Busia grasslands

Year of compilation: 2001

Site description
This area comprises a chain of small grassland patches (some seasonally flooded) in western Kenya, including Mungatsi (36 ha, 0°27’67”N 34°19’69”E), Matayo (210 ha, 0°23’01”N 34°08’73”E), Sikoma (1 ha, 0°24’03”N 34°11’03”E), and Malanga (3 ha, 0°25’96”N 34°18’44”E). All the patches are surrounded by intensive agriculture, mainly maize and sugarcane, and are grazed by livestock. The most important of them is Mungatsi, located 2 km from Mungatsi market along the Mungatsi–Munami road. This privately-owned site lies on either side of a small stream (a tributary of the River Sio), which is fringed by riverine forest and scrub.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Table 3 for key species. Hirundo atrocaerulea, a globally threatened intra-African migrant, is a non-breeding visitor to this area from April to September. It feeds over grassland and over 100 have been recorded roosting at the flooded grassland patch near Mungatsi. Gallinago media is an uncommon Palearctic migrant, likely to occur here regularly but its current status is uncertain. The riverine forest and scrub at Mungatsi also holds several Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome species that are not found in other IBAs. This is also the only Kenyan IBA in which Caprimulgus (pectoralis) nigriscapularis and Sylvietta virens, two Guinea–Congo Forests biome species, are recorded. Regionally threatened species include Circaetus cinerascens, Alcedo quadribrachys (recorded at Mungatsi) and Euplectes hartlaubi (nests in flooded grassland).

Non-bird biodiversity: These vanishing grasslands have been little studied. On biogeographic grounds, they are likely to have close links with Ugandan grasslands and to contain species that are found nowhere else in Kenya.

Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The tiny grassland patches in Busia District are under severe and immediate threat. Busia has a high human population density that is increasing very fast, and there is great pressure on land. A sugar factory is now established in the area and cane growing is being promoted—in 1996, several grassland areas were slated for conversion into sugar-cane plantations. These developments may spell doom to the small pockets of grassland on which Hirundo atrocaerulea depends. Swallows move long distances in search of prey, which suggests that a mosaic of grasslands could sustain a wintering population. However, the presence of a suitable roosting site may be critical. Protection of Mungatsi, by land purchase if there is no other option, is an urgent priority. This site is also home to a number of other bird species that are difficult to find elsewhere in Kenya, such as the Sylvietta virens. It is already visited by many birdwatching groups and has potential for small-scale bird tourism.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Busia grasslands. Downloaded from on 25/03/2023.