Birding

Kenya is famous as one of the top places in the world to view the most remarkable range of avifauna; it’s a ‘birder’s paradise’ in every way.

 

 

 

Kenya

Kenya

No matter what your interests are, there will be something to please everyone. From the world’s largest bird (the ostrich), to the world’s most numerous bird (the red-billed quelea). From Africa’s heaviest flying bird (the Kori bustard) to the dazzling array of tiny sunbirds that flit between the flower blossoms. From Africa’s largest raptor (the martial eagle) to its smallest (the African pygmy falcon) as well as millions of filter feeding flamingos to the intricate nest builders (the weavers) – there’s no end to the assortment of birds that call Kenya ‘home’.

Many factors combine to make the country favourable to bird life; the equatorial climate, a diverse range of habitats (from wetlands to moorlands, tropical rainforests to deserts and mangroves to mountains), unique geographical features (from The Great Rift Valley to chains of ancient volcanoes) and an abundance of food resources for migratory birds.

Within Kenya’s capital alone, more than 600 resident and migratory bird species can be found. This is more than in any other capital city in the world – and more than can be found in most countries!

Bird watching in Kenya is excellent throughout the year, but the rainy seasons of March to April and October to November coincide with the arrival of palearctic migrants, so bird lists can be greatly lengthened at these times. Most of our iconic birds are present all year around; pink flamingos, polka-dotted guinea fowls, regal crowned cranes, multicoloured rollers and powerful raptors.

All of our properties are located in the very best wildlife regions and offer unique opportunities to an avid birder. For those of you visiting us at Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge in Rwanda, we have included a section below which highlights just some of the species that all bird enthusiasts can enjoy

Birds of the Masai Mara

Our Masai Mara camps are hidden amongst towering riverine trees which line a small stretch of the Mara River. There are “forest islands” which provide refuge for a stunning array of species that are considered almost impossible to find elsewhere in the Masai Mara ecosystem.

Strict forest-dwelling species such as Schalow’s and Ross’s turacos, black-and-white casqued hornbills, African paradise and African blue flycatchers, olive pigeons, violet-backed starlings, double-toothed barbets, meyers parrots and narina trogons are often seen within the camp grounds.

Out on the open plains, a variety of raptors (African fish eagles and tawny eagles to name just a couple), vultures (ruppell’s griffon, white-backed & lappet-faced), bustards, secretary birds, starlings, oxpeckers, lapwings, ground hornbills, coucals and cuckoos, seedeaters and bee-eaters can be found.

The Mara River itself, the Musiara Marsh and the central marsh area in front of Little Governors’ Camp, are home to scores of wetland birds such as herons, storks (saddle-billed & white), kingfishers, painted snipes, ducks, geese and crakes. Over 500 species of birds have been recorded in the Mara and it’s not long before you have a surprisingly lengthy list of recordings yourself!

Birding in Kenya's Great Rift Valley

Loldia House is situated on the shores of Lake Naivasha. The lake is listed as an important birding area and is often visited by specialist birding tours, simply for the sheer volume of birds that can be found here (over 400 species!). Being a freshwater lake, many waterbirds are attracted to it. Notable bird families frequently seen include the cormorants, pelicans, darters, ducks, teals and geese, herons, jacanas, kingfishers, storks, grebes, coots, spoonbills and the occasional flamingo stopping to drink fresh water.  The shoreline vegetation of giant-leaved fig trees and yellow-barked acacias are an excellent habitat for owls, wood hoopoes, green pigeons and ring-necked doves, woodpeckers and weaver birds. The trees are also home to the continent’s highest concentration of African fish eagles, many of which nest in pairs within the Loldia House grounds. Their dawn calls being an iconic sound of Africa.

The lush gardens team with stunning birds. Iridescent sunbirds (bronze sunbirds and variable) feed off the sweet nectar that the flowers have on offer, while rufous sparrows chatter from the hedgerows,  common fiscals keep an eye out for insects from their perches and tiny little colourful fire finches and red-cheeked cordon-bleus enjoy afternoon poolside dips alongside fork-tailed drongos and superb starlings.

Eburu Forest, which is found to the North of the Loldia Ranch, is a remnant segment of a once vast tropical rainforest that stretched across much of central Africa. This precious area provides a critical last refuge for many highland forest species such as yellow-billed barbets, crowned eagles, golden-winged, malachite and tacazze sunbirds, Doherty’s bush-shrikes, black-billed weavers, montane orioles, African paradise flycatchers, Narina trogons, Klaas’s cuckoos, red-fronted parrots, crowned hornbills, white-starred robins, and Hartlaub’s turacos.

Lake’s Elmenteita is a hot-spot for birding and can be explored during a half day excursion from Loldia House. Being a Rift Valley soda lake it provides a completely different habitat for avifauna compared to Naivasha’s freshwater ecosystem. Lesser and greater flamingos can almost always be seen filter-feeding on microscopic algae and crustaceans in their thousands, flocks of pied avocets and spoonbills are also frequently seen feeding in the shallows, Cape teals bob along on the water’s surface and grey-headed gulls patrol the shoreline from the skies whilst both pink-backed and great-white pelicans descend upon the lake great numbers for feeding and breeding.

 

Birds of Laikipia

Mugie Conservancy in Laikipia is home to a completely different range of bird species again. The region is considerably more arid compared to the Masai Mara and is situated at a higher altitude (between 1500m to 1950m). Common bird species found here include sandgrouse, black-shouldered kites, namaqua doves, yellow-necked spurfowl, white-bellied go-away birds, white-browed coucals,  brown babblers, rufous-crowned rollers, marico sunbirds,  red-billed hornbills, gabar goshawks, D’Arnaud’s barbets, bearded Woodpeckers, crested francolins, northern white-crowned shrikes, black-headed orioles, paradise fly-catchers and greater blue-eared starlings to name just a few.

The Mugie Dam also pulls in a plethora of birds that are attracted to the freshwater or safe nesting sites on the small vegetated islands. A special sight is to sit with a sundowner in hand as you watch thousands of cattle egrets descend upon the islands each night to roost.

Birds around Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge

Sabyinyo Silverback Lodge, situated at 2515m (8251ft) on the slopes of Mt Sabyinyo (one of the six mountains that collectively make up the volcanic range known as the Virungas), provides an ideal habitat for high-altitude species. The lush gardens are home to an assortment of birds such as iridescent sunbirds, shy white-starred robins, brightly coloured buntings and inquisitive ravens. Surrounded by indigenous forests above and farmland below, the lodge is a great place to sit back and view a real mix of species passing through from various seed-eaters to the occasional raptor.

Day trips to the nearby Twin Lakes or to Lake Kivu also provide great opportunities for avid birds to tick off some of the water birds. White-tailed blue flycatchers and black-headed gonoleks are a couple of the rarer birds that we have seen in these locations, whilst herons, egrets and hammerkops always abound.

Quick facts:

  • With over 1100 species recorded, Kenya ranks second in Africa (after the DRC) and 11th in the world in terms of total number of bird species recorded!
  • Kenya was ranked 1st in Africa and 6th globally in terms of sightings of migratory birds during the eBird Global Big Day in the year 2020 after recording a total of 817 species of migratory birds.
  • Migratory species make up about 10% of Kenya’s birdlife.
  • Kenya is home to 11% of the world’s bird species
  • It is not unusual for birding trips to record over 120 species in a single day in a certain area or for birding trips to record 300-600 different varieties on a short trip around the country.