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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow-breasted Apalis (Apalis flavida)

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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 can be true for areas like Nairobi national park, Naivasha, Lake Nakuru, Masai Mara and Amboseli.

The much sort after Apalis is the Karamoja Apalis Apalis karamojae which is a range-restricted species, is found in Masai Mara national Reserve where acacia drepanolobium dominate the vegetation. Taita Apalis Apalis fuscigularis is a globally threatened species is endemic to Taita Hills in South East Kenya. Grey, Chesnut-throated and Black-throated Apalis are easy to pick species in montane dominated habitat of central Kenya e.g Mt.Kenya, Aberdare, Mau forest. While Buff-throated and Black-collared Apalis is commonly recorded in Kakamega forest, the only remnant tropical rain forest patch in Kenya.

 

Fan-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes axillaris)

Fan-tailed Widowbird (Euplectes axillaris)

Photo@Tony Crocetta

This is an adult male fan-tailed widowbird, Euplectes axillaris, a member of the avian family Ploceidae, the weaver birds. One of its cousins is the red-billed quelea, Quelea quelea, the most abundant bird in the world.This species has an extremely large range, so incidence of you spotting it while birding in Kenya is very high. They exhibit sexual dimorphism and female appears brown, with the distinctive red-shoulders which clear when the bird air-bone.
In Kenya this species is mostly seen in Masai Mara, mostly a long the northern part of the reserve around the Musiara Swamp.

Bar-Tialed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum)

Bar-Tialed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum)
Stratton Hatfield

 

The Bar-Tailed Trogon is a stunning secretive long tailed forest bird that sits motionless for long periods often high in the canopy.It is similar to the more widespread Narina Trogon  found both in Forest and bushlands, but with blue breast band and barred tail.

The Bar-Tailed Trogon has the following features that aid identification.The adult bird has dark green and red plumage with a blue band across the breast.From behind the Bar-Tailed Trogon has a narrow tail with black and white edges while underneath the tail is entirely barred.That’s where it gets its name from.The adult female has dull brown head and breast while the immature ones have pale-tipped wing coverts. Due to its secretive nature, the bird is rarely seen in location like Kakamega forest, Kieni Forest, Mt.Kenya and Aberadare National Park.

 

 

 

 

Egyptian Vulture (Neophron percnopterus)

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Photo@Michael Sammut

The Egyptian Vulture is the smallest of all the African Vultures.This vulture flies with more wingbeats than most vultures, but takes off much more gracefully, as it is built lighter and smaller.  Once gliding, the bird holds its wings flat, shifting them very little.  The bird posesses great endurance, and is able to fly up to 70 kilometers in search of food.Egyptian vultures are specialists in egg-eating.  They are among the only known birds in the world to use stones as tools.  They will repeatedly strike at an abandoned ostrich egg with stones, then use their beak to enlarge the hole and penetrate membrane.  This behavior is not instinctive, but learned from other vultures, as the species is very intelligent.

This species of vulture is a very adaptable, inhabiting various habitat types, and slowly estblishing territories closer and closer to humans. That is the reason they are mostly affected my human poisoning of vulture using Furudan, a lethal insecticide.  In Kenya they are found in mostly in Wider Tsavo East and West National Park,where this photo was taken.Other than that there records of the species from Maasai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Amboseli, Samburu and Meru National Parks.

Golden-winged Sunbird (Nectarinia reichenowi)

Photo@Jacqui Harrington

Golden-winged Sunbird has a bright yellow tail and wings, the shoulders are dark gray, the dark gray extending to the nape and throat, while the head and downturned beak are lighter gray. The tail is long and ends in two long, very narrow parallel feathers.These birds are found in East Africa; Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.Golden-winged sunbirds live in grassland, bamboo thickets, and tropical mountain forest.

In Kenya this species if found in Lake Nakuru and Naivasha,Nyahururu,Mt.Kenya and Aberdare National Park.