With over 1,100 bird species – with at least eight of them national endemics – its no wonder Kenya is a considered a prime destination for a birding safari. Enthusiastic birdwatchers flock to the national parks and reserves all year round to catch glimpses of the rich avifauna.
Birdwatching (or birding) is one of the most popular tourist activities in Kenya, after visiting coastal areas such as Mombasa and Lamu, and going to the Maasai Mara to catch the wildebeest migration.
In fact, one of the greatest birders of our time, Phoebe Snetsinger, said Kenya is her favorite birding destination in the world because of its spectacular and easily seen birds. It is possible to see 300 to 600 birds in a single birding trip! Can you believe that?
Kenya’s tremendous geographical range forms an incredible mosaic of habitat that is conducive to so many different bird species. Coupled with the variety of climates and landscapes, these serve to make Kenya with the second highest number of species in Africa.
From the world’s largest bird, the ostrich, to some of the tiniest birds such as the storm petrels, you can find them all in Kenya. The national parks and reserves constitute some of the best places for bird watching in Kenya.
Where to go and what you’ll see
The Maasai Mara is renowned for its wildebeest migration. In addition to that, birdwatchers are drawn to its grasslands to see the rosy-throated longclaw and magpie shrike, which are both present in the park.
In Samburu National Park the rare shining sunbird and the pink breasted lark are a promised sighting.
Nairobi National Park offers the pied-babbler and pangani longclaw. Lake Nakuru’s ever present flamingoes are quite a beautiful sight not to mention the pink camouflage they give the lake. Birdwatchers and photographers as well have been known to have a field day capturing these pink birds in their flight.
To see some of Kenya’s rare and endangered species, you would have to venture out to the forests or the highlands in the interior. Arabuko-Sokoke forest near Malindi is top on the list of such habitats with six threatened bird species of Spotted Ground Thrush, East Coast Akalat, Amani Sunbird, Sokoke Pipit, Sokoke Scops owl and Clarke’s weavers. Arabuko-Sokoke Forest has been described as a birdwatcher’s paradise.
In Western Kenya, Kakamega forest, Kenya’s only tropical rainforest, is home to the West African great blue turaco and black-and-white-casqued hornbill as well as Turner’s eromera.
The highland grasslands of the Aberdare Ranges offer the Shape’s longclaw and Aberdare cisticola, both native and endangered species.
At the top of the Taita hills, the very beautiful but critically endangered Taita Apalis and Taita Thrush as well as the Taita White-eye has their home.
Lake Victoria is home to a number of species that are papyrus endemics. The rare and endangered papyrus yellow warbler is found in papyrus swamps on the shores of the lake alongside the white-winged warbler, papyrus gonolek and the papyrus canary.
Birding tour companies
For the ultimate birding safari, a well versed bird guide is essential to have. Birds guides mostly live at the sites and are knowledgeable on all aspects that facilitate successful bird watching. There are a number of birding tours companies that specialize in offering birding safaris.
Bird Watching East Africa is one such company that offers professionally led birding trips ranging from a full day to several weeks, in some of the best birding hotspots in Kenya. Guests are treated to the sight of endemics such as the Sharpe’s longclaw, Taita thrush and more.
Their tour packages are designed to suit the needs of both birders and non-birders who may be accompanying them. Their mobile-tented safari is set to ensure that guests get to experience both birds and big game.
Silent Fliers of Kenya pride themselves in offering birding safaris that are designed in such a way that allow clients the opportunity to sample the rich Kenyan birdlife in their natural geographical distribution and habitat.
They offer six different routes to choose from. An example is the ‘Nairobi-Amboseli-Tsavo East-Lake Jipe-Taita Hill-Arabuko Sokoke Forest-Mida Creek-Mombasa route, popularly known as the coastal route.
Another of their options is the Nairobi-Mt Kenya-Samburu National Reserve-Nyahururu-Lake Nakuru-Lake Baringo-Lake Bogoria-Maasai Mara route.
These birding safari tour options are tailor-made to include food and accommodation throughout the entire trip.
Acacia Africa Birding Safaris & Holidays strives to provide worldwide birding clients with quality organized tours while contributing to environmental conservation and disadvantaged communities. This is a one-of-a-kind tour company whose attention to detail and personal approach will make your trip more enjoyable. They cater for most food and accommodation requirements; all you have to do is contact them with your needs in terms of photography materials, creature comforts etc.