The Masai Game Reserve located in the southern part of Kenya covers over 1510 square kilometers and is a top tourist destination in Kenya. The vast flat lands within the Masai Mara make it extremely easy for the birders to see the different bird species that are found in the Reserve. Masai Mara is home to more than 500 bird species and is a known birding paradise destination for tourists who love birding. Birding in Masai Mara opens you to birds that come in different sizes and colors with some being migratory birds.
The Masai Mara is mainly filled with grasslands but some scrubs act as habitats for the birds. The migratory birds fly into the country between October and February during the rainy season. Birding is mainly done in the mornings although it can still go on till in the evening hours.
Popular birds in the Masai Mara that you should look out for include the Sooty chat, Tawny eagle, cattle Egret, Magpie Shrike, Great Egret, Egyptian Vulture, Kori Bustard, Usambiro barbet, Long-tailed cormorant, Rosy throated shrike, grey Heron, secretary bird, Marabou stork, African fish Eagle, Hadeda Ibis, Little Bittern, Rufous-billed Heron, Sacred Ibis, Hamerkop and yellow-billed stork among others. The endemic bird species that are found in the Masai Mara include Clarke’s weaver, Aberdare Cisticola, Sharpe’s Pipit, William’s Lark, Tara River Cisticola, and the Hinde’s pied babbler.
Birding At The Mara River
The Mara River favorite spot for birders. Some of the bird species can easily be seen along the River banks or the River itself whereas others can be seen in the forests that line up near the Mara River. Bird species seen here include the Martial Eagle, Bateleur, Ross’s Turaco, Tiny Pygmy Falcon, Giant kingfisher, and Schalow’s Turaco among others.
The grasslands act as a home to numerous bird species with the Musiara Marsh being the best spot for viewing these birds. The main bird species that you should look out for in the grasslands include the Black-headed heron, the Goliath Heron, Ground Hornbills which are almost the size of a turkey, saddle-billed stork, crowned cranes, Great white egrets, Grey Heron, yellow-billed, Kori Bustard, secretary birds, Jaunty crowned plovers, the sacred Ibis, and the white storks. The Musiara Marsh is also the only place in Kenya where you get to see the Madagascar Squacco Heron which is endangered and the Rufous-bellien.
The list of Most Sought After Birds in Masai Mara National Park Kenya
The list below contains all of the known endemic bird species (E) to Kenya and the near-endemic bird species (NE) common to the region.
- Abdim’s Stork
- Rufous-throated wryneck
- Ayres’s hawk eagle
- Cinnamon-breasted bunting
- Denham’s bustard
- Giant kingfisher
- Red-throated tit
- Rosy-throated longclaw
- Hildebrandt’s starling
- Jackson’s widowbird
- Swahili sparrow
- Grey-crested helmet-shrike (NE)
- Ross’s turaco
- Purple grenadier
- Rufous-bellied heron
- African wood owl
- Schalow’s turaco
- White-bellied go-away bird
- Tabora cisticola
- Grey penduline tit
- Southern ground hornbill
- Temminck’s courser
- Lazy cisticola
- Saddle-billed stork
- Yellow-mantled widowbird
- African finfoot
- Trilling cisticola
- Usambiro barbet (NE)
- Woolly-necked stork
- Secretary bird
- Yellow-throated sandgrouse
Top items needed for birding in Masai Mara
`There are top things that are a must-take if you want to enjoy your birding safari in Masai Mara and these include the following:
- Binoculars, these help with the easy spotting of the bird species especially those that are always hidden in their habitats and far away.
- A camera and batteries, the camera is for taking as many photos as you need of the different bird species found in the Masai Mara Game reserve
- A recognition book, recognition books have photos of different bird species and they help birders easily identify the birds that you get to see while on a safari.
- Insect repellents
- Strong hike boots
- Lots of mineral water bottles
- A first aid kit for when you get bruises.
- Light traveling bag to keep your essentials like the camera and the binoculars.
Where to stay while birding in Masai Mara
Masai Mara Game Reserve has several accommodation facilities that you can try out and these range from the budget-friendly accommodation facilities, mid-range accommodation facilities and the luxury accommodation, facilities and where you stay can only be determined by your budget. Some of the accommodation facilities that can make your stay enjoyable include the Fairmont Mara safari, the Mara Engai lodge, and the Enkorok Mara camp among others.
Best time to go for birding in Masai Mara
Birding in the Masai Mara is an all-year-round activity that can be carried out in the two seasons that are experienced that is the wet season. The best season however to go for birding in the Masai Mara is the wet season which is experienced from November to April. It is considered to be the best time because this is the time when the migratory birds get into the Reserve from Europe and other places in the world. The dry season which is experienced from June to December is generally game drives but you can still get to see the local birds in their natural habitat.
How to get to Masai Mara
There are two ways in which you can get to Masai Mara and that is either by road or by air. A flight can be chartered from Nairobi and it only lasts approximately 50 minutes. It is a shorter distance but n expensive one.
Driving to Masai Mara is the most commonly used and it takes about 5 to 6 hours. This is considered the best way to get to Masai Mara because of the beautiful scenery you get to see while driving and the good thing is that it is also cheaper as compared to chartering a flight.
Other birding spots in Kenya
Besides bird watching in the Masai Mara Game Reserve, there are other spots which you can visit and get to enjoy the different bird species in the country, and below are some of our favorite birding spots in Kenya.
Mountain Kenya National Park:
The Mt Kenya National Park which is home to the highest Mountain in the country has a wide range of bird species that you can see as you climb up the Mountain and these can be found in the different zones that are found as you climb up the Mountain.
The bamboo zone has a wide range of bird species some of which include the Thick-billed seedeater, slender-billed Greenbuls, white-headed woodhoopoe, Oriole Finch, and the Mountain billed Greenbuls.
The Montane zone has bird species like Abbot’s starling, Montane white eye, Bar-tailed Trogon, Mountain Buzzard, black-fronted Bushrike, Olive Ibis, Jackson’s Francolin, and the Abyssinian Ground Thrush.
The Moorland is home to the Bearded vulture which is extremely rare, Eastern Double-collared Scarlet tufted sunbird, Malachite, and Golden-winged sunbirds among others. The climb up the Mountain is extremely hard but worth the reward for the several bird species.
Lake Naivasha is a freshwater body which is located in the Rift valley and home to several bird species. There are bird species that can be found along and on the water body whereas others are found in the woodlands. Bird species found within the woodlands along the Lake Naivasha include the Nubian woodpeckers, Arrow marked babblers, white-fronted bee-eaters, variable sunbirds, African Grey, cardinal woodpeckers, Wahlberg’s Honeybird, and the Black-lored babblers. Species that can be spotted on the Naivasha Lake include the African fish eagle, the yellow-billed ducks, pink-backed pelicans, great cormorants, Red-knobbed Coots, and Grey Herons, Black Herons, common black-headed gulls, purple swamphens, white-backed pelicans, cattle egrets, and the African spoonbill among others.
This is known to be a birding paradise with numerous bird species that can be seen both in the grasslands and the cliffs. The bird species that can be seen in the grasslands of Baringo include the Black crakes, the Golden-backed weavers, Jackson’s hornbill, African scops owl, Northern Masked weavers, and Allen’s Gallinule, Northern Red Bishop, and the little-backed weavers. The cliffs around Lake Baringo are home to birds like the fan-tailed Raven, Red-fronted Warbler, Hemprichs Hornbill, brown-tailed rock chat, Verreaux’s Eagle, pygmy Batis, Mocking cliff chats, and Grayish Eagle-owl among others.
The Nairobi National Park
This is the only National park that is located in a capital city with over 500 bird species. The Park is a top destination for tourists and since it is a short drive, the perfect place for those that have limited time on their safari. Some of the bird species that are in the Nairobi National Park include Kori bustards, different types of cisticolas, Jackson’s Widowbird, African water rail, African finfoot, common nightingale, willow warblers, and the Grey Herons.
The Milda creek
The Milda creek in Kenya is a protected site where many of the local and migratory sea birds can be found. There are times when the creek fills up with water but when it recedes, many of the birds can be seen along with the beach feeding. The Palearctic bird species which are best seen between September and April include the crab plovers, Gull-billed Terns, common Greenshanks, common ringed plovers, and greater sand plovers among others. Other bird species include the purple banded sunbirds, three-banded plovers, speckled Mousebirds, African Paradise Flycatcher, and village weavers.
The above and many more others are some of the places that you can go to for birding besides the Masai Mara Game Reserve. There are also other activities that you can carry out while in Masai Mara and these are game drives, village walks with the Masai, and many more other activities.
In conclusion, just like any other African safari, you need to prepare in advance for your birding safari to Masai Mara with a local tour operator so that you get the best trip without hurdles, especially costs.