Motorcycle Raptor Surveys beyond Bunyala Rice Scheme

Every morning flocks of small birds come to forage at Bunyala Rice Scheme mostly from the northern direction. With them come the lured raptors that up till now, 23 species have been observed at the site. Despite results from the study that quantified the effect of poisoning to birds in Bunyala including 3 raptor mortalities, we felt that birds of prey were misrepresented and most fatalities went unobserved & unrecorded. This is because raptors are not the direct target of deliberate poisoning but are not absolutely safe from the poisoning. While they are avid hunters, they are likely to carefully select weaker, intoxicated smaller birds for their quary. The result however is that in the event of intoxication, birds of prey although with higher lethal doses, greater resistance to toxic loads and being extensive flyers may succumb at far flung sites beyond our deliberate observation and detection. We are focusing especially on Beaudouin’s Snake Eagle & Hooded Vulture, both globally threatened and in our study area range.

We have therefore embarked on a monitoring survey, where I am currently training my scouts on motorcycle raptor road counts. The route covers the area between Bunyala & Busia along an elliptical route between these 2 limit points.

 RRC, western Kenya

RRC, wetsrn KenyaOne of the trainees & myself on survey

We hope to obtain comparative data over time for their population trends. Of conservation merit however, the data can simply be an inference of effect of poisoning to raptors where we will crudely compare the local population & diversity of raptors to that of the surrounding population & diversity (observed during the road counts). Further, though a study that will gather data, it will also be a preventive vigilance survey to curb the poisoning paying special attention to birds of prey which have not been focused on keenly before, though a critical component of birdlife.

Here are some of the species that we observed & are staying alert for to ensure they are unharmed by poisoning & other threats.

Beaudouin's SEBeaudouin’s Snake Eagle


Long-Crested Eagle

 Banded Snake Eagle

Banded Snake Eagle


Peregrine Falcon

 In our next post, I will inform you on a looming threat to raptors at Bunyala Rice Scheme as they are killed, preserved & used as ‘scarecrows’ to pest birds to the rice crop.

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  1. Jimmy
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting. Alarmed though by your last sentence!! – surely it would be easier to construct scarecrows in the shape of raptors from everyday materials in the shape of kites?? I really hope that the apparently widespread ignorance and persecution of birds in this part of Kenya can be tackled once and for all

  2. Jimmy
    Posted April 17, 2013 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    Martin I can’t find your email address here – but here is the link to the type of scarecrows I mentioned earlier

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