List of birds of Kenya

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The lilac-breasted roller and the rooster are Kenya's national birds.

This is a list of the bird species recorded in Kenya. The avifauna of Kenya include a total of 1132 species, of which seven are endemic, six have been introduced by humans and three are rare or accidental. One species listed is extirpated in Kenya and is not included in the species count. Twenty-three species are globally threatened.

This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 5th edition with some changes following the Handbook of the Birds of the World, including lumping Kandt's waxbill with the black-headed waxbill and the southern citril with the African citril. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts for Kenya.

The following tags have been used to highlight several categories. Not all species fall into one of these categories. Those that do not are commonly occurring, native species.

  • (A) Accidental - a species that rarely or accidentally occurs in Kenya
  • (E) Endemic - a species endemic to Kenya
  • (I) Introduced - a species introduced to Kenya as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions
  • (Ex) Extirpated - a species that no longer occurs in Kenya although populations exist elsewhere


Table of contents

Non-passerines: Ostriches • Grebes • Albatrosses • Shearwaters and petrels • Storm-petrels • Tropicbirds • Pelicans • Boobies and gannets • Cormorants • Darters • Frigatebirds • Bitterns, herons and egrets • Hammerkop • Storks • Shoebill • Ibises and spoonbills • Flamingos • Ducks, geese and swans • Osprey • Hawks, kites and eagles • Secretary-bird • Falcons • Pheasants and partridges • Guineafowl • Buttonquails • Cranes • Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots • Sungrebe and finfoots • Bustards • Jacanas • Painted snipe • Crab plover • Oystercatchers • Avocets and stilts • Thick-knees • Pratincoles and coursers • Plovers and lapwings • Sandpipers and allies • Skuas and jaegers • Gulls • Terns • Skimmers • Sandgrouse • Pigeons and doves • Parrots and allies • Turacos • Cuckoos and anis • Barn owls • Typical owls • Nightjars • Swifts • Mousebirds • Trogons • Kingfishers • Bee-eaters • Typical rollers • Hoopoes • Woodhoopoes • Hornbills • Barbets • Honeyguides • Woodpeckers and allies

Passerines: Broadbills • Pittas • Larks • Swallows and martins • Wagtails and pipits • Cuckoo-shrikes • Bulbuls • Thrushes and allies • Cisticolas and allies • Old World warblers • Old World flycatchers • Wattle-eyes • Monarch flycatchers • Babblers • Chickadees and titmice • Treecreepers • Penduline tits • Sunbirds and spiderhunters • White-eyes • Old World orioles • Shrikes • Bushshrikes and allies • Helmetshrikes • Drongos • Crows, jays, ravens and magpies • Starlings • Weavers and allies • Waxbills and allies • Indigobirds • Buntings, sparrows, seedeaters and allies • Finches and allies • Sparrows

See also       References

Ostriches[edit]

The ostrich is a common sight in Kenya's game reserves.

Order: Struthioniformes. Family: Struthionidae

The ostrich is a flightless bird native to Africa. It is the largest living species of bird. It is distinctive in its appearance, with a long neck and legs and the ability to run at high speeds.

Grebes[edit]

The little grebe is the most frequently sighted grebe in Kenya

Order: Podicipediformes. Family: Podicipedidae

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. There are 20 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Kenya.

Albatrosses[edit]

Order: Procellariiformes. Family: Diomedeidae

The albatrosses are among the largest of flying birds, and the great albatrosses from the genus Diomedea have the largest wingspans of any extant birds. There are 21 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Shearwaters and petrels[edit]

Order: Procellariiformes. Family: Procellariidae

The procellariids are the main group of medium-sized "true petrels", characterised by united nostrils with medium septum and a long outer functional primary. There are 75 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in Kenya.

Storm-petrels[edit]

Order: Procellariiformes. Family: Hydrobatidae

The storm-petrels are relatives of the petrels and are the smallest seabirds. They feed on planktonic crustaceans and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. The flight is fluttering and sometimes bat-like. There are 21 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Kenya.

Tropicbirds[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Phaethontidae

Tropicbirds are slender white birds of tropical oceans, with exceptionally long central tail feathers. Their heads and long wings have black markings. There are 3 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Pelicans[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Pelecanidae

Pelicans are large water birds with a distinctive pouch under their beak. As with other members of the order Pelecaniformes, they have webbed feet with four toes. There are 8 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Boobies and gannets[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Sulidae

The sulids comprise the gannets and boobies. Both groups are medium to large coastal seabirds that plunge-dive for fish. There are 9 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Kenya.

Cormorants[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium to large coastal, fish-eating seabirds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage colouration varies, with the majority having mainly dark plumage, some species being black-and-white and a few being colourful. There are 38 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Darters[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Anhingidae

Darters are often called "snake-birds" because of their long thin neck, which gives a snake-like appearance when they swim with their bodies submerged. The males have black and dark-brown plumage, an erectile crest on the nape and a larger bill than the female. The females have much paler plumage especially on the neck and underparts. The darters have completely webbed feet and their legs are short and set far back on the body. Their plumage is somewhat permeable, like that of cormorants, and they spread their wings to dry after diving. There are 4 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

  • Darter, Anhinga melanogaster

Frigatebirds[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes. Family: Fregatidae

Frigatebirds are large seabirds usually found over tropical oceans. They are large, black-and-white or completely black, with long wings and deeply forked tails. The males have coloured inflatable throat pouches. They do not swim or walk and cannot take off from a flat surface. Having the largest wingspan-to-body-weight ratio of any bird, they are essentially aerial, able to stay aloft for more than a week. There are 5 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Bitterns, herons and egrets[edit]

The Goliath heron, the biggest species of heron, is found on many large bodies of water in Kenya, this one at Lake Baringo.

Order: Ciconiiformes. Family: Ardeidae

The Ardeidae family contains the bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills, members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted. There are 61 species worldwide and 18 species which occur in Kenya.

Hammerkop[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes. Family: Scopidae

The hammerkop is a medium-sized bird with a long shaggy crest. The shape of its head with a curved bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, hence its name. Its plumage is drab-brown all over.

Storks[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes. Family: Ciconiidae

Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked, wading birds with long, stout bills. Storks are mute, but bill-clattering is an important mode of communication at the nest. Their nests can be large and may be reused for many years. Many species are migratory. There are 19 species worldwide and 8 species which occur in Kenya.

Shoebill[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes. Family: Balaenicipididae

The Shoebill is a large bird related to the storks. It derives its name from its massive shoe-shaped bill.

Ibises and spoonbills[edit]

The sacred ibis, shown here in Nanyuki, is widespread near water and even breeds in Nairobi.

Order: Ciconiiformes. Family: Threskiornithidae

Threskiornithidae is a family of large terrestrial and wading birds which includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings with 11 primary and about 20 secondary feathers. They are strong fliers and despite their size and weight, very capable soarers. There are 36 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Kenya.

Flamingos[edit]

Enormous flocks of lesser flamingos visit the Rift Valley lakes (here Lake Nakuru).

Order: Phoenicopteriformes. Family: Phoenicopteridae

Flamingos are gregarious wading birds, usually 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m) tall, found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Flamingos filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume and, uniquely, are used upside-down. There are 6 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Ducks, geese and swans[edit]

Order: Anseriformes. Family: Anatidae

Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating. There are 131 species worldwide and 25 species which occur in Kenya.

Osprey[edit]

Order: Falconiformes. Family: Pandionidae

The Pandionidae family contains only one species, the osprey. The osprey is a medium-large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution.

Hawks, kites and eagles[edit]

Order: Falconiformes. Family: Accipitridae

Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey and includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight. There are 233 species worldwide and 57 species which occur in Kenya.

The augur buzzard or jackal buzzard is common in savannah, grassland and mountain habitats.

Secretary-bird[edit]

Order: Falconiformes. Family: Sagittariidae

The secretary-bird is a bird of prey in the order Falconiformes but is easily distinguished from other raptors by its long crane-like legs.

Falcons[edit]

The lesser kestrel is a locally common winter visitor from Europe and Asia.

Order: Falconiformes. Family: Falconidae

Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons. There are 62 species worldwide and 19 species which occur in Kenya.

Pheasants and partridges[edit]

The yellow-necked francolin is common in grasslands.

Order: Galliformes. Family: Phasianidae

The Phasianidae are a family of terrestrial birds which consists of quails, partridges, snowcocks, francolins, spurfowls, tragopans, monals, pheasants, peafowls and jungle fowls. In general, they are plump (although they vary in size) and have broad, relatively short wings. There are 156 species worldwide and 17 species which occur in Kenya.

Guineafowl[edit]

Order: Galliformes. Family: Numididae

Guineafowl are a group of African, seed-eating, ground-nesting birds that resemble partridges, but with featherless heads and spangled grey plumage. There are 6 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Kenya.

Buttonquails[edit]

Order: Gruiformes. Family: Turnicidae

The buttonquails are small, drab, running birds which resemble the true quails. The female is the brighter of the sexes and initiates courtship. The male incubates the eggs and tends the young. There are 16 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Kenya.

Cranes[edit]

Order: Gruiformes. Family: Gruidae

The grey crowned crane occurs in western and central Kenya. Its spectacular looks make it a widely recognized symbol of Africa.

Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". There are 15 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Kenya.

Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots[edit]

Order: Gruiformes. Family: Rallidae

Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers. There are 143 species worldwide and 18 species which occur in Kenya.

The spotted crake is a regular winter visitor to Kenya.

Sungrebe and finfoots[edit]

Order: Gruiformes. Family: Heliornithidae

Heliornithidae is a small family of tropical birds with webbed lobes on their feet similar to those of grebes and coots. There are 3 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Bustards[edit]

Order: Gruiformes. Family: Otididae

Bustards are large terrestrial birds mainly associated with dry open country and steppes in the Old World. They are omnivorous and nest on the ground. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. They have long broad wings with "fingered" wingtips and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays. There are 26 species worldwide and 8 species which occur in Kenya.

Jacanas[edit]

The African jacana is often seen in slow-moving bodies of water.

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Jacanidae

The jacanas are a group of tropical waders in the family Jacanidae. They are found throughout the tropics. They are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. There are 8 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Painted snipe[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Rostratulidae

Painted snipe are short-legged, long-billed birds similar in shape to the true snipes, but more brightly coloured. There are 2 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Crab plover[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Dromadidae

The crab plover is related to the waders. It resembles a plover but with very long grey legs and a strong heavy black bill similar to a tern. It has black-and-white plumage, a long neck, partially webbed feet and a bill designed for eating crabs.

Oystercatchers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Haematopodidae

The oystercatchers are large and noisy plover-like birds, with strong bills used for smashing or prising open molluscs. There are 11 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Avocets and stilts[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Recurvirostridae

Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. There are 9 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Thick-knees[edit]

The spotted thick-knee is often heard and seen at night.

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Burhinidae

The thick-knees are a group of largely tropical waders in the family Burhinidae. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone, with some species also breeding in temperate Europe and Australia. They are medium to large waders with strong black or yellow-black bills, large yellow eyes and cryptic plumage. Despite being classed as waders, most species have a preference for arid or semi-arid habitats. There are 9 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Kenya.

Pratincoles and coursers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Glareolidae

Glareolidae is a family of wading birds comprising the pratincoles, which have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails, and the coursers, which have long legs, short wings and long, pointed bills which curve downwards. There are 17 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in Kenya.

The Egyptian plover is actually a type of courser.

Plovers and lapwings[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Charadriidae

The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. There are 66 species worldwide and 21 species which occur in Kenya.

Sandpipers and allies[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Scolopacidae

Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enables multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. There are 89 species worldwide and 33 species which occur in Kenya.

The sanderling breeds in the far north; it is common on the Kenyan coast from late August to April.

Skuas and jaegers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Stercorariidae

The family Stercorariidae are, in general, medium to large birds, typically with grey or brown plumage, often with white markings on the wings. They nest on the ground in temperate and arctic regions and are long-distance migrants. There are 7 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Kenya.

Gulls[edit]

The grey-headed gull is the only gull that breeds in Kenya in significant numbers.

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Laridae

Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds, the gulls and kittiwakes. They are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet. There are 55 species worldwide and 11 species which occur in Kenya.

Terns[edit]

The sooty tern is common in Kenyan waters beyond the offshore reef.

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Sternidae

Terns are a group of generally medium to large seabirds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species known to live in excess of 30 years. There are 44 species worldwide and 17 species which occur in Kenya.

Skimmers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes. Family: Rynchopidae

Skimmers are a small family of tropical tern-like birds. They have an elongated lower mandible which they use to feed by flying low over the water surface and skimming the water for small fish. There are 3 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Sandgrouse[edit]

Order: Pterocliformes. Family: Pteroclidae

Sandgrouse have small, pigeon like heads and necks, but sturdy compact bodies. They have long pointed wings and sometimes tails and a fast direct flight. Flocks fly to watering holes at dawn and dusk. Their legs are feathered down to the toes. There are 16 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Kenya.

Pigeons and doves[edit]

Order: Columbiformes. Family: Columbidae

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere. There are 308 species worldwide and 19 species which occur in Kenya.

Parrots and allies[edit]

Order: Psittaciformes. Family: Psittacidae

Parrots are small to large birds with a generally erect stance and a characteristic curved beak. Their upper mandibles have slight mobility in the joint with the skull. All parrots are zygodactyl, having the four toes on each foot placed two at the front and two to the back. There are 335 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Kenya.

Turacos[edit]

The white-crested turaco, a forest bird, occurs in Kenya mostly in the west-central region.

Order: Cuculiformes. Family: Musophagidae

The turacos, plantain eaters and go-away-birds make up the bird family Musophagidae. They are medium-sized arboreal birds. The turacos and plantain-eaters are brightly coloured, usually blue, green or purple. The go-away-birds are mostly grey and white. There are 23 species worldwide and 11 species which occur in Kenya.

Cuckoos and anis[edit]

Order: Cuculiformes. Family: Cuculidae

The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. The Old World cuckoos are brood parasites. There are 138 species worldwide and 19 species which occur in Kenya.

Barn owls[edit]

Order: Strigiformes. Family: Tytonidae

Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. There are 16 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Typical owls[edit]

The southern white-faced owl is rare in dry areas of southern Kenya.

Order: Strigiformes. Family: Strigidae

The typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk. There are 195 species worldwide and 17 species which occur in Kenya.

Nightjars[edit]

Order: Caprimulgiformes. Family: Caprimulgidae

Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is camouflaged to resemble bark or leaves. There are 86 species worldwide and 17 species which occur in Kenya.

Swifts[edit]

The white-rumped swift is widespread in the moister parts of the country in the range of the red-rumped swallow, whose nests it parasitises.

Order: Apodiformes. Family: Apodidae

Swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. They have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide and 14 species which occur in Kenya.

Mousebirds[edit]

The speckled mousebird is common in many habitats, in this case Sweetwaters Tented Camp.

Order: Coliiformes. Family: Coliidae

The mousebirds are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers and very long thin tails. They are arboreal and scurry through the leaves like rodents in search of berries, fruit and buds. They are acrobatic and can feed upside down. All species have strong claws and reversible outer toes. They also have crests and stubby bills. There are 6 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Kenya.

Trogons[edit]

Bar-tailed trogon near Mountain Lodge

Order: Trogoniformes. Family: Trogonidae

The family Trogonidae includes trogons and quetzals. Found in tropical woodlands worldwide, they feed on insects and fruit, and their broad bills and weak legs reflect their diet and arboreal habits. Although their flight is fast, they are reluctant to fly any distance. Trogons have soft, often colourful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage. There are 33 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Kingfishers[edit]

One subspecies of the woodland kingfisher breeds in Kenya; another (shown) breeds in southern Africa and spends the austral winter as far north as the Turkwel River.

Order: Coraciiformes. Family: Alcedinidae

Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails. There are 93 species worldwide and 12 species which occur in Kenya.

Bee-eaters[edit]

This cinnamon-chested bee-eater, a highland species, was photographed at Nanyuki.

Order: Coraciiformes. Family: Meropidae

The bee-eaters are a group of near passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa but others occur in southern Europe, Madagascar, Australia and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies and usually elongated central tail feathers. All have long down-turned bills and pointed wings, which give them a swallow-like appearance when seen from afar. There are 26 species worldwide and 14 species which occur in Kenya.

Typical rollers[edit]

The Abyssinian roller occurs in dry regions in the north of the country, wandering south at times.

Order: Coraciiformes. Family: Coraciidae

Rollers resemble crows in size and build, but are more closely related to the kingfishers and bee-eaters. They share the colourful appearance of those groups with blues and browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but the outer toe is not. There are 12 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Kenya.

Hoopoes[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes. Family: Upupidae

Hoopoes have black, white and orangey-pink colouring with a large erectile crest on their head. There are 2 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Woodhoopoes[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes. Family: Phoeniculidae

The woodhoopoes are related to the kingfishers, rollers and hoopoes. They most resemble the hoopoes with their long curved bills, used to probe for insects, and short rounded wings. However, they differ in that they have metallic plumage, often blue, green or purple, and lack an erectile crest. There are 8 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in Kenya.

Hornbills[edit]

The red-billed hornbill inspired the character Zazu in The Lion King. This one was photographed at Lake Baringo.

Order: Coraciiformes. Family: Bucerotidae

Hornbills are a group of birds whose bill is shaped like a cow's horn, but without a twist, sometimes with a casque on the upper mandible. Frequently, the bill is brightly coloured. There are 57 species worldwide and 13 species which occur in Kenya.

Barbets[edit]

Order: Piciformes. Family: Capitonidae

The barbets are plump birds, with short necks and large heads. They get their name from the bristles which fringe their heavy bills. Most species are brightly coloured. There are 84 species worldwide and 22 species which occur in Kenya.

Honeyguides[edit]

Order: Piciformes. Family: Indicatoridae

Honeyguides are among the few birds that feed on wax. They are named for the greater honeyguide which leads traditional honey-hunters to bees' nests and, after the hunters have harvested the honey, feeds on the remaining contents of the hive. There are 17 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in Kenya.

Woodpeckers and allies[edit]

This Nubian woodpecker was photographed at Samburu National Reserve.

Order: Piciformes. Family: Picidae

Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. There are 218 species worldwide and 16 species which occur in Kenya.

Broadbills[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Eurylaimidae

The broadbills are small, brightly coloured birds, which feed on fruit and also take insects in flycatcher fashion, snapping their broad bills. Their habitat is canopies of wet forests. There are 15 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Pittas[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Pittidae

Pittas are medium-sized by passerine standards and are stocky, with fairly long, strong legs, short tails and stout bills. Many, but not all, are brightly coloured. They spend the majority of their time on wet forest floors, eating snails, insects and similar invertebrates. There are 32 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Larks[edit]

The rufous-naped lark is one of several similar-looking birds of the genus Mirafra that are found in Kenya. This one is at Sweetwaters Game Reserve.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Alaudidae

Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds. There are 91 species worldwide and 23 species which occur in Kenya.

Swallows and martins[edit]

Wintering barn swallows from Europe and Asia are widespread in Kenya.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Hirundinidae

The Hirundinidae family is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base. There are 75 species worldwide and 18 species which occur in Kenya.

Wagtails and pipits[edit]

The yellow-throated longclaw, this one photographed in Sweetwaters Game Reserve, occurs in southwestern and south-central Kenya and on the coast.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Motacillidae

Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country. There are 54 species worldwide and 23 species which occur in Kenya.

Cuckoo-shrikes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Campephagidae

The cuckoo-shrikes are small to medium-sized passerine birds. They are predominantly greyish with white and black, although some species are brightly coloured. There are 82 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Kenya.

Bulbuls[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Pycnonotidae

Bulbuls are medium-sized songbirds. Some are colourful with yellow, red or orange vents, cheeks, throats or supercilia, but most are drab, with uniform olive-brown to black plumage. Some species have distinct crests. There are 130 species worldwide and 27 species which occur in Kenya.

Thrushes and allies[edit]

The olive thrush (this population is sometimes considered a separate species, the mountain thrush) is familiar even in cities. This one is at Thomson's Falls.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Turdidae

The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs. There are 335 species worldwide and 11 species which occur in Kenya.

Cisticolas and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Cisticolidae

The Cisticolidae are warblers found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They are generally very small birds of drab brown or grey appearance found in open country such as grassland or scrub. There are 111 species worldwide and 50 species which occur in Kenya.

Old World warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Sylviidae

The family Sylviidae is a group of small insectivorous passerine birds. They mainly occur as breeding species, as the common name implies, in Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Most are of generally undistinguished appearance, but many have distinctive songs. There are 291 species worldwide and 54 species which occur in Kenya.

The Great reed-warbler is a regular winter visitor to Kenya.
The blackcap winters in Kenya.

Old World flycatchers[edit]

The white-eyed slaty flycatcher is active at twilight and often allows a close approach, as this one at Thomson's Falls did.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Muscicapidae

Old World flycatchers are a large group of small passerine birds native to the Old World. They are mainly small arboreal insectivores. The appearance of these birds is highly varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls. There 274 species worldwide and 53 species which occur in Kenya.

Wattle-eyes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Platysteiridae

The wattle-eyes or puffback flycatchers are small stout passerine birds of the African tropics. They get their name from the brightly coloured fleshy eye decorations found in most species in this group. There are 31 species worldwide and 13 species which occur in Kenya.

Monarch flycatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Monarchidae

The monarch flycatchers are small to medium-sized insectivorous passerines which hunt by flycatching. There are 99 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in Kenya.

Babblers[edit]

The black-lored babbler is a noisy and gregarious bird, like many other babblers in Kenya. This one is at Sweetwaters Tented Camp.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Timaliidae

The babblers or timaliids are somewhat diverse in size and colouration, but are characterised by soft fluffy plumage. There are 270 species worldwide and 14 species which occur in Kenya.

Chickadees and titmice[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Paridae

The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. There are 59 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Kenya.

Treecreepers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Certhiidae

Treecreepers are small woodland birds, brown above and white below. They have thin pointed down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. They have stiff tail feathers, like woodpeckers, which they use to support themselves on vertical trees. There are 6 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Kenya.

Penduline tits[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Remizidae

The penduline tits are a group of small passerine birds related to the true tits. They are insectivores. There are 13 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Kenya.

Sunbirds and spiderhunters[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Nectariniidae

The sunbirds and spiderhunters are very small passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perch to feed. There are 131 species worldwide and 36 species which occur in Kenya.

White-eyes[edit]

These montane or broad-ringed white-eyes belong to the subspecies kikuyuensis, sometimes considered a separate species, the Kikuyu white-eye.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Zosteropidae

The white-eyes are small and mostly undistinguished, their plumage above being generally some dull colour like greenish-olive, but some species have a white or bright yellow throat, breast or lower parts, and several have buff flanks. As their name suggests, many species have a white ring around each eye. There are 96 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Kenya.

Old World orioles[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Oriolidae

The Old World orioles are colourful passerine birds. They are not related to the New World orioles. There are 29 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Kenya.

Shrikes[edit]

The grey-backed fiscal is found in relatively moist regions of southwestern Kenya.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Laniidae

Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey. There are 31 species worldwide and 15 species which occur in Kenya.

Bushshrikes and allies[edit]

The tropical boubou is named for the call given in duet by a pair. This one is at the Masai Mara.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Malaconotidae

Bushshrikes are similar in habits to shrikes, hunting insects and other small prey from a perch on a bush. Although similar in build to the shrikes, these tend to be either colourful species or largely black; some species are quite secretive. There are 46 species worldwide and 24 species which occur in Kenya.

Helmetshrikes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Prionopidae

The helmetshrikes are similar in build to the shrikes, but tend to be colourful species with distinctive crests or other head ornaments, such as wattles, from which they get their name. There are 12 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Kenya.

Drongos[edit]

This fork-tailed drongo was photographed in Samburu National Reserve.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Dicruridae

The drongos are mostly black or dark grey in colour, sometimes with metallic tints. They have long forked tails, and some Asian species have elaborate tail decorations. They have short legs and sit very upright when perched, like a shrike. They flycatch or take prey from the ground. There are 24 species worldwide and 3 species which occur in Kenya.

Crows, jays, ravens and magpies[edit]

The pied crow is widespread, especially in cities and towns.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Corvidae

The Corvidae family includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size among the Passeriformes, and some of the larger species show high levels of intelligence. There are 120 species worldwide and 7 species which occur in Kenya.

Starlings[edit]

The superb starling is one of Kenya's most conspicuous birds.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Sturnidae

Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen. There are 125 species worldwide and 28 species which occur in Kenya.

Weavers and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Ploceidae

The weavers are small passerine birds related to the finches. They are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills. The males of many species are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black, some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season. There are 116 species worldwide and 59 species which occur in Kenya.

These baglafecht weavers (black and yellow) and village weaver (pale) gathered at a feeder at the Masai Mara.
The red-billed quelea frequently occurs in swarming, wandering flocks in Kenya.

Waxbills and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Estrildidae

The estrildid finches are small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They are gregarious and often colonial seed eaters with short, thick but pointed bills. They are similar in structure and habits, but have wide variation in plumage colours and patterns. There are 140 species worldwide and 41 species which occur in Kenya.

Indigobirds[edit]

The breeding male pin-tailed whydah is one of Kenya's most spectacular birds.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Viduidae

The indigobirds are finch-like species which usually have black or indigo predominating in their plumage. All are brood parasites, which lay their eggs in the nests of estrildid finches. There are 20 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Kenya.

Buntings, sparrows, seedeaters and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Emberizidae

The emberizids are a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with distinctively shaped bills. In Europe, most species are named buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows, which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns. There are 275 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Kenya.

Finches and allies[edit]

The brimstone canary stands out even in its grassland habitat.

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Fringillidae

Finches are seed-eating passerine birds that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well. There are 136 species worldwide and 16 species which occur in Kenya.

Sparrows[edit]

Order: Passeriformes. Family: Passeridae

Sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, sparrows tend to be small, plump, brown or grey birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed eaters, but they also consume small insects. There are 35 species worldwide and 10 species which occur in Kenya.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Lepage, Denis. "Checklist of birds of Kenya". Bird Checklists of the World. Avibase. Retrieved 27 April 2007. 
  • Clements, James F. (2000). Birds of the World: a Checklist. Cornell University Press. p. 880. ISBN 0-934797-16-1. 

External links[edit]

  • Birds of kenya Birdlist, multi-lingual website by country with standardised codes for abundance and seasonal presence.