Beyond the dramatic Great Migration, hiking and beautiful white sand beaches, Kenya is also a prime birding haven among the best in Africa. It is favoured by its diverse habitats that offer a tranquillity for birding safaris to several bird lovers around the world. The country is home to more than 1,100 recorded bird species including migratory birds, forest birds, water birds, endangered species and of course the endemics. It is the third African country with the avian diversity (list of two world’s largest birds that is the Common and Somali Ostriches) after Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Furthermore, the country boosts of several raptors, turacos, bee-eaters, flamingoes, and parrots, to mention but a few.
Birding in Kenya can be enjoyed anywhere, however the most rewarding birding spots in Kenya are its noteworthy national parks and game reserves. Thus, the birders have the opportunity to explore more interesting highlights such as its abundant widlife and breath-taking scenery.
Best Birding Spots in Kenya
With an assurance of encountering between 200 to 500 species in one birding spot, bird watching to Kenya is a thrilling experience in any given location.
Starting with Kenya’s coastal birds which are either semi-endemic or endemic, Arabuko-Sokoke National Park near Watamu is the suitable area to watch these remarkable species. The Park is home to more than 230 recorded species among which about nine of them are threatened species. They include; the Sokoke Pipit, Clarke’s weaver, Multi-coloured East coast Akalak, and Sokoke Scops-owl, among others. Common species in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest also include Green-headed Orioles, Scaly babbler Amani sunbird, Eastern Green tinkerbird, to mention but a few.
For those who want to experience dense forest birdlife elsewhere in the country, forests like Kakamega and Saiwa Swamp will give you an amazing experience as you explore them for unique birds.
The twin National Parks of Tsavo West and Tsavo East offer diverse habitats such as swamps, riverine forests, sporadic forests, and rocky rims. These habitats provide shelter to more than 500 bird species. Tsavo west is the most enriched with species like Egyptian Goose, Somali and Common Ostrich, White-faced whistling-duck and Helmeted Guineafowl. A wide range of Taita falcons, Snake-eagles, Ashy cisticolas, and hunter’s birds can also be found in Tsavo East National Park.
On the other hand, the Arid North destinations like Buffalo Springs National Park, Shaba National Reserve and Samburu National Reserve offer impressive bird watching for the country’s desert and rare species. Most of these are less accessible and are only restricted to this region. In addition to thrilling game viewing, bird watchers are treated to more than 450 recorded bird species.
When it comes to southern Kenya, the reserves in the open savannah will keep you occupied throughout your visit there. There is Amboseli National Park that is home to more 425 recorded species. The Park is surrounded by a range of habitats for the birds to nest and breed including swamps, plains, and woodlands, etc. Birders to Amboseli can engage in safari walks and have the opportunity to see species like the Yellow-billed Hornbills, Taita Fiscals, Banded warblers and a range of raptors, to mention but a few.
Masai Mara National Reserve is famous for its mind-blowing wildlife experiences. Among other things, the reserve is also a prime birding destination in Kenya. The reserve hosts more than 500 recorded bird species. Among these include a range of tinkerbirds, barbets, vultures, ducks, geese, hornbills, cormorants, egrets, herons, storks, and bitterns and more. Furthermore, a few migratory, vulnerable and endangered species can also be spotted in Masai Mara. Its diverse habitats offer classical bird watching especially its riverine areas.
Boosting of millions of greater and lesser pink flamingoes, the rift valley lakes Nakuru and Bogoria are also impressive birding destinations. Other lakes though less visited such as Lake Naivasha, Lake Elementaita and Lake Baringo offer even better bird watching with species such as kingfishers, African fish eagles, African Darters, Goliath Herons, and Saddle-billed stork, among others.
In central Kenya, near the Equator is Mount Kenya, known for hosting an incredible array of bird species. Its montane habitats are home to a variety of birds, distributed around all the reserves that border the mountain. Mount Kenya National Park is home to countless sunbirds, the rare Abyssinian owls, Kenrick’s starlings, and many more. Aberdare National Park located southwest of Mount Kenya is a remarkable destination that boosts of the endangered and vulnerable species. Some include; Aberdare cisticolas, Moorland Francolin and Jackson’s Spurfowl, etc.
Best time for Birding in Kenya
Birding in Kenya can be enjoyed all year round. However, the best time to enjoy birding would be during the rainy season between the months of September to April. It is the time when most of the migratory birds mostly from Northern Africa and Europe are around. More to that, the rainy season is when the resident birds are nesting and breeding.