Grey Woodpecker (Dendropicos goertae rhodeogaster)

Grey-headed Woodpecker 1Our bird of the week  is the Grey Woodpecker, race rhodeogaster, which is sometimes considered conspecific with the Ethiopian spodocephalus and known as Grey-headed Woodpecker. This species species was photographed around central Kenya.

In Kenya we have 13 species of Woodpecker and they are amazingly beautiful to watch in the field. Most of the woodpeckers we have here are diamorphic, meaning male look different from the female.Grey-headed Woodpecker

Woodpeckers are known for tapping on tree trunks in order to find insects living in crevices in the bark and to excavate nest cavities. Woodpeckers also have, well, a head for pecking. For one, woodpeckers have tiny brains—just 0.07 ounce. The bigger the brain, the higher the mass and thus the higher the risk of brain injury according to biologist research work, hence the reason why woodpeckers don’t get a headache while pecking.

The woodpecker’s strong, pointed beak acts as both a chisel and a crowbar to remove bark and find hiding insects. It has a very long tongue, up to four inches in some species – with a glue-like substance on the tip for catching insects.

While most birds have one toe pointing back and three pointing forward on each foot, woodpeckers have two sharply clawed toes pointing in each direction to help them grasp the sides of trees and balance while they hammer – this formation is called zygodactal feet. Many woodpecker species also have stiffened tail feathers, which they press against a tree surface to help support their weight.

Woodpeckers live in wooded areas and forest where they tap on tree trunks in order to find insects living in crevices in the bark and to excavate nest cavities. Some species drum on trees to communicate to other woodpeckers and as a part of their courtship behavior. Woodpeckers tap an estimated 8,000-12,000 times per day.

 

White-Starred Robin (Pogonocichla stellata)

White-starred Robin

During our brief two days stay at a pristine montane forest located in the southern part of Mt. Kenya, we came across this eye-catching forest robin. Observing it from the back might appear a little bit dull, but wait until it turns its back to you, and you will be amazed by its bright-yellow breast, its views will surely take your breath away .

On our way up there, we had early on passed through Wajee Nature Park located Mukurweini valley, which is arguably the best site in Kenya to see the endemic Hinde’s Babbler, we managed to steal few excellent views of this iconic species, but missed the African Wood Owl which our guide James as earlier on said it roots at the reserve.

Other than the White-starred Robin, we also managed to record species like; Rameron and Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-fronted Parrot, Olive Ibis, Hartlaub’s Turaco, Ruppell’s Robin-chat, Hunter’s Cisticola, Black-throated, Chestnut-throated and Grey Apalis, Abbott’s and Waller’s Starling, Black-fronted Bush-shrike, Abyssinian Crimsonwing, Oriole Finch and several species of Sunbird.

Once again, birding Mt.Kenya forest reserve is always exciting and rewarding, I will never get enough of this forest .

 

Grey-breasted Spurfowl (Pternistis rufopictus)

Grey-breasted Spurfowl

Grey-breasted Spurpfowl is an endemic of Northern Tanzania where it is common within its tiny range. The photo appearing above was taken in central Serengeti in the month of September 2017.This species is declining owing to habitat loss and human encroachment. It also hybridises with F.leucoscepus.

Bristle-crowned Starling (Onychognathus salvadorii)

Bristle-crowned Starling (Onyghognathus salvadorii)_20180109_064941_75270
Photo by Juhani Vilpo
Bristle-crowned Starling (Onyghognathus salvadorii)_20180109_132451_75660
Photo by Juhani Vilpo

Bristle-crowned Starling is an elegant looking bird appearing mostly in dry bush land  habitat of Samburu, Marsabit and Lake Baringo. It is mostly found in cliffs, gouges and near water.

It is a very large starling with a very long graduating tail and a black forehead with a small cushion bristle forehead feathers. Its overall appprearences is black with reddish-brown primaries. Females have a short-tail and some grayish feathers around the eye and on ear-coverts.Juveniles are duller with only a faint gloss.

Red-collared Widowbird (Euplectes ardens)

RSCN4088

These inhabitant of Kenya high altitudes grassland are known for their long tails and brilliant red badges, both which acts as sexual ornaments. During their breeding season, males spend incredible amount of time doing flight display with single intention of attracting females.

The photo appearing above was taken in Naro Moru River Lodge, located at the base of Mt.Kenya. This species is found throughout Central Kenya, with special emphasis given to open grassland while driving through this region.

The race found in Kenya is Euplectes ardens suahelicus, which apparently also appears in the highlands of Tanzania.

Broad-billed roller (Eurystomus glaucurus)

Broad-billed Roller , Eurystomus glaucurus .

The Broad-billed roller is a beautiful bird to watch during your nature travel in Kenya, and its strikingly yellow billed catches your attention instantly .It  is found in areas around Lake Nakuru national park, Mt.Kenya, Kakamega extending south to Masai Mara game reserve.

Here it is fairly common in savanna, as well as clearings in woodlands. It is a specialist predator, mainly eating swarming termite and ants, as well as beetles and bugs. It mainly nests in unlined cavities in trees 5-15 m above ground. It also nests in holes of barns . It lays 2-4 eggs, timing laying to coincide with the emergence of insects after rain.

Intra-African breeding migrant, mainly breeding in southern Africa before moving north in the non-breeding season. Flocks start to arrive in southern Africa in September, leaving in the period from December to April.

It mainly nests in unlined cavities about 5-15 m above ground, usually in a tree but occasionally in a barn.

Hartlaub’s Turaco (Tauraco hartlaubi)

DSCN0894Hartlaub's TuracoHartlaub's Turaco photo

Hartlaub’s Turaco is a beautiful bird to watch!!! it will surely take your breath away if at all you are seeing it for first time. Hartlaub’s  Turaco dominates the montane forest of Kenya with its range slightly extending to Northern Tanzania and Western Uganda in East Africa.

Hartlaub’s turaco is a spectacularly patterned, medium-sized bird with a strong, curved bill, short, rounded wings and a rather long tail. The vivid plumage of Hartlaub’s turaco, is a product of two unique copper pigments, unknown in any other bird family, or indeed in any other animal group. The adult has a bushy, blue-black crest and a conspicuous red eye-ring, with a distinctive white patch immediately in front of the eye and a white line beneath the eye. Much of the upper body, including the neck, mantle, throat and breast is silky green, while the lower back, folded wings, and tail are an iridescent violet-blue, Visible only in flight, the flight feathers are a striking crimson. Like all Turacos, the feet of Hartlaub’s turaco have a special joint that allows the outer toe to move either forward or backward, an attribute that enables these birds to move acutely through vegetation.

Best location to look for this species in Kenya includes, Mt. Kenya forest reserve, Aberdare National Park, Nairobi National Park, Taita and Tugen Hills. In Kenya , other than the Hartlaub’s  Turaco, we have have Great Blue and Black-billed Turaco restricted to Kakamega tropical rain forest. Others are Ross’s, Purple-crested, Schalow’s, and Fisher’s Turaco.