BIRDING SAFARIS

Kenya has one of the richest avifaunas in Africa with about 1,090 species recorded. Around 170 of these are Palearctic migrants and at least a further 60 are intra-Africa migrants. Some 230 species are entirely forest dependent and 110 require undisturbed habitat.

There are 9 restricted range species of the Kenya mountains Endemic Bird Area (EBA) and 7 of the East African coastal forests EBA. Kenya also has small portions of other EBAs:

The most significant biomes are Somali-Masai with 94 out of 129 species in Kenya; East African Coast with 29 out of 38 species; Afrotropical Highlands with 70 out of 226 species; and the small Lake Victoria Basin with 9 out of 12 species. The easternmost part of theGuinea-Congo Forest biome holds 43 out of 277 species and Sudan-Guinea Savanna holds 13 out of 55 species.

Kenya’s 60 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) cover a total of 5.7 million hectares or about 10% of the land area with sites varying in size from 1 hectare to 1 million hectares.

WHEN TO GO BIRDING

Birding in Kenya is a whole year activity, however, the best time is between October and April when more than 120 migrant species have arrived from the Northern hemisphere, mostly from the Palearctic but with some African migrants such as Forbes-Watson’s Swift; there is also the chance of finding one of the passage migrants such as the Sooty Falcon in March-April and October-December. If you’re interested in bird-ringing, the latter period is when there’s a large bird ringing exercise at Ngulia in Tsavo National Park. The coast is particularly good during this period with large flocks of water birds congregating at Mida Creek and Sabaki Estuary and lamu, while The Rift Valley lakes attract a lot of northern waterfowl.

From April to October the Northern Migrants are replaced by birds from the southern hemisphere and Madagascar, but these are much fewer, no more than 10 or 12 species. It is however the time when many of the birds are in breeding plumage following the long rains, which makes species such as the various weavers much easier as well as much more colourful. This is also the best time of year for big game. In July and August the huge herds of wildebeest and zebra enter the Maasai Mara and provide spectacular game watching. This also makes vultures much easier to find because of the numbers of animals that don’t survive the migration. The Mara River regularly collects mixed flocks of vultures and Marabou feeding on the animals that failed to cross the river. There’s usually a fair number of crocs as well!

The other variable is the weather; Kenya’s seasons come in two basic flavours – wet and dry. The long rains are usually between March and June with the highest levels of rainfall in April and May. The short rains start in late October and go through to December. It does however vary throughout the country and Northern Kenya is generally happy for any rain it can get.

Birding desitinations:

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