10 Places for Birding in Nairobi, Kenya – Kenya is an ideal destination for birders. The country’s endemic birds are something to behold while the migratory bird species give birdwatchers the chance to observe the birds in their natural habitats. Kenya is certainly a birding location for everyone. Almost 1100 bird species have been recorded in Kenya, nearly twice the total number of birds in Europe. This in itself is sufficient for any birdwatcher to come to Kenya for a birding holiday.
As a destination, Kenya is rich in biodiversity hidden almost in every corner of the country. The clandestine treasures attractions that are not only easily accessible but also offer highly gratifying experiences. A good number of endemic and near-endemic bird species can easily be seen on a two-week birding tour. These birds are especially sought-after as they only occur within the country or marginally beyond. The European migrants are present from August to April.
Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, offers a couple of places that are close enough and tend to be both productive and rewarding in the numbers of bird species seen or recorded. An informative guided birding tour will introduce you to the feathered fauna of the Kenya birds that are interesting and, beautiful.
- Located south of the city, is the Nairobi National Park. This is Kenya’s first game reserve and the only protected area in the world that sits so close to a nation’s capital city. There is an abundance of bird species to be found in this park, with more than 400 bird species being listed.
As in most national parks in Kenya, access by foot is restricted, being limited to picnic sites, such the Impala Observation Point, Mokoyeti Cliff, Hippo Pools Nature Trails, Ivory Burning site.
The park provides a convenient starting point for any bird watcher, based on it proximity from the city center. Nairobi National Park is really a birdwatching haven and you can see an amazing selection of birds throughout the year.
Although not so big in size, the park is quite diverse in habitats. Open plains, grasslands, wetlands and scattered acacia trees dominate the parks habitats. Other parts of the park include a highland forest, rocky gorges, broken bush, and riverine forest. The varied habitats attracts an excellent selection of bird species. These habitats can be divided into natural and man-made dams and wetlands, open grassy plains, bush country, rock gorges riverine woodland, and upland forest.
Best Birding Hotspots in Nairobi National Park
Athi Basin Dam Circuit
This route coupled with Hippo pools and an ox-bow lake is a rewarding area, it is a good place to see bustards, raptors, waders, and larks. The Dam has extensive muddy margins which attract a variety of waders and water birds for the better parts of the year
This area consists of lush scrub bordering the Athi River, with adjacent Yellow-barked Acacias woodland. A well-trod nature trail allows access along the river through much of the woodland. Birding hours are productive early morning and late afternoon.
This viewpoint over the wooded Mbagathi river gorge, offers views of a variety of woodland birds. It is the best place to observe the shy and skulking African Finfoot, Snowy-headed Robin-chat, Rock Hryax, Olive Baboon, Leopard, Bushbuck, Black Rhino, Martial Eagle.
Kisembe forest covers the highland section of the park and is readily accessible. The birds that may be seen here include Emerald Cuckoo, Hartlaub’s Turaco, African Crowned Eagle nesting, Thick-billed Cuckoo, Narina Trogon, Olive Pigeon, Green Pigeon, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Grey-olive Greenbul, and Violet-backed Starling.
A full day birding excursion in Nairobi National could yield more than 150 bird species, but it is advisable to start early enough and have a knowledgeable bird guide who also knows the park’s birds species well.
- Lake Magadi
At 600 meters above sea level, Lake Magadi is one of the hottest places in Kenya and the world’s second-largest trona deposit. Magadi receives less than 500 mm of rainfall and has an average temperature of 20°C varying between 15°C and 41°C. In addition, having an evaporation rate at 3500 mm annually contributes to the high concentration of the minerals in the lake.
For astronomy lovers, the whole stretch of Magadi Road from Corner Baridi is very beautiful for stargazing in the evening, in a clear sky, Uranus, the Orion, the Pleiades-the Seven Sisters, and Nebula are seen perfectly. Also, planets Venus, Mars, the bright one, and the red one Saturn may be observed well if the weather permits.
The road to Magadi offers numerous birding stopovers along its stretch. It is the ideal spot for a birders who have a few days to spare in the city, or those with a connecting flight, and have a few hours to spare. The first stop of birding here is at the Corner Baridi, which is at the southern end of Ngong Hills. This is a dry, windy, and rather cold in the mornings. While here, one has excellent views of the Great Rift Valley and Nairobi City, further down, are stunning views of Olesukut and Olorgesailie mountains, which are breathtakingly amazing!
From this spot, the birds that are likely to be spotted in the plains below, and atop the acacia trees dotting the area are: Grassland Pipit, Augur Buzzard, Red-faced Crombec, African Citril, Abyssinian Wheatear, plus many other interesting bird species. As one starts a downhill descent, the vegetation and altitude changes to more acacia bushes and woodland. This can be done on foot, where it is possible to encounter the rare Pringle’s Puffback and Zanzibar Greenbul’s singing.
Driving further down, is Ol Kejo River which is mostly dry and the perfect place to sight the Ashy Cisticola, Mouse-colored Penduline Tit, and Buff Crested Bustard. Other species to be seen around here are the Somali Bunting and Tiny Cisticola.
A short distance further down is a community borehole, where one is likely to encounter the Taita Fiscal, and the Kori Bustard In the adjacent plains. Two-banded and Three-banded Coursers are also likely sightings. Other species also include, Red-fronted Prinia , White-throated Bee-eaters, Swahili Sparrow, the resident Magadi Plover, Chestnut -banded Plover, Little Egrets, flocks of Lesser Flamingos, Gull-billed Terns, Pied Avocets, White-winged Black Terns, Cape Teals, Eastern Chanting and Gabar Goshawks. Above in the sky, the Black-chested Snake Eagle may also be seen. On a good day, more than 100 bird species can be recorded. Magadi Road and the Lake Birding can be organized any time of the year.
- Gatamaiyu Forest
Gatamaiyu is part of the larger Kikuyu Escarpment Forest. It covers an area of 376.2 square kilometers. Other forest blocks that form Kikuyu Escarpment Forest includes; Kereita, Uplands, Kinale, Kamae, Kieni, Raggia, and Kijabe. Gatamaiyu Forest covers an area of 47.2 square kilometers of which 75 percent is indigenous forest, eight percent is exotic forest, and the rest is bamboo, scrublands, and some green farmlands.
Gatamaiyu Forest’s altitude is between 1800- 2700 meters above sea level, and its topography is jagged with many steep-sided valleys containing raging streams. Gatamaiyu Forest is one of the Key Biodiversity Areas in Kenya, with about 138 species of birds recorded in and around the forest, of which 31 are forest specialists and 20 are considered rare. About 39 of Kenya’s 67 Afro tropical highlands biome bird species occur in the Gatamaiyu. The forest is home to the globally threatened Abbott’s Starling, the smallest of the starlings.
The weather in the forest is quite comfortable, and most of the birding tour involves walking along the well-maintained nature trails inside the forest. Most of the observations are done by relying on bird sounds, and therefore require lots of patience and expertise.
Observation of species begins as soon as one exits the Nakuru – Naivasha highway. One should be on the lookout for the African Stonechat, Cape Crows, Augur Buzzard, Hunter’s Cisticola, Golden-winged Sunbird, Black Saw-wing, White-eye Slaty Flycatcher, Tacazze, Malachite, Eastern and Northern Double-collared, Variable, Golden-winged, Olive, Collared, Bronze, Scarlet-chested, Amethyst, and Green-headed Sunbirds.
Gatamaiyu Forest is also home to restricted-range bird species; Jackson Francolin, Hunter’s Cisticola, As well as a significant number of regionally-threatened bird species including; African Green Ibis, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, African Crowned Eagle, and Red-chested Owlet.
It is advisable to have comfortable hiking shoes, as well as bringing along an insect repellent. A rain jacket is recommended too, as the weather in the forest can change unexpectedly. Gatamaiyu forest birding tour is reasonable leisurely paced, suitable for any age bracket, and available daily throughout the year.
- Manguo Swamp
Located 30 minutes away from Nairobi, along the Nairobi – Naivasha road, is a fresh water wetland called Manguo Swamp. This is the perfect spot to sight a variety of waterfowl including the localized Maccoa Duck , which has been listed as ‘near threatened’ on the IUCN red list. Manguo Swamp freshwater is an attraction for water birds and other fresh water species.
Rare Palearctic migrants’ ducks such as Gadwall and Ferruginous have been also recorded here. This swamp is also a breeding ground for the Grey-crowned Cranes. Other species to be seen here are Malachite Sunbird, the Golden-winged Sunbird, Eastern and Northern Sunbirds are easily seen. Raptors such as the Augur Buzzard are also normally seen hovering above searching for mole rats below, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle has been recorded too.
The freshwater is a magnet for the water birds and other highland species such as the Malachite Sunbird, Hunters Cisticola, Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle, Migrant species including, Spotted Crake, Southern Pochard, Northern Shoveler & Pintail, Garganey have all been recorded.
- Paradise Lost
Discovered in 1996 by coffee farmers in Kiambu, Paradise Lost is an excellent birding hotspot close to Nairobi. This beautiful scenery exudes with such beauty that the name competently benefits the surroundings and nature beauty that oozes with beautiful natural surroundings. On a good day, more than 100 species of birds can be sighted at the Paradise Lost.
Common among them being; Little Grebe, Great Cormorant, Reed Cormorant, African Darter, Little Bittern, Knob-billed Duck, African Black Duck, African Fish Eagle, Osprey, African Goshawk, Augur Buzzard, Buff-spotted Flufftail, African Green Pigeon. Paradise Lost is the best place in Nairobi to see the rare or range-restricted Grey-olive Greenbul
- Karura Forest
Situated in the northern part of Nairobi city, Karura Forest sits on 1,041 hectares of land, making it one of the largest urban gazetted forests in the world. Karura Forest offers a pleasant eco-friendly birding opportunities with over 50 km of trails.
Birding here is done on foot, an experience which brings a sense of calm and is a great way to connect with nature. More than 200 bird species have been recorded in Karura forest. Its tranquil nature, grants encounters with amazing forest birds in rapid sequence. A birding walk of two hours in this forest can yield colorful and interesting recordings of birds of close to a hundred.
Karura Forest bird species include; Singing Cisticola, African Goshawk, African Crowned Eagle, Augur Buzzard, Brown-chested Alethe, Narina Trogon, Long Crested Eagle, White-backed Duck, Malachite Kingfisher, Hartlaub’s Turaco, White-headed Barbet, Slender-billed Greenbul, African Black Duck, African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Paradise Flycatcher, Grey-crowned Cranes, Spot-flanked Barbet. Recently a Red-chested Flufftail a secretive bird in bogs, swamps, and marshes, has been heard. Two hours birding tour in Karura forest with our experienced guide can yield close to 100 bird species.
- Ngong’ Forest Sanctuary
Ngong’ Forest Sanctuary is one of the only very few forests in the world that exists within a city. Only 6 kilometers from Nairobi’s central business district, the forest is a precious resource for Kenya’s capital city.
The birds of Ngong Forest Sanctuary include birds’ characteristics of the indigenous dry evergreen forest of Nairobi, birds of the surrounding grasslands and gardens, and water birds
African, Grey, Mountain and Yellow Wagtails, Grassland and Tree Pipits, Yellow-throated Longclaws Slender-billed, Cabanis’s and Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Common Bulbul, White-starred Robin, Cape and Ruppell’s Robin-chats, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, Common Stonechat, Northern and Pied Wheatear, Olive Thrush, Yellow-whiskered Greenbul, Crimson-rumped Waxbill, African Fish Eagle, White-headed Barbet, Grosbeak Weaver, Singing Cisticola, Augur Buzzard, African Citril.
- The Nairobi Arboretum
The Nairobi Arboretum is an oasis close to the heart of the city. This 30.4 hectares of wooded landscape, is situated in the Kilimani area, and about 3 km from the city center and adjacent to the Nairobi State House. The Arboretum is one of Nairobi’s few remaining green spaces. It has shaded walkways, picnic lawns, and jogging trails.
Nairobi Arboretum host over 350 species of indigenous and exotic plants, most of which are labeled, home to over 100 species of birds, and a significant population of Sykes and Vervet monkeys. Some of the Nairobi Arboretum Birds species are:
Recently a Purple crested Turaco, a bird never before sighted in Nairobi, was seen and recorded in the Nairobi Arboretum.
- Karen Blixen Gardens
Located in the beautiful and peaceful suburb of Karen, approximately 20 miles from downtown Nairobi, this is one of one of the oldest formal gardens in Kenya with huge jacaranda, candelabra, cactus, bottlebrush, among other trees. Over 200 types of flowers bloom through the year and numerous bird feeders attract hundreds of varieties of birds. Karen Blixen gardens is a great birding site with a variety of unique bird species. The shady trees and shrubbery in the garden provide a lovely avian habitat that attracts birds all year round. The birds around the camp are used to people and this makes viewing them at close range easier than out in the field.
The combination of the riverine habitat which attracts water birds like hamerkops, herons, geese and sandpipers and the shady garden which is a haven for purple grenadiers, weavers, starlings, mousebirds, white-browed robin-chats, sooty chats and scarlet-chested sunbirds makes Karen Blixen Gardens the ideal place to enjoy the wonder of Kenyan ornithology.
- Nairobi National Museum Grounds
When you mention the Nairobi National Museum, what comes to most people’s minds is the exhibits that give a glance into life in the olden days. However, there’s something else that the museum is well known for, it holds- abundant birdlife.
With over 1000 bird species in Kenya, and with over 500 being in Nairobi alone! The museum is a popular habitat not only for local but also migrant species, which take a break here during the winter before returning to Europe/Asia. As such, this is one of the favorite locations amongst birders.
Several species both common and rare have been seen and recorded at the Nairobi National Museum. It’s a stopover for most migrants warblers, uncommon species such as the Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin which is common in coastal areas has been spotted here
Our walk normally begins at the Fisheries Department gate then proceed walking around the Museum property. Where it could take up to 30 minutes before we move from the start point because the birds are out in abundance! While here, you can never miss Black Kites, African Pied Wagtails and the ubiquitous Pied Crows here.
From here, we go either towards the Nature Kenya office or towards Amani Peace Walk while searching for more. They can be extra hard to see when hiding in the bushes, so being familiar with their calls and being patience comes in handy.
Entrust our experts to plan for your Nairobi birding experiences
Are you in Nairobi for a business meeting or one of those big conferences in Kenya. Oluokos Signature birding team is available to organize for you customized memorable birding excursions within Nairobi and birding tours beyond.
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