Author Archives: kenyabirding

About kenyabirding

I am passionate about ornithology and the environment. I love to bird watch anywhere I can! I am involved with the Lake Baringo Biodiversity Conservation Group and also run an local eco-tourism company Silent Fliers of Kenya Safaris that specializes in birding, Wildlife photography and general wildlife holidays in East Africa

violet-backed starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)

The Violet-backed Starling belongs to the family of birds classified as Sturnidae. This species, also known as the Plum-coloured Starling or Amethyst Starling, is the smallest of the Kenya starlings, reaching only about 18cm in length. It is a successful breeder, and is fortunately not listed as a threatened species.

The sexes are strongly sexually dimorphic, meaning that there is a distinct difference in the appearance of the male and female. The breeding male is brilliantly coloured, with feathers an iridescent shining plum violet colour along the length of is back, wings, face and throat, contrasting with bright white on the rest of the body. Females (and juveniles) are a streaky brown and buff colour, and can easily be mistaken for a thrush.
Less noisy than other starlings, this bird is a monogamous species, and will remain so unless its mate dies. Under those circumstances it will seek a new mate in replacement. These starlings are normally seen in small flocks in summer, just before the breeding season when they will break off into pairs to nest.

Violet-backed starlings will nest in cavities such as tree holes high off the ground, holes in river banks, even in old hollow fence posts, lining the nests with dung, leaves and other plant material. They have been known to reuse nests in successive breeding seasons. The oval, spotted blue eggs are incubated for a period of roughly 2 weeks. It is believed that only the female incubates the eggs, but both adults feed the hatchlings.

Like all starlings, this species is omnivorous, eating both fruit such as mulberries and figs, and insects such as butterflies, bees, wasps and locusts. They are adept at catching prey both on the wing or off tree branches. When termites swarm, the violet-backed starlings can be found in abundance, gorging themselves on these insects, taking their prey back to a secluded area to tear and consume it.

These exquisite bird are intra-African migrants, found in much of sub-Saharan Africa – typically in woodland, grassland or riverine areas. They are eagerly awaited, common summer visitors whose brightly coloured arrival is greeted with great enthusiasm by rangers and guests at Sabi Sabi. The species moves north in winter, leaving us all longing for its bright flashes of violet colour to once more appear. Continue reading

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Taveta Golden Weaver (Ploceus castaneiceps)

Over the Weekend we went birding to the western side of Tsavo West national park. it is an huge national park covering over 9000 sq.km. The park was made famous by mane less man-eaters  Lions of the Tsavo and the … Continue reading

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Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse (Pterocles exustus)

I recently accompanied a French couple who were birding Kenya for 18 days to Samburu game reserve, it was pretty dry there when we visited but still the birding was stunning and we managed to pick up all the three … Continue reading

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Red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus)

Oxpeckers will sit on certain mammals and target the ticks and other small parasites found on the skin and in the coats of these animals. Oxpeckers’ bills are especially adapted to their lifestyle. The bills are pointed as well as … Continue reading

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African Water Rail (Rallus caerulescens)

Over the weekend,  I was requested by a friends of mine David to joined him for a birding day trip to Nairobi national park. At 6:00 am,  We meet with David at the base of his apartment in Lavington, Kilimani … Continue reading

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Grey-Headed Bush-Shrike (Malaconotus blanchoti)

Grey-headed Bush-shrike is the biggest Bush-shrike in our region. It is a very colorful bird to watch and know to be flying low in the vegetation, when hunting. It generally occupies wooded areas, especially Miombo, Acacia and riverine woodland, but … Continue reading

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A Rare Encounter with Dwarf Bittern (Ixobrychus sturmii) in Tsavo West.

On a recent birding trip I guided, My clients and I were lucky enough to have encountered a rare Dwarf Bittern (Ixobrychus sturmii). This was an Eastern- Coastal Kenya design trip and took us to Taita Hill, Lake Jipe, Kitobo … Continue reading

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