Category Archives: Bird watching

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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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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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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Yellow-breasted Apalis (Apalis flavida)

Yellow-Breasted Apalis is the commonly encountered Apalis in the field especially if you are birding arid-semi arid areas of Kenya. Its widespread distribution makes it an easy target if you are also birding mid-altitude elevation and in this context it … Continue reading

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Olive Ibis (Bostrychia olivacea)

African Green Ibis as it is mostly known is one of the most infrequent sighted among other species of Ibises we have in Kenya. Sacred, Hadada and Glossy Ibis are easy target to pocket. In Kenya, African Green Ibis is … Continue reading

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Kenya Big Year Birding with Arjan Dwarshuis

After Noah Strycker Big year in Kenya July Last year, Arjan Dwarshuis came for his Big Year in April 16-29 2016.His visit coincided with April rains and therefore,  everything was green and all the Whydahs,Bishops, Widowbirds and Weavers were all … Continue reading

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Kenya Birding Route’s

The possibilities of birding in Kenya are endless, and coming up with a simple birding itinerary will probably cost you less of your time. However, to come up with an excellent birding plan, you need to consider the general security … Continue reading

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