NAIROBI PARK DIARY

Big bird moments

The park has four known species of bustards that frequent the area

In Summary

• The park boasts both the world's heaviest non-flying bird (ostrich) and the world's heaviest flying bird (kori bustard)

Male kori bustard drinking
Male kori bustard drinking
Image: GARETH JONES

Early one morning, I drove across the Embakasi plains and saw a pair of white-bellied Bustards searching and feeding as they walked along.

The male had quite attractive markings. After watching the bustards for a while, I thought about the amazing variety of birds in the park, and in particular the big birds like bustards and ostriches.

Most people know that the ostrich is the world's largest bird, but they cannot fly. Bustards are all fairly large, with the largest species, the kori bustard (Ardeotis kori), being frequently cited as the world's heaviest flying bird.

Large males can exceed 20kg. They weigh around 13.5kg on average and can attain a total length of 150cm. In most bustards, males are substantially larger than females, often about 30 per cent longer and sometimes more than twice the weight.

Therefore, the Nairobi National Park is also unique in that the park boasts both the world's heaviest non-flying bird (ostrich) and the world's heaviest flying bird (kori bustard).

The park has four known species of bustards that frequent the area: Kori (Ardeotis kori), and three smaller types, namely white-bellied (Eupodotis senegalensis), black-bellied (E melanogaster) and Harlaub's (E hartlaubii) bustards.

They are omnivorous, feeding principally on seeds and invertebrates. Their ground nests make eggs and offspring vulnerable to predation. Walking steadily on strong legs and pecking for food as they go, most prefer to run or walk instead of flying. They have long broad wings with "fingered" wingtips, and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays, such as inflating throat sacs or elevating elaborate feathered crests.

Spend a day in the park, go “birdwatching”, and then you will be amazed at how many other animals can also be seen, if you slow down to the pace of nature.

The park is open daily from 06h00 to 19h00.

For more information on the park you can link to the following website www.kws.org