| Most safari-goers come to Kenya
to see the large mammals. But there is also a rich bird life to see, with many species
and a lot of birds of prey. Non-birders may enjoy seeing large birds such as ostriches
and pelicans, while bird watchers may have the time of their life.
Anyone who enjoys birding will have a good time travelling in East
Africa. Many African species are spectacular in colour, shape or behaviour, and
there are many of them; about 1,100 bird species (out of Africa's 1,800) have been recorded
in Kenya and Tanzania.
Species list: Birds
Birds are everywhere
The large mammals are mainly found in parks,
but the birds are everywhere. For example, more than 500 species have been observed
within a 40 km/25 mi radius from Nairobi.
But there are also birding hotspots, such as Kakamega
Forest and Arabuko Sokoke in Kenya.
Some big game parks are also good birding areas, for example Masai
and Tarangire. More than 450 bird species have been recorded
in Masai Mara, out of these 55 different birds of prey. The Tarangire bird list is even
You don't have to be an avid birder to enjoy the African bird life. You don't have to
be interested in them all, but may limit yourself to looking only at the most spectacular
birds, such as the colourful, big or strange ones, and leave the rest for the ornithologists.
There are a lot of impressive eagles, vultures and other birds of prey, and many storks,
herons and hornbills. Such birds are often easy to spot, and if you have some interest
and a book on birds available, they are often fairly easy to identify on your own.
370 bird species in a safari
Doing some proper birding, using binoculars and a bird book, you may see some 100 to
150 species while game
driving on an normal wildlife safari. A bird watcher that we travelled with,
and who visited east Africa for the first time, recorded 370 bird species during a week-long
wildlife safari. A lot of birding can be done on the lodges
camps where you are staying in the bush.
If you prefer birds to mammals, you may have a birding safari tailored for you, or join
some packaged birding tour to East Africa. Such tours may differ from big game safaris,
visiting other types of biotopes. A variety of biotopes, such as savannas,
lakes, rivers and freshwater lakes, woodlands and forests, may be visited also
on a common safari, but you may not get the proper birding opportunities that you want.
Binoculars and telescopes
A pair of binoculars is of course your basic tool for birding (and should be brought
for game viewing, too), and is mostly good enough, as birds are plentiful. The telescope
that you may want for the serious birding can be difficult to use when game driving,
as using a tripod in the vehicle is out of question due to the limited space. An option
is to use a beanbag to stabilize the telescope; you put the beanbag on the roof or in
a window, and put the telescope on top. This is an improvement, but still not an optimal
solution, as people tend to move in the vehicle, which makes the telescope shake.
A tripod can be put to good use between game drives, when you're on foot in the lodge
or tented camp where you are staying.