You are currently viewing Shoebill, Grebes, Tropicbird, Frigatebird, Cormorants, Pelicans
Shoebill by Marina Meger, Uganda

Grebes, Tropicbirds, Frigatebirds,
Cormorants, Darter, Pelicans, Shoebill

Grebes – Order Podicipediformes
This order contains only one family Podicipedidae. Grebes are world wide distributed on fresh water bodies

Tropicbirds – Order Phaethontiformes
has 1 family Phaethontidae. Tropicbirds are pelagic sea birds and found at oceans all over the world in different species. Occasionally they are found near land or cliffs where they breed.

Order Pelecaniformes

Frigatebirds – Family Fregatidae are found in tropical and subtropical oceans all over the world. They hunt fish but are also very good in pirating prey of other birds in the air which gave them the name “man-o’-war birds”.  Their flight ability and maneuverability is enormous. Their beak has a sharp hook at the tip. Nests are built on bushes and males display their red air bags to attract females.

Cormorants – Family Phalacrocoracidae are aquatic birds feeding on fish they catch by diving. They are the only birds with a preen gland, since greased feathers would hold oxygen making it harder to go under water. They often spread their wings on land to dry the feathers. Their feet are webbed for maneuvering under water. They are strong divers. You see them submerging and surface a distance away. They nest in colonies on trees at lakes and rivers in many parts of the planet.

Darter – Family Anhingidae contains only one genus with 4 species of mainly tropical water birds. Their characteristic is long, flexible necks. In East Africa you only find 1 species of Darter.

Pelicans – Family Pelecanidae feed on fish which they catch in fresh and salt water with the bag under the beak. Some species hunt in groups surrounding shoals of fish. Some are more solitary. Their feet are webbed for good swimming but they don’t dive. It is a spectacle to see Great White Pelicans using thermic to soar in large groups high up into the sky. The other Pelican species in Kenya is the Pink-backed Pelican which is more solitary. Both can be found at the same water body.

Hamerkop – Family Scopidae
There is only 1 species – Hamerkop. It is very interesting to watch them hunt frogs and tadpoles.

Shoebill – Family Balaenicipitidae

There is only 1 species – Shoebill. The Shoebill is one dream bird of many birders. You need to travel to the place where chances are highest to find it. One good place is Mabamba Swamp at the edge of Lake Victoria in Uganda which is in general an amazing birding place. It is also declared a Ramsar site. Shoebills are protected. Shoebills are feeding on fish. They stand motionless and jump very fast. 

If you are so lucky to observe a hunting shoebill then you really got a super experience.

Click on photos for larger view. Names of photographers are indicated. Without the generosity of amazing bird photographers we had not achieved our goal to introduce you to so many bird species in East Africa. Photos without name are from Elvira Wolfer

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis capensis) is widespread on fresh and partly soda lakes

White-tailed Tropicbird (Phaethon l. lepturus) can be found in open waters of the Indian Ocean  Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Greater Frigatebird (Fregata m. minor) also called “man o’ war” can be seen in the open water of the Indian Ocean. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

White-breasted Cormorant (Phalocracorax l. lucidus) is found at water with fish

Long-tailed or Reed Cormorant (Microcarbo a. africana) widespread at water with fish

Darter (Anhinga r. rufa) is found at lakes with fish. Locally frequent. Left male, right female. Photos Lorenzo Barelli

Great White Pelican (Pelecanus onocrotalus) lives on lakes with fish in Africa. They sometimes hunt in groups. Group photo by Lorenzo Barelli, Nakuru National Park 

Pink-backed Pelican (Pelecanus rufescens) doesn’t flock and is quite common on lakes with fish in Africa.

Hamerkop (Scopus u. umbrtetta) is found at water bodies with fish and amphibians. Widespread in Africa. They build the largest nests which they reuse and extend. Often they accompany fishermen. Nest photo by Lorenzo Barelli

Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is a rare bird in its own family. The best place to see it is in Mabamba Swamp in Uganda. Photos by Marina Meger
An interesting documentary