Wildlife such as the big five often dominate talk and interest when it comes to tourists looking to see animals once they land in Kenya and while they are a major attraction, they’re not the only species fascinating tourists. Birding has become a popular past time for those in the know but has started to pick up of late as more visitors flock to the region for its affordability and unique experiences available.
Kenya is home to over 1100 species of birds, over half of which can easily be seen over a period of two weeks on a birdwatching tour of Kenya, making it one of the best birdwatching destinations in the world! The capital of Kenya, Nairobi, is home to over 500 bird species, a lot of which are easily spotted if you’re at the right place, the right time!
This birdwatcher’s guide to Kenya gives all the information you need on birdwatching in Kenya.
Keep reading to find out more!
Best Places for Birdwatching in Kenya
If you’re wanting to find the best locations to spot some of Kenya’s unique species of birds then these locations should be on your travel itinerary.
Watch the Lake’s water turn into hues of pink as the reflection of thousands of flamingoes surrounding the lake hits your eyes! Not only is this place home to greater and lesser flamingoes, but it also supports more than 500 other bird species in the Nakuru Lake. The most notable of these that the region is famous for include long-tailed widowbirds, long-crested eagles, Hottentot teals, and greater blue-eared starlings.
Crown Bird at Lake Nakuru, Image Source: PhotoDestination.Co.Za
Amboseli National Park
Amboseli National Park is home to over 420 bird species! The swamps here attract pelicans, crowned cranes, egrets and herons. Among the acacia woodlands, you can spot steel-blue whydahs, Von der Decken’s hornbills and white-bellied birds. Other birds found here include African jacanas, Goliath herons, and the near-endemic Taveta golden weavers that can only be found in Kenya and a few surrounding countries!
Buffalo Springs National Reserve and Samburu County
The Buffalo Springs Reserve is stocked with plenty birds and is nestled in the Samburu county of Kenya. Together, these areas are home to over 390 bird species! These include black-capped social weaver, black-faced sandgrouse, Egyptian vulture, vulturine guineafowl and Somali ostrich!
Golden Breasted Starling at Buffalo Springs, Image Source: Photo@Joe Aengwo via KenyaBirding.Me
Nairobi National Park and Nairobi City
Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya, and its surrounding Nairobi National Park is one of the best birdwatching destinations. It’s home to over 500 bird species, making it one of the world’s top cities when it comes to birdwatching!
Rise early in the morning to watch black kites and pied crows encircle buildings. The Nairobi National Museum garden is an ideal location for birdwatching. Here, you can spot sunbirds, cinnamon-chested bee-eaters, Marabou storks, and sacred ibises.
Some of the common birds you can spot at the Nairobi National Park include black-headed herons, ostriches, blacksmith lapwings, long-tailed fiscals and the near-endemic Sharpe’s longclaws.
Nairobi is, indeed, one of the most rewarding birdwatching destinations in the world!
Lake Bogoria is another birding hotspot in Kenya. You can spot a huge population of flamingoes here. Other than that, many other birds including black-necked grebes, white-necked vultures and African darters can be found here!
Flamingos at Lake Bogoria, Image Source: Pinterest.Com
Masai Mara National Reserve
With over 500 species of birds found here, Masai Mara National Reserve is one of the best places for birdwatching in Kenya. Most notable here are the raptors, of which there are over 50 species in the Reserve! The Usambiro barbet found here is endemic to the Masai Mara and Serengeti Area. Other than these, you can also spot sooty chats, kori bustards, giant kingfishers, yellow-mantled widow birds and the near-endemic grey-crested helmet-shrikes.
Kakamega Forest National Reserve
Kakamega Forest National Reserve is a birding hotspot close to Kisumu, with over 350 bird species found in the region, of which over 30 are endemic to the region! Some of the birds you can spot here include cinnamon-chested bee-eaters, giant kingfishers, great blue turacos, black-billed weavers, Chapin’s flycatchers, and pink-footed puffbacks.
Two Green Turaco Birds, Image Source: WorldAtlas.Com
Arabuko Sokoke Forest Reserve
Home to over 200 bird species, this area contains many unusual and threatened birds like the Sokoke scops owl, Clarke’s weaver and Sokoke pipit. Other interesting species you can spot here include silvery cheeked-hornbills, green barbets and Peter’s twinspots.
Lake Naivasha supports more than 400 bird species! It’s home to one of the densest concentrations of waterbirds like African Fish Eagles, Malachite Kingfishers, spoonbills, African darters, and Goliath herons.
Goliath herons at Lake Naivasha, Image Source: AndBeyond.Com
The Tana Delta is home to many important bird species including the endangered bird, Malindi Pipit. You can also spot pelicans, flamingoes, storks, Southern banded snake eagles, Pel’s fishing owls, and Tana River Cisticolas.
Best Time of the Year for Birdwatching in Kenya
The best time for birdwatching in Kenya is from November to April because this is the time when migratory birds arrive and add to the local species of birds! However, in the other months, birdwatching is still rewarding, but without the migratory birds!
Best Kenyan Birding Books to Get Before Your Visit
Here are some of the recommended books for Kenyan birdwatching to get before your visit so that you can easily identify and cross off the birds from your list:
- Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania by Dale A. Zimmerman, Donald A. Turner and David J. Pearson
- A Bird Atlas of Kenya by Adrian Lewis
- 50 Top Birding Sites in Kenya by Catherine Ngarachu
- Birds of Kenya’s Rift Valley by Adam Scott Kennedy
Birds of Kenya & Northern Tanzania, Image Source: BookDepository.Com
Endemic and Near-Endemic Birds in Kenya
Kenya is home to many endemic birds. These are birds that are indigenous to Kenya, that is, birds found only in Kenya. They include:
- Aberdare Cisticola
- William’s Lark
- Tana River Cisticola
- Taita thrush
- Montane white-eye
- Hinde’s pied babbler
- Clarke’s weaver
Clarke's weavers, Image Source: WorldAtlas.Com
Moreover, Kenya is also home to near-endemic bird species which can be found in the countries surrounding Kenya, like Tanzania as well. Here are some of the near-endemic species found in Kenya:
- Taveta golden weaver
- Sokoke Scops owl
- Sharpe’s longclaw
- Sokoke pipit
- Jackson’s hornbill
- Jackson’s francolin
- Amani sunbird
Sokoke Scops-Owl, Image Source: Hbw.Com
So, what are you waiting for? Embark on a rewarding trip of birdwatching in Kenya! The country is not only home to fantastic birdlife, but it also has some of the most remarkable wildlife species of Africa, including the Big 5.
You can check out our “Flights” section for the cheapest flights to Kenya!