Whereto go birding in Kenya

With over 1000 types of birds species spread all over the country, it might prove difficult selecting your next bird watching trip. As a birder and a tourist you can choose among the many different types of climatic condition suitable for different types of birds. The country has one of the richest avifauna composing of about 12% of world’s bird species due to the varied habitats with different types of vegetation and landscape features hosting different types of birds.  A place to go birding in Kenya includes theendemic bird areas, the forest, and water among others. About seven bird’sspecies are endemic in Kenya these are the Sharpe’s Longclaw, Hinde’s Babbler,Taita Thrush, Tana River Cisticola, Aberdare Cisticola, Clarke’s weaver andWilliam’s Lark. The country also serves as a major fly pathway of thePalaearctic migrants from Eastern Europe, Russia, the middle East and Asia’sboth land and water-birds. Of the different types of bird species found inKenya about 170 are Palaearctic migrants while over 60 species are known tomigrate frequently within the Afro tropics.  If you are looking for a suitable place to gobirding in Kenya, you can choose among the highlighted habitats and regions.

Birding in Kenyan Forest

Bird watching in Kenyan’s Forests

About 300 Kenyan’s bird’s species have been documented in various forested habitats across the country with over 200 depending entirely on forest for feeding, breeding and roosting. There are various types of forest suitable for birds including the Highland moist forest in areas with rainfall of more than 1,200mm per year. These forests vary in altitude and latitude with different types of tree species such as the Podocarpus, Olea among others with rich montane avifauna. Birds to watch include the Brown-capped weaver, Jackson’sFrancolin, Brown woodland warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Montane Oriole andthe Hartlaub’s Turaco.

Birding of Kakamega and Nandi Forest

Known as the Guineo-Congolian rainforest and some of the few rainforest in African with a variety of birds to watch while in Kenya, Located in Western Kenya, County of Kakamega, host an array of endemic birds such as the Chapin’s flycatcher Muscicapa lendu is only found in Kakamega and Nandi Forest, the Chestnut wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia c.castanea, the Yellow-billed wattle-eye Dyaphorophyia concreta graueri. Some of the birds found in these forests are found nowhere else in Kenya for example the Grey Parrot, Uganda Woodland Warbler, Blue-headed Bee-eater, and the Ansorge’s Greenbul. Going bird watching in Kakaemga requires a local guide tomove through the trees and shrubs, and a binocular to be able to spot birds from a distance.

The coastal forest and Waters

These habitats are found along the coastal strip of Kenya with varied vegetation due to climatic condition and the soil types. There are different types of birds found in these forests such as the Clarke’s weaver, Green-headed Oriole, Tiny Greenbul, Sokoke Scops Owl the snake eagle among others. In the coastal areas mangrove forest host a number of bird species and offers suitable location for bird safaris in Kenya as they provide a safe stop-over for the Palaearctic migrants during migration time.

Kenya lies across the equator with altitude range of 5,199 m at the top of Mountain Kenya and with this varied topography offer a variety of habitats with its unique bird type. Almost three quarter of the country is arid or semi-arid with bush land, wooded grassland birds.

Grassland and moorland 

This includes the Mt. Kenya, the Aberdare Mountains, the Cherangan is and Mt Elgon with little vegetation at the top and a few birds to watch at the top of the mountains. The species to watch in these areas are the Scarlet-tufted Malachite sunbird in the Lobelia zone, Alpine chat and the Aberdare Cisticola are found in the grassland and shrubs. Birding inhighland grassland provide opportunity for birders to watch the threatened Sharpe’s Longclaw typically found in Kinagop grassland, other birds species present in highland grassland habitat includes the Jackson, long-tailed widowbird, Levaillant’s Cisticola Quail Finch among others. Looking for more grand lands for bird watching, consider travelling to the Masai Mara, seasonal flood plan and delta grassland. Open grassland host various types of birds such as larks, Cisticola, pipits with Mara Serengeti hosting endemic birds.

Birding in Savannah habitats

It runs from the Amboseli in the south through the Tsavo national park to north-east and North West ofKenya. The major tree species attracting various bird types include the Acacia,Commiphora and Combretum while grasses species include the Digitaria, Themeda among others.  Savannah pride itself with a variety of seed-eating birds such as the doves, weavers, larks, bush shrike,game birds, rollers and hornbill.

Desert birding

Kenyan’s north-central and north-western is covered by a desert hosting a few bird species to watch. These areas have little to no vegetation to provide birds with food and shelter. But if you’re interest in waching the Williams’s lark, Heuglin’s Bustard and Star-spotted Nightjar then prepare adequately with necessary birding equipment and bird guides.

Wetlands and Open Waters

You can go bird watching in Kenyan’s wetlands   which are important habitats covering about 14,000km2 of the country surface (Crafter et al. 1992). With the number of Lakes in the Rift valley, western Kenya, Turkana, Magadi provide conducive habitat for water birds that depends on fish. Best places to watch these birds are Lake Victoria, Lake Naivasha and other open dams and rivers. To watch aunique bird species then one has to travel to the papyrus swamp in Yalawetland, Lake Victoria. Papyrus vegetation host endemic bird species such asthe Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, White-winged warbler, and the Papyrus Yellow Warbler. You can also create a bird habitat to enable different types of birds to come near you. Such created habitat provides an excellent way to bird watch near your door step, feeding and providing water for the little birds.Again where to go birding will depend on many factors including but not limited to the type of birds you’re interested in watching, the habitat near you and with long distance birding tours requires adequate preparation and resources to move. Birding in your back-yard doesn’t require many birding equipment. Always dress appropriately avoiding shiny attire that birds will spot from a distance.

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