If you are planning for a visit to East Africa for its innumerable national parks, remember one thing, this is not only a land for a classic wildlife safari, but is a spectacular birding region as well- one of the best to any region in the world! Birding is one of the fastest growing hobbies in the world. East Africa’s birds are scattered in all sorts of habitats: mountain forest, lowland forest, seacoasts, deserts, savannah, lakes, marsh and swamps.
East Africa consists of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda & Burundi, which boasts of remarkable species of resident, migrant and vagrant birds. The region shelters an outstanding diversity of birds including many seriously threatened species with small and vulnerable ranges.
Birding is good throughout the year, but the prime season is Sept-April, when resident populations are boosted by the many Palearctic migrants that spend the northern hemisphere winter in Africa. The European winter also broadly coincides with East Africa’s rainy season, when several resident species undergo an ‘ugly duckling’ transformation from drab brown to bright breeding colours.
Birds of East Africa can be classified into the following:
- Large ground birds
- Large water birds
- Birds of prey
- Small-Medium, ground & water birds
Big birds capture the imagination and amaze the eye. Even non-birders tend to be impressed by the big, brightly coloured birds. Some of the large ground birds are Ostriches- Masai & Somalian Ostrich, Secretary Bird, Kori Bustard, Red & Yellow horn bills, Guinea fowls- Helmeted & Vuturine, and the crested crowned crane most commonly called as Ugandan crane!
Water birds delight birders, being easier to spot and photograph, as they tend to be larger and live more in the open. The common water birds that can be spotted are Great white & pink backed Pelicans, the huge flocks of lesser flamingos, the grey and black Greater cormorants, the tall & slim Goliath & Grey heron, the egrets, the Marabou stork with its distinguished beak, the saddle billed stork unique for its red beak, the Egyptian goose, the shoebills, spoonbills and sea gulls to name a few.
Raptors- Birds of prey are the princes of the bird world. They are charismatic and the most fascinating birds to watch. They are feared and despised by other birds and animals- particularly those they prey upon. They are not social and choose to migrate solo. It is a treat to watch them perched on top of a tree looking for a prey! The most noted among them in East Africa are the African fish eagle, Harrier hawk, Vultures, Tawny eagle, Verreaux’s eagle, palechanting Goshwak, Shrikes and the black kite.
Small birds form a constantly colourful, noisy and highly extroverted part of the landscape. They make the surroundings lively and engaging. East Africa has thousands of such birds filled with beautiful colours and patterns. The most common are Superb Starling, Flycatcher, Yellow necked Spurfowl, Fork tailed drongo, Common bulbul, Blacksmith plover, Spur wing plover, woodland Kingfishers, the laughing Doves, the little Bee eater, Barbets, Sunbirds, Weavers and the Lilac breasted roller- the national bird of Kenya and the list can go on and on…
Bird Watching is a science, a sport and an art but above all, it is one of the highly rated leisure travel activity. So friends, pack your bags and visit East Africa for an ultimate African Bird Watching safari! Do not forget your cameras!!!