Many of Entara’s visitors come to Randilen for the landscapes studded with Elephants and Baobabs without realising that the area is blessed with an abundant avian population. Even those who have never given a second thought to birding become enthralled by the colourful, boisterous cacophony of the conservancy’s winged wildlife.
Driving or walking through the landscape or sitting on your verandah in Olkeri Camp, you will be enveloped by birds; the sound of their wings and calls constantly reminding you that you are immersed in a living, breathing environment.
Adjacent to Tarangire National Park, the conservancy is home to more than 500 bird species. Three species are endemic (found nowhere else) to the dry savannah of north-central Tanzania and are easily seen in Randilen.
You will see flocks of the brightly coloured Yellow-collared Lovebirds and the drabber Rufous-tailed Weaver and Ashy Starling. Dry-country bird species, such as the Rosy-patched Bushshrike and Northern Pied Babbler, are found here at the extremity of their range. The distribution of Mosque Swallows, Orange-bellied Parrots and the Mottled Spinetail is closely tied to the ever-present Baobabs of Tarangire.
Masses of migratory birds from Europe and Asia arrive between November and April, including the globally-endangered Lesser Kestrels, ubiquitous European Rollers and an array of Wheatears, Warblers, Waders, Storks, Cuckoos, Flycatchers, Pipits and Raptors.
Some of the bird species that we commonly see around Randilen and Olkeri Camp include:
These are awe-inspiring giant ground-dwelling birds that stand a metre tall. They are carnivorous and forage for insects, snakes and even prey on other birds. Their loud, hooting call that carries for miles is a feature of the dusk soundscape. Ground Hornbills are among the longest-living birds often exceeding 50 years of age. Some have been documented to reach 70 years.
Francolins are boisterous birds of Randilen and are well-represented in our area. Red-throated and Yellow-necked Spurfowl, as well as Crested and Coqui Francolins, are resident around Olkeri Camp. These Francolins take great pleasure sitting outside your tent at dawn and letting forth a series of grating calls that rise to a crescendo – your fail-safe bush wake-up call!
This Parrot is an east African endemic, limited to the Somali-Maasai biome. Their distribution is tied to Baobabs and they nest in the tree cavities. It is one of Randilen’s noisiest inhabitants and easy to see when pairs and flocks frequent fruiting trees. The species is sexually dimorphic (different plumage) with males presenting bright orange bellies and females showing greenish ones.
This striking bird displays a brilliant blue that contrasts with black flight feathers. In November, the woodlands of Randilen and Tarangire fill with waves of European Rollers. These sit-and-wait predators perch prominently on trees and bushes to spy out large beetles, small reptiles, rodents and frogs. They migrate around March (stragglers might linger until April), leaving the area to the common resident, the Lilac-breasted Roller.
This striking electric-blue-backed Kingfisher prefers drier habitats in woodlands and can be far from water, feeding on reptiles, frogs and insects. Pairs breed from November to March and are particularly aggressive during that time. If they hear a neighbouring pair, they will present a display that starts with a loud duet, followed by a striking dance in which the wings are spread to show the white linings and the blue back.
Ostriches are common in Randilen. Famous for being the world’s largest and heaviest birds, they lay the largest eggs of any living land animal. While they are flightless, they can run at 70 km/h, making them the fastest birds on land. They feed on plant-based foods but occasionally eat insects and small reptiles. Lacking teeth, they swallow pebbles to grind food in the gizzard. As the mating season starts in March, the throat of the black and white males becomes red and they perform territorial displays of dancing and excitedly flapping alternate wings. During this time, the males become fiercely territorial.
This beautiful Woodpecker is one of three species we see in Randilen. Pairs are resident year-round and forage primarily in trees for beetle larvae and spiders but also on the ground for ants and termites. It is easy to find them by following their tell-tale sound of knock-knock-knocking on wood. As they move through the trees, they communicate with their mate through their repeated piping call that often crescendos in a duet.
Marico Sunbirds are small with long curved bills, ideally suited for their nectar-based diet. Long and narrow flowers are punctured at the base where they sip the nectar. They will also eat insects and spiders, especially when feeding their young. Sexually dimorphic, the males are brightly coloured while the females are grey. Randilen boasts many species of sunbirds that can be seen at close quarters, especially when the Aloes in Olkeri Camp are in bloom.
These are large, terrestrial birds that live in grassland areas on the conservancy – although relatively small compared to other bustards. They walk through the grassland foraging for food and eating buds, seeds, fruit, small vertebrates and invertebrates. Usually, we see pairs or family groups because the young stay with their parents for long periods.
Pearl-spotted Owlets are among the smallest African owls. Brownish and heavily spotted in white, they have two distinct black false ‘eyes’ at the back of their head that give the impression that you are being watched even with their backs turned. This Owlet is common around Olkeri Camp and with its distinctive call, it is easy to follow on a bird walk.
The adult Starling has bright, iridescent plumage and is among the most colourful birds in our area. It is a regional endemic limited to Kenya and Tanzania. Flocks forage on the ground for beetles and grasshoppers and after the rains, they often hawk for flying termites. In Randilen they form mixed feeding flocks with Starlings, following large mammals and catching prey flushed by the animals’ movements.
Expand your wilderness experience while on safari with Entara by joining our expert guides who will be only too happy to open your eyes and ears to the abundant and diverse birding opportunities of Randilen and our Olkeri Camp.