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Birds of Kenya – Bird Safaris

In Kenya, there are about 1105 birds species recorded which are further classified as endemic, accidental and those introduced by humans. The birds of Kenya offer a birdwatcher quite an awesome experience and it can take close to a week to identify over 300 species even without the help of a bird expert. This is possible when you choose to go bird watching in a particular region where certain birds reside or breed.

The Best time to go for a bird watching safari in Kenya is in the months of October to March when most migratory birds come back. If you are more interested in the water birds especially found in the Rift Valley lakes, January is the best time to spot them.

Birds of Kenya - Jackson's widowbird

Jackson’s Widow Bird

If you are interested in seeing the rarest and shyest of the birds, you can either use the help of a birds expert or buy a bird guide book. Some of the regions that are great for bird watching both the common and rare species include:

The Great Rift Valley Lakes System

Kenyan section of the Rift Valley is home to eight lakes, three of which are freshwater and the rest alkaline. Three of the alkaline Lakes i. e Lake Nakuru, Lake Elementaita and Lake Bogoria, marked UNESCO World Heritage Sites is home to the Lesser Flamingos. Lake Turkana which is a fresh water lake is also a marked heritage site.

 

Birds of Kenya - Lesser Flamingos

Flamingos

 

From this area alone, one is able to records about 350 birds species in different locations along the Rift. One of the common birds found in these lakes is the Lesser and Greater flamingos which are common in the shallow soda lakes with a record of about 4 million birds moving between the lakes. The soda lake include; Lake Nakuru, Lake Bogoria, Lake Elementaita and Lake Magadi. Other birds found in these soda lakes including 13 globally threatened birds species are: The great white pelicans (which makes these lakes it’s breeding ground), African Fish eagle, Black-necked Grebe, African Darter, White-necked vulture, Jackson’s widow bird, Grey crested helmet shrike, Martial and Crown Eagle, African Spoonbill, Cape Teal, Great Egret, The Avocet, Lesser Kestrel, Madagascar Squacco Heron among others.

Of the three fresh water lakes, we have Lake Bogoria which is the second largest in The Kenya’s Great Rift and a good place for bird safari along the lake shores, some of the birds to see include; Jackson’s and Hemprich’s hornbill, Bristle Crown Starling, Goliath Heron, White Backed duck, African skimmers and darters.

Birds of Kenya - Goliath Heron

Goliath Heron

In Lake Turkana which is the largest desert lakes in the world, also a good bird-watching spot for bird specialist. We have birds like Pink-backed Pelican, Greater Flamingo, Sur-winged Plover, Little Stint. There are also some rare species like Saddle billed Stork, African Skimmer and the Banded-Snake Eagle.

Lake Naivasha which is also a fresh water lake and a great birding area with birds like African Fish Eagle, Jacanas, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher, Goliath Herons, Red-knobbed coot, Spoonbills, Saddle billed stork, Rare Maccoa duck, African Darters.

 

Birds of Kenya - African Jacana

African Jacana

 

The Lake Victoria Islands

The Lake Victoria, Kenyan side has Islands that are home to over 350 local and migratory birds some not found anywhere else in Kenya. The Islands like Rusinga, Mfangano which are great tourist attraction have great lodges where you can stay and enjoy watching birds right from your room balcony. There is also a bird’s island accessible via boat from Rusinga or Mfangano Island which is a nesting ground to most of these water birds.

 

Birds of Kenya - Giant KingFisher

Giant KingFisher

 

Some of the birds to see while on the Island lakes include; The African Fish Eagle, The Giant, Pygmy and Malachite Kingfisher, cormorants, sunbirds, double-toothed barbets, Egrets etc.

There is also the swampy area around the lake like Kusa, Dunga, Koguta swamps where you can spot birds like the endangered Papyrus Gonolek and the Papyrus Yellow Warbler. The Ruma National park which is also near the lake has birds like the migratory Blue Swallow.

 

Birds of Kenya - Egret

Cattle Egret

 

National Parks and Game Reserve

It is easy to spot most bush birds in Kenya’s National Parks and Game Reserves though you need to concentrate on the birds and not get distracted by other wildlife in the area.

The Amboseli National Park has a record of around 400 species with birds like Lesser Flamingo, Martial Eagles, ducks, heron nest, darters among others.

 

Birds of Kenya - Martial Eagle

Martial Eagle

 

The Maasai Mara has a record of 500 species with birds like The Common Ostrich, Martial and Crown Eagles, Corncrake, Grey Crested Helmet Shrike, Yellow bill ox-peckers, Lilac Breasted Roller, White-headed Vultures, Secretary bird, Saddle Billed Stork among others

Meru National Park is also a popular bird heaven with birds like Saddled Billed Stork, Pel’s fishing owl, African Fin Foots among other birds.

Up North, we have The Samburu and Buffalo springs Game Reserve that have a record of around 380 bird species like the Somali Ostrich, Shining sunbird, Donaldson-Smith’s sparrow weaver, Bristle Crowned Starling, Vulturine Guinea Fowl, rare birds species like the Taita Falcon, Kestrels, William’s Lark among others.

Birds of Kenya - Kestrel

Kestrel

 

The Tsavo also has some notable bird species like Violet Wood hoopoe, Blue Quail, Friedman’s Lark, rare Basra Reed Warbler among others.

Hiking Regions and Forests

There are more birds tucked away in the many forests and highland grasslands stretching out to the various farmlands worth a bird watching safari.

One of the main forest in the coast, The Arabuko-Sokoke Forest near Malind is home to some very rare birds species like the Sokoke Scops Owl, the Sokoke Pitpit, Clarke’s Weaver, Amani Sunbird, East Coast Akalat, Spotted Ground Thrush among many.

The Aberdares Moutain Range which comprises a thick highland forest has a record of around 200 species with birds like African green Ibis, Cape Eagle owl, African Cuckoo Hawk, Mountain Buzzard, Hartlaub’s Turaco, some rare species like Scarlet tufted Sunbird, long-tailed widow bird, the Aberdares Cisticola and many more.

 

Birds of Kenya - Cape Eagle Owl

Cape Eagle Owl

 

Mount Kenya and it’s forest region have noted species like the Cape Eagle Owl, the Crown eagle, African grass Owl, Hunter’s Cisticola, Lesser Kestrel, Jackson’s widow bird, Abbots Starling, Jackson’s Francolin among others.

Mount Elgon on the western side region of Kenya is another bird region with species like the Slender-billed Starling, Toro olive Greenbul, Purple throated Cuckoo Shrike, Crowned Eagle, Red-necked Francolin, Stripped Rufftail, Red-chested Owlet, Thick-billed Honeyguide among others.

 

Birds of Kenya - Chapin's Flycatcher

Chapin’s Flycatcher

 

The Kakamega Forest also in the western region has a unique environment in Africa that favors various bird species like Blue-headed Beeter, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Turner’s Eremola, Angsore’s Greenbul, Banded Snake Eagle, Great Blue Turaco, the Least Honeyguide etc.

South Coast Kenya Area

Apart from the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, there are other areas in the coastal region that are home to many bird species some endangered. These places include the forest islands at the top of Taita Hills with species like the endangered Taita Thrush, Taita Apalis, Taita White-eye. Chyulu Hills also part of Taita has bird species like Abbots Starling, Shelley’s Francolin, Orange Ground Thrush, Ayre’s Hawk Eagle, Crowned and Martial Eagle and many more.

 

Birds of Kenya - Ayres Hawk Eagle

Ayres Hawk Eagle

 

Shimba Hills down at the coast also has bird species like Southern-Banded Snake Eagle, Sokoke Pitpit, East-Coast Akalat and the migratory Eurasian Cuckoos.

Down South Coast in Diani forest there are species like Little Yellow Flycatcher, Uluguru Violet-Backed Sunbird, Fischer’s Turaco and the southern-banded Snake Eagle. Dzombo Hill is home to Sokoke Pitpit, African Crowned Eagle among other forest dependent species.

The Kisite-Mpunguti Marine Park is home to the rare Roseate Terns among other pelagic birds.

The Tana Delta is also home to many water birds such as Pelicans, Storks, Flamingos, Egret, Geese while the surrounding forests has species like East Coast Akalat, Malindi Pitpit, Basra Reed Warbler, Pel’s Fishing owl, Violet Wood Hoopoe, Scaly babbler and many more.

 

Birds of Kenya - Roseate tern

Roseate Tern

 

In Malindi, The Midas Creek in Watamu is a feeding area for the Western Reef Heron, Lesser Crested Tern, Sanderling, Greater and Lesser Sandplover, Curlew Sandpiper. The Whale Island is a breeding ground for Roseate and Bridled Terns. The Sabaki River attracts birds like Saunder Tern, Sooty Gull, Madagascar Pratincole.

Conclusion

If you are planning on going on an actual bird safari, it is always advisable to get a guide book which is available online. When you are not good at spotting or identifying certain birds, you can go ahead and hire a bird guide/specialist for your excursion.

When in Nairobi Kenya, it is actually possible to site many bird species flying from tree to tree like Secretary Bird, Bustards, black and yellow weaver, tiny iridescent sunbirds, mousebirds. You can also site the giant Marabou Stock sitting in the acacia trees in the city center.

 

Birds of Kenya - Secretary bird

Secretary Bird

If you would love to join a group of bird watchers in Nairobi, you can consider joining Nature Kenya located at the Nairobi National Museum, who hold bird watching excursion on Wednesday mornings in Nairobi its environs.


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Anita

10 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing with us such a wonderful post about Birds of Kenya.I didn’t know that such birds can be found in Africa.I was used to see those birds in the movies then my thought was that they are from western countries not in Africa.

    I am so happy that i can find such birds in my neighbouring country and for sure i will visit your country to see how wonderful those birds are.

    Beast regards

    Julienne

    • Thanks Julienne.

      You know if they are in the neighboring country then they must be in your country too since the weather patterns are similar. There are many birds in Africa due to the favorable weather and availability of food. Different regions have different species though some almost look alike, the difference is their habitat.

  2. First of all, I had no idea there were so many beautiful birds in the safari. Very interesting to know and just seeing what our nature has offered us.

    Some of them are kinda weird, but still very fascinating, the giant kingfisher for example. I would really love to see them in real life some day. Overall very informative posts, double thumbs up!

    • This is just a fraction of the birds you can see on safari, there are so many, some migratory other residence. You need a guide book when embarking on a bird safari so as to identify them as you go. 

      Giant kingfisher are normally found near fresh water bodies with plenty of fish, they are great in fishing.

  3. Hi and thanks for a very interesting post about Kenya and it’s different species of birds. I would not have thought there would have been that many and so many that have been introduced into the country is an amazing fact. I hope that one day I get the chance to go to such a beautiful and diverse place and experience this for myself. Thanks and keep sharing. Kenny 

    • Hey Kenny, thanks for reading my article. Kenya is an interesting country, you should consider a safari soon and you will enjoy every bit of it. Hope to hear from you one day after you have done a safari sharing your experience.

  4. Kenya would be a great place to go and see. I love nature and the birds are awesome!

    I’m not an expert but just to see a wide variety of birds in another country is an experience.I’ve never been on a safari. I would just love to go on one! I mean 350 different birds? Wow! Who would have believed there could be that many?

    I love your article and it is very informative to say the least.Now I know the best time to go if I can ever plan a trip there!

    How long would the safari be for?Thank you so much!

    • Thank you Rob for checking out my site. There are so many birds in the world, unlike other animals birds are able to move from one area to the other depending on the weather and some end of making certain areas their permanent homes hence existence of so many species in one area due to good weather.

      You should plan a safari, at least once in your lifetime. You will not regret your decision. Time taken on safari depends on what you would like to achieve and how much you intend to spend. Some things like the animals or birds you want to see, the places you want to explore, your budget and even the period you intend to go on safari.

  5. Anita, thanks for sharing your wonderful tips about bird safari’s in Kenya.   All of the photographs were very nice.  Yet, the photograph of the Secretary Bird made me laugh.  Even though I like birds, I have never heard of a Secretary Bird much less seen one.   I would have to say that it resembles a secretary that has had a very rough day at work.  Too funny. 

    I’ve had a couple of friends that have gone to Africa on their vacations.   They absolutely loved the country.   One friend went on a safari and he said it was the best trip he ever went on.    While I would enjoy a bird watching safari, I think I would would most prefer to go to one of Kenya’s national parks and game reserves so that I could see the other wildlife also.  

    Again, thank you for introducing me to the Secretary bird.  I want to learn more about it.      

    • Am glad you enjoyed reading, there are so many birds in these world it is really interesting to learn each bird’s uniqueness. The secretary bird is a very interesting bird, has very funny features, it is very common in my country Kenya and is seen walking through the grasslands.

      A safari is an interesting adventure the African Wildlife are very interesting to watch in their natural habitats. You can checkout some of the animals you would encounter here on this link.

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