Lizzy

The 16 Best Birds Of Kenya – A Toplist

Kenya is one of the go-to countries in Africa for anyone planning a Safari and the birds of Kenya represent the rich biodiversity the continent has to offer.

These birds range from the majestic, and the rare, to the not-so-beautiful birds such as the undertaker bird ( marabou stork).

From avid bird watchers to normal safari tourists, the birds in Kenya will awe and give you an understanding and appreciation of how nature works and how beautiful it can be.

Below are some of the bird species you are likely to spot, but there are many more not on the list.

1. White-backed vulture


The white-backed vulture is the most common and widespread vulture species in Africa, but it’s suffering a rapid decline in numbers and is currently considered endangered; there are about 270,000 adult birds in the wild.

It has a white back, brown wings under feathers, a long white neck, a dark brown face, and a mostly bald head.

White-backed vulture

Unlike other vulture species, their beaks are unable to break through tough hide, and thus they feed on the soft tissues.

They will usually alert other vultures to a carcass by flying in circles above it, and on getting the chance to feed can gorge themselves to the point of not flying.

Vultures play a critical role in cleaning up ecosystems through feeding and disposing of carcasses.

The white-backed vulture prefers habitats that are open woodland savannahs with an abundance of game and trees, specifically the acacia trees for nesting and roosting.

They are present throughout the country except in a few places such as the lake Victoria basin and the South Coast.

2. Rüppells Griphon Vulture


The Rüppells vulture is documented as the world’s highest flying bird, and has been documented flying at heights of about 10, 973 m( 36,000 ft).

This large vulture is also considered critically endangered with about 22,000 adult birds in the wild, and some of the main issues leading to their decline are: poisoning and habitat loss.

They have a bald head, and neck area, mostly black or brown body feathers, with a white collar and underbelly.

They have a large wingspan and depend a lot on air currents to soar for long periods of time scanning the ground for carcasses.


They are exclusive carrion eaters feeding on leftovers of kills by other predators such as lions, and those that died as stillborn young, broken-limbed, diseased, and old aged.

Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture inhabits woodlands, open savannahs, and woodlands.

The vulture is spread throughout the country, with a special mention being the Hell’s Gate National Park which is a protected zone for the Rüppell’s vulture.

3. Grey Crowned Crane

Also known as the golden crested 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 grey-crowned crane is an omnivore eating seed, plants, grains, and 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 bird has been facing a decline with their population in both Kenya and Uganda falling by about 80% in the last decade due to human-wildlife conflict as a result of habitat encroachment.

gray-crowned-crane-1

Wetlands are ecosystems that are crucial for their survival, and an absence of cranes signifies no more wetlands.

The birds prefer to roost in wet habitats but will also be found in savannahs, marshes, cultivated wet areas, and grassy flatlands near rivers and lakes.

The best place to find them is at lake Ol Bolossat, a lake on the foothills of the Aberdare ranges where they come to breed between July and February.

4. Turner’s Eremomela


Turner’s Eremomela is an endangered bird that is restricted to the Guinea-Congolean forest habitat biome.

The bird has white underparts, a black chest band, grey feathers, and an orange forehead.

Just like other warbler species, the turner’s Eremomela’s diet mainly consists of insects, but when insects are scarce they will also feed on fruits such as berries.

The bird has a very specific habitat in which it can thrive, which includes tropical and subtropical moist montane forests, and tropical and subtropical moist lowland forests.

In Kenya, these birds are found in the only tropical rainforests in the country which are the Kakamega and South Nandi tropical rainforests.

5. Madagascar pond heron


Native to the island of Madagascar, from which it gets its name, it is also known as the Malagasy pond heron.

Their plumage will vary based on whether they are breeding or not.

  • During their breeding stage, they have dazzling white plumage, and a bill that is deep blue.
  • During the non-breeding season, the bill is mainly green with a black tip, the body feathers range from black, and grey to brown with stripes on the underbelly while the flight feathers are predominantly white.


The Madagascar pond heron is a migratory bird, breeding in Madagascar and moving back to the mainland of Africa.

The habitats usually include mangrove forests, marshes, streams, lakes, ponds, and even rice fields.

In Kenya, they can be found in the Maasai Mara, Lake Amboseli, Musiara Swamp, and in lake Baringo.

6. Goliath heron


The Goliath Heron is the world’s largest heron standing at over 150 cm (4ft 11 in) with a wingspan of 2.3 m ( 7.5 ft).

The head, neck, face, and crest are chestnut in color, the neck and chin are white, the upper breast and fore neck feathers are white streaked with black, and white lower breast, belly, and thighs are dark.

Look at the video below to see how this bird hunts, it is actually quite funny to see!


The Goliath Heron is highly territorial towards other goliath herons, is a solitary feeder, and is a passive hunter, standing still in shallow waters for about an hour observing the water.

Also due to their slow movements and generally longer time in handling food they are victim to kleptoparasitism from birds like the African Fish eagle and the saddle billed stork.

Their habitats include river deltas, rivers, lakes, swamps, mangrove marshes and even watering holes, and will avoid populated areas.

They are found in wetland areas across the country except in the Northeastern region.

7. Verreaux’s eagle owl


The Verreaux’s eagle owl is a majestic bird and the largest owl species to occur in the tropics and in Africa.

This owl has a distinguishing feature: bright pink eyelids, while the rest of its head has a warm white eye disc surrounded by black feathers, a pale blue cream beak with a blue cere; a fleshy region just above the beak and below the eyes.

The body feathers are mostly grey-brown with grey and white body stripes, they have ear tufts, legs that are completely covered in feathers, and toes that are partially covered in feathers.

This skilled hunter is a nocturnal animal hunting during the day when the opportunity presents itself.

So they are quite hard to catch on camera.

Due to their size, they are top predators in their respective food chains, with their prey consisting of mammals, birds, snakes, insects, frogs, toads and reptiles.

It generally avoids dense forests and will prefer dry wooded savannahs. They can be found all over the country, in most wooded places, and even close to populated areas.

8. Flamingo


In Kenya, there are two flamingo species, the lesser flamingo and the greater flamingo.

The lesser flamingos have deep red beaks with black tips and deep pink feathers while the greater flamingo is larger and taller and their feathers a lighter pink.

While the lesser flamingo feeds exclusively on floating algae found in alkaline lakes, the greater flamingo feeds on crustaceans and organisms found in the mud.

Flamingos are very social and will be seen in great flocks coloring an area with the colour pink.

list of exotic birds

Unfortunately, these beautiful bird numbers have been on the decline due to a number of factors such as seasonal flooding which cause a change in water salinity, climate change- drought-like conditions, and pollution arising from both large and small-scale farming.

Flamingos will be found where their food is extensively available and that will be in alkaline lakes.

In Kenya, the best place to see them is the very remote lake Bogoria, but also lake Nakuru, Elementaita, Nakuru, and Magadi in the Great Rift valley.

9. Maasai ostrich


The Maasai ostrich is the biggest, heaviest and fastest bird on land.

In Kenya, it is the most common species of ostrich, though to the sparse and arid North-eastern parts of the country you can spot the Somali Ostrich which is endemic to the horn of Africa region.

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 and both with red necks and thighs.

These birds are adapted to the harsh conditions of the savannah with feathers that have insulating properties for both heat and cold.

They also have nasal glands that are salt excreting giving them the ability to drink from saline sources.

The common ostrich is a grazer and generally prefers open savannahs and grasslands.

In Kenya, the Maasai ostrich can be found In all the major national parks and game reserves such as the Maasai Mara, Amboseli national park, Tsavo East and West, and Meru National park.

10. Vulturine guinea fowl

Its bald head and striking resemblance to vultures give this guinea fowl its name, but it is also referred to as the royal guinea fowl.

At about 60-70 cm ( 24-28 in), the vulturine guinea fowl is the largest guinea fowl species.

Other than their vulture-like head, their cobalt blue necks and black and white hackles make them unique and easy to spot.

The rest of the body is black sprinkled with white dots, their feathers are rounded and their tail is longer than that of other guinea fowl species.

Even though they can fly, they prefer running on the ground when in danger but will roost on trees at night.

They have a very particular squeeking sound:


Although these birds are communal staying in groups of about 20 birds or so, they are quite aggressive and have been known to fatally wound each other in competition for food, mates, or roosting areas.

These birds like high trees for their nocturnal roosting, and arid areas that have few trees, bushes, and scrub. They are spread throughout the birds of Kenya, except for the Western border.

11. Superb starling


A very common bird in Kenya, they are virtually everywhere from urban, and rural to wild lands.

At first glance, they look like their blackheads are sticking out of a blue hood, the upper part of their bodies is an iridescent blue or green and their belly, separated by a white line, is either orange or red.

They are primarily monogamous but the breeding pair will have helpers who are usually their male offspring.


Just like humans, these helpers help in searching for food, nest building, and looking after chicks.

Females also have the habit of exchanging sex for favors such as mating with a helper male within the social group to help in raising her chicks.

When the female starling cheats on her partner with another male, he sometimes punishes her by doing less to help in raising the chicks or even abandoning them entirely.

They are omnivores, with their diet consisting of worms, insects, berries, and grains, and are highly territorial.

They are found in a variety of habitats from cultivated fields and gardens, lakeshores, open woodland, and grassland and arid areas.

12. Southern ground hornbill


The Southern ground hornbill is the largest hornbill species in the world and is distinct with its pure black plumage and red skin patches on the face and throat with white wing tips visible in flight.

The difference between males and females is the color of their throat skin patches with females having deep violet-blue and males having pure red.

These birds are long-lived with individuals reaching the age of 60 years in the wild and 70 years in captivity, and as such, they take longer to mature as they don’t reach sexual maturity until 4 years.

SOUTHERN-GROUND-HORNBILL

They are carnivorous and due to their size are apex predators in their respective territories with their diet consisting of small mammals, frogs, reptiles, snails, and insects.

Their habitat is usually wooded savannah with large trees for roosting and nesting and short grass to aid in hunting.

In Kenya, they can be found in the savannah areas such as in the Maasai Mara, Amboseli, and Nakuru national park.

13. Striped kingfisher


A highly territorial bird, the striped kingfisher has been known to chase away other kingfisher species, rollers, shrikes, and doves from its territory.

Their territory might be quite large, up to three acres in size, and they will perch on top of the tallest tree singing intermittently before dawn up to midday.

These birds have a dark eye stripe, creamy collar, dull blue flight and tail feathers, and a brown crown.

The diet is mainly constituted of grasshoppers but will feed on small reptiles, rodents, and other large insects.

Striped Kingfisher by @Francesco Veronesi from Italy

They will often swoop down on their prey and take it back to the nest to feed and will thrash them vigorously against hard surfaces before feeding.

The striped kingfisher prefers open savannah, dry bush, thorn scrub, and woodlands, but they tend to avoid farmed lands.

It is spread throughout the country except in the North Eastern part which generally tends to be very dry.

14. Secretary bird


A beautifully striking tall bird, the secretary bird is a very good flier but prefers hunting on foot and spending a lot of its time on the ground.

These birds have a preference for hunting snakes and have developed techniques for handling these venomous animals, usually working in pairs and stomping on them with a lot of force.

Their diet is wide though and includes mammals, tortoises, young birds, eggs, lizards, and insects.

Secretary-Bird

They have a head devoid of feathers though not bald like vultures, an orange-red face, black flight, and thigh feathers with the rest of the body being mostly grey.

The secretary bird will mostly be found in open grassland and savannah habitats where they can hunt and stalk their prey terrestrially.

The secretary bird can be found in the majority of the national parks and game reserves in the country such as Tsavo, Maasai Mara, Amboseli, and Meru.

15. Lilac-breasted roller


The lilac-breasted Roller is a beautiful stunning bird known for its breathtaking aerobatic displays during the mating season.


It is a large-headed chunky bird with a lilac-colored breast, a green spring crown, and rusty cheeks, the upper part of the wing is red to brown while the lower underside is turquoise trimmed with blue, and its tails are forked ending in long streamers.

lilac-breasted-roller

These birds are quite fearless for their size, and their diet ranges from insects, snails, millipedes, centipedes, scorpions, spiders, slow-moving lizards, snakes, and chameleons.

These birds are in most cases absent from places devoid of trees and will be found in open savannahs and woodland areas. They are abundant throughout the country.

16. Marabou stork


The marabou stork is a large wading bird reaching a wingspan of 3.7 m, a height of 1.5 m, and weighing about 9 kg.

These birds are massive and are easily recognizable by their bare neck and head, white underparts, black back, legs and wings, neck ruff, pick throat gular, and large bill.

Just like vultures, these birds have bare necks and heads to help them keep clean as they scavenge in rotting waste and feeding on carcasses.

A peculiar habit of marabou storks is defecating on their exposed legs during hot hours of the day as a means of regulating body temperature.

MARABOU-STORK

These birds can be found in arid and wet habitats near human settlements particularly due to the proximity to garbage dumps and landfills.

They can be found throughout the country in urban places, near landfills, and in wooded savannahs.


My Final Conclusion.


I hope that I could inform you enough about all the different birds of Kenya, but if you have any more questions, please feel free to ask them below in the comment section.

You can also join my social media pages below or my Facebook group for more news and pictures and my adventures in Africa;-)

I wish you happy travels!

Kind regards,

Lizzy

6 thoughts on “The 16 Best Birds Of Kenya – A Toplist”

  1. Thank you for this post over the different birds in Kenya.  I won’t lie, I really chuckled when I read about the Superb Starling.  It’s amazing how the male and female will interact with one another to build a family and home.  I guess, in some sense, the male gets “jealous” huh?  I think these birds are just cute and amazing.  I have never even heard of them before now!

    Reply
    • Hi Jessie!

      Haha, yes that was funny to write about as well,sometimes animals are just like people, no? 

      thanks for your comment!

      Kind regards,

      Lizzy

      Reply
  2. One of the places i wish to visit has always been Kenya!

    We have seen it on the Amazing Race and it’s such a beautiful place.

    All these birds I’ve never heard of before… except the Goliath Heron.

    The Goliath Heron is the world’s largest heron and i learned about that in school

    Thank you for such an informative post. I cant wait to see this in real life!

    Reply
    • Hi Lorenz!

      Thank you for your comment and the compliments;-)

      I hope you will visit Kenya soon and I wish you happy travels!

      Kind regards,

      Lizzy

      Reply
  3. Lizzy,

    Thank you sharing your amazing blog. Your color schemes, your variety of birds, and your extraordinary love and passion for Africa is very obvious. I have a few friends from Kenya, and they are all very charm, so I fully understand your infatuation. And, why not.

    The people of Africa must be very happy that you are among them. I commend you for the time and effort you take to develop this amazing blog. I also admire your incredible understanding, love, compassion and kindness. Plus, you have a deep connection to the nature, the people and spirit of a beautiful country.

    Rachele

    Reply
    • Hello Rachele!
      Thank you so much for your lovely comment and yes, I sure am taking my time to write about everything from Africa, as I love everything about it! Especially nature, people, and culture. Did you know that I wanted to be a biologist when I was young? But then sadly I got ill and couldn’t go on with my studies. But I still am fascinated by the nature of Africa 😉
      Thank you so much, this motivates me to go on with my blog!
      Lizzy

      Reply

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