Above: Eastern pale chanting goshawk in Selenkay Conservancy. Copyright Denis Bouillon. 

It gets bigger and better with more birders spreading their wings to record as many species as possible in 24 hours

Published in The East African Nation media 22 29 May 2021

At the stroke of midnight on 8th May, Steve Methu logged on to his eBird app to ready himself for the Global Big Day. At 17 minutes past midnight, he logged in his first two birds – the Spotted eagle Owl and an African wood Owl at Malewa River Lodge on the southern slopes of the Aberdare Range.

The Global Big Day is a celebration of birds around the globe and only in its second year, it’s drawing in more birders to record as many species of birds possible in one day.



Black-shouldered kite harrassing tawny eagle in Selenkay Conservancy. Copyright Denis Bouillon.

This year’s GBD outperformed the previous one in October 2020. 51,816 people spanning 192 countries submitted 133,887 checklists on the eBird app topping last year’s record of 50,000 people from 175 countries submitting 120,000 checklists.

On this year’s GBD, the global birding community accomplished four world records. 

It set new records for the greatest number of birders, from the most countries, reporting more species (7,234 to be exact) and more checklists on a single day of birding than ever before with a tally of 1 billion birds!

Global Big Day Kenya

“Kenya came in 6th place with 811 species (three species short of the last big day in October 2020), firmly placing her on the global map as a birding giant and the only place outside of the Americas in the global top 10,” enthuses Pete Steward, a keen birder who got the Kenyan birders excited about the Global Big Day a year ago.

“There were a lot of amazing lists from 247 locations in the country, with 357checklists compared to 261 back in October,” continues Steward. Checklists were submitted on eBird from as far away as Garissa and West Pokot while closer home, birders combed Nairobi National Park, National Museums of Kenya and Michuki Park.

Dr. Joy Mugambi and her daughter Lily on Global Big Day birding at Menengai Crater, Nakuru

“Seeing that hundreds of thousands of birders are looking at the eBird website, this is great publicity for Kenya,” states the bird man.

“But we could do with more birders in Kenya,” continues Steward. “eBird has created the infrastructure to capture the checklists for birds, it’s free and it’s fun bringing together a global community of birders – both virtually and in person.

“In addition, Kenya is a great birding destination compared to many other African countries where it is hard to reach many places like in Ethiopia or the Sudan.”

The most birds seen on Global Big Day in Kenya were by Ole Henry Sanoe birding in Soysambu Conservancy and Lake Elmenteita with 235 species listed, retaining his position from 2020.

Following him was Stephen Methu with 215 species and Solomon Epodo with 207 species from the Mugie Governor’s Camp in the Rift Valley.

Raptor man Sidney Shema who is big on eagles, uploaded the most images of species on the eBird app while Isaac Kilusu discovered the guttifer race of White-starred Robin endemic to Mount Kilimanjaro (remember the plains spread into Kenya). This subspecies of White-starred Robin is found nowhere else in Kenya save for a few tiny patches of forests at Oloitokitok on Kilimanjaro’s slopes.

A bejewelled Malachite kingfihser in Amboseli National Park. Copyright Denis Bouillon

Other spectacularly interesting species seen on the day were Slender-billed Gull and Pomarine Skua by Michael Mills and James Omenya at Sabaki River Mouth and Red-footed Falcon moving through the Mara Triangle by Stratton Hatfield. All three are migrants that are rarely seen in Kenya.

Kenya’s most frequent visitor recorded is the Willow warbler, a tiny songbird from the Pacific coast of Russia which also features on the checklist. The one that nearly made it to the list but did not was a female Harlequin Quail from Nairobi’s suburbs of Buru Buru found three days after the GBD. Jennifer Oduori, one of Kenya’s top birders opened her front door to see an exhausted bird shivering at her doorstep early morning.

“Harlequin Quails are Afro-tropical birds that are widespread in Kenya,” explains Oduori. “These birds are seen when there is a heavy downpour and have been seen in Nairobi for many years. In Western Kenya they are a delicacy but due to the diligence of the Kenya Wildlife Service, these birds are no longer sold for the pot.

“So, since the bird had missed the count, I took it to the ornithology department at the National Museums of Kenya to be ringed and released.”

The ring number is BB202331.

Kenya’s Top Ten Hotspots for Birding in 2021


  1. Lake Nakuru National Park -515
  2. Amboseli National Park – 505
  3. Nairobi National Park – 499
  4. Maasai Mara National Reserve -491
  5. Maasai Mara National Reserve/Mara Triangle – 477
  6. Lake Naivasha – 465
  7. Samburu National Reserve – 444
  8. Tsavo West National Park – 436
  9. Lake Baringo – 434
  10. Lewa Wildlife Conservancy – 425


Top subregions

Top regions sorted by number of observed species
Rank Region Species Checklists
1 Peru 1351 1632
2 Colombia 1201 2047
3 Ecuador 1120 664
4 Brazil 992 1544
5 Bolivia 889 481
6 Kenya 811 360
7 Mexico 773 1584
8 Venezuela 756 2878
9 Argentina 752 3264
10 United States 731 77,127