Experts discover rare birds breeding ground

By Philip Mwakio

The first known nesting site of one of the world’s rare birds has been discovered in Dakatcha woodland, Kilifi County.

According to Nature Kenya, the discovery marks an important contribution to science. Executive Director Paul Matiku said: “For many years, ornithologists (bird specialists) have been trying to unveil the nesting place of this rare bird Clarke Weaver (Ploceus golandi).’’

Information indicates that until March 23, the breeding ground of the endangered bird had remained unknown, puzzling conservationists and researchers all over the world.

The Clarke Weaver is a bird found only in Kilifi County in Kenya.

‘’This will be a boost to tourism as bird lovers will throng the site to see where these birds perch and thrive,’’ he said. The birds had been seen in Arabuko-Sokoke Forest south of Sabaki River and in Dakatcha Woodland north of the river.

They are usually in small flocks, feeding on insects and fruits in forests. Their nesting site, however, had never been found.

But a monitoring team from Nature Kenya and Dakatcha Woodland Conservation Group, a support group, made the discovery after spending years searching for the bird’s breeding ground. The team comprised of leading environmentalists Fleur Ng’weno, Peter Wario, Jonathan Mwachongo and Patrick Changawa.

Others included Julius Mwambire, Japhet Garama, Kazungu Thuva, Samuel Kenga and Samson Katisho.

The nesting site is at a seasonal wetland comprising of grasses and sedges surrounded by trees and bushes.  “While observing the weavers from the shade of low trees bordering the seasonal wetland, the team noted brownish shapes of nests. One male was seen weaving more sedge strips onto a nest,’’ Nature Kenya said.

The team estimated over 700 Clarke Weavers in the small wetlands.

globally threatened

The birds’ total population is currently estimated to be between 2,000 to 4,000, according to Birdlife International.

Because of their low numbers and limited range, Clarke Weavers are considered an endangered species.

Dakatcha Woodland is designated by Nature Kenya and BirdLife International an Important Bird Area (IBA).

The IBA also holds substantial population of other threatened birds such as the Sokoke Pipit, Sokoke Scops Owl, Fischer’s Turaco and Southern Banded Snake Eagle, and is home to the globally threatened Golden-rumped Sengi (Elephant–shrew) and rare plants such as the tree Warbugia stuhlmannii.

Commercial charcoal production from trees in the area has been a major cause of destruction in the forests and woodlands of Dakatcha.