Kiptaberr Hill – a new birding hotspot

Kiptaberr Hill is one of the forest fragments in the Cherangani Hills, located near Kapcherop market centre, close to the Kenya Forest Service station. The hill is a spectacular single giant rock. During a survey for the GEF/UNDP funded “Strengthening Protected Areas Network within the Eastern Montane Forest Hotspot of Kenya” project in the western forests of Kenya in 2015, it was observed that Kiptaberr was a stopover point for migrants and a home to raptors. Kiptaberr Hill is a suitable raptor migratory watchtower that is yet to be considered for protection and conservation.

The survey team from the National Museums of Kenya and Nature Kenya found the Critically Endangered (CR) Hooded Vulture (Necrosyrtes monachus) resident at the rock, with two roosting flocks of 6-8 individuals spotted on one of the survey transects. When climbing up the hill, the team often saw a pair of Vulnerable (VU) Southern Ground Hornbills among flocks of goats and sheep.  At the peak of Kiptaberr rock, at alt 2,786, they found Malachite Sunbirds feeding and nesting.

While enjoying a spectacular view of Trans Nzoia from atop the hill, a visitor will also see a cave between rocks that is home to Nyanza Swifts. The birds make repeated trips to their nests in the cave with food in between their beaks to feed young ones. Some 200m higher, a Lanner Falcon flies in very fast and enters between two rocks.  Suddenly, the sound of begging chicks can be heard. Clearly, Kiptaberr is an avifauna hot spot.

By observing human activities in and around Kiptaberr, it is evident that this forest fragment is facing serious threats. Encroachment, over-grazing and logging are some of the looming threats at Kiptaberr and one cannot stop wondering, ‘does this unique forest fragment have a future?’