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.

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.

Karamoja Apalis (Apalis karamojae)

Karamoja Apalis

The Karamoja apalis is a globally threatened warbler, which is very poorly known. It was first discovered in 1919 in the Karamoja District of north east Uganda, hence its English name. This bird has greyish upperparts, whitish underparts and a black bill. The wings and tail are dark grey, and the tail has white outermost feathers. The inner secondary feathers of the wing are white, forming a narrow stripe. There are two subspecies or races; Apalis karamojae karamojae is found in Uganda, while Apalis karamojae stronachi is found in Northern Tanzania and Southern Kenya, mostly in the Vachellia drepanolobium habitat found in northern part of Masai Mara game reserve. This photo showing in this page was taken by Arjan Dwarshuis who is currently doing the Big year challenge at Naboisho conservancy .

Striped kingfisher (Halcyon chelicuti)

photo@Joseph Aengwo
photo@Joseph Aengwo

Striped Kingfisher is one of the most brilliantly coloured bird, even though it the smallest and least colourful of the non-aquatic Kingfishers. It has strident voice and dramatic courtship display. This species has some blue plumage on scapulars, brown head with streaky lining. The breast is white with some little strikes black upper and red lower mandible. This species is adapted to wooded habitat of dry country side.

Amani sunbird (Anthreptes pallidigaster)

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Photo@Moses Kandie

 

The Amani Sunbird is classified as Endangered (EN), considered to be facing a very high risk of extinction in the wild. This elusive bird if found in Coastal subtropical moist lowland forest especially in Arabuko Sokoke in north coast of Kenya and Eastern Usambara mountains in Tanzania.
Adult male has glossy blue-green head, throat and upper breast. Upperparts are iridescent dark purplish blue-green on upper back, scapulars and upperwing coverts. Lower back and rump are blackish. Short tail and uppertail coverts are glossy purplish-blue. Underparts are greyish-white, with orange-red feathers on upper flanks. Underwings are white. The black bill is down-curved. Eyes are dark brown
You have a high chance of watching this species which is confined to a few remnant Brachystegia woodlands. They prefer the high canopy trees and a lot of patience is advised before you enjoy a great view of this beautiful bird.

Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Photo@Jurg Hosang

The squacco heron is a migrant, wintering in Kenya. This is a stocky species with a short neck, short thick bill and buff-brown back. In summer, adults have long neck feathers. Its appearance is transformed in flight, when it looks very white due to the colour of the wings. The squacco heron’s breeding plumage is recognized by sky blue bill as clearly seen in the photo above with a black tip. It prefers marshy wetlands as a breeding site. The birds nest in small colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. This species being a terrestrial bird, is mostly seen in lakes, river valleys, swamps and other permanent or temporary freshwater wetlands in Kenya Rift Valley, Lake Victoria rice fields, Central highland ponds and on both north east and south cost of Kenya.

Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii)

Greater Sand Plover (Charadrius leschenaultii

Photo@Joe.Aengwo

Although it has a relatively dull appearance for most of the year, the Greater Sand Plover’s plumage changes during the breeding season. At this time, the crown changes from greyish-brown to a dull brick red, as does the white breast, and the small feathers that cover the ear region change colour from a dusky grey to black. The chin and throat remain white throughout the year, while the nape and forehead are a greyish-brown colour all year round.
The greater sand plover is a carnivorous species that varies its diet seasonally; during the breeding season it feeds mainly on terrestrial insects and their larvae, especially preying on midges, ants, beetles and termites, but also occasionally hunting larger animals such as lizards. During the non-breeding season, the greater sand plover mainly eats marine invertebrates, such as snails, worms, crabs and shrimp. Usually feeding at low tide on wet ground, just away from the water’s edge, the greater sand plover detects and catches prey with the help of good eyesight and the ability to sprint over short distances. A sociable species, the greater sand plover often feeds and roosts in flocks. It typically feeds in flocks of between two and fifty individuals but sometimes congregates in groups as large as one thousand whilst roosting, which is mainly done on sand bars at high tide.
The bird above was photographed at Mida-Creek, when the tide was low and the bird was in mixture of species like Crab Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, Eurasian Curlew, Whimbrel and White-fronted Plover. All my records on this species were in Mida-creek, Watamu.

African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ispidina picta)

African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ispidina picta)

Photo@Yan Van Duine

African Pygmy Kingfisher is a small insectivorous kingfisher found mostly in woodland habitats and not necessarily restricted to wetland.In Kenya, its range widespread in bushland of Lake Baringo, Kerio Vallye,Samburu,Meru and Nakuru National and southern parks of Amboseli, Tsavo East and West. Its habitat range from woodland habitats, savannas and riverine forests, but also scrublands, grasslands, open rivers and streams, coastal bushes, plantations and gardens.The dark blue crown of the adult separates it from the African Dwarf Kingfisher. The smaller size and violet wash on the ear coverts distinguish it from the similar Malachite Kingfisher.

Vitelline Masked Weaver ( Ploceus vitellinus)

Vitelline Masked Weaver ( Ploceus vitellinus)

Photo@Tony Crocetta

Vitelline Masked Weaver is a common wevar that is at home in and around habitat in the dry acacia belt. It is a species that is similar to large Black-headed Weaver, but can be easily separated given a good view. Although both species have red-eyes and warm-chestnut border to their black faced-mask, the black on the male Vitelline’s head does not extend onto the crown or down onto the breast, and it’s back does not have strong black “tramline” as in Black-headed Weaver.
The female Vitalline shows a pale narrow bill compared to the dark, heavy bill of the female Black-headed weaver, and the breast and flanks are generally a warm buff contrasting with a white belly.
In Kenya huge concentration of this species can be recorded in dry areas a round Lake Bogoria and Baringo, Kerio Valley, Samburu National reserve, Meru National Park and Tsavo West and East Parks.