Would you like to go birding in Kenya? Kenya is sometimes referred to a birdwatcher’s paradise! With about 500 species recorded within Lake Baringo, Kenya is known among the best destinations for bird watching.Whether you are planning to go on a self drive in Kenya or a guided safari, you will enjoy birding through different spots throughout Kenya.
Here are my favorite spots for bird watching in Africa;
Nairobi National Park
Nairobi national park is one of the most unique parks in the world. It is the only wildlife park within a capital city and hosts a wide variety of wildlife including the Big 5, and over 500 species of birds.
The park has a range of habitats including open grasslands, lightly wooded plains, rocky valleys, seasonal wetlands, dams, forest lined rivers and stream, and montane forests. So it is not uncommon to get a species list of more than 200 species in a day!
The savannah grasslands host a variety of seed-eating birds from Orange-breasted Waxbills and Black-cheeked Waxbill to Yellow bishops, and the Near Endemic Jackson’s Widowbird. Other birds expected would be Shelley’s Francolins, Kori Bustards, Secretary Birds, Black-shouldered Kites and about 10 species of Cisticolas.
The dams and seasonal wetlands hold a huge number of water birds, including: Grey Herons, African Darters, African Water Rail, Saddle-billed, Yellow-billed and Marabou Storks. Rivers and streams also hold the elusive African Finfoot. And the montane forest is great for Palearctic migrants such as Eurasian Bee-eaters, Blackcaps, Common Nightingale, Upcher’s and Willow Warblers.
Mount Kenya National Park
Mt Kenya is the highest mount in Kenya, and arguably the most difficult to climb. But Mt Kenya also hosts a wide variety of montane forest and moorland species. The forests on the slopes of the mountain are most productive in birds, but the shy forest birds are sometimes more often heard than seen.
The cold montane forest are a heaven for elusive birds like the Olive Ibis, Abyssinian Ground Thrush, Black-fronted Bush shrike, Montane White-eye, Bar-tailed Trogon, Jackson’s Francolin, Mountain Buzzard and Abbot’s Starling.
As you climb higher, you will reach the bamboo zone which house a different array of species like Mountain and Slender-billed Greenbuls, White-headed Wood hoopoe, White-starred Robins, Thick-billed Seedeater and Oriole Finch.
After having passed the bamboo zone, the moorland welcomes you to the land of Sunbirds, like Northern and Eastern Double-collared, Tacazze, Malachite, Scarlet-tufted and Golden-winged Sunbirds. The moors are also good for spotting Moorland Chat and White-naped Ravens. If you’re very luck, you might spot a Bearded Vulture which many say have disappeared from Mt Kenya.
Samburu & Buffalo Springs National Reserve
The semi-arid areas of Samburu are well known for its Samburu warriors and diverse wildlife like the threatened Grevy’s Zebra, Reticulated Giraffes and even Black Leopards. But this area also hosts about 400 species of birds in its dry environment. The Ewaso Ny’iro river that passes through these parks is a vital source of precious water, and many birds and animals can be expected to visit the river at different times of the day.
The Acacia bush land dominates much of the Samburu area and birds like Pygmy falcons, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Magpie Starlings, Somali Bee-eater, Vulturine Guineafowl, Donaldson Smith’s Sparrow-weaver, Eastern Yellow-billed Hornbill and the tiny Yellow-vented Eremomela are easily found.
Most of the lodges with well-maintained gardens in the park can be a magnet for the surrounding birds such as; Abyssinian Scimitarbills, Black-capped Social Weaver, Black-throated Barbet, Black-bellied Sunbird and sometimes a Shining Sunbird.
The riverine woodland of the Ewaso Ny’iro river is a refuge especially for big raptors like Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Martial Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Egyptian, Lappet-faced and White-headed Vultures can all bee seen roosting on the tall trees. Smaller birds that inhabit the woodland are Orange-bellied Parrots, Lesser-masked Weavers and Scaly-throated Honeyguide.
The main river and springs attract waterbirds such as African Spoonbills, Water Thick-knees, Reed Cormorants, African Darters and many waders like Wood Sandpipers, Three-banded, Little-ringed and Kittilitz Plovers.
Lake Naivasha is one of the freshwater lakes along the rift valley. It is well known locally for its sheer number of waterbirds. The edges of the lake are fringed with yellow fever trees which host a wide variety of special birds and free ranging wildlife.
The lake itself hold a huge number of water birds such as; Great White and Pink-Backed Pelicans, Reed and Great Cormorants, African Darters, Yellow-billed Ducks, Red-billed and Hottentot teals, Red-knobbed Coots, Black and Grey Herons, Great White, Little and Cattle Egrets, African Spoonbills, African Skimmers, Grey-hooded, Lesser Black-backed and Common black-headed Gulls, Lesser and Common Moorhen, Purple Swamp hens; and the highest concentration of African Fish Eagles anywhere in Kenya!
The woodland around the lakes are quite productive and you can come across; White-fronted Bee-eaters, Wahlberg’s Honey bird, Black-lored and Arrow-marked Babblers, Variable Sunbird, Green Wood hoopoe, African Grey, Cardinal and Nubian Woodpeckers.
The Kinangop plateau is an abrupt floor that rises from the floor of the rift valley. Although this area is outside a protected park or reserve it still host quite a few special birds, including the Endemic Sharpe’s Longclaw.
The tussock grasslands that stretched for mile are now farmlands, but the birds can still be seen hanging on these artificial habitats. Birds commonly seen around these grasslands/farmlands are; Sharpe’s Longclaw, Rufous-naped and Red-capped Larks, Cape Rook, Capped Wheatear, Long-tailed and Jackson’s Widow birds, Hunter’s, Leveillants and Stout Cisticolas, Red-throated Wryneck and Augur Buzzards.
Marshes and seasonal lily ponds in the grasslands attract Grey-crowned Cranes, Yellow-crowned Bishop, Glossy Ibis and the elusive Lesser Jacana. Migrant Harriers also frequent the wet marshes like the Western Marsh, Pallid and Montagu’s Harriers.
Sometimes referred to a birdwatcher’s paradise, with about 500 species recorded, Lake Baringo is well known among birdwatchers. And it’s also one of my favorite spots for birding!
The Baringo area has a similar semi-arid environment as that of Samburu, but the plants and animals are very different. There are steep cliffs on one side of the lake and mixed woodland and grasslands on its opposite shores, which are both bustling with birds from the northern territory.
The cliffs are good places to look for its resident pair of Verreaux’s Eagle, Grayish Eagle Owl, Hemprichs Hornbill, Fan-tailed Raven, Brown-tailed Rock Chat and Mocking Cliff Chats. The dry scrub around the cliffs has Bristle-Crowned Starlings, Pygmy Batis, Three-streaked Tchagra, Brubru and Red-fronted Warbler.
The grassland on the opposite are great for Spotting Heuglin’s Courser, Jackson’s Hornbill, Spotted Thicknee and Lichtenstein’s Sandgrouse. The woodland and scrub hide Northern White-faced and African Scops Owls. Other birds you are likely to see around the lake are Northern Red Bishop, Northern Masked, Little and Golden-backed Weavers, Allen’s Gallinule and Black Crakes.
Kakamega forest is the only remnant of the Guineo-congolese rainforest in western Kenya, which makes it a hotspot of unique bio-diversity. Close to 450 species have been recorded here.
The forest has species found here that are found nowhere else in East Africa such as; Blue-headed Bee-eater, Ansorge’s and Kakamega Greenbul. Other uncommon birds that can be found in the forest are; Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye, Equatorial Akalat, Turner’s Eremomela, Southern Hyliota and African Broadbill.
The streams in the forest are great for spotting White-spotted Flufftails, Banded Prinia, Grey-chested and Black-faced Rufous Warblers and Scaly-Breasted Illadopsis. While clearings in the forest are good places to look for Great Blue Turaco, African Crowned Eagle, Western Banded Snake-eagle and Black-and-white Casqued Hornbills.
About a dozen different greenbuls can be found in the higher canopy to lower canopy of the forest, these greenbuls can be tricky to differentiate by sight, so call are a good way of knowing what bird you are seeing. Not forgetting the lovely barbets of which there are many species like; Yellow-spotted, Grey-throated, Hairy-breasted and Yellow-billed Barbets.
Masai mara national reserve
This popular park probably needs no introduction and is definitely the most visited park in Kenya. The park is renowned for its Masai people, vast herds of migrating wildebeest and high density of predators, but it’s also a spectacular place for Birdwatching with over 550 species recorded!
The Masai Mara is mostly grasslands but also has some acacia scrub, riverine forest and cliffs on the Oloolol escarpment. Grassland birds such as Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-bellied Bustards, Crowned and African Wattled Lapwings, Temminck’s Courser and Fawn-colored Larks are commonly seen on a game drive.
While the scrub and bush are good places to find Magpie Shrike, Karamoja Apalis, Pale Wren Warbler, Rufous-tailed Weavers, Usambiro Barbet, Green-capped Eremomela and about 10 species of Cisticolas; including Long-tailed, Red-faced, Croaking, Siffling, Black-backed and Rock-loving cisticolas, to name a few.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest
It is the largest remaining coastal forest in East Africa and famous for its diversity in mammals, butterflies, amphibians and birds, many of which are only found here. The endemic Clarke’s Weaver is also found here.
The forest is made up of miombo woodland, cynometra and mixed forest. The main forest highlights would be; Sokoke Scops Owls, Amani Sunbird, East Coast Akalat, Red-tailed Ant-thrush, Fischers Turaco, Mombasa Woodpecker, Little Yellow Flycatcher and the endemic Weaver.
But of course, there are many more enjoyable birds to see, the open miombo woodland is great to search for gorgeous Bush-shrike, Forest and Pale Batis, Dark-backed Weaver, Southern-banded Snake-eagle, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Yellow-bellied and Fischer’s Greenbuls.
The mixed forest is much denser and sometimes impenetrable, but cool species seen here are Blue-mantle Crested Flycatcher, Tiny Greenbul, Terrestrial and Northern Brownbul, Green Barbet, Eastern Green Tinkerbird, Peter’s and Green-backed Twinspots. Fiery-necked Nightjars and African Wood Owls can commonly be seen on the forest edges at night.
Mida creek is a wonderful and important place for migrants’ seabirds and is a locally protected site. The creek floods during high tide, but when the tide goes out, all the waders and seabirds forage the beach to feed. The mangroves around the creek are important in sheltering the coast from the harsh winds of the sea.
Many of the palearctic waders come here during the Eurasian winter (September-April). When the tide goes out, it’s the perfect opportunity for them to feed. Migrants like; Common Ringed Plovers, Greater and Lesser Sand Plovers, Crab Plovers, Common Greenshanks, Whimbrel, Grey Plovers, Eurasian Curlews, Terek, Marsh and Common Sandpipers are easily spotted and seen in good numbers. Gull-billed, Caspian, Saunders and Common Terns can be seen flying with Sooty Gulls and an occasional Osprey as they go out to sea.
The mangroves and coastal scrub are great to get coastal resident birds like; Black-headed Batis, Three-banded Plover, African Paradise Flycatcher, Black-bellied Starling, Zanzibar Greenbuls, Speckled Mousebirds, Village Weavers, Purple-banded, Amethyst and Violet-Bbeasted Sunbirds. Some afro-tropical migrants can also be found from April-August, such as; African Golden Oriole, Mangrove Kingfisher and Red-capped Robin-chats.