- Size: 95,000 ha
- Checklist: Over 240 Species
- Location: Western, Rift Valley
- Altitude 2,100–4,280m
Mount Elgon is located app. 470 kilometers from Nairobi, 140 km north-east of Lake Victoria and bisected by the Uganda Kenya border.
It is an ancient, eroded volcano with a huge caldera and, on its summit, the spectacular flat-topped basalt column known as Koitobos at 4,200 m. Another unique feature of the mountain is the ‘lava tube’ caves, some over 60 m wide. The mountain soils are red laterite, and rainfall is 1,200 mm/year on the mid-slopes. Mount Elgon is an important water catchment for the Nzoia River, which flows into Lake Victoria, and for the Turkwel River, which flows into Lake Turkana.
The vegetation is zoned by altitude, with wet montane forest dominated by Olea capensis and Aningeria adolfi-friedericii grading into Olea– Podocarpus falcatus forest, a zone of mixed Podocarpus and bamboo Arundinaria alpina, and the Hagenia abyssinica zone with giant heath Erica arborea and Erica trimera elgonensis. Afro-alpine moorlands occupy the highest parts of the mountain, with tussock grasses such as Festuca pilgeri, bogs of Carex runssoroensis, giant groundsels and giant lobelias. Open wooded grassland with Erythrina and Combretum covers part of the lower, drier north-eastern slopes.
Mount Elgon National Park was gazette and opened for tourism activities in 1968. Spot fishing on River Suam, game viewing (African Elephant, Waterbuck, African Buffalo, Leopard, Giant Forest Hog, Monkey species, e.t.c), birdwatching, primate watch, Mountain hiking, and nature walks are among the activities conducted in the park.
The park boosts over 240 bird species. Three of the eight Kenya Mountains Endemic Bird Area species, five of the thirteen species of the Sudan-Guinea biome species, 19 of the 43 Guinea–Congo Forests biome species, 47 of the 70 species of the Afrotropical biome, and a number of the Sudan-Guinea Savannah biome species that occur in Kenya have been recorded here. The park also favours one globally threatened species- Sharpe's longclaw along with some regionally threatened and range restricted species; Gypaetus barbatus, Stephanoaetus coronatus, Francolinus streptophorus, Sarothrura affinis,Bubo capensis, Glaucidium tephronotum, Indicator conirostris, Phyllastrephus baumanni, Kakamega poliothorax, Sheppardia polioptera,Campephaga quiscalina and Cisticola hunteri, Francolinus jacksoni respectively.
This sedentary medium-sized wading bird of 56 cm long, weighing 470 gm is know to occur from Africa to coastal southwest Arabia wetlands.
Hamerkops feed during the day, the main diet consists of amphibians and fish. Sometimes, they eat shrimp, insects and rodents. They walk in shallow water looking for prey, shuffling one foot at a time on the bottom or suddenly opening their wings to flush prey out of hiding.
Hamerkops, of all birds make the biggest nest in the trees, sometimes more than 1.5 m across, comprising perhaps 10,000 sticks and strong enough to support a man's weight. A mud-plastered entrance 13 to 18 cm wide in the bottom leads through a tunnel up to 60 cm long to a nesting chamber big enough for the parents and young.
They lay 3 to 7 eggs that start white but soon become stained. Both sexes incubate for 28 to 30 days. The chicks leave the nest at 44 to 50 days.
In culture, the bird is associated to bad omen; Some cultures in Uganda believe, when the bird patches on ones house then they are likely to be struck by lightening. In some places, when it calls over the house, people know that someone close to them has died. The Kalahari Bushmen believe that the inimical god Khauna would not like anyone to kill a Hamerkop. According to an old Malagasy belief, anyone who destroys its nest will get leprosy, and a Malagasy poem calls it an "evil bird". Such beliefs have given the bird some protection.