January 23, 2012: Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)

Hello fellow birders!

I am off on a birding adventure for the next few weeks with some guests! I am armed with binoculars, a scope, a Canon Rebel XT, and a panasonic mp3 recorder, with which I hope to capture some special birding moments to share with you.

In the meantime, enjoy the Bird of the Week; this unique and beautiful stork.

One of the tallest species of storks is the Saddle-billed Stork, Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis, which stands up to 58 in. high. It has a large crimson bill with a black band and a triangular yellow frontal shield (or saddle), and has black legs with reddish joints. The overall coloring is black and white–the head, neck, tail and wing-coverts black, the remaining plumage and the flight feathers white. It breeds in sub-Saharan Africa, generally by rivers. The large nest is built of sticks in the tops of tall trees. It lays one egg. It feeds on grasshoppers, fish, frogs and lizards.

Photo © Tony Crocetta

They can either be found in solitary or pairs, they prefer moist habitat of lake shores, swamps and rivers. In Kenya they are widespread and be spotted in areas like Maasai Mara game reserve, Lake Baringo, Nakuru, Naivasha and Lake Victoria, Meru National Park and the coastal strip.

November 30, 2011: Northern Carmine Bee-eater

Nothern Carmine Bee-eater

November 30, 2012  bird is Northern Carmine Bee-eater  Merops nubicus                       (photo@ tony crocetta)

Carmine Bee-eaters are carmine in color, except for its greenish blue head and throat, and the bold black mask-like stripe across their eyes. Their eyes are red and they have a black pointed de-curved beak. Their central tail feathers are elongated. Their legs and feet are blackish brown. The sexes are similar in appearance. It is one of the largest species of Merops at 35cm  long. Young birds lack the elongated central tail feathers and are pinkish brown on the mantle, chest to belly, and flanks.

In Kenya they are passage migrant in the area and its distribution is found in the north western part of Kenya, extending  all the way to coast, in areas around Watamu, Tsavo east, Meru national park, Turkana, Nasolot, Kerio Valley and Lake Baringo.

Northern Carmine bee-eaters hunt mainly by keeping watch for flying insects from a perch. The insect is snapped up in the bill, then the bird returns to the perch, where it beats the prey against the perch until it is inactive. A stinging insect is held near the tip of its tail and rubbed on the perch to be relieved of the venom and sting before being swallowed whole. Besides branches, Carmine Bee-eaters use the backs of game or cattle and even large birds, such as Jacksons Bustard or Storks as animate perches, waiting to catch any insects that they disturb. Carmine Bee-eaters also fly freely to bush fires to prey upon fleeing insects.

For the last 10 years of my birding life, I have never came across any species of bee-eater which fails impress!!! Have a great birding week.

Joe