Wondering why Kenya needs to be on your birding destinations wish-list?
Sure, it is an undeniably beautiful country highlighted by breathtaking sceneries and welcoming locals. But what’s more, with over 1,100 bird species recorded, Kenya is among the best African countries for birders.
Remarkable geographical range and favourable climate gives Kenya the opportunity to flaunt spectacular birding experience – from world’s largest; the ostrich, to Africa’s heaviest flight bird; Kori bustards to the millions of beautiful sea of pink flamingos at various lakes of the Great Rift Valley.
The country also lies on a bird migration route – a stopover for migrant birds from northern Asia and Europe, accounting for roughly 10% of the bird population.
More encouraging is that bird-watching is an activity that can be exercised in the country all year round due to accommodating climate.
Listed below are locations that would translate as goldmines for birders in Kenya:
1. Lake Baringo:
This is a birding paradise. Categorized as an IBA (Important Bird Area), the area around the lake is home to around 480 species of bird. Some rare species seen here are Jacksons’s Hornbill (below), Slender-tailed Nightjar, Verreaux’s Eagle, African Scops Owl and the Northern Masked Weaver.
2. Lake Nakuru:
As one of three inter-linked lakes in Kenya’s Rift Valley, Lake Nakuru is home to13 globally endangered bird species and also play host to some of the highest bird diversities in all of Africa. This spectacular lake also hosts one of the most amazing bird spectacles in the world, when thousands, sometimes millions, of Greater and Lesser Flamingos arrive annually to forage in the mineral-rich waters. The lake is also a major nesting and breeding ground for Great White Pelicans. Other birds to be found here are the African spoonbill, waders, ducks, African fish eagle and hornbills (including eastern yellow-billed, Jackson’s and Hemprich’s).
3. Maasai Mara:
Famously known for Wildbeest Migration – the 8th Wonder of the World – Maasai Mara can be rewarding for bird watchers. The savanna plains of the Mara are alive with Plovers, Larks, Bustards (kori bustard below), Coursers, and Sand Grouse. Mara’s interspersed riverine and swamp systems mean that you can encounter many species of Rollers, Bee-eaters, Kingfishers and Storks. Further exciting are the many raptors including the Vultures who follow the Wildebeest migration and clean up after the predators.
In the Watamu- Malindi area birdlife is rich and diverse. Hundreds of species are found in Mida Creek, Whale Island and Malindi-Watamu Coast, Gede Ruins National Monument, Sabaki River Mouth, and Dakatcha Woodland.
Migrant birds as well as local species are also found including the Osprey, Eurasian Golden Oriole,White-throated Bee-eater (below), Black Cuckoo-shrike and African Pygmy Kingfisher.
Mida Creek is an important passage and wintering area for Palaearctic migrant waders. Counts of over 6,000 waders have been made on Mida Creek including seven species, which are regionally threatened. Some of the migrant warblers and other groups that can be chanced here include sunbirds, orioles, starlings, helmet shrikes, and flycatchers.
The populations of Greater and Lesser Sandplover and Crab-plovers at Mida Creek are internationally important, and a total of 65 aquatic bird species have been recorded to use the site. The creek is a significant feeding area for Dimorphic Egrets, Lesser Crested and Roseate Terns. Common migrant shorebirds here include Sanderling, Curlew Sandpiper, Little Stint, Whimbrel, Grey Plover, and Greater (below) and Lesser Sandplover.
In the area around the creek, a further 115 species have been recorded including the regionally-threatened species Little Yellow Flycatcher. Whale Island and the coastline support significant feeding, roosting and nesting populations of terns. Roseate and Bridled Terns nest on Whale Island between June and October in most years with 1,500 pairs of Roseate Tern (below) having been counted here. Saunders Tern occurs in internationally important numbers (over 5,000 birds) along the coastline, usually feeding close to shore and often roosting on the exposed shore at low tide.
Arabuko Sokoke forest is the only remaining strip of what used to be health and continuous Coastal dry forest in mainland Africa stretching from Northern Mozambique to Southern Somalia. The Arabuko Sokoke Forest is a very important area for birding. Among the endemics here is the Sokoke Scops Owl, that is unfortunately among the world’s most threatened owls.
The species is only found in this forest, although there have been reported sightings in the Usambara Mountains in Northern Tanzania. This highly elusive bird is more often seen than heard, but the chance of a sighting makes this a real mecca for birders. Even if you don’t locate a Scops- there are plenty of other species to be seen, including the rare Clarke’s Weaver, Sokoke Pipit, East Coast Akalat, Spotted Ground Thrush (below), Fischer’s Turaco, Southern Banded Snake Eagle and the Amani and Plain backed Sunbirds.
So go on and give Kenya a chance to satisfy your birding cravings!