BIRDS IN DANGER

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KENYA is rich in biological diversity: around 1100 species of birds have been recorded, and more than sixty sites have been identified as Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Although 91% of the 22 forest IBAs are classified as protected areas, 77% of these sites are severely or critically threatened (see Important Bird Areas in Kenya by Bennun & Njoroge 1999). This has already resulted in our losing six forest bird species for Kenya:

Forest Wood-hoopoe – formerly in western forests. 

Speckled Tinkerbird – formerly in western forests.

White-winged Apalis – formerly in Tana riverine forests.   

Kretschmer’s Longbill – formerly in Kitovu Forest near Taveta.

Yellow-streaked Greenbul    formerly on Mt Kasigau, Taita.

Yellow-mantled Weaver – formerly in western forests.

Although the birds above may be found in neighbouring countries, several other bird species are already in or close to the Critically Endangered category. They are urgently in need of serious conservation attention before they too slide into history.

Globally Threatened Species:

Egyptian Vulture

Formerly widespread throughout Masailand, but now facing local extinction in many areas of Kenya and northern Tanzania due to the widespread and indiscriminate use of carbofuran chemicals by poachers and pastoralists. As a result the total East African population may number less than 200 with less than fifty individuals remaining in Kenya. Egyptian Vultures are declining throughout their range.

African Grey Parrot

Less than ten individuals now remain in the Kakamega and Nandi forests where it continues to be adversely affected by indiscriminate logging and subsequent loss of habitat.

Taita Thrush

Currently confined to four small forest patches in the Taita Hills, where the entire population is suspected to be in decline as its montane forest habitat has been severely fragmented and continues to decline in both extent and quality. This bird is considered Critically Endangered by BirdLife International and the IUCN Red List.

Taita Apalis

The population of Bar-throated Apalis in East Africa is characterized by several endemic subspecies. One of them, fuscigularis, the Taita Apalis, is treated as a full species by some authors. It is confined to the Taita Hills where it is currently critically endangered – perhaps the most threatened bird in Kenya.

 

Birds once regular in Kenya, now very rare:

Great Crested Grebe

Populations have seriously declined in many areas, particularly at Lake Naivasha and all highland wetlands. The total East African population is now probably reduced to less than 200 individuals, less than 100 in Kenya, due largely to the indiscriminate and unregulated use of nylon gill nets by local fishermen.

Spotted Creeper

Due to changes in land use and loss of habitat, the Mt Elgon and Cherangani populations are now disappearing from Kenya, with few post-1990 records. However a few individuals may remain around Kapenguria and Saiwa NP.

Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah

Formerly resident in the Embu and Meru districts of central Kenya, there has been no confirmed evidence since the mid-1940’s. However two reported sight records near Embu and Sagana in 2003 may indicate a continued presence, but reports from elsewhere in Kenya remain unsubstantiated.

[Northern] Streaky-headed Seedeater

Rare and little known, with less than ten records only from the Elgon-Kapenguria-Kongelai area of northwestern Kenya

As Kenya enters the 21st century it is abundantly clear that much of the country’s biodiversity is under serious threat. Changes in land use and an expanding population (currently over 40 million and increasing at over 3% per annum) are placing severe and in places unsustainable pressure on the environment and some of the country’s most valuable natural resources are being irreparably degraded and ultimately destroyed.  As a result conservation and all those involved with it face a challenging period ahead.