The eBird Global Big Day

Kenya tops in Africa

Published: The East African Nation 31 Oct-6 Nov 2020

Above: Egyptian vulture in flight (Flickr)

At the stroke of midnight on 17 October, precisely at 00:01, Samsom Katisho and his team of birders from the Dakatcha Woodland Guides on Kenya’s coast started walking in the dark to record the nocturnal birds like the owls and night jars and log them into the e-bird app on their Smartphones for the eBird Global Big Day competition.

Worldwide this was replicated by thousands of teams and by the end of the 24 hours, Kenya was ranked sixth globally with 810 species and the highest in Africa, beaten only by the South American giants like Colombia (1,285 species), Peru (1,152) and  Ecuador (1,115).

The eBird Global Big Day

There are two global big days per year, one in May when migrant species are returning to their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere and one in October. “October is great for birding in Kenya, since many of the migrant species that spend the summer months in Europe and Asia have returned to Kenya,” states Peter Steward who coordinates the Kenyan chapter.

“This year, Kenyan birders counted 810 species of birds, which is almost 75% of the entire avifauna of Kenya seen in 24 hours,” tells Steward. “There were 256 lists submitted from 200 teams with more than 600 birders aged between10 and 82. Many people went out in groups, sometimes in groups of 10 or more to learn from more experienced birders and have fun. Records were submitted from most of the counties.”

Martial Eagle. Copyright Shiv Kapila

In May, Kenya scored 11th worldwide with 608 species with Colombia ranked again at the top with 1,445 species.

Globally, Kenya ranks 13th in world for the most number of bird species per country.

Kenya’s Rare Birds Logged in on the Global Big Day

Collared Lark – seen by Chege Wa Kariuki in Garissa. This is a very rare lark of arid areas, mostly in Somalia. It’s only been reported on eBird seven times. “This is an incredible record for Kenya and reminds us how much we still have to learn about our dry country birds,” says Steward.

Collared Lark
Demetrius John Kessy

A Red-footed Booby found covered in oil and rescued by Paulo Parazzi near Malindi and is now being rehabilitated at Arocha Kenya (Watamu) by James Omenya. These fish eating birds are pelagic (found in the open seas) and rarely come to the mainland. Normally, one has to take a boat trip to try and see one. “The circumstances of finding this one were very sad and a reminder of the threats to bird conservation in Kenya and globally,” continues Steward.

Red-footed Booby byJoseph C Boone

Egyptian Vultures recorded by Shiv Kapila of Kenya Bird of Prey Trust in the Mara. Most of Kenya’s vultures are threatened or endangered due to poisoning of livestock carcasses to target predators like hyena. Egyptian Vultures used to be quite widespread in Kenya, especially in the Rift Valley, but their numbers have declined drastically. According to Steward, spotting this pair was really special, even more so since it could be a resident breeding pair meaning there is hope for the future of this species.

Egyptian Vulture

An Abyssinian Roller seen by Simon Lomelo in Kataboi, on the northwest shores of Lake Turkana. The Abyssinian Roller is usually only found around Lake Turkana, but occasionally is spotted as far south as Laikipia.

Buff-spotted Flufftail calling at Castle Forest Lodge heard by Stratton Hatfield.

Buff-spotted Flufftail by DickDaniels (

Kenyan Top Bird Listers

Henry Ole Sanoe of Soysambu Conservancy on the shores of Lake Elementaita, beat his record from last year by 26 species with 205 species recorded in 24 hours. This was followed by the Sunbird team comprising of veteran birders, Brian Finch and Nigel Hunter, birding in Nairobi National Park who recorded 195 species and Tyler Davis in Maasai Mara who brought in 192 species.

The Importance of Global eBird Big Day

Tech-savvy birders at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the United States created the eBbird app to have all the bird lists from birders worldwide on one platform that would not only transform birding but contribute to science and future bird conservation.

“It creates an open access map of birding locations and the birds seen anywhere in the world, for you to go on-line and explore. I use it to find out where species I haven’t seen are in Kenya and to plan birding trips around the world,” explains Steward.

“There are more than 70,000 people who participate worldwide in the Global eBird and Kenya’s name is right up there as a species-rich birding destination. The app is an amazing and free publicity to support and grow Kenya’s avi-tourism industry.” In terms of conservation, the eBird app is most useful for researchers to better understand birds, when and how they migrate and to raise the red-flag on when numbers begin to decline.

In Kenya, the Global eBird Big Day is run on private enthusiasm with no support from any ministry or organization.


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