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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Northern Red Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus)

Northern Red Bishop (Euplectes franciscanus)

photo@Tony Crocetta

Northern Red Bishop is an African finch that are best known for the males’ habit of weaving complex dome nests, as well as their entertaining displays to attract potential females. Bishop species in Kenya are widespread and are better viewed during breeding season when the males are in their bright red and black breeding plumage, which normally happen in Kenya around May to October, mostly after long rains. As he is building the nests, he also performs display flights and fluffs his feathers to attract females to his nests. Once he sees a preference for one or more of the nests, he will concentrate on those and abandon the others. The females will settle down in her chosen nest and personalize it by lining it with soft grasses, plant material and feathers.
The best birding site to watch this is specie in Lake Baringo, where the above photographed was taken. However, other species of Bishops can be seen in other wetland across Kenya including ; Amboseli National Park, Lake Victoria, Mwea rice plantation, Lake Jipe, and Sabaki Delta in Malindi.

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.

White-bellied go-away-bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster)

White-bellied go-away-bird (Corythaixoides leucogaster)

Photo@Jurg Hosang

White-bellied Go-away Bird is one of the two dry land Turacos that we have in Kenya, the other is Bare-faced Go-away Bird.It South Africa they are referred to as Lorries . These birds are non-migratory. They are weak flyers and, therefore, only fly short distances in a dipping motion. They can climb trees and vines and run almost like squirrels over tree limbs. They are often seen single, pairs or small groups. The bird got its name because of its call that sound like “Go Away”. In Kenya this species is commonly found in arid and semi-arid areas and sometimes bushland grassland habitat. White-bellied and Bare-faced Go-Away bird don’t overlap in their distribution in our region.

Bronzy Sunbird (Nectarinia kilimensis)

Bronzy Sunbird (Nectarinia kilimensis)

Photo@Jurg Hosang

Bronzy Sunbird is the commonly seen sunbird in high altitude habitat.This species is sexually dimorphic. The adult male usually have brilliantly colored plumage of shinny green-yellowish breast and all over the entire head, while the belly and back being dark –black while the female has a yellowish belly contrasting with the dark-grey back and wings. The young are duller in coloration.
Sunbirds have long thin down-curved bills and brush tipped tubular tongues – both adaptations to their nectar feeding, although sometimes it take insects particularly during the breeding season to feed their young and to satisfy their own need for increased protein in their diet during this demanding time.
In Kenya, this sunbird is commonly recorded in Nairobi,Mt.Kenya region, Lake Nakuru and Naivasha, Eldoret and Mt.Elgon.