Birding at the Nairobi National Museum

When you mention the Nairobi National Museum, what comes to most people’s minds is the exhibits that give a glance into life in the olden days. But there’s something else that the Museum holds- abundant birdlife. Did you know? There are over 1000 bird species in Kenya, 600 being in Nairobi alone! The Museum is a popular habitat not only for local but also migrant species, which take a break here during the winter before returning to Europe/ Asia. As such, this is one of the favourite locations amongst birders.

Birders engrossed in the exercise at Nairobi National Museum.
Engrossed in birdwatching…

I have been attending bird walks with Nature Kenya for over a year now, and they are always exciting. We begin at the Fisheries Department gate then proceed walking around the Museum property. Sometimes it takes up to 20 minutes before we move from the start point because the birds are out in abundance! You can never miss Black Kites, African Pied Wagtails and the ubiquitous Pied Crows here.

Pied Crow in tree.
Pied Crow giving me the stink-eye.

We then go either towards the Nature Kenya office or Amani Peace Walk while searching for our feathered friends. They can be extra hard to see when hiding in the bushes, so being familiar with their calls (sounds) comes in handy. One of our favourite spots is a certain Eucalyptus tree that holds a Great Sparrowhawk nest. Watching the adult and juvenile interacting is quite interesting. That nest has been hotly fought over by generations of Egyptian Geese, Lanner Falcons and Great Sparrowhawks. Talk of prime real estate!

Great Sparrowhawk protecting its nest.
Great Sparrowhawk.

The piece de resistance is the adjacent forest at John Michuki Memorial Park. You might not realise how extensive it is until you walk through it especially on a hot day. This forest always yields interesting results. We’ve come across a Eurasian Nightjar a couple of times. This odd-looking migrant perches on trees unlike local Nightjars that prefer the ground. A Green Heron has also been sighted here- a unique experience as they aren’t common in Nairobi. Earlier this year during the prolonged drought we spotted an African Hoopoe, a dry habitat bird. The other birds weren’t pleased with his presence and mobbed him incessantly.

African Hoopoe foraging.
African Hoopoe foraging.

On a good day, you may see Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters flying into and out of their nest holes along the river bank. Yes, not all birds nest in trees! The odd-looking Hamerkop is never too far away, though you may have to be extra keen as they camouflage perfectly with the soil. One striking thing about this location is the sorry state of Nairobi River. Years of pollution have turned it into a mess of raw sewage, a blow to the late Hon. Michuki’s efforts to restore its glory. As much as it’s relatively rich in birds, imagine how many more species would live here if it was clean.

Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater on electricity wire.
Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater posing sweetly…

Well, after 3 hours of walking it’s time to wrap up. We don’t even notice the time fly as the exercise is really engrossing. So just how many species are at the Museum? On some days we have recorded up to 60 species! This goes to show just how much of a gem it is, and the need for us to keep conserving our forests. Next time you visit the Museum, take a moment and look out for the birds, you might see something interesting.

Eurasian nightjar in tree.
A Eurasian nightjar trying to stay low-key.

Nature Kenya holds bird walks every Wednesday from 8.30am-12.00 noon and every 3rd Sunday of the month as a whole day excursion. Pop in for a bird walk sometime, you’ll definitely enjoy it! 

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7 thoughts on “Birding at the Nairobi National Museum

  1. I never knew about so much bird species in Nairobi, and John Michuki Memorial park. His Efforts to restore sanity in Nairobi both in Environments and roads have honestly been washed away by lazy corrupt leaders who neither values this country or it people but only it money. Keep shouting about our beautiful country and it sites someday someone will hear. Also keep poking holes in the environmental neglect , someday someone will be irritated enough to act. Great work.

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