With over 1080 bird species that are widely distributed in different parts in Uganda, a shoebill stork is one most incredible bird you need not to miss to spot out while on birding safari in Africa. This magnificent bird features among a few rarest avifaunal species with prehistoric looks and stretches up to about 150 centimeters and has a weight of 14 pounds.
The Arabs called it shoebill stork ‘Abu Maruk’ denoting father of the shoe while others describe it as flying shoe due to its rare bill. Others also call it a king whale head given its enormous head size. It derived its name due to shoe-like bill that grows up to 24 cm long and 20 cm wide.
Shoebills can thrive up to 50 years and they do nest on the ground laying mainly 2 eggs and both male and female do incubation duties for a month prior hatching the chicks. The chicks are fed for many months prior starting to feed on their own.
These elusive creatures thrive mainly in swampy areas and depend on lungfish as well as frogs, puddle fish, snakes and others. While fighting, they have a wide wingspan with their heads and necks retracted. On ground, they look sluggish on the ground although so graceful in the air and when they are attacking their prey, they pull back the wings then approach it in a manner that demonstrates their strength.
The notable areas for you to sight at a shoebill stork in Uganda include;
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Mainly known for wildlife safaris in Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National park is one of the major Bird Areas in the country. It features diverse habitats that come with variety of bird species that make up a total of about 620 that include among others the shoebill stork. The others include white tailed lark, pink backed pelicans, African broadbill, lesser and greater flamingos, bar tailed godwit, black rumped buttonquail, African skimmer, Chapin’s flycatcher a mention but a few.
Lake Mburo National Park
With over 350 bird species that exist in this park, shoebill is rare bird you shouldn’t miss to spot out while on Uganda birding safari. The others include the African wattled lapwing, saddle billed stork, brown chested lapwing, red faced barbet, African scops owl, papyrus yellow warbler, Carruthers cisticola and many others.
This is notably one of the best sites for you catch a glimpse at these elusive creatures while on bird watching safari in Uganda. This swamp forms part of Lake Victoria and can be reached from Entebbe or Kampala. For those of you who plan to pay a visit to Lake Mburo National Park, you can combine your trip with bird watching in Mabamba swamp.
The Ziwa rhino sanctuary
While on safari in Ziwa expect to see more than just the rhinos. This area is equally ideal for you to sight at the shoebill stork as well as several other bird species. For amazing encounters at the shoebills at this sanctuary, you will need to spend a night at amuka lodge.
The other incredible area is Murchison falls national park. While on safari at this park, don’t miss to spot out a shoebill stork.
Semuliki wildlife reserve
The reserve is ideal for bird watching and an exceptional site for you to sight at shoebill. Lake Albert equally offers the best spot for you to sight at shoebill. This reserve and park is situated within Bwamba County western Uganda and boasts not only for its diverse bird species but also variety of mammal species that include among others hippos, forest buffaloes, Mona monkeys, elephant, Bush babies a mention but a few.
Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC)
While this is more of a zoo, a visit to this touristic site offers you opportunity to spot out variety of bird species including the shoebill.
This wetland is located near Entebbe and one of the significant birds to spot out in this wetland is a shoebill. This bird hotspot lies about 60 kilometers off Entebbe and can be reached through Kampala-Masaka route.
In conclusion, if you are interested in bird watching and shoebill is your dream bird, the above places should be a must on your bucket list.