email a friend
printable version
Location Kenya, Eastern Province
Central coordinates 37o 40.00' East  0o 48.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A2
Area 4,200 ha
Altitude 1,000 - 1,100m
Year of IBA assessment 2001


Site description Mwea National Reserve contains gently rolling AcaciaCommiphora bushland on the north shore of the Kamburu Reservoir, at the confluence of the Tana and Thiba rivers, 100 km north-west of Nairobi. This small reserve lies just east of Masinga Reservoir (IBA KE032). Within its borders are 700 ha (including two small islands) of the 1,500 ha Kamburu Dam. The reserve was created in 1975 as a wildlife sanctuary, and is owned by the Mbeere County Council (pending District confirmation) and managed by the Kenya Wildlife Service. The area is semi-arid with an annual rainfall of between 250 and 500 mm. Thick bush (dominated by Acacia mellifera, with Grewia, Sesbania, Cassia and A. brevispica, as well as some Lantana) and scattered trees, including baobab Adansonia digitata, line the waterfront. This thins out further up the slope, with a mixture of A. mellifera and Commiphora species and some open glades. Richer scrub and woodland line seasonal rivers and streams. Sesbania forms a broad, fairly dense cover on flood-plains, especially the northern part of the Thiba. The reserve is essentially undeveloped. There is a campsite and c.95 km of rough roads, but no accommodation.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 2 for key species. This is one of only two protected area in which the globally threatened Turdoides hindei, a restricted-range Kenya endemic, is known to occur. The babblers occur only in the denser bushland along watercourses, and at relatively low densities (1.3 birds/km of watercourse; estimated total population c.50 birds in 15 groups). This is also a rich locality for birds generally, especially birds of prey, and is close to the Mwea rice growing area which attracts a large number of waterbirds and shorebirds. Ardeola idae is an uncommon non-breeding visitor from May to October. Mwea holds at least 14 of Kenya’s 94 Somali–Masai biome species, and more are likely to be added in future. Two species rarely recorded in Kenya, Scotopelia peli (regionally threatened) and Gorsachius leuconotus, occur here in riverine woodland. Other regionally threatened species include Anhinga rufa, which nests on Masinga Reservoir to the west, and Polemaetus bellicosus, the status of which is unknown.

Non-bird biodiversity: Large and small herbivores are numerous, including Loxodonta africana (EN). Crocodylus niloticus and Hippopotamus amphibius occur in the dam.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Madagascar Pond-heron Ardeola idae winter  present  A1  Endangered 
Hinde's Pied-babbler Turdoides hindei resident  1999  present  A1, A2  Vulnerable 

IBA Monitoring

2009 high near favourable high

Biological resource use logging & wood harvesting - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) slow but significant deterioration low
Climate change and severe weather drought happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Invasive & other problematic species, genes & diseases invasive non-native/alien species/diseases - named species happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Shrubland   0 0 good (> 90%) moderate (70-90%) near favourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  The conservation measures needed for the site are being comprehensively and effectively implemented  high 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Mwea National Reserve 6,803 protected area contains site 4,200  


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest Woodland - mixed  -
Savanna Bushland & thicket - evergreen  -
Shrubland Scrub - forest  -

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

References Birnie (1992), Campbell (1992), Le Pelley (1992), Loefler (1989), Njau-ini (1996), Shaw et al. (2001), Zimmerman et al. (1996).

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2016) Important Bird and Biodiversity Area factsheet: Mwea National Reserve. Downloaded from on 22/10/2016

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife