Unbelievable Birding Opportunities in Kenya

August 8, 2008 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

With an unbelievable variation in habitat and no less than eleven nature reserves, Kenya is a very worthwhile part of the world for birding enthusiasts to visit. The varied habitats ensure that each day of bird-watching is a rewarding adventure, while the hospitable Kenyans ensure that birders have all they need for a memorable trip. Bird watchers can expect to see around 350 species in the space of two weeks, with some specialized birding tours reporting sightings of between 500 and 600 species within a two week period. Clearly there are plenty of birds in Kenya.

Primarily due to its abundant wildlife, Kenya is a popular tourist destination, and there are many different types of organized tours available, with the classic wildlife safari being the most sought after. The main objective of going on a classic wildlife safari is to spot the “Big Five” – lion, elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhino – and while this in itself is exciting, the focus is on the animals and not the birdlife, which can be frustrating for the keen birder.

Appreciating the fact that many people visiting Kenya want to focus on bird watching, a number of tour companies offer specialized birding tours and the trick is to find the tour that is right for you. Do you want to stop and watch the birds in a relaxed manner, seeing how they interact with one another in their natural habitat? Or do you want to spot as many species as possible in the shortest period of time possible? While given the number of species resident in Kenya, the latter may be tempting, the first option is considered by many birding enthusiasts to be the most rewarding. Whichever choice you make, make sure that the tour you pick will suit you.

From a birding point of view, one of the most popular of the eleven reserve areas in Kenya is Lake Baringo, which is situated about 290 kilometers north of Nairobi. It is not uncommon to spot around 300 different species of birds in the Lake Baringo area in a single day. Birding enthusiasts can expect to see Vereaux’s Eagle, Heuglin’s Courser, Three-banded Courser, Lichtenstein’s Sand-grouse, Spotted Thick-knee, Paradise Flycatcher, African Fish Eagle, Marabou Stork, Hemprich’s Hornbill, African Skimmer and much more.

Tsavo is Kenya’s largest game reserve and one of the largest wildlife sanctuaries in the world. In addition to the fascinating wildlife that are resident in Tsavo, birders can look out for Golden-breasted Starlings, Evergreen Forest Warbler, Kenyan Ostrich, Common Ostrich, Somali Ostrich, Hartlaub’s Bustard, Sooty Falcon and Eleonora’s Falcon.

Many of the lodges in Kenya have a resident guide who is knowledgeable with regard to local birds and can give guests an informative tour of the lodge area. The best time for birding is between October and April each year when over 120 Northern hemisphere migrant species arrive for the summer. Between April and October migrants from the southern hemisphere and Madagascar flock to Kenya, many of which are in breeding plumage at that time.

Kenya certainly has plenty to offer birding enthusiasts, and many birders return year after year to explore a new area each time – and are never disappointed.

Is Your Home’s Air Safe for Your Pet Bird?

November 20, 2006 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Birds are very sensitive to fumes in the air. Their excellent respiratory system (they need plenty of oxygen in order to fly) makes them very susceptible to poisons in the air. Even fumes you can’t smell could be fatal to your pet bird.

Coal miners took advantage of birds’ sensitive lungs. They brought caged canaries into the mine shaft. If the canary appeared sick, or even died, the miners knew there were dangerous gasses in the air, such as methane or carbon monoxide. The miners could then escape the poisoned air before they felt the effects themselves.

Keep the coal miners in mind when you breathe the air in your home. Even though you may not be affected by fumes, they could be deadly to your feathered pet. Dangerous fumes include:

  • Airborne cleaning agents
  • Pesticides
  • Smoke
  • Paint fumes
  • Oven-cleaners
  • Fumes from overheated non-stick pans

Be especially aware of fumes in the kitchen. The kitchen is the most dangerous room in the house for your bird. The self-cleaning mode on some ovens releases fumes that can quickly kill pet birds in the house, and fumes from overheated pans with non-stick surfaces, including some frying pans, cookie sheets, and waffle irons.

To keep your bird safe, remove them from the house when using pesticides or strong- cleaning agents. Keep them away from your kitchen. Keep your bird’s area well ventilated, or use air filters.

Tips for keeping your hummingbirds happy

June 6, 2006 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

It’s easy to attract wild hummingbirds to your yard – use red feeders filled with sugar-water. The feeders are available at most gardening and bird seed stores.

What you may not know, however, is that your sugar-water could actually hurt your birds! Follow these two basic guidelines, to ensure the health of your colorful feathered friends:

  • Refresh the sugar-water every 2-4 days- Sugar water can ferment quickly. The hummingbirds will continue to drink it, but the fermented mixture enlarges their livers, causing health problems. Do your iridescent friends a favor, and keep changing the feeder’s water, especially in hot weather. Wash the feeder while you’re at it: use only hot water and a scrub-brush, no soaps.
  • Only use sugar! Avoid red food coloring – it may not be good for the birds. The red colors on the feeder itself should be enough to attract them. Use a simple mixture of four parts water to one part table sugar. Avoid any other sweeteners like honey, which will ferment more quickly.

Don’t have the time to keep cleaning that bird feeder? Consider hanging some flower baskets by your windows instead – fuchsias and petunias are a few hummingbird favorites.

Bird Species: Red Crossbills

May 22, 2006 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

Red Crossbills are brick-red songbirds that specialize in eating pine-cone seeds. They have an unusual bill- the tips cross over each other, almost as if their bill is overgrown. This shape helps them pry open pine cones, to get the seed inside.

These crossbills are found throughout most of North America (and Europe and Asia too). But one Red Crossbill isn’t the same as another – recent research in North America shows that there may be NINE different types, or subspecies…some suggest they’re actually nine different species.

Each type has a different voice, and a different size. Some crossbills with larger bills like to feed on the large cones of pine trees. Other, smaller crossbills have bills that are better for opening little spruce or hemlock cones. These different kinds of crossbills don’t flock together or mate together, as far as researchers know.

These birds live a very nomadic life. Wherever the pinecone crop is richest, that’s where they’ll migrate to – even if that means heading north in the winter. And, unlike most other songbirds, they’re not restricted to nesting in the summer. If there are more pinecone seeds to eat in winter, they’ll build their nests when the snow is falling.

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