Nairobi is one of the best cities in the world for watching birds. This reflects the wide range of habitats found close to the city and, notably, the close proximity of the fabulous Nairobi National Park, situated right at the edge of the built-up zone. The park is well known for harbouring a huge number of birds and mammals, all within very easy reach of the Kenyan capital.
The last checklist of birds for the city was published in 1997 by Bill Harvey. It covered Nairobi City District, which included the National Park, and boasted an impressive total of 604 species. Records had been collated from a number of sources, but some of the species had not been recorded for many years and a few of them are now known to be erroneous. Of this total, 516 were listed from the National Park itself, including vagrants and some unsubstantiated records.
This new checklist has been compiled by Brian Finch, one of the most skilled and most active birders in East Africa. He has chosen to limit his list to Nairobi National Park and he lists 493 species, all but 12 of which he has personally seen since 1994, when he began making systematic records in the park. Six pages of introduction summarise the park’s habitats and explain how to use the list. In the list itself, there are three columns of codes. These detail, for each species, its preferred habitat within the park, its seasonality, and the frequency of observation. A fourth column refers the reader to the sources for the 12 species not seen by the author (but without dates). An Appendix lists a further 65 species. These are older, poorly documented records or unsubstantiated recent records. They are similarly coded, like the main list, and bring the park’s total to 558 species (versus the 516 species listed by Harvey). Although relegated to an appendix by the author, some of these older and unsubstantiated records will no doubt eventually find their way onto his main list.
The checklist is well produced and features photographs of African Finfoot Podica senegalensis on the front cover – a shy but regularly observed species in the park. On the back cover is the first published photograph of the so-called ‘Nairobi Pipit’, a probable new taxon, as yet undescribed, discovered by Finch in the park. This checklist provides a reliable baseline to work from, with a list of almost 500 fully acceptable species recorded in Nairobi National Park, and another list of everything else to look out for.