The Current Status of Kenya’s Bird Atlas: Part 1 of 7 – Overview

It has been nearly six years since the Kenya Bird Map project began. A lot has been achieved and a lot still remains to be achieved. It’s always good to track progress in order to appreciate achievements and identify what needs to be done moving forward. In this 7-part blog series, we will take a look at the coverage that has been achieved so far on Kenya’s current bird atlas project – the Kenya Bird Map. Part 1 is a general overview of the whole country, while the subsequent parts will look at specific sections of the country in more detail. The aim of this is to highlight coverage gaps across the country in order to help citizen scientists to identify areas that need their attention most and be able to plan bird atlassing trips to these areas where possible.

To begin with, the numbers. As of today (31 Aug 2018) at least one full protocol checklist has been submitted for 939 pentads ever since the project began. This represents about 13.8% of the 6,817 pentads that cover Kenya. This contribution has been made by a total of 264 observers, although only 76 of these have submitted records in 2018 so far. These numbers are easily viewable on the KBM website.

A look at the Coverage Map (see below) shows a clear pattern. The areas with the densest concentration of atlassed pentads are the areas that have the highest number of resident bird watchers in Kenya; i.e. Nairobi and its environs, the central Rift Valley, the coast and parts of western. Several popular birding destinations such as the Mara, Samburu/Buffalo Springs and Amboseli NP have fairly good coverage as well. The very large protected areas (e.g. Tsavo and Mt Kenya) are also popular birding destinations but they have extensive areas that are quite remote and not easy to access and so their coverage is still not very good. Bird mapping expeditions organized by the KBM over the past 3 years have also contributed significant coverage.

KBM Coverage Map.JPG
The coverage map as of 31 August 2018

Understandably, the areas with least coverage in the country are the areas that have the highest levels of insecurity and are also least accessible to most people i.e. eastern and northern Kenya. The problem is that these areas constitute one of Kenya’s major and most extensive ecological zones – the semi-arid Somali-Masai Biome. This means that birds mainly occurring the low-lying country of the east and north (e.g. several larks, sandgrouse and bustards) are poorly mapped while those of the central and western highlands, Lake Victoria basin and coastal zone are much better mapped. A look at the coverage map in the satellite view (see below) clearly shows the extreme inequality between the coverage of the dry east/north and the green central/western/coastal areas. What this means is that it is much more difficult to assess the current status of dryland birds as compared to the other birds. This is not an easy challenge to overcome of course, but it is definitely something we must think about and do our best to tackle.

KBM Coverage Map satellite.JPG
The coverage map in satellite view

Every Friday, for the next six weeks, we will take a closer look at each of the country’s major regions and how they are faring in terms of coverage on the Kenya Bird Map. (Don’t forget however that you can also look at the coverage map on the website at any time you want). Make sure to check back here on the Kenya Bird Map blog every Friday, and please make use of this info to go out and fill coverage gaps to help us improve our knowledge of the current distribution of birds across Kenya!

If you are an avid birder in Kenya and are not yet registered on the Kenya Bird Map, send an email to kenyabirdmap@naturekenya.org to get registered.

– Author: Sidney Shema (Project Manager – Kenya Bird Map) –

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