NDEGE WETU: A Tribute to the Birds of Kenya (Part 11 – The Forest Dwellers)

The reason for Kenya’s exceptionally rich diversity of birds, and wildlife in general, is the extreme variety of landscapes that the country has. From sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains, fresh water lakes to alkaline (salty) lakes, scorching deserts to freezing moorlands, rugged cliffs to flat plains, and everything in-between. Kenya is divided north-south by the equator, divided east-west by the Great Rift Valley and is additionally on the coast!

This has led to the development of a vast number of different habitats, and each has birds that are adapted to it. (This book explains the evolution of Kenya’s diverse habitats and landscapes exceptionally well.)

Among these habitats are several types of forest; including highland (montane) forests, dry coastal forests, mangrove forests, gallery forests and tropical rainforest.

Today we take a look at some of the amazing forest birds that can be seen in Kenya.

Among the most exciting birds to see in Africa’s forests are the brilliantly-colored turacos. And Kenya is well-endowed with them. This is a Hartlaub’s Turaco (Tauraco hartlaubi), which can be seen in Nairobi.
Schalow’s Turaco (Tauraco schalowi) – Oloisukut Conservancy, Masai Mara.
White-crested Turaco (Tauraco leucolophus) – Mount Mtelo, West Pokot
Ross’s Turaco (Tauraco rossae) – Nyakweri Forest, Narok. This one was hidden in the shadows, but it is a beautiful bird when seen in good light. Bluish-purple with a yellow mask and a red mohawk-like crest on its head. Although they are big and colorful, turacos are definitely not the easiest birds to photograph!
Another very beautiful group of forest birds that you can see in Kenya is the trogons. This is a Narina Trogon (Apaloderma narina) in Karura Forest, Nairobi.
Bar-tailed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum) – Kieni Forest, Aberdare Range
One of Kenya’s most charismatic forest birds is unquestionably the Crowned Eagle (Stephanoaetus coronatus). This is the forest equivalent of the Martial Eagle (Polemaetus bellicosus) and is Africa’s most powerful bird of prey. It is the most important predator of monkeys, small forest antelopes and several other medium-sized mammals in healthy African forests.
Another group of birds synonymous with forests in Kenya is the greenbuls. There are many different species. Any decent forest in the country should have at least three species of greenbul. This is a Lowland Tiny Greenbul (Phyllastrephus debilis) in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest. It is Kenya’s smallest greenbul and is endemic to the East African Coast Biome.
Yellow-whiskered Greenbul (Andropadus latirostris). VERY noisy but not very easy to see.
Cabanis’s Greenbul (Phyllastrephus cabanisi) of the eastern race placidus, aka Placid Greenbul – Karura Forest, Nairobi
A juvenile Cabanis’s Greenbul of the yellow-throated race sucosus – Loita Hills, Narok
Eastern Mountain Greenbul (Arizelocichla nigriceps) of the black-headed race nigriceps – Loita Hills, Narok
Sokoke Pipit (Anthus sokokensis) – Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, Kilifi. This is another endemic of East Africa’s coastal forests and is one of Kenya’s rarest birds. Most pipits are birds of open country, like grasslands and semi-deserts, but this one is unique in that it’s a forest specialist.
African Olive Pigeon (Columba arquatrix). A bird of the highland forests, and Kenya’s most beautiful pigeon if you ask me.

These are just but a tiny sample of the many amazing birds that one can see in Kenya’s rich forests. Kenya is unique in many ways due to its geographic location and there are not many other countries that can boast the variety of different forests and other habitats that this country has. It is a natural heritage that Kenyans should be proud of and strive to protect.

Feel free to reach out to me if you need help finding a good guide who can show you Kenya’s amazing forest birds. And while you’re out enjoying the birds, please submit records of what you see to the Kenya Bird Map project to help document the distribution and status of Kenya’s forest birds.

Tune in next Thursday for the next part of the NDEGE WETU series 😉

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About Sidney Shema

Sidney is a Kenya-based ornithologist and photographer specializing in the birds of Africa, with an especially keen interest in the birds of prey (raptors) of Kenya.
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