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Important Bird Areas of Kenya*

Sabaki River Mouth

03°09'S, 40°08'E, Coast Province, Malindi District
Area undefined; c 20 ha
Altitude: 0-5 m
Status: Unprotected
Category: Congregations

Map of Sabaki River Important Bird Area

Sabaki River Estuary

Site description

Dunes,freshwater pools and marshes, brushy woodland, and vast tidal estuary at the mouth of the Sabaki, Kenya's second-longest river, approximately 5 km north of Malindi town, between the Malindi-Mambrui road bridge and the sea. The state and size of the estuary vary seasonally, depending on river flows. Just north and south of the river mouth are grassy dunes that conceal permanent or temporary pools of freshwater.


See box below for key species. This site hosts large visiting flocks of Madagascar Pratincole, and is an important resting, roosting and feeding ground for gulls and terns. Good numbers of Palaearctic waders also occur, and Broad-billed Sandpiper, a very uncommon bird in Kenya, winters here in flocks of up to 80. The near-threatened, restricted-range Malindi Pipit is resident in and around the grassy dunes.


1% or more of biogeographic population
Madagascar Pratincole (50) Regularly up to 2,500; maximum 9-10,000 in 1978 (more than the current population estimate!) (Lewis & Pomeroy 1989)
Sooty Gull (400) Max: 410
Saunders's Tern (200) Max: 900
Lesser Crested Tern (250) Max: 270

Except where shown, data from Seys et al. (1995) and Nasirwa et al. (1995b)

Skimmer photo

Regionally threatened species

Great Egret (Vulnerable) usually present in small numbers, African Skimmer (Vulnerable) regular visitor, mainly August-March (Lewis & Pomeroy 1989)

Other wildlife

The estuary is rich in fishes and crustaceans, and supports an important fishery.

Conservation issues

The estuary is unprotected, and heavily used and disturbed by people, although there is little direct harassment of the birds. The livelihood of the local residents (and that of many of the waterbirds) depends on the fishery, but this resource appears to be over-exploited. Soil erosion in the river's catchment is increasing silt loads in the Sabaki, but the effect of this on the estuary's ecology is unknown. The river mouth is a great attraction to birdwatchers.

Further reading

Britton & Britton 1973, Fanshawe 1994, Nasirwa et al. 1995b, Seys et al. 1995

* This information has been reproduced from Important Bird Areas of Kenya with the permission of the publisher: Nature Kenya, the East Africa Natural History Society.

In Kenya, the book is available from
Nature Kenya
National Museums of Kenya
Museum Hill
P. O. Box 44486 GPO
00100 Nairobi, Kenya

Outside of Kenya, the book is distributed exclusively through NHBS which is why it can't be found in other on-line bookstores.

Natural History Book Service
NHBS Mailorder Bookstore
2 - 3 Wills Road, Totnes, Devon TQ9 5XN
United Kingdom


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