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Kenya - birdwatcher's paradise: The African Purple Gallinule and Saddle billed Stork

Updated on December 24, 2016
the African Purple Gallinule
the African Purple Gallinule | Source


Kenya, Birdwatcher's paradise

In this hub, we shall look at two birds that can be seen in Kenya and the other East African countries. They love to be near water from where they feed, nest and raise their young. These two birds are the African Purple Gullinule and the Saddle billed Stock.

Kenya is an East African country straddling the equator. Certain points on Kenyan highways have actually been marked by billboards that indicate the position of that imaginary line. The climate is therefore tropical, sunny most of the year with two very wet seasons. The short rains fall around march/April and the long rains fall around September/October. Altitudes vary from sea level to the snow capped second highest mountain in Africa – Mount Kenya. There is the coastal forest, savannah grasslands, and equatorial rain forests in western Kenya. The coast has mangrove swamps, and the mountains are covered with a diminishing natural forest.

As can be expected, these varying geographical features support a large variety of flora, fauna and avifauna. There are birds that love the saline Rift Valley lakes while others prefer the largest fresh water mass of Lake Victoria. According to Africhoice, there are a total of 1133 bird species recorded in Kenya. Out of this number, 7 are endemic to Kenya and 6 have been introduced from outside. Only one species is known to have become extinct.

1. African Purple Gallinule -Porphyrio alba madagascariensis

Order:Gruiformes

Family:Rallidae

This bird prefers dense papyrus swamps with abundant water lilies in the surrounding lagoons, lakes and rivers. It has a bright pink; long legs and well spread out toes, suitable for trotting on the lilies. The African Purple Gulinule is omnivorous, and feeds on the buds and flowers of the water lilies. Other foods include seeds, earthworms, insects, snails, frogs and small fish. Chicks have a dull colour with an off-white belly. It is common throughout East Africa where it shares a habitat with other relatives listed below:

· Allen’s gallinule (Porphyrulla alleni). Allen’s Gallinule is smaller and shy compared with the Purple Gallinule.

· Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

· Lesser Moorhen (Gallinula angulata)

· Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)


American and European cousins

The American Purple gullinule (Porphyrio martinica) is a cousin of the African Purple Gullinule on the American continent. This American cousin is commonly known as the Swamphen. It prefers breeding in warm swamps and marshes in Southeastern states of USA. It is also common in the tropics from Central America to South America.

Western Europe has a similar but much larger swamp hen - Porphyrio porphyrio which from the list above, can also be seen in Kenya.



1. African Purple Gallinule -Porphyrio alba madagascariensis

Order:Gruiformes

Family:Rallidae

This bird prefers dense papyrus swamps with abundant water lilies in the surrounding lagoons, lakes and rivers. It has a bright pink; long legs and well spread out toes, suitable for trotting on the lilies. The African Purple Gulinule is omnivorous, and feeds on the buds and flowers of the water lilies. Other foods include seeds, earthworms, insects, snails, frogs and small fish. Chicks have a dull colour with an off-white belly. It is common throughout East Africa where it shares a habitat with other relatives listed below:

· Allen’s gallinule (Porphyrulla alleni). Allen’s Gallinule is smaller and shy compared with the Purple Gallinule.

· Common Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)

· Lesser Moorhen (Gallinula angulata)

· Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio)


American and European cousins

The American Purple gullinule (Porphyrio martinica) is a cousin of the African Purple Gullinule on the American continent. This American cousin is commonly known as the Swamphen. It prefers breeding in warm swamps and marshes in Southeastern states of USA. It is also common in the tropics from Central America to South America.

Western Europe has a similar but much larger swamp hen - Porphyrio porphyrio which from the list above, can also be seen in Kenya.


Saddle-billed stork
Saddle-billed stork | Source

2. Saddle-billed Stork - Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Order: Ciconiiformes

Family: Ciconiidae

The Saddle-billed stork is a member of large birds that are mute. They have long legs and an equally long neck. These migratory birds have feet that are suited to wading. Out of the 19 known species worldwide, 8 of them can be seen in Kenya. Storks re-use their large nests, stick- lined, for many years. Below is a list of the other seven storks that can be seen in Kenya: · Abdim's Stork (Ciconia abdimii) · African Openbill (Anastomus lamelligerus) · Black Stork (Ciconia nigra) · Marabou Stork Leptoptilos crumeniferus · White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) · Woolly-necked Stork (Ciconia episcopus) · Yellow-billed Stork (Mycteria ibis)

The Saddle-billed stork bird has a habitat that stretches from Sudan all the way to South Africa; from Kenya to through Chad to Senegal in West Africa. This huge bird has a big red beak with a black band and a yellow shield in the front of the face. This frontal shield is also called a saddle.

Saddle-billed Storks have long blacklegs and feet with pink knees. Theycan grow to a height of more than 4 feet, judging from a taxidermy specimen in the Nairobi National museum. Its legs and feet are black with pink knees.

The dangling yellow wattles on the upper neck below the beak indicate that the one in the picture is a male.

Saddle-billed Storksfly with the neck outstretched, a distinguishing characteristic of most storks. They lay two to four eggs in a large nest. These eggs hatch after 30 days or a maximum of 35 days.

Saddle-billed Storksfeed mainly on fish by poking with their large beads in shallow water. They also have a taste for other small animals. Saddle-billed storks will not hesitate to make a meal of small mammals, birds and reptiles.

Unlike other birds, it is possible to distinguish between males and females, just by looking at the saddle-billed stork straight in the eye. Females have a yellow iris in each eye while males have a brown one.

In ancient Egypt, an outline of this bird was used as the hieroglyph for the sound ‘ba.’ The yellow wattles were included in the hieroglyph, an indication that only males were intended to represent the sound.


Asian cousin

Black-necked stork which are widespread in the Asian continent are close relatives of the Saddle-billed Storks. These two species are the only members of the genus Ephippiorhynchus.

References

1. National Museums of Kenya, Bird Gallery

2. www.Wikipedia.org/wiki/saddle-billed_stork#mw-head

3. www.africhoice.com (Birds of Kenya - Checklist)


Comments

Submit a Comment

  • Emmanuel Kariuki profile imageAUTHOR

    Emmanuel Kariuki 

    5 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

    pstraubie48 ,

    Thanks for your most encouraging comment. I had hoped to add more hubs on birds but thought there wasn't an audience for them. Now I will follow through. About the Angels - we need them urgently. We are about to go into an election ( in about 52 days) and the heat they generate can be frightening. Thanks so much for the Angels :)

  • pstraubie48 profile image

    Patricia Scott 

    5 years ago from sunny Florida

    This was awesome. I am so a bird watcher. I am intrigued by them each time I am privy to their arrival in my midst. Yesterday when I took my baby grandson to breakfast, we saw two amazing cranes which are common here in Florida. They were actually having a territorial dispute...

    I would love love to travel to Kenya to see these lovelies you have shared. Voted up ++

    Sending Angels to you :) ps

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