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Rare bird’s tragic flight from Finland to Siaya

By Caroline Chebet | Jan 28th 2020 | 3 min read
Osprey bird, a migratory bird whose refereeing ring on its leg shows it was ringed in a museum in Finland. [Courtesy]

A migratory osprey bird that flew 4,317 miles (about 6,947km) from Finland to Usalu village in Siaya County has died.

In a statement, the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) announced the death of the bird, days after breaking the internet following its rescue on January 20, this year.

“We regret to announce the death of the rescued migratory osprey bird despite all efforts to rehabilitate and eventually release it back into the wild. The four-year-old bird of prey died at the weekend while under the care of KWS veterinarians and a KWS-licensed Raptor Rehabilitation Centre in Karen, Nairobi,” KWS said in a statement.

The bird, according to the postmortem examination report conducted by veterinary teams, died of long-term starvation which precipitated systemic organ failure.

The raptor bird was rescued last week in Siaya by a member of the community, Mr Walter Oloo, who reported the sighting to the KWS Siaya County office on January 20.

The bird was then taken to the KWS Veterinary Department in Nairobi and later transferred to the Raptor Rehabilitation Centre.

“By the time the bird was delivered to the city, it had been severely dehydrated, weak and emaciated from the long flight and minor injuries while trapped by the fishing net. It weighed 950g against the normal range of 1.3-1.8kg weight of an adult osprey,” KWS noted.

Plans by KWS was that the bird, once in good health, was to be released at the exact site where it was rescued in the Lake Victoria catchment so that it does not lose its bearings on the return flight northwards in early March.  The bird’s origin had been established from a ring on its leg, whose details show that it was ringed in a museum in Finland.

According to Birdlife International, one in five of the world’s bird species migrate.

Different types of birds take routes of varying lengths and some round-trip migrations can be as long as 44,000 miles (about 70,811km), nearly two round-the-world trips.

“Migrations that cut across deserts or open water are especially risky,” National Geographic notes. In such perilous journey, some birds get caught up in storms killing thousands and forcing an entire sky full of them to stop at the first dry land they encounter.

“Birdwatchers revel in these events (known as fallouts). Colourful warblers, orioles, and tanagers decorate every bush and provide eye-level views as they forage ravenously to recover from difficult flight,” it notes.

Over the years, the exciting phenomenon of migratory birds that transverse continents has been disrupted by increasing hazards such as habitat loss, overuse of pesticides and being hunted during stopovers.

Organisations such as Nature Kenya and Birdlife International have also highlighted fatal collisions with buildings and radio towers as a challenge to migratory birds that fly at night.

According to KWS Communications Director Paul Udoto, the ringing of birds is usually done for conservation purposes and to know the movements and habitats of migratory birds.

The exercise is also aimed at boosting conservation of habitats where the birds spent most of their times after flying miles across continents.

“Once established where these birds prefer, awareness for purposes of conservation is usually boosted in such areas,” Mr Udoto said.

Kenya, he added, is a signatory to the Convention on Migratory Species, whose conference of parties is to be held next month in India and one of its key mandates is to ensure the conservation of migratory bird species. Bird-ringing in Kenya is often done at Ngulia in Tsavo every other year in October and November, during which migratory birds from Europe are identified.  

There are seven documented catchment areas of migratory birds, among them lakes Nakuru, Naivasha, Bogoria, Elementaita and Victoria.

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