Kenyan mountains

Country/Territory Kenya; Tanzania; Uganda
Area 48,000 km2
Altitude 900 - 4400 m
Priority urgent
Habitat loss moderate
Knowledge good

General characteristics

This EBA includes the mountains around the Rift Valley in the interior of Kenya and northern Tanzania, and on the eastern border of Uganda. These mountains include extensive areas lying above 2,500 m, and most of the main ranges rise to well over 3,000 m; they include the great isolated volcanoes of Mt Kilimanjaro (at 5,895 m the highest mountain in Africa), Mt Kenya (5,200 m) and Mt Elgon (4,321 m). The main habitats are Afromontane forest (from c.900 m up to 2,600 m), bamboo (mainly at 2,400–3,500 m), montane grassland (up to 3,500 m) and moorland (lying above 3,500 m). The southern part of this EBA overlaps geographically with the Serengeti plains (EBA 108), but the birds in the latter area occur mainly at lower altitudes and in non-forest habitats.

Restricted-range species

The restricted-range species vary in distribution and occur in a wide variety of Afromontane habitats (see Lewis and Pomeroy 1989, Stronach 1990). Cinnyricinclus femoralis and Poeoptera kenricki are confined to montane forests below the bamboo zone in the eastern part of the EBA. Both of them occur in the Pare mountains in northern Tanzania, which is therefore included within this EBA, although the forest avifauna there has affinities with both this EBA and the Tanzania-Malawi mountains (EBA 105) (Stuart et al. 1993, Cordeiro and Kiure 1995). Zosterops winifredae is only known from the South Pare mountains. Macronyx sharpei and Euplectes jacksoni are birds of open montane grasslands, although E. jacksoni also ranges into grasslands at intermediate altitudes and occurs, for example, in the long grass habitats in the Masai Mara Game Reserve and Nairobi National Park (L. A. Bennun in litt. 1996). Turdoides hindei is particularly associated with scrub and open woodland in the foothills of the eastern part of the EBA, to the south and east of Mt Kenya.

Species IUCN Red List category
Jackson's Francolin (Pternistis jacksoni) LC
Hunter's Cisticola (Cisticola hunteri) LC
Aberdare Cisticola (Cisticola aberdare) VU
South Pare White-eye (Zosterops winifredae) NT
Hinde's Babbler (Turdoides hindei) VU
Kenrick's Starling (Poeoptera kenricki) LC
Abbott's Starling (Arizelopsar femoralis) EN
Jackson's Widowbird (Euplectes jacksoni) NT
Sharpe's Longclaw (Macronyx sharpei) EN

Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)
Country IBA Name IBA Book Code
Kenya Aberdare Mountains KE001
Kenya Chyulu Hills forests KE026
Kenya Kianyaga valleys KE002
Kenya Kikuyu Escarpment forest KE003
Kenya Kinangop grasslands KE004
Kenya Lake Elmenteita KE046
Kenya Lake Ol' Bolossat KE061
Kenya Machakos valleys KE029
Kenya Masai Mara KE050
Kenya Mau Narok - Molo grasslands KE052
Kenya Meru National Park KE031
Kenya Mount Elgon (Kenya) KE059
Kenya Mount Kenya KE005
Kenya Mukurweini valleys KE006
Kenya Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve KE066
Kenya Mutitu Forest KE067
Kenya Mwea National Reserve KE032
Kenya Nairobi National Park KE036
Kenya South Nguruman KE056
Tanzania Arusha National Park and vicinity TZ001
Tanzania Mount Kilimanjaro TZ003
Tanzania Ngorongoro Conservation Area TZ013
Tanzania North Pare Mountains TZ062
Tanzania South Pare Mountains TZ063
Uganda Mount Elgon National Park UG028

Threat and conservation

Three of the restricted-range species are threatened, Turdoides hindei because its range has contracted considerably during the twentieth century and its habitat continues to be cleared rapidly for intensive agriculture (Njoroge and Bennun 1996), Zosterops winifredae because the forests are under pressure within its small range, and Cinnyricinclus femoralis because it is an extremely localized forest species which is believed to be declining in parts of its range because of forest loss. Montane grassland is also being rapidly lost because of agricultural development, which is probably affecting the two grassland specialist species (Lens et al. 1996, L. A. Bennun in litt. 1993), and consequently these are classified as Near Threatened.

IUCN (1992b) lists nine protected areas within this EBA which contain suitable habitat for the restricted-range birds, including Aberdare, Mount Elgon, Mount Kenya and Chyulu National Parks in Kenya, and Kilimanjaro National Park and Mount Meru Game Reserve in Tanzania. There are also a number of forest reserves which are very important for the conservation of the habitats of these birds (L. A. Bennun in litt. 1993, N. Stronach in litt. 1993).

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Endemic Bird Areas factsheet: Kenyan mountains. Downloaded from http://datazone.birdlife.org/eba/factsheet/98 on 03/10/2023.