Working for birds in Africa


Wed, 01/16/2013 - 12:59 -- abc_admin

Jackson's Francolin Francolinus jacksoni - a near endemic species, Kenya

Image Credit: 
Sue Walsh

Buff-crested Bustard Eupodotis gindiana Amboseli National Park, Kenya

Image Credit: 
Ian Nason

Flamingos on Lake Baringo, Kenya

Image Credit: 
Sue Walsh

Birdwatching can be done in any part of Kenya and there are good sites close to major centres of population. It is impossible to include all the hotspots in a country which has so many and the following have been chosen to cover the range of important bird habitats which are found in Kenya. Many of the best sites are covered anyway in numerous trip reports.

The Aberdares National Park and Mount Kenya National Park provide opportunities for birdwatching in thick highland forest, bamboo forest and Afro-alpine moorland. Highland species which can be found here include Olive Ibis Bostrychia olivacea, Jackson's Francolin Francolinus jacksoni, Red-fronted Parrot Poicephalus gulielmi, Hartlaub's Turaco Tauraco hartlaubi, White-headed Wood-hoopoe Phoeniculus bollei, Hill Chat Cercomela sordida, Sharpe's Longclaw Macronyx sharpei and many species of sunbird.

Kakamega Forest Reserve has superb virgin tropical rainforest in the heart of an intensively cultivated agricultural area of Western Kenya and has many resident species not found or difficult to find elsewhere in Kenya. Possible species include Grey Parrot Psittacus erithacus, Great Blue Turaco Corythaeola cristata, Blue-headed Bee-eater Merops muelleri, Black-and-White Casqued Hornbill Bycanistes subcylindricus, Chestnut Wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia castanea. The best way to appreciate the forest is to walk, and there are several trail systems radiating from forest stations. The Forest Department maintains a rest house and guides are available for hire.

Samburu National Reserve, Meru National Park and Tsavo East and West National Parks are predominantly areas of acacia bush interspersed with more open areas of bushed grasslands. All four parks have rivers running through them and the stands of tall acacias along the banks attract many species such as Martial Eagle Polemaetus bellicosus, Vulturine Guineafowl Acryllium vulturinum, Buff-crested Bustard Eupodotis gindiana, Black-faced Sandgrouse Pterocles decoratus, Taita Fiscal Lanius dorsalis and Golden-breasted Starling Lamprotornis regius. Tsavo West National Park houses one of Africa's premier bird ringing stations, Ngulia Safari Lodge, which is located on the edge of a dramatic escarpment at the foot of Mount Ngulia. It is operated as a ringing station during November and December except around the full moon periods. Many thousands of birds, mainly Palearctic migrants, are attracted to the game-viewing lights, caught and ringed there every year.

Masai Mara is a vast area of rolling grasslands with scattered pockets of acacia woodland. A host of interesting species can be found including Secretary Bird Sagittarius serpentarius, Yellow-throated Sandgrouse Pterocles gutturalis and Red-throated Tit Parus fringillinus. In the thick riverine forest bordering the Mara and Talek rivers, species include African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, Schalow's Turaco Tauraco schalowi and Giant Kingfisher Megaceryle maxima.

Four of the lakes in the southern part of Kenya's Rift Valley are strongly alkaline, of these, Lake Bogoria and Lake Nakuru are frequently the gathering and feeding grounds for huge numbers of Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor with over a million birds present at times. Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber are also found although in far smaller numbers. The freshwater rivers entering Lake Nakuru attract many other water birds, however generally speaking there is not the diversity of species on the soda lakes that are found on the freshwater lakes - Baringo and Naivasha. Over 400 species have been recorded at each of these lakes and include Pink-backed Pelican Pelecanus rufescens, Goliath Heron Ardea goliath, Allen's Gallinule Porphyrio alleni and Malachite Kingfisher Alcedo cristata. In addition, large numbers of migrant waders and duck may be seen during the northern winter.

The only areas of true lowland forest in Kenya, the Sokoke-Gede forests are the habitat of some very localised birds including Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae, East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi, Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis, Amani Sunbird Hedydipna pallidigastra and Clarke's Weaver Ploceus golandi.

The desert around Lake Turkana and the vast area to the east, including the Dida Galgalla, is the habitat of some localised birds including African Swallow-tailed Kite Chelictinia riocourii, Fox Kestrel Falco alopex, Heuglin's Bustard Neotis heuglinii, Cream-coloured (Somali) Courser Cursorius cursor somalensis , Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse Pterocles lichtensteinii, Masked Lark Spizocorys personata, Williams's Lark Mirafra williamsi and Somali Fiscal Lanius somalicus.

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