In Summary
  • Lake Elementaita boasts as the most critical breeding ground for the Great White Pelicans, and has over 450 species of birds.
  • It is also a haven to thousands of both greater and lesser flamingoes who flock during favourable conditions.

It is almost midday and the sun’s rays are dancing on the waters of Elementaita, forcing the reflection of the cloud-scudded sky to dance as if to the chorus chirping of the birds in nearby trees.

Partly fencing the lake that sits quiet in its slumber and approximately 120km north of Nairobi are hundreds of pelicans that deceivingly look pink from the horizon yet on disruption, they fly away revealing the black detail on the edges of their white wings.

These birds, based at the Soysambu Conservancy where 75 per cent of the lake lies, are very large with very long bills characterised by a down-curved hook at the end of the upper mandible.

CRITICAL BREEDING GROUND

Lake Elementaita boasts as the most critical breeding ground for the Great White Pelicans, and has over 450 species of birds.

It is also a haven to thousands of both greater and lesser flamingoes who flock during favourable conditions.

Naturalist Richard Kinpng’eno says the great white pelican is a huge bird with the wingspan ranging from 226 to 360 cm.

“Immature great white pelicans are grey and have dark flight feathers. In flight, it is an elegant soaring bird, with the head held close to and aligned with the body by a downward bend in the neck. In breeding conditions, the male has pinkish skin on its face and the female has orangey skin,” Mr Kipng’eno says.

A bird count done in January 2019 showed that there were over 18,000 pairs of the great pelican that breed at Lake Elementaita.

LARGELY FRESH WATER

Parts of Lake Elementaita are largely fresh water that has entered through rivers like River Mbaruk and springs while other parts are alkaline like the other Rift Valley lakes.

“These pelicans fly in the morning to Lake Naivasha to feed on fish and they fly back in the evenings.

They soar and glide easily and regularly circle at height rising with thermal energy currents,” he says.

According to Mr Kipng’eno, Pelicans often breed in large colonies of 40,000 to 50,000 pairs. Nests are usually just a rough pile of twigs on the ground.

Two eggs are laid, which both parents keep warm by taking turns to rest them on their feet.

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