Top Places Spot – Sheobills In Uganda

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.

shoebillThe 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.

Mabamba swamp

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.

shoebillThe 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.

Makanaga wetlands

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.

Bird Watching in Mpanga Forest

Forests are one of the important birding sites that Uganda has and Mpanga Forest is arguably an impressive and secluded destination any birder should not miss exploring. This site is situated within Mpigi District, at approximately 36 kilometers south-west of Kampala along the Kampala – Masaka Highway, making it a perfect birding stop before proceeding to your final destination much as it can also be visited as an independent destination.

This small patch of Tropical rain forest was established as a scientific Research Center extends for only 453 hectares but is a wonderful getaway destination for nature enthusiasts. Most of the bird species can be spotted within the forest edge in during flight, whereby after the tourists’ center, you will enter the forest through the clear walking trail.

Unbelievably, such a small site offers shelter to over 300 species of birds and its close proximity to Kampala makes it every birder’s must-visit area to spot several bird species.

Top on the list of bird species are

  • the fire-crested Alethe
  • black-headed heron
  • Tawny-flanked Prinia,
  • Red-headed Malimbe
  • Grey-headed Negrofinches
  • Speckled mousebird,
  • Pin-tailed Whydah,
  • Shining-blue kingfisher,
  • Superb sunbird,
  • African Shrike-flycatcher
  • Bronze Mannikin
  • Black-and-white-casqued hornbill
  • Grey-headed Sparrow
  • African Pied Wagtail,
  • Scarlet-chested sunbird
  • African green-pigeon
  • Winding Cisticola,
  • White-breasted Negrofinches
  • Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starling
  • Black and White Casqued hornbills,
  • White-breasted Negrofinches
  • Red-chested cuckoo
  • Hadada ibis,
  • Black-and-white shrike-flycatcher
  • Narina Trogon
  • Ruppell’s Long-tailed Starling,
  • Throated-brown Sunbirds,
  • Yellow-throated Tinkerbird,
  • Yellow-throated longclaw,
  • Woodland kingfisher,
  • Bronze sunbird,
  • Blue-breasted Kingfisher,
  • Green-headed Sunbird,
  • Yellow-fronted Canary
  • White-spotted Flufftail
  • Cattle egrets,
  • Compact weaver,
  • African pied hornbill
  • Fire-crested Alethe,
  • Brown-capped weaver
  • Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
  • African Palm Swift,
  • Black cuckoo
  • African green Pigeon
  • Purple starling
  • Lesser striped Swallow
  • Western Nicator
  • White-rumped Swift
  • Weyns’s weaver
  • Great blue Turaco
  • Purple heron,
  • Crested Guinea Fowl
  • Pied Kingfisher
  • Palmnut Vulture,
  • Yellow-crested Woodpecker
  • Lizard Buzzard
  • Superb Sunbirds,
  • Common Bulbul,
  • Collared sunbirds
  • White-headed sawing
  • Egyptian Goose,
  • Little Greenbul,
  • Grey parrot,
  • Long-tailed Cormorant
  • Copper sunbird,
  • Red-eyed dove
  • Variable sunbird,
  • Black-headed weaver
  • Splendid starling
  • Red-tailed Bristilebill
  • African harrier-hawk
  • Black kite,
  • Crowned hornbill
  • Sacred Ibis

The well-maintained birding trails pass through the entire length of the forest and ends at a water stream that is a haven to the rare shoebill storks and offers shelter to numerous aquatic bird species. Surprisingly, it lasts only three hours to participate in the activity through the whole trail and will reward birders with more than 100 species of birds.  Due to the dense vegetation, you will need a local guide who is not only conversant with the area but also know the resident species in the forest as well as their calls.

On top of bird species, this Forest is a home to several mammals such as pangolins, banded mongoose, squirrels, primates including the bush babies, Pottos, black and white colobus monkeys, vervet monkeys and the red-tailed monkeys, 97 species of butterflies, 500 tree species and shrubs as well as over 112 species of moths. This eco-tourism site has clean cottages as well as well maintained Campsites for tourists’ own camping.

How to reach Mpanga Forest

Mpanga Forest can easily be accessed through public means by using mini-buses heading to Mpigi. You can stop at the signpost of Mpanga Eco-tourism site and proceed for only 1 kilometer from this signage on a dirt road to the forest.

5 Fascinating Birds of Prey in Uganda

To you and other people it may be the Pearl of Africa; to me Uganda is a Paradise on Earth. A country with over 1061 species of birds (10% of the World’s species of birds) can never run short of surprises. Every corner of the country has something to offer and not only that, the country has everything you would ever wish in a destination. When it comes to bird species, you will be totally amazed and surprised by what you will see in the Pearl of Africa. Most interestingly, you will be able to sight some of the birds of prey within the country. Uganda is a haven to over 90 species of Raptors also known as birds of prey and they range from the small Pygmy Falcons within Kidepo Valley National Park and the Northern region to the great Crowned Eagles found within the tropical rainforests.

Owls

Owls are one of the common birds of prey and are sub-divided into 18 species within Uganda and range from the giant Pel’s fishing Owls to the small African scops owls. What all the birds of prey have in common is that they attack and kill their victims (prey) with their gripping feet made up of long sharp talons.

Vultures

Vultures are also birds of prey although are carrion eaters whereby some of the typical attributes and characteristics of birds of prey (eating flesh) have died out. For instance, the Palm-nut vultures consume palm-nut just as their name suggests.

Buzzards

One of the common species of buzzards is the Red-necked Buzzard, medium-sized migrant birds that sometimes visit the North-western side of Uganda especially from December to March although are rarely seen within East Africa. Nonetheless, they have wider geographical habitats from Mauritania (South of Angola), Central Ethiopia and in Uganda they are found in the North-west of the country, especially within Otzi East Forest Reserve, west of the White Nile.  These exceptional birds prefer forest edges, woodlands, secondary forests and farmlands, and feed on mainly birds, reptiles and small mammals. They were listed as being birds of least concern under IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species because of habitat loss. Other Buzzard species include the Steppe buzzards, Lizard buzzard, Honey buzzards and the Grasshopper Buzzards among others.

Eagles

There are over 20 species of Eagles in Uganda and the common ones include the crowned eagle (scientifically known as Stephanoaetus coronatus) and are considered the most charismatic of all the Eagle species. They are always cunning and clever when it comes to hunting. For instance, the female will fly above the forest canopies calling and diverting the attention of monkeys whereas the aggressive males surprise the victim by grabbing the monkeys with the claws thereby killing it.

The Martial eagles scientifically known as Polemaetus bellicosus are the savannah cousins of the crowned eagles but are larger yet weaker. Their prey always includes smaller antelopes like oribis, mongoose, young warthogs, monitor lizards and vervet monkeys.

Other species of eagles include the stunning Bateleur and the long crested eagles among others.

Falcons

Falcons are also species of raptors/birds of prey and some of their sub-species include the fast Peregrine falcons, the beautiful Grey Kestrel with an all grey but dark yellow facial skin. The shy Red-necked falcons are common with Murchison Falls National Park

One fascinating fact about majority of Uganda’s raptors is that they from as far as Europe (such as the steppe Buzzard, Booted eagles, Honey Buzzard and Osprey among others), from South Africa, Egypt, Tanzania and Somalia.

Other species of raptors or birds of prey in Uganda include the Bat Kites, the African Goshawk and the Lizard Buzzard among others. Therefore a Uganda birding safari will introduce you to these and other birds of prey.

5 Unique Birds to See on a Birding Safari in Uganda

Uganda is known as Africa’s premier birding destination with the list of birds found in the country topping 1000, most of these birds live only in these tropical forests with the are sightings being described as mythical while it’s believed that some of the birds living in the remote forests of Uganda may not even be classified as of yet. These birds have greatly attracted many people to come for safaris to Uganda.

Shoebill Stork

The shoebill is one of the most attractive birds in Uganda and is endemic to Africa and the birders from around the globe flock to Uganda to catch a rare glimpse of this clumsy giant, the type of bird was not protected and its egg were also frequently from the nets.

Green Breasted Pitta

The green breasted pitta is also a difficult bird to find despite its relatively common status in the Central African countries. It lives a well camouflaged in the lowland tropical forest and photographing some of these little guys is a good dream. Another is the African Green Broadbill and this can only be seen in two places in the world, I the Itombwe mountains of DRC and Uganda in Bwindi Forest. The specie is declining due to loss of its habitat from the forest clearing and degradation, this bird species has greatly attracted many tourists for Uganda safaris.

Great Bule Turaco

The great Blue Turaco and the white crested Turaco are some of the largest, most exquisite birds which are found in Uganda. These birds are actively hunted their meat and the feathers are liked as high commodities which has decreased their numbers. Shelley’s crimson wing is one of the world’s rarest birds and can be found on most bird bucket lists. They live in a thin trip of the mountains and the volcanoes which are known as the Albertine Rift which border Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic republic of Congo.

Winged Nightjar

The standard winged nightjar is a bird characterized by the central flight feathers which appear during the breeding season on the male. It also a dream come true to view these birds during this short time span when their feathers which can be stretched up to 38m in length. The short tailed warbler can also be found in Uganda’s forest undergrowth while these forests of the DRC and Rwanda are also home to this camouflaged species. In addition, there is the Doherty’s Bush shrike which is found in the subtropical montane forests and the moist shrubs of central Africa. These are brightly colored birds and are one of the more common birds seen in Uganda and their population levels are table in most parts where they are found.

Bar Tailed Trogon

The bar tailed Trogon is a beautiful medium sized bird which lives in high altitude forests and has a large range throughout central and southern Africa although it’s rarely seen. Finally is the black breasted barbet which is seen by very few individuals and is highly sought after by the bird watchers. It tends to live in the areas of conflict and it rarely seen by the tourist who come for safari tours to Uganda.