Safari: Part VI – Birds of the East African plains

I have reserved my final blog post of this Safari series, on my trip to East Africa, for the birds that I saw. I don’t intend to write much in the post as I hope the pictures will speak for themselves; illustrating a tiny fraction of the amazing variety of bird life found in East Africa.

Sometimes I was really pleased with my photos, and sometimes … straining at maximum zoom to capture a bird with the sun behind it for example... I wasn’t. I managed to photograph around 100 species of bird in two weeks (albeit, there are some I still can’t identify, and some too blurry to put on t’interweb) and have organised them below, roughly, following the major families of birds….

Common Ostrich (Struthio camelus massaicus), Ngorogoro, Tanzania

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea), Ngorogoro – one of only three birds displayed here likely to be seen in the UK (I have marked the other two with an asterisk *)

Black-headed Heron (Ardea melanocephala), Serengeti

Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis), Ngorogoro

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus), Ngorogoro rim

Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis), Maasai Mara

Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis), Maasai Mara

Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum), Ngorogoro

Hadaba Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash), Serengeti – I also saw Sacred Ibis and Glossy Ibis in Africa but annoyingly didn’t get any good pics

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta), Maasai Mara – not a great photo this, but a truly extraordinary bird…

Kori Bustard (Ardeotis kori), Ngorogoro – Its name may sound like an insult, but this bad boy (as eagle-eyed readers of my blog will already know) is the heaviest flying bird in the world…

Black-bellied Bustard (Eupodotis melanogaster), Maasai Mara – the white blur at the bottom of the photo is me catching some of the top of our vehicle in the shot I think: what a pro!

Coqui Francolin (Francolinus coqui), Maasai Mara – I was very pleased to capture this shy bird so clearly…

Helmeted Guineafowl (Numida meleagris reichenowi), Serengeti – The red wattles on the face of these Guineafowl in this slightly out of focus shot are key to identifying this as one of the reichenowi race…

Blacksmith Lapwing (Vanellus armatus), Serengeti – This bird gets its name from its call which sounds like a blacksmith’s hammer chinking against an anvil…

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), Serengeti – this is a juvenile bird…

Green Sandpiper* (Tringa ochropus) and Wood Sandpiper* (Tringa glareola), Maasai MaraYou get two for one here, the Green Sandpiper is in focus in the foreground with the Wood Sandpiper behind it in the background…

Greater Painted-snipe (Rostratula benghalensis), Maasai Mara

Three-banded Plover (Charadrius tricollaris), Serengeti

Water Thick-knee (Burhinus vermiculatus), Serengeti – just out of shot to the top left of the photo below was a very large sun-bathing Nile Crocodile, but the Thick-knees seemed oblivious…

Wood Sandpiper*(Tringa glareola), Serengeti – a marginally clearer shot of the Wood Sandpiper who we saw above in the blurry background to the Green Sandpiper…

Black Kite (Milvus migrans), Ngorogoro – This Kite is taking a break from trying to steal tourists’ sandwiches…

Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus caeruleus), Serengeti

Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius), Maasai Mara

African White-backed Vulture (Gyps Africanus), Serengeti – I was particularly pleased with this photo…

Augur Buzzard (Buteo augur), Ngorogoro

Dark Chanting Goshawk (Melierax metabates), Maasai Mara

Red-billed Hornbill (Tockus erythrorhynchus), Serengeti

Von der Decken’s Hornbill (Tockus deckeni), Serengeti

Usambiro Barbet (Trachyphonus usambiro) right and possibly d’Arnaud’s Barbet (Trachyphonus darnaudii) left, Serengeti – This beautiful pair are possibly interbreeding species (albeit very closely related). I am almost certain that the bird to the right is Usambiro Barbet due to its dark bill. To the left is likely to be d’Arnaud’s Barbet or a hybrid between the two…

Little Bee-eater (Merops pusillus), Ngorogoro – We saw a few different types of Bee-eaters, but this is the only presentable photo I caught of these stunning birds…

Lilac-breasted Roller (Coracias caudata), Maasai Mara – as with above, we saw lots of these gorgeous birds, but this poor quality shot was the best I managed as they never quite sat still enough for me. This one seems bemused as to why I am taking its picture and is cocking its head at me…

African Mourning Dove, (Streptopelia decipiens), Near Serengeti – East Africa has an amazing array of beautiful doves and pigeons. I captured two species of them in pixels…

Dusky Turtle Dove (Streptopelia lugens), Rift Valley view near Nairobi

Slate-coloured Boubou (Laniarius funebris), Serengeti

Common Fiscal (shrike) (Lanius collaris), Ngorogoro

Common Bulbul (Pycnonotus barbatus), Serengeti

Brown crowned Tchagra (Tchagra australis), nr Maasai Mara

African Pied Wagtail (Motacilla agiump), Maasai Mara

Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava), Ngorogoro

Red-faced Crombec (Sylvietta whytii), nr Maasai Mara – The Crombecs are a fascinating family of tail-less warblers…

Yellow-breasted Apalis (Apalis flavida), nr Maasai Mara

Greater Blue-eared Starling (Lamprotornis chalybaeus cyaniventris), Maasai Mara – this slightly fuzzy shot is of the cyaniventris race of the Greater Blue-eared Starling, seen here perching on an African Buffalo…

Superb Starling (Lamprotornis superbus), Serengeti – What an aptly named bird! This species is common and bold (it will feed out of a tourist’s hand). It also seems to be found interchangeably with its cousin, Hildebrandt’s Starling, shown immediately beneath this shot and distinguished by the lack of the white stripe…

Hildebrandt’s Starling (Lamprotornis hildebrandti), Kenya

Sooty Chat (Myrmecocichla nigra), Maasai Mara

Sooty Chat female (Myrmecocichla nigra), Maasai Mara – OK, posting two birds of the same species is cheating slightly but this dimorphic pair (they have different colourations) posed so well for me, I thought they both deserved a place in this blog…

White-browed Robin Chat (Cossypha heuglini), Ngorogoro – This beautiful bird perched almost unnoticed as a few metres away, a Lion was feeding on a Zebra carcass

White-naped Raven (Corvus albicollis), Ngorogoro rim – I love ravens, they are the heavy-weight bruisers of the crow family

Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus), Maasai Mara – seen here chilling out on their host, African Buffalo…

Swahili Sparrow (Passer suahelicus), Maasai Mara

Speckle-fronted Weaver (Sporopipes frontalis), Serengeti – The Weaver birds and their amazing nests are a constant feature in East Africa. I was lucky enough to photograph several species…

Vitelline Masked Weaver (Ploceus velatus), nr Maasai Mara

Grey-capped Social Weaver (Pseudonigrita arnaudi), Serengeti

Rufous-tailed Weaver (Histurgops ruficaudus), Tanzania – I can’t quite remember exactly where I saw this bird

Baglafecht Weaver (Ploceus baglafecht reichenowi), Rift Valley view near Nairobi – You do not expect it to be difficult to identify a bright yellow bird with a black head, but when I saw how many weavers are bright yellow with black heads in my field guide, I felt like crying. I think this is a reichenowi race of the Baglafecht Weaver…

Speke’s Weaver (Ploceus spekei), Maasai Mara

Red-billed Buffalo Weaver (Bubalornis niger), Tanzania

White-headed Buffalo Weaver (Dinemellia dinemellia), Serengeti

Common Waxbill (Estrilda astrild), Ngorogoro – for the final photograph I thought I would show you this gregarious flock which better displays the species’ character than a close-up of an individual…

This was a supremely geeky exercise in cataloguing that had almost therapeutic value for me 😉 but for those of you who have flicked through, I hope it has served to give an idea of the mesmerising array of variety of avian fauna that can be found on Safari. Thank you!


10 thoughts on “Safari: Part VI – Birds of the East African plains

  1. jim maroney

    AMAZING photos James – not only well catalogued and a huge variety, but professional quality pics of the lot of them! Have you thought about using them professionally? Sure there’s an outlet somewhere that would be interested….and it’s always nice to be published.

    1. iago80 Post author

      That is very kind of you Jim and I appreciate the endorsement. I think there are actually only a few photos in that set that are truly publishable quality (I was particularly chuffed with the vulture shot). I suppose the question for the big photograph buyers (e.g., Getty) is whether they already have stock photos of a particular species and whether a new photo offers a different perspective worth paying for – I’m not sure that any of my photos are of rare enough birds for the image libraries. Otherwise, it becomes a matter of marketing images for private purchase which I have never quite had the appetite for.

      Anyway, it is food for thought. For me, it is just immensely flattering to read a comment like yours. Thank you!

  2. mzuritam

    These are wonderful photos! I lived in Tanzania for several years, and many of these birds were our daily friends, like the common bulbul, and the wagtail, and the ‘iridescent’ blue starling.Thanks for sharing and for visiting my blog. Happy photo-hunting!

  3. Pingback: The salt marshes of Southern France | iago80

  4. amoralegria

    Thank you for this post! You have helped me identify many of the birds I saw in Tanzania, but didn’t have species names for. Many others depicted here I did not see. What an amazing variety of beautiful and colorful birds!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s