African Snipe
African Snipe by Lorenzo Barelli

From Snipes to small waders

Order Charadriiformes – Shorebirds has a large variety of birds from small to large. The largest among them are snipes. Most of them live near water, but some inhabit forest or even deserts. Some are pelagic which means living in the open sea. They feed on invertebrates and other small animals. Since a good number are migrants, they have long, sharp ending wings. To keep the feathers functioning they bath in fresh water and apply the oily secretion from the preen gland.

Due to the high number of families and species in this order we have split them into several pages.

Here we introduce snipes, Pied Avocet, Black-winged Stilt, various sandpiper species, Ruff, Sanderling and others.

Most of them are long distance migrants and breed in the very Northern regions. The summer is short so they have to make use of the insects to raise their young quickly to be able to travel. The nests are on the ground and they defend it vehemently. As soon as the young hatch they have the eyes open and can walk. The parents feed and protect them.

Amboseli and Mida Creek are some of the amazing places to find a large variety of species.

Painted Snipes – Family Rostratulidae. 2 genus are in this family of wading birds. They are short-legged with long bills. Their colours are more striking than those of the true snipes. Sexual dimorphism is well visible. They inhabit swamps, shallow lakes and reed where they feed on seeds and invertebrates.

Snipes and relatives – Family Scolopacidae

Is a family of medium seized birds found almost around the world in swamps and flooded areas. Characteristic is the long, straight, slender bill with which the dig in the mud searching for invertebrates. Filaments almost to the tip enable them to detect prey without seeing it. Sandpipers have a similar adaptation. The species look very much alike and to identify them correctly can be a challenge.

Several snipe species are endangered due to habitat loss. They need swamps to find the suitable food. We are lucky to have photos of all snipe species you can encounter in East Africa.

Click on the photo for larger view. The names of the photographers are on the photo and in the text. Without the generosity of several amazing bird photographers it had not been possible to create the pages with so many bird species. Those photos without name are from Elvira Wolfer.

To give you as actual information as possible we use Avibase, the books “Birds of South of the Sahara”, “Birds of East Africa”, “Birds of Kenya and Northern Tanzania”. Then we put the most characteristic information to the photo.

You can also follow us on Facebook “Bird photography Safaris Kenya” and see the numerous species as well as the beautiful photos from Lorenzo Barelli.

Birding Kenya Central & West Safari 13 days

Kenya bird watching safari 13 days Nairobi to coast

Greater painted Snipe (Rostrutula benghalensis) is a rather uncommon resident and intra-African migrant. They can be found at marshes and flooded grassland. Female left, male right. They can be polyandrous. The female can mate with 2 – 3 males and leaves them incubating and raising of the chicks. They are omnivorous.

Common Snipe (Gallinago g. gallinago) is a common and widespread palearctic migrant from October to March. It is found at dams, marshes and swamps from East to West Africa. 

African (Ethiopian) Snipe (Gallinago nigripennis aequatorialis) is a resident and local nomad from the horn of Africa to Southern Africa. It likes muddy places. In Kenya it is found in the Western part, in Tanzania West and at many places in Uganda. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Jack Snipe (Lymnocryptes minimus) breeds in Scandinavia and Siberia and is a very rare migrant to East Africa. Photo Jacques Pitteloud

Black-tailed Godwit (Limosa l. limosa) inhabits wetlands of different kinds. They like deep water. Common palearctic migrant. Status: near threatened. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Bar-tailed Godwit (Limosa l. lapponica) breeds in Lapland and winters at estuaries and lagoons around Africa. It is rare inland at Lake Turkana. Status: near threatened. Photo Per Holmen

Eurasian Curlew (Numenius arquata orientalis) breeds in E Russian and Manchuria and winters at coasts and some inland lakes in Africa. Status: near threatened. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Whimbrel (Numenius p. phaeopus) is a Northwestern palearctic migrant to Africa’s coast and rare at some inland lakes. Mida Creek. During high tide they sit on mangroves and as soon as the water exposes bare sand they and other species fly there to search for food. A unique spectacle!

Common Redshank (Tringa totanus ussuriensis) breeds in Siberia, Mongolia and E Russia. They are rare migrants to the Kenyan coast and some inland lakes. Photo Per Holmen

Marsh Sandpiper (Tringa stagnatilis) is a common palearctic migrant to African wetlands between August and April.

Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) is a common palearctic migrant to Africa. They are found at lake shores, ponds, dams and at the coast. Some stay all year round.

Green Sandpiper (Tringa ochropus) is a fairly common migrant from N Eurasia. It is found at wetlands in Africa from August to April. Photo Jacques Pitteloud

Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) breeds in Northern Eurasia and spends the winter in Africa from August to May at fresh water wetlands.

Little Stint (Calidris minuta) breeds in N Palearctic and winters in Africa and Indian subcontinent from August to May. It is found in different kind of waters, also along the coast.

Curlew Sandpiper (Calidris ferruginea) breeds in Arctic Siberia and winters in Africa at coast an inland lakes. Status: Near threatened. In breeding plumage from Per Holmen, in company with other waders at Mida Creek. In the middle end of March changing into breeding plumage in Mida Creek before leaving for the North.

Temmincks’s Stint (Calidris temminckii) breeds in N Palearctic and winters in Africa, Indonesia and Philippines. Photo Per Holmen, Norway

Ruff (Calidris pugnax) is a common palearctic migrant. You will find it along lake shores and wetlands, but it also swims in deep water. In Africa it loses its beautiful breeding plumage and its demonstrating defense of the nest.

Common Sandpiper (Actitis hypoleucos) a common and widespread palearctic migrant from August to April. It is met at any kind of wetland even coast.

Terek Sandpiper (Xenus cinereus) breeds in Northern Eurasia and winters in Africa, Philippines, N Australia. It is mainly found at the coast, rare inland. 

Ruddy Turnstone (Arenaria i. interpres) breeds in Alaska, N Europe etc. and winters mainly at the coast in Africa. Photo Lorenzo Barelli

Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) is common at most wetlands fresh and soda from West to East and Southern Africa.

Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) is a locally common resident and palearctic migrant to wetlands and coasts from West to East and Southern Africa.