The Masai Mara in Kenya offers one of the most spectacular places for birdwatching in the wild.
Kenya’s Masai Mara is known worldwide for its abundance and variety of wildlife, in particular its big cats. The Masai Mara’s birdlife, although less well known is equally impressive. There are over 470 species of birds recorded, which includes an impressive 46 different birds of prey. These birds range from the World’s largest bird the ostrich, to tiny sunbirds.
In the grasslands there are Secretary Birds, Kori Bustards and the turkey sized Ground Hornbills. Smaller birds easily seen in the grasslands include Jaunty Crowned- Plovers and during the European winter flocks of White Storks that walk the plains looking for insects. At times, flocks of spectacular Crowned Cranes gather before dispersing to the swamps where they breed. On the edge of the swamps the large elegant Saddle- Billed Storks can be seen looking for catfish which are common here. Also here are groups of Yellow-Billed Storks and Sacred Ibis, often feeding together. The heron family is well represented with the world’s largest, the Goliath Heron, plus Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron and Great White Egret. The Mara’s Musiara Marsh is the only place in Kenya where the Rufous-bellied Heron breeds and where every year between October and May the endangered Madagascar Squacco Heron occurs.
Kingfishers are also well represented with 7 species from the Giant Kingfisher usually found along the Mara River to the tiny Pygmy Kingfisher which mostly eats insects. Along the edge of the riverine forest look out for the large and magnificent Ross’s Turaco and its shy relative the Schalow’s Turaco. No visitor to the Masai Mara can fail to be impressed by the sheer numbers of Vultures that attend the lion kills. Seven different species have been recorded including sightings of the European Griffon Vulture.
It is perhaps the birds of prey that dominate the Mara, ranging in size from the magnificent Martial Eagle down to the tiny Pygmy Falcon. The most spectacular has to be the Martial Eagle, Africa’s largest eagle which preys on small mammals such as young Impala and Dikdik and birds as large as the Kori Bustard. In the Masai Mara they appear to specialise in hunting Helmeted Guineafowl and the young of impala, Grant’s and Thompson’s Gazelle. Four species of Snake Eagle, Black-chested and Brown Snake Eagles are also quite common. There can be no better bird than a Bateleur to represent Africa. To see a Bateleur gliding across the blue African sky is surely one of the most memorable moments of any African Safari.