Birds of the Great Rift Valley Lakes


Deemed as a natural property by UNESCO World Heritage, the Kenya Lake System in the Great Rift Valley is known for a high level of bird diversities and is home to 13 globally threatened bird species. Half of Kenya’s migratory species are water birds that migrate mainly along the Rift Valley and the coast. Known as the Soda Lakes, due to their high concentrations of carbonate salts, they have an unlimited supply of dissolved carbon dioxide making these lakes the most highly productive aquatic environments in the world. The three inter-linked soda lakes, Bogoria, Nakuru, and Elementaita, are known to be the most important sites for lesser flamingoes to forage. It is also a major nesting and breeding ground for great white pelicans.

• Lake Bogoria

More than 350 birds are located in the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. The area is an important bird and biodiversity area and hosts the largest number of bird species. Since the lake water supports a dense bloom of algae, it serves as an important foraging ground to large flocks of flamingos, and an estimated two million lesser flamingos along with many greater flamingos flock there for feeding. Many other water birds and a broad range of mammals, too, are easily found.

• Lake Nakuru

The scenic Lake Nakuru is at an elevation of 1754 m. above sea level, and is part of Kenya’s famous Lake Nakuru National Park. The abundant algae used to attract thousands of flamingos to the shore, so many that Lake Nakuru would be transformed into a shimmering pink haze. However, in recent times, the conditions have become unfavorable, and the flamingos have moved to other Rift Valley lakes. The early 1990’s saw the lake’s level drop dramatically, but the water level has made a significant recovery in recent years.

• Lake Elementaita

Another of the Great Rift Valley soda lakes is Lake Elmenteita, which contains trona, a common source of soda ash, and a non-marine evaporite mineral that’s mined as sodium carbonate. The elements turn the lake into a highly productive aquatic environment for over a hundred migrating species of birds, including the great white pelicans. About 200,000 white storks migrate from Europe in August, arriving in Lake Elementaita around October. In April, they begin their journey back to Europe.

Along the African-Eurasian flyway system, the Rift Valley lakes play an important role in linking the continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa and is the world’s single most important bird migration path. The flyway system is considered the densest and most diverse route, as far as species are concerned, between the breeding and wintering grounds in Eurasia and Africa for migrating birds. The winter months see many birds travel to African spots from Northern breeding grounds.

Author Bio :

The author is an Ornithologist and has a keen interest in migratory birds. The study of the African-Eurasian flyway system has seen him travel to different continents. Lake Nakuru and Lake Bogoria are amongst his favorite spots.


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