Masai Mara

This is probably the most visited Game Reserve in Kenya because of the high concentration and the spectacular migration of mammals. It adjoins the Serengeti National Park along the border with Tanzania and is a part of the same ecosystem. The extensive grasslands hold important populations of Corncrake Crex crex and Jackson’s Widowbird Euplectes jacksoni.More than 500 species have been recorded including 12 species of Cisticola and 53 birds of prey. The Maasai Mara is world famous for big game. Together with the adjoining Serengeti it is one of the only places in the world where it is still possible to see vast herds of grazing animals.  And attracted by those huge herds, the predators; Lion, Leopard, Cheetah and more.  However, a visit to the Mara isn’t only about seeing the “Big 5″, it’s also home to a wide variety of birds. The abundance of game means that 6 out of the 7 species of Kenyan vulture (Egyptian, Hooded, Griffon, Nubian, White-backed and White-headed) can be seen in the game reserve, with only the Lammergeier missing.

But it isn’t just carrion eaters that can be found in this area, the bird list totals over 450 species. These range from the large and highly conspicuous Common Ostrich, to the small (but still conspicuous) Cardinal Quelea. From the ever-present White-bellied Go-away-bird to its two uncommon relatives, the Bare-faced Go-away-bird and the Eastern Grey Plantain-eater. The Mara is also home to three relatively uncommon Woodpeckers (Golden-tailed, Little Spotted and Fine-banded). If you get really lucky then the Mara River provides an opportunity to spot the rare and elusive African Finfoot. The Mara is also one of the most likely spots for the Blue Quail, a rare intra African migrant.

A less rare and normally inconspicuous resident is Jackson’s Widowbird. Out of the breeding season the male is a typically small, brown weaver-like bird, with little about it to get the watcher particularly excited. In the breeding season, however, it becomes a master of the “high jump”. Each male tramples down a dancing circle in the grass and from this he leaps into the air to a height of perhaps 3 feet (1m). Since they group together in loose colonies you will often have a large numbers of males all launching themselves skywards in a bid to out-do one another!
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