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Birds at Dawn

Dawn in Laikipia is a noisy affair. Before the sun touches the plateau, Crested Francolins launch into rounds of strident, repetitive cackles. The force and timing of their daily chorus has earned them the soubriquet ‘East Africa’s alarm clock’. The loud, fluid whistles of White-browed Sparrow Weavers often punctuate the early mornings, especially where colonies are fussing over nests perched precariously at the tips of Acacia branches.

A complex, melodious early morning call comes from the Spotted Palm Thrush. This bold, robin-sized bird often amplifies its rich notes by performing under the shelter of a tent fly or porch. As morning deepens, skulking Slate-coloured Boubous begin loud duets. The male’s flute-like ko-ko-wheet elicits a well-syncopated chuerr from his female partner.


During the rainy seasons, you are likely to awaken to the descending call of the Red-chested Cuckoo: a plaintive three-note claim that ‘It will rain’. If camping in or near the Ngare Ndare or Mukogodo Forests, the guttural barks of Hartlaub’s Turaco will make a telling contribution to the morning chorus. Dawn’s end is often heralded by another closely related turaco, the White-bellied Go-away-bird – presumably named by frustrated hunters for its piercing alarm calls that alert wildlife to the presence of humans and other predators.


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