The Maasai Mara is more famous for its amazing wildlife than its avian assets, but the reserve features a number of habitats conducive to great bird watching.
Periods of high rainfall from November to June cause the hilly grasslands to erupt into life and the richly forested areas surrounding the Mara River are another popular habitat for hundreds of birds. Add to this Acacia woodland, swamps, non-deciduous thickets, rocky escarpments and thorny scrub and you have a veritable ornithological paradise.
Water is not a problem here either with two permanent rivers, the Mara and Talek, flowing through the reserve. Each habitat is a treasure trove for the avid birder and likely to produce desirable sightings. Approximately 450 species of birds, including 46 species of raptor, have been recorded in the Maasai Mara, from tiny sunbirds to lanky ostriches.
Secretary birds, kori bustards and the turkey-sized ground hornbills frequent the grasslands, along with their smaller neighbours such as crowned plovers. Seasonal visitors, the white storks, pop in for the summer and crowned cranes put on spectacular courtship displays amongst the rolling plains before adjourning to the swamps to breed.
Saddle-billed storks dance and dip elegantly around the outskirts of the swamps, which are full of their favourite meal; catfish. Yellow-billed storks and sacred ibis are known to hunt side by side, while the goliath heron, grey heron, black-headed heron and great white egret also favour the swamp habitat.
The Musiara Marsh is the sole breeding spot in Kenya for the rufous-bellied heron, and the only place in Mara where the endangered Madagascar squacco can be spotted between October and May every year. Seven species of kingfisher are found along the river, including both the giant kingfisher and the pygmy kingfisher, and birders should keep a sharp look out for Ross’s turaco and Schalow’s turaco along the edges of the riverine forest.
Vultures, seven different species of them, are a common sighting, and Mara presents a smorgasbord of raptors including the bateleur, martial and tawny eagles, as well as pale chanting goshawks, augur buzzards and black-chested snake eagles.
- Subscribe to our newsletter.