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.

 

Northern crombec (Sylvietta brachyura)

Northern Crombec (Sylvietta brachyura)_20180110_082131_75702
Photo by Juhani Vilpo

Northern Crombec is a species of African Warbler. This species is listed on IUCN red list as a near threatened species, but is evaluated as least concern. This species as an incredible short tailed, that sometimes you might tempted to assume that is has no tail. This crombec construct deep pocket shaped nests suspended from a branch and is mostly made of cob web materials .

This is commonly seen alone or in a small group of upto 5 species, but they also found feeding in a mixed flock of species. In Kenya it can easily be seen in arid and semi-arid areas of Samburu national reserve, Lake Baringo, Lake Bogoria, Tsavo East and West national park.

Orange-breasted Bushshrike (Telophorus sulfureopectus)

Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike,Malaconotus
sulfomiopectus,Maanzoni.

Also know as Sulphur-breasted Bush shrike is an easy specie to pick in the field especially if you are birding the dry country side of Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia. It prefers the canopy of acacia tortilis, but its presence is always betrayed by its unmistakable  call.   This Bush shrike main diet is invertebrates.

Another interesting natural history fact about this specie is that it is monogamous, it will only seek a new breeding mate  in the event that his partner dies. The bird lays eggs which are green in colour and number between 1-3. A real beauty in the field.

violet-backed starling (Cinnyricinclus leucogaster)

Violet-backed Starling.Maanzoni.
Photo@Jan F. Van Duinen

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 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

In Kenya, they are found a long riverine vegetation in big dead tree trunks in Machakos, the low areas of Tugen hills, Lake Nakuru and Nairobi national park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taveta Golden Weaver (Ploceus castaneiceps)

Taveta Golden Weaver,Ploceus castaneicepsZiwani-swamp.
Photo@Jan F. Van Duinen

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 lions there as documented in history books had develop a test for human flesh. This is not the case anymore, so during our entire birding game drives inside the park, we had nothing to worry about at all, other than the worry of missing on our target species.

From the sight of fifty million gallons of crystal clear water gushing out of from the under parched lava rock that is the Mzima Springs  to the Shetani  lava flows, Tsavo West is a beautiful, rugged wilderness.

The savannah ecosystem comprises of open grasslands, scrublands, and Acacia woodlands, belts of riverine vegetation and rocky ridges including the Poacher’s Lookout where visitors can see the teeming herds in the plains below.

Tsavo West offers some of the most magnificent game viewing in the world and attractions include elephant, rhino, Hippos, lions, cheetah, leopards, Buffalos, diverse plant and bird species including the threatened corncrake and near threatened Basra Reed Warbler.

Our specific target species were Taveta Golden Weaver, which we easily picked from the swamp in front of our lodge, Ziwani Voyage Camp and Quail Plover which we missed despite the huge effort that we put in searching for this species.

The Taveta Golden Weaver, or Taveta Weaver, is found in Kenya and Tanzania. The sexes are dimorphic . The male is a mostly a bright golden yellow, the head has a reddish ring of various width around it, the bill is black and the feet and legs are pinkish. Females are more of an olive color with pale streaks.

Taveta Golden Weavers live in large colonies and the male builds an oval nest over water. The nests are woven from stems of reeds and grasses. Their diet includes seeds, some corn and grasses.

The male Taveta Golden Weaver uses his beak to weave intricate ovoid nests, usually over water. Females pick a mate based on the male’s skill at weaving. Have fun and keep birding!!

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 species of Sandgrouse  which was on their target list. We had impressive looks of both Black-faced and Lichtenstain’s Sandgrouse, though Black-faced was rather common compared to the latter. But it was Chestnut-bellied Sandgrouse which made our day. This was the most uncommon species among the tree and we had excellent photographic opportunities. DSCN0284

Photo@Joseph Aengwo

Red-billed oxpecker (Buphagus erythrorhynchus)

Red-billed Oxpecker.Buphagus erythrorhynchus.
Photo taken by Jan Van Duinen

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 laterally compressed which helps the birds work their way through the coats of the mammals in a comb-like fashion and to pry out well embedded parasites.

The birds are also known to help clean-up open wounds. What they are after around the open sore is the rotting wound tissue. Oxpeckers are quite efficient at cleaning these lesions.

Their legs are also well adapted to a life spent perched on mammals. The legs are shortened to enable them to grip onto their moving hosts. Powerful toes and sharp nails further benefit the Oxpeckers in their quest to feed and as a spin off keep their mammal hosts’ parasite numbers under control.

The birds are also known to help clean-up open wounds. What they are after around the open sore is the rotting wound tissue. Oxpeckers are quite efficient at cleaning these lesions.

Their legs are also well adapted to a life spent perched on mammals. The legs are shortened to enable them to grip onto their moving hosts. Powerful toes and sharp nails further benefit the Oxpeckers in their quest to feed and as a spin off keep their mammal hosts’ parasite numbers under control.

The Redbilled oxpecker Buphagus erythrorhynchus, is one of only two species of birds in the family Buphagidae. It is a fairly common bird, found in the savannah grassland and semi-arid regions Kenya. The only other species in the Buphagidae family, the yellowbilled oxpecker, is far less common.

Redbilled oxpeckers only occur where there are animal hosts for the species of insects – mostly ticks – that the birds eat. The hosting animals are generally antelope like impala or kudu, or larger mammals such as zebra, giraffe, buffalo and rhino. In farmland areas, the hosts can also be domestic stock such as cattle. Elephants and a few species of small antelope will not tolerate the birds at all.

The Red-billed Oxpecker is a starling sized-bird. Although it is a fairly plain olive-brown with creamy under-parts, the bird is very easy to identify. Adults have totally red beaks and distinctive yellow rings around their bright red eyes. They have strong legs and long, particularly sharp claws which enable them to cling onto the sides and backs of their hosts at precarious angles. They also have short, stiff tails which are used as props. Aside from the colour, it is in the shape and action of their beaks that one sees the biggest differences between the two oxpecker species. The yellow billed oxpecker uses its stout beak to pluck parasites off its hosts. The red billed cousin uses its slimmer, flatter beak in a scissor-like motion to remove its meals. This same sharp beak is also used to peck at any sores or scabs on the host.