Squacco Heron (Ardeola ralloides)

Photo@Jurg Hosang

The squacco heron is a migrant, wintering in Kenya. This is a stocky species with a short neck, short thick bill and buff-brown back. In summer, adults have long neck feathers. Its appearance is transformed in flight, when it looks very white due to the colour of the wings. The squacco heron’s breeding plumage is recognized by sky blue bill as clearly seen in the photo above with a black tip. It prefers marshy wetlands as a breeding site. The birds nest in small colonies, often with other wading birds, usually on platforms of sticks in trees or shrubs. This species being a terrestrial bird, is mostly seen in lakes, river valleys, swamps and other permanent or temporary freshwater wetlands in Kenya Rift Valley, Lake Victoria rice fields, Central highland ponds and on both north east and south cost of Kenya.

African Darter (Anhinga rufa)

African Darter (Anhinga rufa)

Photo@Tony Crocetta

In Kenya, African Darter is the most commonly seen aquatic bird in Kenya wetland after Long-tailed Cormorant. It frequents fresh and brackish waters, fringed with vegetation, especially near fresh water lakes in Kenya Rift Valley lakes. This species is often seen perched on bare branches or stumps above the water. If alarmed, it drops vertically into the water. It needs to dry its plumage after fishing with wings outstretched.
African Darter dives for long periods, to search for aquatic preys. It swims with the body under water, allowing ambushing prey items. It propels itself with its webbed feet. It spears the fish in flank, and brings it to the surface, where it tosses it into the air, catches it with the bill and swallows it head first.
Anhinga Darter nests and roosts with other species, such as Egrets, Herons and Cormorants.
African Darter male has crown and back of the neck black and chestnut. Rest of the neck is chestnut, with conspicuous white stripe from the sides of the face to mid-neck. Its plumage is glossy black, streaked with white and silver on wings and mantle, and prominently on elongated black scapulars’ feathers. It has long black tail, held fanned when resting. Legs and webbed feet are brown. Female and immature are paler than male, mostly buffy-brown. Female has brown crown and upper neck. She has less distinct white stripe on the neck sides. Chicks are covered with white down. Darters are sometimes referred to as “snake bird”, because it swims very low, with only head and neck above the water.
In Kenya it is commonly seen in Lake Baringo.

Vitelline Masked Weaver ( Ploceus vitellinus)

Vitelline Masked Weaver ( Ploceus vitellinus)

Photo@Tony Crocetta

Vitelline Masked Weaver is a common wevar that is at home in and around habitat in the dry acacia belt. It is a species that is similar to large Black-headed Weaver, but can be easily separated given a good view. Although both species have red-eyes and warm-chestnut border to their black faced-mask, the black on the male Vitelline’s head does not extend onto the crown or down onto the breast, and it’s back does not have strong black “tramline” as in Black-headed Weaver.
The female Vitalline shows a pale narrow bill compared to the dark, heavy bill of the female Black-headed weaver, and the breast and flanks are generally a warm buff contrasting with a white belly.
In Kenya huge concentration of this species can be recorded in dry areas a round Lake Bogoria and Baringo, Kerio Valley, Samburu National reserve, Meru National Park and Tsavo West and East Parks.

Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus)

Spotted Eagle-Owl (Bubo africanus)

Photo@Michael Sammut

Spotted Eagle-Owl is medium to large owl with prominent ear tufts. Upper-parts dusky brown with pale spots, under-parts whitish and finely barred. Facial disk whitish to pale ochre. A more rufous morph exists in more arid areas.It very similar to Greyish Eagle-Owl, only that has bright-yellow eyes, and in Kenya is mostly found in the southern part of the equator. It prefers Savannah, rocky outcrops, scrub, open and semi-open woodland, semi-deserts.

Birding hotspot where this species can be recorded include;Amboseli, Tsavo West and East National Park, Meru, Kitui, Maasai Mara and the greater area of Lake Victoria.

Crested Guinea Fowl (Guttera pucherani)

Photo@Raymond Galea

Crested Guinea fowl has a wide range in Kenya and northern Tanzania. In Kenya it is found mostly in western tropical rain forest remnant of Kakamega forest and Lake Manyara national park in Northern Tanzania, Body plumage is much like a typhical Guinea Fowl, with whitish spot; most recognizable features is the short, curly “mop” of black feathers on the head, the rest of the head and neck are bare with blue skin, red skin arond the eyes and on the neck;eyes are red;legs dark brown to black.The species is mono morphic.