The 5 Papyrus Endemic Birds of Yala Swamp Kenya

The Yala Swamp is a designated an IBA no 42 hosting a number of endemic species. Yala Swamp is a biodiversity hotpot offering unique fauna that attract specific birds. The swamp is inhabited by range of water vegetation namely; a papyrus reed, Yala Swamp ecosystem and biodiversity services include cultural services such as the Aesthetic values, recreational etc. The regulatory services are done through carbon storage and water infiltration by the papyrus reeds and other water vegetation, pollination control, water purification, waste treatment, flooding among others. For tourists, it’s the home to the rare Sitatunga Antelope.

Definition of Endemic
Endemic species are fauna and flora restricted to a particular geographic location. They could be spread to a larger area or confined in a smaller habitat. Birds found in a particular habitat and can’t be found elsewhere are said to be endemic to that habitat. The endemic birds feed, breeds, roosts and die in the restricted region. Birds are uniquely adapted to the locality through restriction or are favored by the climatic conditions of the area. Endemism could have been as a result of autochthonous, birds evolving and adapting to a particular environment. The second method through which birds became endemic was as a result of introduction by settlers, missionaries, ships to other regions. The introduced birds become native to the new habitat, adapting and reproducing (Environmental Encyclopedia). Birdlife international helps in identification of Important/Endemic Bird Areas (EBA/IBA). The word endemic also refers to those birds residing in one particular region or country, and their survival is threatened due to their limited habitat (National Geographic). It’s documented that 93% of the world’s endemic bird species are supported by EBA.

Papyrus Gonolek source youtube CC

Endemic Birds of Yala Swamp

Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbiri

Found in western part of Kenya, it weighs 45g with the length measuring 7 inches. Among the papyrus species, the bird is restricted to the papyrus Cyperus papyrus species. It has a dull yellow crown. The bird has a black head, under parts and tails with spotted white mark on the wings. It’s rarely spotted, and always flying in pairs in the papyrus vegetation, The Gonolek either sing or call in a due ting tone, when one call the other responds too. The birds’ food consists of the ants, beetles and other small insects and breeds in the month of June – December. It’s listed in the IUCN Red List (Red Data List) of threatened species. In Kenya, its habitat is being encroached, people burning papyrus for cultivation, government turning the swamp into a farmland and investors using chemicals to control pest and insects affecting the bird.

The Papyrus Yellow warbler Chloropeta gracilirostris
Papyrus flycatcher-warbler, an endemic bird found in the papyrus beds of the Yala Swamp, its measures 13-14 cm and has a bright yellow underbelly with an olive brown upper part. The bird feed on small and tiny insects.

The Carruthers’s Cisticola Cisticola carruthersi
The tail flicking bird is endemic to the Yala wetland, a small bird measuring about 10 cm long with the brown plumage. Its breeds during the rainy month of April and July laying up to four eggs.


Papyrus Canary Crithagra koliensis
It measures between 10 -11.5 cm, and weighs about 11-16g with a short bill. The males have green color with darker streaky forehead. The Canary is restricted to papyrus vegetation and feeds on the papyrus and other vegetation seeds. In breeding season during the month of May –August and it’s the responsibility of the female to build a nest to lay its eggs.


White winged warbler Xenoligea montana
It’s about 13-14cm long with a life span estimated to be between three to six years. The bird’s ramp and upper part are olive green in color with a dark grey head. The bird feeds on tiny insects, seeds and arthropods.

How to Pick a Garden Plant for wild birds

Having wild birds in your backyard garden is so magical that it makes you feel creative, satisfied, fulfilled and peaceful as a birder. Even with that in mind, sometimes it is not easy to choose a garden plant that is good and healthy enough to grow to beautiful flowers, herbs or shrubs to attract garden and wild birds such as sunbirds, mouse birds, Bee-eaters, Eastern grey-plantain eater among others. Bird twitcher and a gardener both starters and experts need to know how to select the best plants for their garden. Here are the few guidelines to getting the best plants for your backyard to attract those birds.

backyard bird flower

  1. Take into account the climate of your region because plants differ in tolerant to cold, heat and moisture and also the endemic to migratory bird species frequenting your backyard.
  2. Know the types of wild birds in your locality and the kind of flowers they are attracted too.
  3. Choose the best nectar producing flowers for garden birds
  4. Take clearly labeled plants so that you know exactly what you are buying and if it is what you want.
  5. Pick those plants that are sturdy with a full rounded, healthy look. Remember, a healthy plant doesn’t look dry and shriveled.
  6. Spurn any plant that’s yellow, wilting, spindly, struggling. Have damaged leaves, look gnawed around the edges, have greenfly or anything else on them.
  7. Shake the plant out of the plastic container that is concealing the root and take a good look at it. Choose a plant that has several small roots rather than one with one or two larger roots.
  8. Check containerized plants before paying for them. You do not want to buy plants with spiraled root system because it won’t grow well.
  9. If you are out to buy shrubs, try to get a decent shape and not thin or straggly. Some sellers will convince you to buy it so that you prune it yourself but remember getting it to good shape will take a long time and it will be easier for you to learn how to prune if you know what the thing ought to look like before you begin.
  10. In case you are buying trees, don’t buy tall ones because the roots will be left behind when they are moved so buy small young trees. Preferably pick a tree that is in the second year from seed.
  11. If you are buying bulbs, examine them for pests, fungus and rot but remembers some birds feed on these insect, the more it attracts insect the better for small garden birds
  12. If you are buying seeds, buy fresh ones not stale and check the date. Those that don’t have dates on the packet, buy only from reliable sources and keep them sealed till you are ready to plant them. Those that you are ordering by posts, always make sure you are buying them from reputable, well established sources.
  13. Never buy anonymous plants without a grower’s label from greengrocers or supermarkets because you can never be sure of quality.
  14. Never impulse buy in a nursery, make a list of what you want and confirm their availability. This prevents you from impulse buying and the seller convincing you to get alternative for what they do not claiming it’s equally good.
  15. Wild bird likes strong and attractive color; yellow and red sometimes is the best attractor of the backyard garden birds.
  16. Plants and shrub that grow tall and bushy will attract bird of prey, that will be predating on the small garden birds hence avoid plants that tend to grow tall.

Finally, check out the plants will like your soil, produce good scent and attract so many garden and wild birds. Then check if they mind any local problems you may have e.g. shade, pollution from motorways and factory fumes. And then find out how much space that the plants will eventually need.