Mat seven in the morning the bird world of Nairobi is back in good order. At least around the National Museum, if it is a rain-free Tuesday and the ornithologists meet here for practice: identifying, measuring and ringing birds. “Visitors are welcome,” says the East Africa Natural History Society’s “Nature Kenya” website. When we walked in just after seven thirty, we met a group of people working in a concentrated manner. Although the conversations were soon to turn to war, wheat riots, bird slaughter and other deadly serious topics, the museum park offered us a reassuringly peaceful scenery that had a special magic about it. It was only at second glance that it became apparent why.
A simple folding table stood in the shade of tall trees, measuring instruments were spread out on it, a thick identification book, scales, tablet, cloth bag, a key ring and ribbons on which the coded aluminum rings were threaded. Ten young women and men flocked around, discussed, gesticulating, and we soon noticed that some of them were holding delicate little birds in their hands. The animals mostly behaved quietly, as if a weight check was part of the morning routine. As if they were only too happy to spread their wings so that someone could finally take an accurate measurement. This sight was so unusual, almost magical, that we approached slowly and reverently quietly.
Some birdies seemed tiny, with just a head poking out of the palm of their hands, while others were conspicuous by their long tail feathers alone. “A mousebird,” Titus Imboma explained, deftly balancing a finch between his fingers while answering questions at the table. For example, the special wing shape and length of a reed warbler, which clearly identified it as a migratory bird. He was inspired as a child by the work of German ornithologist Hans Oelke, who in the 1980s was catching and ringing birds where Imboma grew up. Today he conducts research at the National Museum in the Department of Ornithology and regularly leads training sessions. These are not only intended for scientists who would like to learn how to deal with the fragile creatures, but are also aimed at interested laypeople. And to all those who want to know more about the country’s avifauna. After all, this is extremely diverse in Kenya, as in all of East Africa. Especially since migratory birds gather here in large numbers when winter prevails in their Eurasian breeding areas. Seasonal fluctuations are relatively mild near the equator, which means that the food supply is hardly restricted. So far.
Migratory birds are more at risk
In the future, however, it is likely to become more difficult for birds, because apart from global climate change, humans are causing changes and are increasingly intervening in the complex ecosystems, which affects migrating species in several ways: “In the breeding areas, their winter quarters and on the vast Flight routes from continent to continent,” explains Susanne Fritz, who holds a newly created professorship for geobiodiversity research at the University of Frankfurt and also works in this subject area at the Senckenberg Research Center. She wants to investigate the global effects of seasonal changes on migratory and resident birds and investigate why even closely related species behave completely differently: which ones migrate, which ones stay and why? And how flexible are they?