Kenya has one of the richest avifauna in Africa with around 1090 bird species being recorded. The variety of birds in Kenya is made possible by the favorable climate, various habitats and geographical features that make it a suitable migratory route for birds. The geographical features an be divided in to 5: the Highlands, the Rift Valley, the Western Plateau, the Coastal Region, and the Northern Plains.
What Time of Year Offers The Best Bird Spotting Opportunities?
There are numerous opportunities that arise to photograph birds. The most obvious are birds of the open savanna such as Common Ostrich, bustards, and Secretary bird and the astounding concentrations of flamingos on soda lakes in Lake Nakuru National Park and Lake Bogoria. Many bird species such as fiscals and weavers of open country can easily be captured. With patience it’s also possible to photograph birds of the Kakamega Forest and other forested habitats.
The best time to go birding in Kenya is during the short rains of November and early December when most species are in breeding plumage. That’s also when the display behavior of most species take place. By January mating activities has shaped off and birds are changing into non-breeding plumage. During this season some birds also migrate from and to Europe and Asia and between October and February many Palearctic migrants come to Kenya’s marine and inland shorelines. The best time to watch the birds species is in the early morning between the time the sun rises and mid-morning is often the time of the day when birds are most active. Most birds are most active at dawn and dusk, so these times are the best ones for bird-watching.
Best Bird Watching Areas in Kenya
Some birding sites in the eastern highlands are Nairobi National Park, Mount Kenya, and the Aberdares Mountains, which includes the Gatamaiyo Forest Reserve. Birding sites on the western side include the Molo Grasslands, the Mau Narok region to the south, and the Kongelai Escarpment to the northwest of Kitale. Kenya’s national parks also make excellent centers for bird watching in Kenya.
- Masai Mara Game Reserve has over 500 recorded species including the Yellow billed Ox pecker, Saddle Billed Stork, Corncrake, Grey crested Helmet Shrike, Lesser Kestrel, Secretary Bird, Ostrich, White headed Vulture and many others.
- Amboseli National Park has recorded over 400 species including at least 40 raptors have been recorded. Notable species include many ducks, darters and heron nest in the wetlands, and birds of prey including a small population of Martial Eagles.
- Lake Nakuru National Park commonly regarded as the ornithology of birds is a common stop for specialist birding safaris. Apart from the obvious Greater and Lesser Flamingo, species of interest recorded here include many Great White Pelican and Black necked and Little Grebe, as well as rare Martial Eagle, Lesser Kestrel and Squacco Heron.
- Arabuko Sokoke Forest – This is a very important area for birding. Among the endemics here is the Sokoke Scops Owl, the world’s rarest Owl. The species is only found in this forest, although there have been reported sightings in the Usambara Mountains in Northern Tanzania.
- Lake Baringo – Species of interest recorded here include Jackson’s Hornbills, Bristle Crowned Starling, and water-birds including Goliath Heron, White backed Duck, and African Skimmers and Darters.
- Aberdares National Park – At least 200 species have been recorded, including African Green Ibis, African Cuckoo Hawk, Cape Eagle Owl, Mountain Buzzard and Hartlaub’s Turacos. Rare species include the Scarlet tufted Sunbird, African grass owl and the Aberdare Cisticola on the moorlands.