From the world’s biggest bird, the Ostrich, to spectacular flamingos
that congregate in their millions at the various Lakes of the Great
Rift Valley and camouflage them in pink, Kenya holds some remarkable
birding sights that you have to see them to believe.
With eleven percent of the world’s species – some 1089 different varieties, Kenya’s birding is one of the best in the world.
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
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.
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.
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.
Visits to a variety of habitats, such as the dry-country parks
of Tsavo or Samburu, the western grasslands of the Maasai Mara, one of
the Rift Valley lakes or one of the highland forests, will produce a
long and varied bird list.
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.
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
It is advisable to contact the local guides association if you will be spending time at a specific site.
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
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