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Birding Safari Holidays in Kenya

Africa's best authentic tailor-made safaris

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Birding Safari Holidays in Kenya

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By Matthys van Aswegen

Safari Travel Planner

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Kenya is one of only 15 countries globally where more than 1,000 bird species have been recorded, and it lies third on the African avian diversity list after DR Congo and Tanzania.

This list includes the world’s two largest birds (Common and Somali ostrich, now regarded as separate species) and its bulkiest flying creature (Kori bustard), along with a wealth of raptors and a dazzling array of colorful bee-eaters, turacos, parrots, rollers, and passerines.

Lilac Roller in Tsavo
Lilac Roller in Tsavo

Birding Safaris are rewarding everywhere in Kenya. For dedicated birdwatching on a safari in Kenya, a well-planned two-week itinerary is likely to result in a trip list of 350–400 species, a figure that compares favorably with anywhere in the world.

The open savannah of southern Kenyan reserves such as Amboseli and the Masai Mara provides an excellent introduction to East Africa’s more common birds, with Superb starling, Purple grenadier, Lilac-breasted roller, and African grey hornbill all conspicuous.

Purple Grenadier spotted on a birding safari in Kenya
Purple Grenadier spotted on a birding safari in Kenya

The Rift Valley lakes are also superb: Nakuru and Bogoria are rightly famed for their mind-boggling flamingo aggregations, but the less celebrated Naivasha and Baringo are arguably even better for general birding.

For regular bird-watching safari goers, a region of particular interest is the arid north, where Samburu-Buffalo Springs-Shaba hosts a high quotient of dry-country species whose range is otherwise restricted to less accessible parts of Ethiopia and Somalia.

"African huts village, El molo tribe, Lake Turkana, North Kenya, Great Rift Valley"
“African huts village, El molo tribe, Lake Turkana, North Kenya, Great Rift Valley”

For visitors with limited exposure to the rainforests of west-central Africa, Kakamega Forest and Saiwa Swamp protect dozens of forest species at the very eastern extreme of their range.

For coastal birds endemic or near-endemic to Kenya, Arabuko-Sokoke National Park near Watamu is home to Clarke’s weaver, Sokoke scops owl, Grey-crested helmet-shrike, Sokoke pipit, and Amani Sunbird. The central highlands also host several endemics, notably Sharpe’s longclaw, Aberdare cisticola, and Hinde’s babbler.

Sokoke scops owl can be seen on birding safaris
Sokoke scops owl can be seen on birding safaris in Kenya

Kenya offers excellent birdwatching safaris throughout the year, but the prime season runs from October to March when Palearctic migrants boost resident populations. This also broadly coincides with Kenya’s rainy season, when several resident species shed their drab eclipse plumage in favor of bright breeding colors.

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