Did you know there are a total of 68 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Kenya? They collectively house the 1,090 species of birds that occur in the country. Some of the birds are endemic to Kenya, while others are migratory and only visit for feeding and breeding. Whichever the case, it is no secret that Kenya has an abundant population of avian life. Some of the birds occur in good numbers. In contrast, others exist at the brink of extinction and only occur in protected areas. If you are a bird fanatic and share a love for our feathered friends, here are ten spots you should consider visiting.
Dida Galgalu Desert
Also known as, the flat desert, Dida Galgalu lies 20 kilometres North of Marsabit town. It is a vast land of arid land covered by rocks and scattered rocks. Ideally, the desert should be inhabitable. However, it houses several nomadic pastoralist tribes, including the Gabbra. Although the desert was previously grounds for bandit hideouts and raids, it is now slowly becoming a frequent tourist stop. It is an important bird area, mainly because of the William’s Lark, which seems to thrive here despite the harsh conditions. Because of its elusive nature, there is not much information on it. Other birds to sight here include the Somali bee-eater and the masked lark.
Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy
Another oasis in the mostly arid North Eastern region of Kenya is the Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy. This small nature reserve defies all odds by having a very healthy population of both flora and fauna. It was home to the only white giraffe and is the haven for the rare and threatened Hirola antelope. To add to all this, Ishaqbini houses a whopping 380 species of birds and 60% of the total recorded Kenyan bird families. Strategically positioned in Garissa County, Ishaqbini Hirola Conservancy is one of the Important Bird Areas birdwatchers would love. Some of the common birds to sight include the hooded vulture, Clarke’s weaver, the saddle-billed stork and the white throat bee-eater.
Kakamega Forest is the only tropical rainforest remaining in Kenya. It is of such great importance thanks to its history, diversity and resilience. Although human activities have significantly affected this natural gem, it remains an important destination to visit at least once in your lifetime. It lies in the Lake Victoria catchment area with several rivers and streams flowing through it. The forest is open to tourists throughout the year, and it promises a list of exciting activities. Apart from having beautiful indigenous trees, and colourful primates, it also has 367 recorded bird species. At least 16 of these species only exist in the forest area alone. Some of the birds to see during your visit include the black and white hornbill and the rare great blue turaco.
Elgon National Park
Another Important Bird Area you should visit while you are still in the Western region of Kenya is Mount Elgon National Park. Being the second highest mountain in Kenya and one of the largest volcanoes, the site carries an abundance of wildlife. The mountain is most famous for its Elephant Caves. However, it is home to other mammals and approximate 144 bird species. Some of them include the Rameron pigeon, the red-chested cuckoo, and the Nyanza swift. The mountain forest shares a significant number of its avifauna population with neighbouring Uganda.
Lake Bogoria Reserve
Lake Bogoria is not only an IBA, it is also a Ramser Site. It consists of the saline lake and a marked area of surrounding terrestrial habitat. The reserve is home to a vast diversity of wildlife including mammals and birds. The most common bird species here is the lesser flamingo whose numbers can reach 2 million individuals. The lake also has other water and land birds such as the common ostrich, the African spoonbill, the little Greber and the cape-wigeon among others. Lake Bogoria is also known as the bird watcher’s paradise because of the recorded 487 bird species. While you can go bird watching in Lake Bogoria throughout the year, November-April has the highest number of diverse birds because it is migration season.
I keep saying that Lake Naivasha and its surroundings are the lands that keep on giving. The area is not only breathtaking, but it also has tonnes of activities for anyone with time and interest. Lake Naivasha is the second-largest freshwater lake in Kenya and the highest of the lakes in Rift Valley. It sustains both human and wild lives and is, therefore, an important site all-around. However, since this is a bird-oriented post, I shall try to stick to the course. Among the 350 bird species present in Lake Naivasha and the surrounding National Park include the African fish eagle, the goliath heron, Egyptian duck, giant kingfisher and the great white pelican.
Stretching only 7 km and covering 28,911 acres, one would not think this tiny city-bound park can be one of Kenya’s Important Bird Areas. Thanks to its diverse terrain and vegetation, Nairobi National park hosts an amazing 516 bird species. From small water birds thanks to the artificial water bodies, to forest birds and grassland birds. Some are common and life-dwelling while others are migratory. An example of the latter group is the lesser falcon, which only comes to roost. Other exciting birds to spot include Jackson’s widow, the corncake and the shoebill, among others.
Mwea National Reserve
In Embu County lies an underrated national reserve that is home to different animal and plant lives. Surrounded by water bodies including the Masinga and Kamburu Reservoirs and the passing River Tana, the Mwea reserve is home to various water birds. Like Lake Bogoria, it is a Ramser Site and the only protected site that houses the threatened Hinde’s babbler. It is also home to rare species such as the Pel’s fishing owl and the white-backed heron among others.
Tana River Delta
The Tana River Delta is among the three most important deltas in Kenya. It is where the great River Tana joins the Indian Ocean. The resulting geographical feature has slowly become one of the best sites for bird watching especially in the coastal region. The delta has fluctuating salt levels thanks to the diverse rainfall and ocean tides. Because of this, there is an abundance of water snails, which act as food for different birds. Some birds also find the saline levels great for their breeding. Among the birds to see here include the Malindi pipit and the Basra weed warbler. With prior planning and enough time, you can also visit the Pokomo and Orma tribes that depend on the delta and ocean for their livelihood.
Arabuko Sokoke Forest
This list would be highly deficient without mentioning this great terrestrial jewel. Arabuko Sokoke holds the title of the second most important forest for bird conservation in mainland Africa. It is vast, stretching from the Kenyan coast to a significant distance inland. Because of this, the forest has different characteristics, such as soils and altitudes. That means that the vegetation and thus animal differ as well. The forest is home to large mammals such as elephants and smaller lives such as butterflies. It also holds approximately 230 species of birds including the endangered Sokoke pipit, the Amani sunbird, Clarke’s weaver and the Sokoke scop owl.
Bird watchers and enthusiasts have up to 68 spots to visit around the country for their interest and appreciation of avian life. These ten Important Bird Areas give a general scope of the bird populations that occur in the different regions of Kenya. We hope this list is helpful and informative. Let us know how your birding goes.