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Kenya has a vast variety of species, over 1000, in a vast variety habitats. From montane forest to tropical coast, in every conceivable altitude range: deserts, open savannah grassland, lowland forest, bush and scrub, lakes and madflats.
This huge variety of birds is made possible by the lack of climatic extremes. Kenya straddles the equator and has no 'summer' or 'winter' as such - only wet and dry seasons. In the northern latitudes huge numbers of birds migrate south to avoid harsh oncoming winters. From as far as the Bering straits and as far west as the northern tip of Norway - they come in their millions to East Africa. It has been estimated, give or take a few million, that as many as 6,000 million birds make the journey each year. Combine the migration the migratory birds to the incredible variety of local birds, and you have an ornithological paradise.
All our national parks and reserves have their own quota of this grant variety and with a few exceptions, each one of them covers a different type of habitat. There are of course overlapping areas which need to be taken into account when planning a bird safari. However, on a more standard wildlife safari, taking in all or some of the major game viewing areas, the birds provide a superb added attractions to those who are interested.
Of great importance to those planning bird safaris is that birds can be found in abundance outside the national parks. There are many areas in Kenya covering the same wide variation of habitat, that do not have national park status. In these places game may be scarce - but birds are always present. Examples are lake Magadi, only 110 kms south of Nairobi in the Rift Valley; Kakamega Forest in Western Kenya, a remnant of the great rain forest that once covered much of East Africa; Lake Naivasha 90 kms north of Nairobi; and the thousands of hectares of farmland, private ranches and even suburban gardens in Nairobi. All these areas are prolific in birdlife.
In photographing birds, they have in many cases become used to cars, and on the lakes used on boats; they seem not to associate these thing with people, and can be approached much closer than would be possible on foot. The use of hides on very specialised safaris, can be arranged, and it would be unusual not to be able to photograph many species by this method.
Between 300 - 400 species can easily be seen on a well-planned safari and sometimes as many as 500, provided the basic rules are observed, the most important being time! A rushed safari, trying to cover as many places as possible in the least amount of time, will result in less birds, not more.
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