Birding Safaris in Uganda

Birding Safaris in Uganda

Are you a bird enthusiast out there? Then picture this. Uganda is home to over half of all the bird species in Africa! Uganda has more birds per square kilometer than any other country in Africa! In the ‘Pearl of Africa’, you will find species including those from West and Central Africa! But you will also be awed by some of the rarest forest birds, beautiful savannah species and other varieties of water and woodland birds.

Uganda’s national bird list exceeds 1,000, including the endangered shoebill, the amazing fox’s weaver, the Kivu Thrush, White Winged Warbler, African and elegant Pitta. Others are the Rwenzori Turaco, Papyrus Canary, Rwenzori Batis, Papyrus Gonolek and the African Green Broadbill - just to mention but a few!

Africa sceneries birding safari packages in Uganda embrace are part of our rewarding game drives, nature walks and boat cruises as applicable. Our holiday packages range from single day excursions to up-to 28 days. The duration may be further adjusted to the needs and time our clients have.

Why Uganda is Rich in Bird Variety.

Location

Uganda lies within Tropical Africa and with the equator cutting through the south of the country. Also in southern Uganda is Africa’s largest fresh water lake Victoria which has expanses bird habitats like wetlands, forests and papyrus swamps. Parts of Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo lie in the Albertine rift valley, an Endemic Bird Area. Uganda has over 25 Albertine endemic bird species including some which are globally threatened.

Habitat diversity

Uganda has a wide range and diversity of bird habitats with unique biological diversity. The habitats range from snow-capped mountains in the West to semi-arid areas in the North East, rain forests in the Central region to open fresh water lakes. These habitats support bird feeding, breeding, roosting and water bird congregation.

Important Birding Sites in Uganda

Uganda’s main birding sites include national parks, forest reserves and wetlands (including those officially gazette as protected areas and those that are not). The country’s key birding destinations include the following:

Murchison Falls National Park (450 species)

Murchison Falls Conservation Area is the largest among the Uganda’s ten National parks (3800sqkm). The park is bisected by the Victoria Nile from the Karuma to the Delta and boasts an extensive avifauna with a check list between 450-460 species. Due to its large size and range of habitats it supports congregations of African skimmers and Rock Pratincole and globally threatened species of which some are Palaearctic migrants.

Globally Threatened: Pallid harrier, Denham’s’ bustard, papyrus gonolek, lesser kestrel, lappet faced vulture, black winged pratincole.

Other species of interest: Eurasian spoon bill, secretary bird, dark chanting goshawk, Egyptian plover, bruce green pigeon, Pel’s fishing owl, red throated bee eater, standard winged night jar, swallow tailed bee eater, red winged grey warbler, Ethiopian swallow, Abyssinian roller, silver bird and chestnut crowned sparrow weaver.

Budongo Forest (over 350 species).

Budongo Forest lies to the South of Murchison Falls National Park, between the town of Masindi and Lake Albert. The lush tropical forests are known as the “Central Refugium”

The forest (435sq Km) offers a unique habitat that is home to many endemic birds. It is one of Uganda’s most beautiful forests. Budongo bird species are relatively the same as Kibale forest birds but it offers a better site to see specialties.

Visit to Budongo forest includes:

  • Royal Mile: Ituri batis, chocolate backed and African dwarf kingfisher.
  • Busingiro Sector: Shining-blue Kingfisher, Sabine’s and Cassin’s Spinetail.
  • Pabidi Sector: Rufous broadbill, Puvel’s illadopsis and yellow long bill.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary (over 200 species).

The home of the great blue Turaco is located at the western edge of Kibale National Park and is situated around the Magombe swamp. The sanctuary is 3 square kilometers and has well developed loop trails of 4 km with board walks and tree house pavilions for bird watching.

Kibale National Park (over 370 species).

Upgraded to a status of national park in 1994, the park is famous for chimpanzee tracking, Chimpanzee habituation experience and has the highest number of primates and is well known for Red colubus monkeys than any other forest in Africa. The forest offers excellent birding opportunities for bird watchers who are particularly interested in forest species and has 370 species out of the country’s total 1,060 representing nearly 60% of forest birds.

Bird Species of interest: Bar-tailed Trogon, fine banded wood pecker, red faced crimson wing, Nahan’s Francolin and African Pitta.

Semliki National park (over 441 species)

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Semliki was originally gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 but upgraded to a National Park in 1993 with an area of 220 square km. The park lies in the Albertine Rift Valley, North West of the Rwenzori Mountains and borders the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It is an extension of the Ituri forest of the DRC and its flora and fauna are linked with those of the Congo basin forests. The forest park is well known for its bird population with a recorded number of 441 species which represent 40% of Uganda‘s total of 1,060 species. Of these 216 are forest species, representing 66% of the country’s forest bird list.

Birders who make it to Semuliki are rewarded with some of Africa’s best forest birding. Sempaya and Ntandi sites provide excellent viewing of the birds like the White-crested Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue and Ross’s Turacos. The area around Kirumia River is another top birding spot. The shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quarters on Lake Albert and forest walks are good for tracking water birds. Semliki Birding Rarities.

Spot breasted ibis, long tailed hawk, Nkulengu rail, piping horn bill, red billed dwarf horn bill, black dwarf hornbill, African piculet, lyte-tailed honey guide, red rumped tinker bird, yellow throated nicator, Sassi’s olive greenbul, fiery breasted bush shrike, forest scrub robin.

Birding in Rwenzori Mountains (over 217 species).

Birding opportunities are greatest in the montane forest; understandably, few species choose to make their home in the inhospitable world of the high Rwenzori. Bee-eaters, Robins, Sunbirds and Barbets are some of the 217 species found in Rwenzori Mountains National Park. Other species to watch out for include the Rwenzori Turaco and Long-eared Owl; while higher up on the slopes, Bearded Vultures, Swifts and Black Eagles may be seen circling for prey.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (over 336 species).

The park is in the South-West of the country and covers 330 km2. It encompasses one of the last remaining habitats in African and is home to half of the Mountain Gorillas in the world. Bwindi Park holds the richest faunal community in East Africa including over 214 species of forest birds (336 species in total). It supports 24 of the 26 Albertine Rift endemics that occur in Uganda.

Bwindi’s Endemic Bird Species:

Handsome francolin, Rwenzori turaco, dwarf honey guide, African green broad bill, red throated alethe, kivu ground thrush, archer robin chat, short tailed warbler, collared apalis, black faced apalis, Rwenzori night jar, Chapin flycatcher, yellow eyed black flycatcher, Rwenzori batis, striped breasted tit, regal sunbird.

Birding in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.

The three to four hour Gorge Trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo can provide a spectacular sightings of the Dusky turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Kivu-ground Thrush, Olive Thrush, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater.

Other good birding areas are at the bamboo belt at about 2,500m above sea level, and the tall montane forest at 2,660m. The Rwenzori Turaco is mostly sighted at around 2,700m. Along the Uganda-Congo border and on level ground, the Chubb's Cisticola, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Banded Prinia and Doherty's Bush-shrike are vocal yet inconspicuous inhabitants of the tangled vegetation at the forest’s edge.

Queen Elizabeth National Park (over 600 bird species).

This is the second biggest park in Uganda at 1978sq kilometre (exclusive two reserves). The Park is a world biosphere reserve (UNESCO 1979), is classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birdlife International and includes a RAMSAR wetland site. Queen Elizabeth National Park has over 600 of Uganda’s 1060 species of birds (over a quarter of African bird species) more than any other park in Africa.

Present in the park are numerous water birds, woodland and forest dwellers in the Maramagambo Forest, 54 raptors and various migratory species. Key species include the Martial Eagle, Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Skimmer, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Pinkbacked Pelican, African Broadbill, Verreaux’s Eagle Owl, Black Bee-eater, White-tailed Lark, White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, Corncrake, Lesser and Greater Flamingo, Shoebill, Bar-tailed Godwit.

For the best birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park, don’t miss these birding hot spots:

Kazinga Channel, Kasenyi Area, Mweya Peninsula, Maramagambo Forest, Ishasha Sector, Lake Kikorongo, Katunguru Bridge area and Katwe Area Tours can be booked through Katwe Tourism Information Center.

Bird Species of importance at Queen Elizabeth National Park: Lesser flamingo, lappet faced vulture, African skimmer, black winged pratincole and great white pelican.

Lake Mburo National Park (310 bird species).

This is the smallest among Uganda savannah parks, covering an area of 370 sq km

It has a diverse bird fauna which includes some not been recorded in other parks in Uganda like the long tailed cisticola, rufous bellied heron and green capped eremomela.

The park also has species like Carruthers’s cisticola and white winged warbler which are rare in other Important Bird Areas and threatened and near threatened species such as the lappet faced vulture, great snipe and lesser flamingo.

The best birding spots in Lake Mburo National Park include the swampy valleys of Warukiri and Miriti, and the roadsides between Rwonyo camp and the jetty. There are also ideally-situated viewing platforms at the salt lick, in Miriti Valley, and in Rubanga Forest. Species observed at these locations include the Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard, Brown-chested Lapwing, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Brown Parrot, Red-headed Lovebird, Ross’s Turaco, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, White-headed Barbet, Red-faced Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-winged Tit and Finfoot among others.

Rubanga Forest can be visited using a vehicle or on foot. This is a real draw for keen birders, and prior arrangement should be made with the warden. The rare Red-faced Barbet - only seen in Lake Mburo National Park - is one of the of the forest’s featured species.

Birding around Mt. Elgon.

Excellent birding opportunities exist around Kapkwai Forest Exploration Centre, in particular in the secondary forest and thick shrub along the loop trails extended to cover Cheptui Falls. It supports the African Goshawk; Chubb’s Cisticola, White-chinned Prinia, African Blue Fly-catcher, Chinspot Batis, Mackinnon’s Fiscal, Dohertys and Luhders Bush-shrikes, Baglafecht Weaver, Cinnamon Bee Eater, Moustached Tinkerbird, Hartloub`s Turaco, Tacazze Sunbird, Olive- and Bronze-naped pigeons, Black Kite and Black-collared Apalis.

Birding in Kidepo Valley.

Apoka Rest Camp is a great spot to begin your Kidepo birding experience. Birding can also be done on the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys. Among the birds seen are the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo. The activity can be arranged both in the morning and evening.

Birding at Mabamba Bay Wetland.

Mabamba Bay wetland (16,500ha) is located 36 km south west of Kampala on the shores of Lake Victoria in the Wakiso district. It has the best marshy areas on the northern shores of Lake Victoria which stretch through a narrow and long bay fringed with papyrus towards the main body of Lake Victoria. It is a Ramsar site and an Important Bird Area. Mabamba Bay is part of the system and supports more than 75% of the global population of Blue Swallows. The system also supports three globally threatened birds, the Papyrus Gonolek, Pallid Harrier and Papyrus Yellow Warbler along with other birds of global conservation concern. Mabamba Bay Wetland System supports populations of plant and animal species important for maintaining the biological diversity of the region and regularly supports 20,000 or more water birds.

Species of interest at Mabamba Bay Wetland: Elegant shoebill, blue swallows, lesser jacana, afep pigeon and blue breasted bee eater. Migrants: Gull billed tern, white winged black tern and whiskered tern.

Other Important Bird Areas in Uganda.

  • Mabira Forest.
  • Echuya Forest.
  • Nyamiriro Swamp.
  • Kyambura Reserve
  • Sango Bay.
  • Nabugabo Wetland.
  • Lutembe Bay.
  • Ajai Reserve.
  • Doho Rice Scheme.
  • Lake Nakuwa.
  • Lake Bisina.
  • Lake Opeta.
  • Mt Moroto Reserve