I Loved the Waterfowl in Amboseli National Park
Updated: 5 days ago
I had anticipated some of the best parts of my safari; however, the birds of Amboseli surprised and delighted me. My mind had envisioned the elephants with Kilimanjaro as a backdrop. But flamingos? I adore the distinctive pink color of their plumage, their slender bodies and long legs. Africa is home to both the greater and lesser flamingos in numbers I had not expected, often covering a 180 degree view. Seeing their reflections in the water alongside Kilimanjaro's was dreamlike.
Flamingos are known as being social, forming large flocks; however, they also form long term relationships. Studies have shown that they form long-lasting friendships, often with a small group of other flamingos within the flock, around four or five, which includes male-male and female-female groups. They also form long-lasting rivalries.
Every day at Amboselli, we saw the flocks at least four times a day. Oftentimes, we stopped and just watched these beautiful feathered creatures. They are most abundant during the wet seasons of March to May and October to December; nonetheless, they seemed bountiful to me being there in August.
Some of the water fowl were very familiar, while others were foreign to me. Lots of egrets, herons, ibis, cormorants and storks, to name only a few.
One heron that commanded my attention was the Goliath heron, the world's largest living heron. They stand 3 ft 11 in to 5 ft tall in height, with a wingspan of 6 ft 1 in to 7 ft 7 in, and weigh 9-11 pounds. For perspective, the bill from where it opens, measures around 9.5 inches. His colors don't show well in my photograph, but his combination of dark slate gray and chestnut make him quite handsome. Mostly found in sub-Saharan Africa, there are smaller, declining numbers in South and Southwest Asia.
Another wader, the African little egret lives in colonies, with pairs mating for life. The male makes the stick nest, both parents sit on the eggs, and both parents feed the chicks. Their black legs make their yellow feet striking. This color combination aids their foraging. Bird Watcher's Digest states that "yellow feet catch the eye of fish and other creatures, drawing them closer or stalling them so the egret can strike." Our guide termed them "golden slippers", however, whenever I saw them, my mind thought of yellow galoshes.
The African sacred ibis, notorious for its role in Ancient Egyptians' religion, is native to much of Africa. For hundreds of years, this bird was frequently mummified by the Ancient Egyptians as an offering to the god Thoth.
The black-winged stilt is a striking cutie with her very long red legs; I mean really long. Her legs are roughly half submerged in the above photo. You can find her throughout much of Africa and Eurasia, usually in brackish waters.
The Egyptian Geese grabbed me; not literally, but emotionally. These geese are native to Africa; I found them to be gorgeous. Such beautiful feathers with myriad colors. They were considered sacred by Ancient Egyptians and were depicted in much of their artwork. You might even find one in your neighborhood outside of Africa. As an ornamental bird, they are in zoos throughout Western Europe, New Zealand and the United States. Apparently zoo escapees are common and have established wild colonies.
The total African population of Great White Pelicans is estimated to be up to 75,000 pairs. In addition, they have wintering populations from Eurasia. Watching their behaviors was as interesting as viewing their features. The great whites often fish in groups, chasing schools of small fish into shallow water and scooping them up. Dipping their heads all at once reminded me of a choreographed ballet (see video below). I was eager to watch their performances daily while in Amboseli.
The African spoonbills are also quite entertaining to watch while feeding. These are widespread across Africa and Madagascar, in Kenya, Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa. They have no crest, unlike the common spoonbill.
The African jacana is an unmistakable bird that has an interesting polyandrous mating behavior. The female mates with numerous males; the male incubates the eggs and raises the chicks singlehandedly. Quite a different set up from most of the animals we saw, where the males compete to gain harems of females. The African jacana has her harem of males.
The African fish eagle is one of the largest African eagles; their wingspan can reach up to 7.8 feet. One of Africa's most iconic birds of prey, it is the national bird of Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Its primary food source is fish; it has sharp toe barbs to help it grasp its slippery prey. Their distinctive screeching call is referred to as one of the "sounds of Africa."
Cattle egrets were everywhere, usually hanging out with the cattle, or in this case, the elephants, zebras, hippopotamuses, and the Cape buffalo. Catching a ride on an elephant's back enables them to take advantage of the insects stirred up by the elephant's feet. Free ride combined with dinner; that works for me.
Amboseli National Park is a birder's paradise; viewing the large animals, such as the elephants and felines that we especially came to see, almost always gave us the opportunity to see more birds; the park has more than 400 bird species. I cannot begin to count the number of waterfowl in the photo above. I will share more feathered friends in the future from other parks. Until then, Ciao!