With eleven percent of the world’s species – some 1089 different varieties, Kenya’s birding is one of the best in the world.
It is not unusual for birding trips to record 300-600 different varieties on a short trip or to record more than 120 at a particular site on a single day!
The variety of birds in Kenya is made possible by the favourable climate, diverse habitats and geographical features that make it a suitable migratory route for birds.
Even without venturing outside Nairobi, Kenya’s capital, more than 600 resident and migratory bird species are found; more than in any other capital city, and more than in most countries.
In Nairobi you are guaranteed to find birds everywhere you travel. A stroll in hotel gardens, a trip to the Nairobi National Park or the grounds of the National Museum is likely to turn up bright black and yellow weavers, tiny iridescent sunbirds resembling flying jewels, Secretary Bird, Bustards and Mousebirds with long tails, which are unique to Africa.
The giant Marabou Storks, a frequent visitor to the city, now nests on the acacia trees along the streets.
Nature Kenya organises weekly Morning Birdwalks in and around Nairobi to these and many more sites. Bird watching is good all year round in Kenya.
The rainy seasons of April and November coincide with migration of birds from and to Europe and Asia, and some of the top day’s totals have been recorded at that time.
Migrants make up only about ten percent of Kenya’s birdlife, however, and the spectacular birds of the bush –guinea fowl, go-away birds, rollers and barbets, to mention but a few – are active all year.
A surprisingly wide range of habitats can be visited on day trips from Nairobi. These include Lake Naivasha in the Rift Valley, the dry bush around the Olorgesailie Prehistoric Site, and the Escarpment Forests in the foothills of the Aberdare mountain range.
To see Kenya’s rarest, indigenous and unfortunately endangered birds, the bird enthusiast needs to seek out forests or highland grasslands tucked away amongst various farmlands. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest near Malindi, tops the list, with the six threatened bird species of the Sokoke Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, Spotted Ground Thrush, East Coast Akalat, Amani Sunbird and Clarke’s Weaver.
Some other areas including the forest “islands” at the top of the Taita Hills, near Voi, is home to the beautiful but critically endangered Taita Thrush and Taita Apalis, as well as the endangered Taita White-eye.
Sharpe’s Longclaw and Aberdare Cisticola, native and endangered, live in the highland grasslands near the Aberdare mountain range.
In western Kenya, Kakamega Forest is a little patch of Guineo-Congolian rainforest in Kenya. Among the many rainforest species found are spectacular Turacos and Hornbills, and the tiny, endangered Turner’s Eremomela.
The scarce and threatened Papyrus Yellow Warbler is found in papyrus swamps on the shores of Lake Victoria, alongside the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Canary, all papyrus endemics.
Local bird guides are available at numerous of sites and are your best aid for locating and identifying the many species. They live at or near these sites and their birding interest is nurtured by that association with visiting scientists, birders and added to by some formal training.
It is advisable to contact the local guides association if you will be spending time at a specific site.
By using local guides, you increase your bird citing success. More importantly, you will be supporting the conservation of that site by the involvement of the local community in sustaining the areas ornithology.
Professional bird guides and Tour Operators who can accompany you on safari also provide additional guiding services that will broaden your birding experience.
For more on birds in Kenya, visit www.naturekenya.org