31. Friday’s Flyer: Pied Kingfisher

Pied Kingfisher *

 The Pied Kingfisher, with its black and white plumage, hovers over clear lakes and rivers before diving down sharply to spear a fish with its beak. The video below shows this amazing skill in slow motion.
Males have a double band across the breast while females have a single patch of color on the throat that is often broken in the middle.
They’re usually found in pairs or small family parties. When perched, Pied Kingfishers often bob their heads and flick up their tails.


The Pied Kingfisher is the largest bird in the world
that can hover in still air.

Video source: BBC Studios

* Why feature the Pied Kingfisher?

This bird is one smart athlete. The whole hovering/split-second timing/vertical diving thing is incredible.
He’s shaped a little like a blue jay which might help me to recognize him in a perched position.

26. Friday’s Flyer: Lappet-Faced Vulture

Lappet-Faced Vulture *

The Lappet-Faced Vulture is Africa’s largest bird of prey. It has a pink head, blue and ivory beak, and heavy wings. The feathers on the upper part of its legs make it look as though it’s wearing a pair of white trousers. Like many vultures, it has a bald head, which is advantageous, because a feathered head would become spattered with blood and other fluids, and thus be difficult to keep clean.
The Lappet-Faced Vulture is a scavenging bird, feeding mostly on animal carcasses, which it finds by sight or by watching other vultures. Its vision is practically unmatched in the animal kingdom.
Ranking among the world’s most powerful flyers, the Lappet-Faced Vulture is capable of soaring on upward air currents for hours.


The Lappet-Faced Vulture is the most aggressive of all the African vultures, and other vultures usually cede a carcass to the Lappet-Faced if it decides to assert itself.
The first few seconds of this video remind me of Hitchcock’s The Birds.

Source: DougNorrisFam, YouTube

Lappet-Faced Vultures are considered endangered, mostly due to habitat loss. In some cases, dozens at a time are poisoned by poachers who fear the presence of vultures will alert authorities to their illegal killing of protected species.

Source: BirdLife International, Saving Nature’s Clean Up Crew, YouTube (Time: 1:22)

 Why feature the Lappet-Faced Vulture?

These guys are the stars of every safari movie’s After-the-Kill Clean-up Scene that has ever been produced.
Their ill-gotten fame shoots them to the top of the Friday Flyer List.

21. Friday’s Flyer: Lilac-Breasted Roller

We’ll be visiting a country that boasts 1,137 species of birds.
I can identify an ostrich, a penguin, a chicken and a flamingo. Clearly, I’m going to need a bit of preparation to take advantage of this birdwatcher’s paradise.

Every Friday, a single bird, said to be common to Kenya, will be highlighted on this blog.
I don’t imagine for one minute that I’ll be able to shout out, “Look! There’s a Northern Long-Crested Hornbill on our left!”
But I’m thinking that some familiarization with just a few of these winged creatures might cause me to stop and take in the beauty of all that I see.
I’ll start with the National Bird of Kenya.

Lilac-Breasted Roller


The Lilac-Breasted Roller is considered one of the most beautiful birds in the world with its pastel colors and long tail streamers. 
Although mostly silent, it announces itself with a harsh, raspy call during the breeding season or when it feels its territory is threatened.
These large-headed birds are often found in a grassy clearings, atop a tree that serves as a hunting perch.

The Lilac-Breasted Roller does not migrate. It stays right in Kenya and breeds there. I guess what happens in Kenya, stays in Kenya.
It nests in a natural hole in a tree where a clutch of 2-4 eggs are laid. Both parents incubate the eggs.

All rollers, including the lilac-breasted, are known for their acrobatic, agile flight, aided by their tail streamers which they use as rudders while flying.

Source: YouTube, SafariLive 10 30 How the Lilac-breasted roller got his name

Next week: A Bird of Prey.

4. Wednesday’s Word: Jambo

Jambo” is Swahili for “hello.”

In hopes of arriving in Africa with a number of useful Swahili words and phrases at my fingertips, I’m attempting to learn one new word per week.
I’m using the YouTube video “Easy Swahili – Basic Phrases for Greetings” as a pronunciation guide.

I shall begin by cheating, and choose a word I already know.

2. How Big Is It?

Pretty darn big!

The Republic of Kenya is the world’s 48th largest country by total area (224,084 square miles), and the 27th most populous. English and Swahili are its two official languages.

Black band = the natives of Kenya
Red band = in memory of the blood sacrifice of freedom seekers
Green band = Kenya’s natural resources
White fimbriation = peace and honesty
Warrior’s shield and two spears = the traditions and cultures of Kenya.

1. Oh, All The Places to Go!

Last Friday The NYTimes posted its annual “52 Places to Go” for 2020. Mount Kenya is on the list. The mountain is home to some of the world’s last remaining tropical glaciers. However, glacier monitoring suggests that any permanent ice on Mount Kenya could disappear completely before 2030. According to The Times, “Now is the time to go.”

Uganda also made this year’s list, as it’s leading the way in sustainable travel. We have purchased a permit for a one day gorilla trek in the Bwindi Forest. Uganda limits the number of trekking permits. Parties no bigger than 8 are allowed to visit a gorilla family for one hour. Once you come upon the troupe, the clock starts ticking. Sixty minutes later you’re escorted back to camp.