The whole of the Kilimanjaro region attracts many varieties of bird species especially the cultivated zone which offers plenty of food for the different types of birds at the base of the mountain. Apart from the most common bird on the mountain, the white-necked raven, you will spot many birds while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. Some of the birds are shy so you will hear much of their calls even if you don’t catch a glimpse of them. Kilimanjaro is home to different varieties of birds on the different vegetation zones that you will pass through on your way to Uhuru Peak, the summit.

Kilimanjaro is great for birdlife. The cultivated fields on the lower slopes provide plenty of food, the forest zone provides shelter and plenty of nesting sites, while the barren upper slopes are ideal hunting grounds for raptors.

What Birds Can I See While Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro?

Mount Kilimanjaro is home to hundreds of different bird species. Birds flock the whole of Africa especially in the sub-Saharan where Mount Kilimanjaro belongs.  Exquisite bird calls can be heard coming from the trees as you traverse the various vegetation zones on the trails of Mount Kilimanjaro.

Below are the few bird species that you will either spot or hear them sing as you make your way to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro.

  • vultures
  • buzzards
  • ravens
  • hornbills
  • turacos
  • shrikes
  • hornbills
  • cuckoos
  • flycatchers
  • barbets
  • chats
  • woodpeckers
  • bee-eaters
  • sunbirds

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SPECIES OF BIRDS AROUND KINAPA (KILIMANJARO NATIONAL PARK)

There are over 25 species of birds that are both resident and migratory around the Kilimanjaro National Park, KINAPA and they include:

Cuckoos

Cuckoos are not social birds unlike hornbills, they are more solitary birds that rarely hang out in pairs or groups.  These shy birds prefer to be heard of rather than be seen. About 30 different birds species of Cuckoos exist. Among these species is the Coucal Cuckoo which feeds mostly on insects

African Emerald Cuckoo

The African Emerald Cuckoo is an old-world cuckoo meaning they are Brood Parasitic. Brood parasitic birds lay their eggs in other species’ nests.  Normally a female Emerald Cuckoo lays about 19 to 25 eggs on each breeding season, of course, in the nests of other species and their eggs hatch much earlier than their host’s eggs. Also, the Cuckoos hatchlings grow faster, evicting the eggs that belong to the host species. Searching for food is usually done in the upper parts to middle parts of the canopy. Emerald Cuckoos are sexually dimorphic with males displaying green and brown backs with chests that are white in colour. Female Emerald Cuckoos, on the other hand, have barred green and brown backs with chests that are white in colour. Listen to the sound call of the African Emerald Cuckoo in nature.

 The Emerald Cuckoos bird call resembles a “Hello Georgie” four-note whistles.

Klaas’ Cuckoo

Klaas’s Cuckoo, same as the Narina Trogon,  the Klaas’s Cuckoo was named by world renown French explorer and ornithologist Francois Le Vaillant.  He was perhaps the only one or among the only few people that named bird species after the natives.

He named this Cuckoo species after his Khoisan servant.  These cuckoos grow up to about 16 to18 cm in length.  Klaas’s Cuckoos are dimorphic whereby the males have green feathered bodies which a few patches and underbellies that are white in colour while the females on the other hand exhibit bonze-brown body colour with greenish coverts on their wings and barred white underbellies. Klaas’s Cuckoo males appear white when they are in flight mode while the females are dominantly brown.

White Browed Coucal.

The White Browed Coucal or Lark-Heeled Cuckoo is fond of inhabiting densely forested areas, and Mount Kilimanjaro’s forest zone is just perfect for this species

The White Browed Coucal may not be old-world like, a brood parasite. What makes this bird species unique is that the responsibilities of taking care of the chicks are delegated to the males for the overall parental care.  This bird is normally medium-sized and a gran up bird could measure about 36-42 cm (14-17 in) in length.  Both sexes share a lot of similarities, with a dark crown, nape and rump, backs that are rufous-brown in colour, chestnut shaped wings and a and an underbelly that is whitish in colour.  They have dark tails with a white and green tip complete with red eyes.

African emerald cuckoo
Klaas Cuckoo
White browed coucal

White Necked Raven

The White Necked Raven is named so, suitably because of the white band that stands out right behind its neck.

Ravens are smart birds, they are so intelligent such that their intelligence can be matched with that of a 7-year-old human being (child) as they can find solutions to complex problems, they can reason out and are good at making decisions.

White Necked Ravens They feed on just about anything, therefore they exhibit omnivorous behaviour as their main diet consists of anything between insects, small mammals and reptiles, small amphibians, fruits, grains, carrion and even leftovers from climbers.

They have a habit of swarming campsites in a bid to get some leftovers and scavenge for human food.

You are advised to watch over your daypack while on the mountain as they are notorious for being nosey and stealing food or snacks from climbers ’daypacks.

Higher up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, up until the heath and moorland vegetation zone of the mountain, the white-necked ravens exist in plenty, making noise and scavenging for leftovers, carcass or their prey and food.

white necked raven Kilimanjaro

The Malachite Sunbird

The award for the most wonderful bird on Kilimanjaro has to go to the beautiful malachite sunbird

The bird has metallic green feathers all over apart from a small patch on each side of the chest of scarlet colour. This cheerful and jumpy bird can be spotted hovering over the grassy terrain of Mount Kilimanjaro in search of nectar from the giant lobelias that feature greatly on the mountain. The malachite sunbird uses its long beak to hook into the nectar of the giant lobelia plants.

Malachite sunbird Kilimanjaro bird

Mountain and Augur Buzzards

High up as you climb Mount Kilimanjaro you will find more birds of prey, the famous mountain and augur buzzards. Most of their time on the mountain, they use it to search for prey as they fly around, gliding with the mountain winds from a further distance.

On Mount Kilimanjaro, the Mountain and Augur Buzzards can not be seen up-close easily. The seldomly come near people.

Mount Kilimanjaro Augur Buzzard

White-browed Sparrow Weaver

The White-browed Sparrow weaver, Plocepasser mahali melanorhynchus was unknown in Tanzania during the 1970s (Britton 1980) and only known to occur close to the Kenyan border in the late 80s and early 90s. (Zimmerman et al. 1996). It is now well established around both Mt. Meru and Mt. Kilimanjaro and is expanding south-east along the Pangani River and south to Tarangire National Park.

White browed sparrow weaver

Turacos

Turacos also called Lourie by South Africans, call the forest zone of Mount Kilimanjaro, home. Their diet consists of fruits and plants and sometimes insects.

Turacos are not solitary, they are social birds and while travelling, the move in flocks of about 10-12 birds. You can spot Hartlaub, Violet crested and Schalow’s Turaco on the Mount Kilimanjaro forest zone or in the vicinity of the mountain

Hartlaub’s Turaco

Hartlaub’s Turaco was named after Gustav Hartlaub, a German ornithologist and famous physician.

The Hartlaub Turacos are can be identified by the red colour encircling the area around the eye, with a white mark in front of the eye and a black crest on top of their heads.

They have a green layer of feathers on their breasts and another layer of luminous blue feathers at the tail.  Hartlaub’s Turaco can be identified with a patch of crimson coloured feathers under their wings.

Schalow’s Turaco

Schalow’s Turaco, named after Hermann Schalow, a renown  German banker and amateur ornithologist. This turaco’s diet mainly consists of fruits and weights a mere quarter of a kilogram around (270g or a half pounds) and can grow up to 15-17 inches in length.  Jade green layer of feathers covers almost their entire body extending towards the elongated, white-tipped crests on top of their heads.  They have dark shining blue tails at their backs and tiny, pointy beaks that are red in colour and their dark, small eyes are encircled by a red colour.  Thick feathered wings that are almost round-shaped with light feathers give the Schalow Turaco advantage of flying around swiftly through the forest’s canopy. As per the Schalow’s Turaco mating life, they exhibit a monogamous lifestyle whereby partners share the duties of incubation of 2 egg lays with an incubation period of about 20-22 days. It takes about 4-5 weeks for the chicks to fly.

Violet Turaco

The unique Violet Turaco is smaller compared with the other Turacos mentioned above.  This turaco is also famously known as the violaceous plantain eater (Musophaga violacea. It is a large turaco measuring about 48 cm long (19 in) from the beak to its tail.  It also has a long tail that is violet in colour, a distinctive yellow forehead, white feathers behind the ears, a violet tail and a thick, 4 cm (1.6 in), a reddish-orange bill that is shaped like a horn. The other unique feature on the violet Turaco is the scarlet coloured feathers of the wings that colour clash with the layers of rest of the body feathers. Violet turaco’s diet mainly consists of insects and other plants.

Hartlaub turaco Kilimanjaro
Schalows Turaco Kilimanjaro
Violet Turaco Kilimanjaro

Narina Trogon

The Narina Trogon is named after a Khoisan word meaning “flower” in the South African language. French ornithologist, Francois Le Vaillant did the naming of the birds.

Deforestation has robbed these beautiful birds of the natural habitat leading to a sharp decrease in their population in the Kilimanjaro region and around the world

Narina Trogons are medium in size, measuring about (32-34cm long) and their bodies are amaranth and green coloured.  Some Narina Trogon species are not resident birds that stay in one location for long, hence they are migratory birds while one the contrary, some species are sedentary.  The sexes of these birds exhibit a dimorphic nature. Male Narina Trogon birds are more brightly coloured than the dull red to soft brown female birds of the same species.

When mating, male Narina trogons produce a looped and low hoot to attract the females for mating. Narina trogons mainly feed on insects, rodents and reptiles.

Narina Trogon Kilimanjaro

Hornbills

In Kilimanjaro’s forest zone, you may also spot Hornbills as they hop in between trees high in the canopy.  Just like the ravens, Hornbills are omnivorous and their diet consists of fruits, insects, small birds, rodents, small amphibians, small reptiles, and centipedes. They normally live in pairs but have been known to cohabit in flocks of hundreds and handfuls of hornbills.

Silvery-Cheeked Hornbill

The Silvery-Cheeked Hornbill grows up to 75-80 centimetres (30-31 inches) in length and has an enlarged and long beak that resembles a helmet or a horn which is cream in colour.

Their head is silver-grey, and their layers of feathers are iridescent black in colour on the whole body apart from their white coloured lower backs, thighs, rumps and outer tail feathers

The male and female look the same, except that the female Silvery Cheeked hornbill has more reddish skin encircling their eyes.  Hornbills lay groups of one to three eggs with a 40-day incubation period.  Parents take care of their hatchlings for about 80 days.

Trumpeter Hornbill

Trumpeter hornbill sightings on Mount Kilimanjaro have been scarce but at the forest zone of the mountain. This hornbill is a medium-sized bird that grows up to 58-65 centimetres (23-26 inches) in length.  Trumpeter and Silver Cheeked hornbills share many similarities, colour-wise their whole backs are black in colour, white belly, white underwing feathers and red skin on their faces

The Trumpeter Hornbills are social birds that love to live in flocks and are more popular for their intelligence.

Trumpeter Hornbills can be tamed and they are known for being loyal and loving pets and capable of learning new tricks.

Silvery Cheeked Hornbill
Trumpeter Hornbill

Kingfishers 

Kingfishers are attractive and tiny birds that can be spotted on the mountain and around Mount Kilimanjaro. They usually come in blue and green colours. These secretive, shy birds live in burrows dug by themselves in sandy soil banks or inside ground termite nests.  Both adults, male and female are responsible for the overall parental care of their hatchlings.

Pygmy Kingfisher

African Pygmy Kingfishers prefer their natural habitat to be woodland, savanna and coastal forests by either living a single life or as couples. Female African Pygmy Kingfishers lay a number of four to six eggs at a go and can have several incubations in a year.  This kingfisher is not fond of water unlike the other Kingfisher bird species and its main diet consists of insects, spiders, lizards, frogs and small crabs.   The sexes share many similarities, they are small-sized rufous underparts and a blue back group of feathers in colour extending down to their tails. The difference between the African pygmy kingfisher and the malachite kingfisher is the violet washed ear-coverts that is only present in the African Pygmy Kingfisher.

Malachite Kingfisher

The Malachite Kingfisher is metallic blue in colour on the upper side and black band with a greenish-blue forehead.  The malachite Kingfishers exhibit very similar characteristics for both the male and female birds, they have a reddish face, cheeks, and underbelly and white patches on the throat and behind the back of either side of the neck.  The young adult malachite Kingfishers have black beaks, and red in adults with bright red legs.  They are fond of making sandy water bank tunnels their homes/nests.

Their small, round-shaped wings make them swift when flying as they rotate and fly around while the timing for small fish, insects and crustaceans to catch in the streams around the Kilimanjaro region.

Pygmy Kingfisher
malachite Kingfisher

Cinnamon-Chested Bee-Eater

The enchanting Cinnamon-Chested Bee-Eater call the upland slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro home. These birds normally grow between 1800 and 2300 m (5900-7500 feet). They spend much of their time on the forest fringes, wooded hillsides, clearings, and gardens.  Their diet consists of honeybees, moths, butterflies, dragonflies, beetles, bugs and many other flying insects.

Full-grown Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters measure about 22cm in length (8.7 inches) and can reach a weight of up to 17-38 g (.6-1.34oz).  Both the male and female Cinnamon-chested bee-eaters share a huge resemblance of having bright green heads, backs, and tails.  They both have a bright yellow throat that has a black outline. The chest’s colour is usually in cinnamon brown. When you see them standing on the canopy branches, their inner tail is dark with an orange base and white tip.  The Cinnamon-Chested Bee-Eater call is usually a high pitched, short one that sounds kind of “tseep tseep.”

Cinamon Chested Bee eater Kilimanjaro

African Pitta

The African Pitta, otherwise known as the “holy grail” of African birds is a shy and brightly coloured bird that is often loud and gives explosive calls.  Both sexes of the bird share many similarities, with a solid dark crown, face, and ear coverlets.  They have a pale salmon pink colour on their throats, chests, flanks and a mustard yellow neck.

Some few edges of black, turquoise and royal blue tip their wings which are deep green in colour and an underbelly that is crimson red in colour, same as the tail.

Their main diet consists of insects and molluscs.  They mate during the rainy season and months in the Kilimanjaro region.

African pitta bird, Kilimanjaro

Lammergeyer (Bearded Vulture)

Yes, there are vultures on Mount Kilimanjaro and this bearded vulture otherwise known as the lammergeier or lammergeyer or ossifrage, is a large bird of prey, almost as big as the crown eagle is the only member of the genus Gypaetus.

The Lammergeyer or bearded vulture is the only vertebrate in the world that feeds strictly on bones, a diet that consists of about 70% to 90% of bones. It inhabits and breeds on crags of Mount Kilimanjaro laying one or two eggs every season. They have a long wingspan and a wedged tail.

Lammergeyer vulture bird Kilimanjaro

Alpine chat

The alpine chat inhabits the grassland, heath, and moorland zones of Mount Kilimanjaro, hence the name alpine, moorland, or hill chat. It usually favours high altitudes above 300m above sea level.

It is a small bird, brown in colour with white feathers on either side of its tail. It feeds on seed mostly and can be found almost everywhere on the mountain as it loved cold areas.

Mount Kilimanjaro ecosystem with the inclusion of its many vegetation zones like the cultivated zone, the forest zone, heath and moorland and the alpine zone not to forget the whole of the Kilimanjaro region is a rich habitat with a wide diversity of bird species. The list above only mentions a few species of birds that can be found near and on the mountain itself. The truth of the matter is that there are many animals and birds on Mount Kilimanjaro and around the region that include a variety of sunbirds, flycatchers, shrikes, starlings, woodpeckers, chats, barbets, and more.

alpine chat bird kilimanjaro

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