Hemprich’s Hornbill

Hemprich Hornbill

This is a seriously cool hornbill (please excuse the fanboy language). In all honesty, this a tough bird to see well. They are not particularly shy, they simply spend time in areas where people are not all that common. They prefer more arid environments (which are usually low in population density) but they also require rocky outcroppings and cliffs to roost and nest. This combination of ecological and environmental features is rather rare which is why their range in East Africa is restricted to certain parts of Kenya and eastern Uganda (near Mount Elgon). Perhaps the best viewing chance is at Lake Baringo but even there, you are not guaranteed a sighting. Your best bet is to wake up early and catch them leaving the cliffs as they descend to the lake when temperatures rise. If you miss this window the opposite is good: catching them when they return to the cliffs from the lake in the evening. This also makes for a great sundowner. A lake sighting is rare given that they don’t often perch on the trees at the water’s edge but are set back a bit.

The Hemprich’s hornbill is a rather large bird at about 23 inches and the deep chocolate coloring with the white rimmed tail is a pretty good give-away. If you see a large swooping hornbill in desertish locations with scattered rocky landscapes, you’ve probably spotted this beauty. Another giveaway is the dark maroon to burnt amber bill.

Download the call

Hemprich's Hornbill Distribution

*Call and map from xeno-canto.org

African Scops Owl

African Scops Owl

I first encountered this little owl at Lake Baringo, Kenya. It can be found throughout much of East Africa and is present in all five countries. Measuring in at only about 6.5 inches (including the tufts) it’s all too easy to walk right by roosting pairs. This individual’s partner was about 8 inches above it on another branch. The best way to locate these (and other owls) is to listen for the call very early in the morning. Once you’ve honed in on their location point your flashlight (torch) toward the ground so as not to scare or threaten them. If they fly off, you’ll be forced to start all over and listen for new calls. When you have a pretty good idea of their location head back to bed and return during morning light when the low sun allows for decent illumination rather then shadow.

The African scops owl’s camouflage is impeccable as well as they are usually brown and streaked with bits if grey. If you’re familiar with Australian birds think of the tawny frogmouth. This delightful owl species is certainly one of my favorites and if you find yourself is dry, semi-arid bush/woodland areas, don’t be surprised if you stumble upon one if you’re diligent enough to seek them out.

Download the call

African Scops Owl Distribution

*Call and map from xeno-canto.org