Working for birds in Africa

Important Bird Areas

Tue, 01/15/2013 - 14:13 -- abc_admin
Sokoke_Scops_Owl_Kenya

Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae - a near endemic species, Kenya

Image Credit: 
Sue Walsh
Taita_White_eye_Kenya

Taita (Montane) White-eye Zosterops (poliogaster) silvanus, Kenya

Image Credit: 
Sue Walsh
Taita_Hills_Kenya

Taita Hills, Kenya

Image Credit: 
Sue Walsh

Kenya has one of the richest avifaunas in Africa with about 1,090 species recorded. Around 170 of these are Palearctic migrants and at least a further 60 are intra-Africa migrants. Some 230 species are entirely forest dependent and 110 require undisturbed habitat.

There are 9 restricted range species of the Kenya mountains Endemic Bird Area (EBA) and 7 of the East African coastal forests EBA. Kenya also has small portions of other EBAs: Tanzanian Malawi mountains; Serengeti plains; Jubba and Shabeelle valleys.

The most significant biomes are Somali-Masai with 94 out of 129 species in Kenya; East African Coast with 29 out of 38 species; Afrotropical Highlands with 70 out of 226 species; and the small Lake Victoria Basin with 9 out of 12 species. The easternmost part of the Guinea-Congo Forest biome holds 43 out of 277 species and Sudan-Guinea Savanna holds 13 out of 55 species.

Kenya’s 60 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) cover a total of 5.7 million hectares or about 10% of the land area with sites varying in size from 1 hectare to 1 million hectares. Only a small number of the better known IBAs are documented here but the total list can be found in the references below.

Aberdare Mountains and Mount Kenya hold many species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome including Hartlaub’s Turaco Tauraco hartlaubi, Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater Merops oreobates, Sharpe’s Longclaw Macronyx sharpei, Abbott’s Starling Pholia femoralis and a range of montane sunbird species.

The Arabuko-Sokoke forest lies some 110 km north of Mombasa and a few km inland from the coast. It is the largest remaining fragment of forest which once covered much of the East African coast. It holds the bulk of the world’s population of Sokoke Scops Owl Otus ireneae and probably East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi and is a world stronghold for Sokoke Pipit Anthus sokokensis.

Taita Hills forests rise abruptly from the semi-arid plains of the Tsavo National Parks. The forests hold several threatened subspecies which have at times been considered separate species such as Taita (Olive) Thrush Turdus (olivaceus) helleri, Taita (Bar-throated) Apalis Apalis (thoracica) fuscigularis and Taita (Montane) White-eye Zosterops (poliogaster) silvanus.

Although Nairobi National Park is only 7 km from the centre of Nairobi, a remarkable 516 species have been recorded. The large areas of undisturbed grassland are important for species such as Jackson’s Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni and the park is an important roost for large flocks of Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni on passage.

Lake Naivasha lies in the Rift Valley, some 80 km north of Nairobi and consists of a shallow freshwater lake and its fringing acacia woodland. It is a prime site for waterbirds with 80 species recorded during counts with significant numbers of Red-knobbed Coot Fulica cristata, African Spoonbill Platalea alba and Little Grebe Tachybaptus ruficollis. It is one of several IBAs in the Rift Valley.

Masai Mara is probably the most visited Game Reserve in Kenya because of the high concentration and the spectacular migration of mammals. It adjoins the Serengeti National Park along the border with Tanzania and is a part of the same ecosystem. The extensive grasslands hold important populations of Corncrake Crex crex and Jackson’s Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni. More than 500 species have been recorded including 12 species of Cisticola and 53 birds of prey.

Read also the ABC feature article on the Mau Narok-Molo grasslands IBA.

For further details, download the country IBAs from BirdLife International.

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