East Africa is blessed to have a diverse set of geographic features, landscapes, and climatic regions. All these factors together mean that there is a large list of exotic birds to spot in East Africa.
From the largest bird on earth, the ostrich, to the colorful flamingo and weird-looking shoebill, the east region of Africa is a treasure chest for tourists, wildlife enthusiasts, and avid bird watchers.
Here we will give mention to some birds, that have special features and some common elsewhere but have adapted specifically to specific regions in East Africa.
The next bird on the list of exotic birds is first recognizable from its loud and unmusical shrill whistles and loud squeaky calls.
These parrots have green plumage with yellow heads and are usually spotted in flocks of three to eight individuals.
Their diet consists of fruits and cereals like maize and sorghum.
The yellow-fronted parrot is endemic to Ethiopia in the Rift Valley, Southeastern and western highlands, and in the Western lowlands in woodlands and forests.
Maybe due to its highland habitats or a lack of security or clashes in its habitat; making it hard for researchers to observe and take extensive notes, relatively little is known about the bird.
The Wattled Ibis
The Wattled ibis has a distinguishing set of colors; dark brown crest, and dark plumage with white patches on the wings.
The bill is short, it has a thin wattle at the throat and a long tail. Other than its white patches on the wings, its other distinguishing feature is its raucous and noisy call.
The bird is endemic to only Ethiopia and Eritrea, occurring in the Ethiopian highlands at altitude ranges of 1500 m to 4100 m above sea level.
It also prefers highland river courses and meadows, being found in cliffs where it often builds its nest on rocky places.
The Stresemann’s Bush crow
Also known as the Ethiopian Bush crow, or Abyssinian pie this crow looks very similar to a starling.
The birds have pale grey feathers with black wings and tails.
The birds forage both in trees and on the ground, starting at sunrise, with their diet consisting of insects and other invertebrates.
It prefers flat savanna with open and short grass, Commiphora thorn bushes, and mature acacia trees.
The bird is endemic to Ethiopia and can only be found in an area of about 2400 square kilometers (1500 square miles) around Arero, Mega, and Yabello in Southern Ethiopia.
Studies have shown that the bird only inhabits a very small area due to a precise temperature range, with the other seemingly suitable surrounding areas either having a slightly higher or colder temperature range.
Prince Ruspoli’s Turaco
This is a spectacular bird on the list of exotic birds that has a white fluffy crest.
It also behaves like other Turaco species flying in long glides and short bursts and bouncing through the trees.
Ruspoli’s Turaco is also considered an endangered species due to habitat loss.
The bird is endemic to Ethiopia and is found in local scrub and woodland areas with an abundance of fruiting trees.
It is also known to have been found in two areas in Ethiopia; 80 km North of Negele and at Aero.
Both localities are at an altitude of about 1800 meters (6000 feet), with an abundance of Juniper trees and dense undergrowth. Also little is known about this bird’s living habits.
The ostrich is a flightless bird and the largest bird on earth. Currently, there are only two known species of the bird, the Somali ostrich, and the common ostrich.
They are also the fastest birds on land, running at speeds of up to 78 km/h (43.5 mph).
Their diet consists of small reptiles, insects, seeds, berries, grass, and succulent plants. Females Have dull brown plumage, while males have black and white plumages.
The ostrich can be found in open savanna, arid, and semi-arid regions.
The Somali ostrich can only be found in the horn of Africa region having evolved differently from the common ostrich due to geographic barriers.
The common ostrich can be found in the Eastern and Southern regions of Africa.
The White-headed vulture
The white-headed vulture is a long-lived and medium-sized vulture that has a pale featherless head, white crest, and a pink beak.
It has black tail feathers, white feathers on its legs and lower parts, and dark brown upper feathers.
This bird is predominantly a carrion eater but will hunt when opportunities arise. They are also one of the lowest flying vultures, usually the first specie to reach a carcass.
It is widespread throughout sub-Saharan Africa occurring from the West to the East.
It prefers habitats that are in low-lying dry woodland areas.
In Ethiopia, they can be found at altitudes of 4000 m while in Kenya they can be found at altitudes of 3000m.
They can usually be found in the wild as they generally avoid humans and occupied regions.
The Eastern Chanting Goshawk
Also known as the Somali goshawk, this bird has grey upper parts, breast and neck, with the belly having narrow white and grey linings.
The wing and belly linings are white, with the tail being black from above and white below with grey bars, and the legs are orange-red.
The birds often hunt in packs of about 16 individuals and can be altruistic sharing their prey between themselves.
Its habitats include wooded grassland, dry bush, and semi-arid areas of up to 2000 m of altitude.
It can be found across East Africa in Uganda, Northeastern Tanzania, Eastern Kenya, Western Somalia, Djibouti, and Southern Ethiopia.
The African cuckoo hawk
The African Cuckoo Hawk is a medium-sized bird prey, that is so called as it resembles the cuckoo bird.
The males have black brown plumage with grey mantle and chest, while the underparts are white marked with broad chestnut strips.
The females are browner with paler chestnut strips on the underparts.
The bird is shy and solitary, and its diet mainly consists of insects, (grasshoppers in particular), but they will also take small birds, lizards, snakes, and rodents.
The bird prefers dense forests or woodland areas of either exotic or indigenous trees.
They may also be found in open savannas and in drier wood and bushland when migrating. They can be found across East Africa and the larger sub-Saharan region.
The Red-footed booby
Well known to coastal fishermen, the red-footed booby has red feet, and is a graceful flyer but very clumsy on land.
These birds are agile fliers, well adapted to diving with nostrils that close underwater and can fly quite high.
The bird has a blue and pink colored bill and throat pouch, but the body plumage is all white with black flight feathers.
The red-footed booby is a very good swimmer and its diet is fish and squid which they hunt at night as they are easier to spot then.
The red-footed booby lives in coastal areas. It can be found on many coastlines along the equator all over the world, and it can be found on the coasts of Somalia, Kenya, and Tanzania.
The Egyptian plover
A tame but fearless bird, this bird also known as the crocodile bird is bold.
In the presence of crocodiles, it repeatedly runs across their backs and takes food from their open mouths. As you can see in the video below:
The bird has a white head, black breast band, eye mask, crown and back.
The other upper part feathers are blue-grey with orange underparts, with blue-grey long legs.
When these birds land, a pair greets each other with an elaborate ceremony by raising their wings.
Despite its name, this bird is no longer present in modern-day Egypt. Its diet consists of insects and occasionally on rotting meat in crocodiles’ mouths.
The Egyptian Plover likes to live near water and breeds on sandbars. Due to the closeness of the bird to water bodies, it can be found along major rivers.
In East Africa, it is found along the Nile in Uganda, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
When we speak of exotic birds, flamingos are sure on the list of exotic birds, wading in lakes all over the world, and are well known.
There are a total of six flamingo species, but only two can be found in East Africa; the Greater Flamingo and the lesser flamingo.
Flamingos’ main sources of food are blue-green algae and brine shrimp, but they also feed on water insects.
Their bills are adapted to filter silt and mud from their food. They are famous for their bright pink plumage that is easily recognizable from a long distance away.
They are also capable flyers and swimmers but you will rarely see them swimming.
Flamingos are also very social and thus you will mostly find them in colonies numbering in the thousands.
These huge colonies serve several purposes; maximize feeding, escape predators or avoid them and use their nesting sites better.
The flamingos prefer large saline or alkaline estuaries, lakes, or lagoons that don’t have an abundance of vegetation.
In East Africa, they are found all along the saltwater lakes that are part of the great rift valley such as lake Nakuru, Natron, Bogoria, and Elementaita.
Also known as the shoebill stork, the whalebill, and whale-headed stork, this bird is a large bird that gets its name from its enormous bill that is shoe shaped.
The feathers are blue-grey, while the flight feathers are grey. This bird is a slow mover, staying in situ for long periods.
They are also sensitive to disturbances from humans and can abandon their nests and locality when flushed by humans.
The Shoebill likes waters that are poorly oxygenated such as marshes and swamps where fish have to resurface frequently to breathe.
They can be found in the tropical regions of East Africa, in large swampy areas in South Sudan and Uganda.
Being quite heavy and tall (4 to 7 kg and 110 to 140 cm), these birds don’t like flying for too long, usually flying to a distance of no more than 500 m.
The Grey Crowned Crane
Talk about belonging on the list of exotic birds, you would definitely think that these species belong there, no?
Also known as the golden crested crane, East African crane, or African crowned crane, this bird has white wings, a crown with stiff golden feathers, a bright red inflatable throat pouch, and the sides of the face are white.
The bird has long legs for use wading through grasses with large and slender feet.
The grey-crowned crane is an omnivore eating seeds, plants, grains, eggs of water animals, small fish, snakes, worms, frogs, and insects.
They spend their days foraging for food and at night resting in trees. The grey-crowned crane is the national bird of Uganda, appearing on the country’s coat of arms.
The bird likes regions that are dry savannahs but will build its nest in wetter habitats.
They can also be found in grassy flatlands near lakes and rivers, cultivated lands, and marshes. These birds can be found in Kenya and Uganda.
Fruity great blue Turaco
Surely on the list of exotic birds is the largest of the Turaco species.
This beautiful bird has grey-blue feathers with an upright crest that is blue-black.
They have a yellow bill with an orange-red tip, brown eyes with black bare skin ring.
The feet and legs are black and their soles yellow. The bird’s diet consists of many plant species fruits, flowers and leaves.
Just like other Turaco birds, the fruity great blue Turaco is a shy bird that seldom descends to the ground except when going to find water.
They are also very social, often being seen in pairs and social groups of up to seven individuals. These birds surprisingly are not good fliers, soaring for only short distances or to lower levels of the forest.
The fruity great blue Turaco likes gallery forests and rainforests.
They can be found in the rainforests of Western Kenya; Kakamega forest and Uganda, Imatong Mountains of Southern Sudan, to Tanzania.
Also known as the spot-breasted lapwing, this bird can be distinguished from its closest relatives by its black-spotted breast and fleshy wattles in front of its eyes.
The bird has a black throat and a white eyebrow. It is a tame and noisy flying bird with a swerving motion, and while on the ground moves with short runs and sudden stops.
The bird is endemic to the Ethiopian highlands and can be found above 3,050 meters (10,000 feet) high in moorlands populated by tussock grass, Alchemilla, giant lobelia, giant heath, and marshy grasslands.
It is widely distributed in both the Southeastern and Western highland areas of Ethiopia.
Are you thinking about buying binoculars to have a good look at all the magnificent birds of Africa? You might find what you are looking for here!
My Final Conclusion.
I hope that you enjoyed this top list of exotic birds of Eastern Africa!
If you have any more questions, please feel free to ask them below in the comment section or join me on my social media channels or Facebook group for more pictures of birds or my travels to Africa in general!
I wish you happy travels!