Waterbirds, those birds that live near water and depend on it for food and breeding sites, are in my opinion the easiest group of birds to observe. If you are still very new to bird watching and want to quickly improve your identification skills, you should probably spend a lot of time around lakes, dams, swamps and other wetlands. This is because waterbirds are (mostly) large, operate right out in the open and often spend long periods of time in the same general area, which gives you a lot of time to closely observe them and learn how to identify the various species. Some are of course shy and difficult to observe but that’s besides the point. Learning how to identify waterbirds is usually a good foundation for learning the other, more difficult birds quicker. Plus they offer great photographic opportunities ;).
Kenya is very well-endowed in waterbirds and their diversity is stunning. Some are year-round residents, some are migrants. Some migrants are from Eurasia, some from Madagascar, others from North Africa and others from southern Africa. They range in size from the huge pelicans and storks to tiny plovers and sandpipers. Some dive for fish like darters while others snatch the fish from the water’s surface like fish eagles. Some don’t eat fish at all and feed on the insects instead or on the aquatic vegetation. Some most of their time gliding over the water yet their feathers barely ever touch it, while others are almost constantly floating on it. Some like fast-flowing rivers, others like still lakes. Some like dense reedbeds while others like open water. Some wade through the shallows while others stick to flat muddy shores. Some like fresh water, some prefer it salty. Some gather in huge numbers, some operate solo. They are a fascinating group of birds indeed!
Without much explanation and in no particular order, here is a collection of some waterbirds that you might come across in Kenya:
These are just a few of the vast array of waterbirds that can be seen in Kenya. Take time to explore the various wetlands around your area and see what you can find. A good guide can help you identify the birds you see and search for some of the rarer ones. While you’re at it, make sure to submit the birds that you record to the Kenya Bird Map project to help map their distribution in Kenya. And of course, conserve the wetlands around you so that you and others can continue to enjoy the beautiful waterbirds that call them home.
Make sure to tune back in next Thursday for the next ‘episode’ of NDEGE WETU: A Tribute to the Birds of Kenya!
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