush-shrikes,
  32. East Coast Boubou
  33. Hildebrandt’s,  Fischer’s and Magpie Starlings
  34. Plain-backed, Amani, Eastern Olive, Mouse-coloured, Hunter’s, Tsavo Purple-banded Sunbird,
  35.  Parrot-billed,
  36. Kenya Rufous Sparrow
  37. Zanzibar Red Bishop
  38. Jackson’s Widowbird
  39. Black-cheeked Waxbill
  40. African Silverbill
  41. Village Indigobird
  42. Steel-blue and Straw-tailed Whydahs
  43. African Citril and White-bellied  Canary

February, 14 2012:African Jacana (Actophilornis africanus)

In Kenya, two species exist. African and Lesser Jacana. African Jacana which is our today subject of discussion is a diurnal bird which is a very common species in all wetland habitats and is widely distributed across the country.This birds are well-known for their ability to walk on floating vegetation , hence their commonly referred  “Jesus bird”.This adaptation is made possible by their extremely long toes with long straight claws.

Photo @ Tony Crocetta

Adult bird has a striking chestnut body colour with a bright blue frontal shield which extend to the bill. The front neck is white that covers the ear coverts and runs all the way to the breast, while the hind-neck is black. The species exhibit no sexual dimorphism.

Perhaps the most interesting phenomenon about African Jacana is their Polyandrous lifestyle where the responsibilities of incubating and bringing up the chicks are singularly done by the male. Ladies have good time here!!!

February 2, 2012: Greyish Eagle Owl (Bubo cenerascens)

This Greyish Eagle Owl was formerly classed as a race of Spotted Eagle Owl, with the latter found in the southern part of the equator , while former is located in northern part of the equator, this is as far as my Kenyan distribution knowledge is regarding this species.

It is a medium to large greyish (grayish) brown owl with dark eyes. Finely vermiculated above and densely so below with barring.

Greyish Eagle Owl, Photo @ Tony Crocetta

All my records of this species has been from Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria National Reserve and  Kerio Valley. I have been informed of records from Samburu and Meru too.


Stay tuned as I return later next week from a tour and will be preparing a tour report, new photos, bird songs and much more!


– Joe,

have a happy birding week

December 6, 2011: Eastern Paradise Whydah

The Eastern Paradise Whydah is a small, widely occurring bird of eastern Africa. It gathers in flocks but separates into pairs during the mating season.Easten Paradise Whydah is a species specific brood parasite with its target being the Green-winged pytilia.

This bird is both dichromatic and dimorphic during the breeding season. When in “breeding mode”, the male has black plumage along its back and tail, with a yellow nape and chestnut colored lower breast and belly. It also grows new long- tail feathers. During the non-breeding season, it loses its striking black and yellow coloration, becoming brownish in color with black streaks on its head. The female has grayish, black-streaked upper-parts with a brown-colored head. Its breast is pale gray and its belly is white.

Eastern Paradise Whydah

The Eastern Paradise Whydah feeds on grass seeds such as millet and wild oats, but will occasionally take termites and grubs.

It inhabits dry thorn scrub and open or woodland savannahs throughout eastern Africa. Fairly common after heavy rains both as a resident and a wonderer , appearing usually near watering areas. Well distributed in the  area of  Samburu, Meru, Lokichokio, Turkana, Tsavo and Amboseli National park.

Kenya’s Important Bird Areas

A few important resources about Kenya’s Important Bird Areas.

Kenya's Important Bird AreasA fantastic map of Kenya’s Important Bird Areas from Nature Kenya.

Also, from KenyaBirds, a listing table of the Important Bird Areas, Locations, Habitats, and threatened species.

Coming up soon, a Bird of the Week with a song I recorded while birding recently.