5 Top Birding Sites in Uganda

Are you an avid birder looking to tick off some of Uganda’s bird checklist in just a few days? Though there are many exciting places for bird watching here are the top 5 spots where you can enjoy birding while on a Uganda safari adventure;

Queen Elizabeth National Park

The Queen Elizabeth National Park is known to host an incredible number of birds. Over 606 bird species have been listed to be living in the park. This is more than half of Uganda’s total bird checklist. The park contains a variety of habitats ranging from savanna grasslands, wetlands, lowland forests etc. Majority of the birds found in the park are regarded as famous birds of East Africa. If you are looking to a budget safari in Uganda, this is the ultimate destination where you can see lots of birds in a single destination.

Kidepo National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park boasts a bird list of over 475 species. It lies in the rugged Semi arid valleys of the Karamoja province on the far northern Boarder with the Sudan. Amongst the host of dry, eastern “specials “ not found in any other Ugandan national park are some of east Africa’s rarest and most sought- after birds. The Apoka rest camp and park Head quarters overlooking the shallow, southern Narus Valley is a great spot to begin your Kidepo Birding. The attractive silver bird and small band of yellow billed Shrike frequent the thorn trees around camp , as do a number of other wild spread species.

Key species in the park include; Ostrich , African swallow-tailed kite, eastern pale chanting Goshawk , pygmy falcon, Fox kestrel , Stone Partridge, Clapperton’s Heuglin’s Francolins, Yellow-necked spurfowl, Kori,White-bellied and Hartlaub’s Bustards, Violet-tipped courser, Black–headed Plover, Four–banded Sand grouse, Bruce’s Green pigeon, Rose ringed Parakeet, White crested Turaco, White bellied Go-away-bird, White faced scops Owl, Long-Tailed and Standard winged Nightjars, Little green Bee-eater, Abyssinian and Rufous-crowned Rollers , Abyssinian scimitar bill, Abyssinian ground, Eastern Yellow and Jackson ‘s Hornbills , Red fronted and Black breasted Barbet , Brown –backed Woodpecker, Singing Bushlark , Red-wiged Lark , Ethiopian Swallow, Pied , Isabelline and Hueglin’s Wheatears , African Grey Flycatcher , Foxy and RedPate cisticolas, Karamoja Apalis , White Bellied Tit , Mouse –coloured Penduline Tit , Northern white crowned and Yellow –billed shrikes , Slate coloured Boubou , Fan tailed Raven , Superb Starling, Red Billed Oxpecker, Eastern Violet-backe, Pygmy and beautiful sunbirds Rufous and chestnut sparrows, Yellow spotted Petronia, White headed and white -billed Buffalo-weavers, Grey capped Social and Speckle-fronted weavers, Green-winged, orange-winged and Red-winged Pytilias, Black-bellied and Black faced Fire finches, Blacked-faced waxbill, Steal-blue and straw tailed Whydahs , Brown-rumped Bunting .

Best timing for bird watching is between March – April for all the specials and many transit migrants although the good year–round.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is the largest of all parks in Uganda and is an excellent bird watching destination with a recorded population of about 470 bird species including the shoebill stork and other aquatic birds and raptors  found along the banks of the river Nile. The birding experience here is greatly enhanced by the abundant wildlife and scenic landscape, not least the spectacular falls for which the park is named. The park headquarters are situated at Paraa on the southern bank of the Victoria Nile. A strol through the dry thorn scrub between the Paraa rest camp and the ferry crossing should produce Blue-naped Mousebird , Spotted morning thrush , silver bird , buff-bellied Warbler , Black headed batis , Black-headed Gonolek , Chestnut-crowned sparrow-weaver , Vitelline masked weaver and green-winged Pytilia . This is probably the most reliable site in Uganda for the localized white –rumped seedeater.

However, Key species are; Shoebill secretary bird , bat hawk , Red-necked Falcon, Denham’s Bustard, Senegal Thick-knee, Egyptian Plover , African Skimmer, Four-banded Sand grouse, Bruce’s Green Pigeon, Vinaceaous Dove, White-crested Turaco, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Long Tailed, Pennant-winged and standard-winged Nightjars Red-throated, Swallow-tailed and Carmine Bee-eaters, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Black- Billed Barbet, Brown-backed woodpecker, Spotted Morning thrush, White- fronted Black Chat, Silver bird, singing, Foxy and Black-backed Cisticolas, Ring-winged Grey warbler, Green-backed Cisticolas, Red –winged Grey warbler, Green –Backed Eremomela, Yellow- Billed and Emin’s Shrikes, White –Breasted Cuckoo-shrike, Lesser blue-eared and Bronze – tailed Starlings, Beautiful Sunbird, Chestnut-crowned sparrow-waever, Northern red Bishop, Grey-Headed Olive back, Red-winged Pytilia, brown Twin spot, Bar-breasted and Black-Bellied Firefinches , Black-Runped waxbill, Paradise Whydah, White Rumped seed eater and brown –rumped cabanis’s Buntings among others.

Kibale forest birding

Kibale is an extensive national park protecting a large block of rain forests that offers some excellent forest birding safari. It harbours the greatest variety and concentration of primates found anywhere in East Africa. Superb birds and primates combined with easy access a good infrastructure and a variety of interesting activities make this forest a worthwhile destinations. Kibale National park is a superb destination to watch birds with close to 360 recognized bird species and 4 not found in any other location through the whole of Uganda. These four rare species are: cassin’s spine tail, maked apalis, Nahan’s francolin and the blue headed bee eater and of late, the green breasted pitta is occasionally seen. Among the other varieties are the grassland species and the aquatic birds. Red winged francolin, red chested fluftail, white napped pigeon, African pita, white-naped pigeon, Joyful greenbul, grey winged pigeon, Abyssinian ground thrush, grey throated fly catcher, white bellied crested flycatcher masker ,Uganda woodland warbler ,chestnut-winged starling. Best timing for birding watching is between March-May and September –November.

Mabamba Bay

Mainly known for the Shoe bill stork, Mabamba bay is located 30 km’s west of Kampala Opposite Mpanga Forest. Mabamba is an extensive marsh stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus towards the main body of Lake Victoria in Mpigi district. Miscanthus and Cyprus species dominate. There are also areas of Cladium mariscus, and sometimes drifting papyrus swamp islands. It forms part of Waiya Bay south west of Nakiwogo Bay; these are all to the west of Entebbe International Airport. This Important Bird Area is one of the best marshy areas along the northern shores of Lake Victoria: it is the closest place to Kampala where Shoebills are regularly seen. The climate is similar to other areas of the northern shoreline of the lake (1200-1500 mm of rain with average minimum temperature of 170C and average maximum temperature of 260C). Public transport is available from Kampala New Taxi Park up to Kasanji. A bodaboda will get you to the spot which is 13.5 kms away from Kisanji.

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.

Top 5 Exquisite Birding Spots in Uganda

The Pearl of Africa provides shelter to over 1060 species of birds and it is ranked among the richest destinations in the world in terms of bird diversity. Uganda’s bird check list is more than half the total species recorded in Africa and has more birds per square kilometer than any other country on the African continent. The birds of Uganda can be found in a range of habitats such as the forests, swamps, agricultural lands, lakes, savannah and alpine regions.

Mabamba Wetlands

Mabamba bay wetland is one of the most remarkable and spectacular sites for bird watching in Uganda and it is among the wetlands of international importance. Other than Murchison falls national park, Mabamba bay is the only place to spot the elusive shoebill at a close range any time of the day. It is one of the undisputed havens for the migrant Blue swallow with over 100 individuals recorded every year and this place boasts up to 260 species.

Mabamba bay also provides shelter to other four globally threatened species and other birds of regional significance such as the pallid harrier, papyrus Gonolek, White winged warbler and the blue swallow. The surveys have confirmed the presence of flocks of other species especially migrants such as gull-billed terns, whiskered terns, white winged black terns and residents such as grey headed gulls.

Other captivating species found in the marsh include good numbers of Goliath herons, spur winged, pygmy geese, malachite kingfisher, and papyrus canary, northern brown Throated weaver, Carruther’s Cisticola and a number of other birds.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison falls national park is the largest and one of oldest national parks in Uganda and it is home to the strongest water falls in the world where the mighty river Nile explodes through a narrow gorge and flows down to become a calm river whose banks are occupied with hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks and buffaloes. Its flora is characterized by the savannah, riverine forest and woodland.

The popular Murchison Falls National Park has a number of unique bird species and every bird lover should visit this park because the birding experience in Murchison falls is deeply enhanced by the abundant wildlife and scenic landscape. The legendary shoebill is one of the most iconic birds in the park and this is the only park where one is certain of seeing the bird, which is regularly recorded along the Albert Nile, especially at the delta and amidst islands in the river.

Murchison falls national park is important for the Sudan-guinea biomes species with 14 out of 22 species recorded in the park and in this park travelers can view the 4 to 12 lake Victoria species, 11 of 44 guinea Congo forest species, 6 of 86 afro-tropical highland species and 3 of 32 Somalia Masai biome species and sometimes when the flow of the Nile is low, African skimmers gather on sand banks a few meters below the falls.

Lake Mburo National Park

Birding in Lake Mburo national park. Uganda’s smallest national park is covered by tall grass savanna dotted with Acacia and euphorbia trees. Lake Mburo national park has an extensive area of wetlands, harbors several species of mammals and a great bird population.

Travelers enjoy birding while driving through the park and some of the bird species to encounter in Lake Mburo national park include crested francolin, red necked spurfowl, Nubian woodpecker, arrow marked babler, emerald spotted wood dove, brown parrot and bare-faced go-away-bird. Northern black flycatcher, blue naped and speckled mousebird, lilac breasted and broad billed roller and many others. The best birding spots in Lake Mburo are near the swamps at Warukiri and Rwonyo. Travelers can also spot the rare African finfoot, occasional sightings of a shoebill, African fish eagle and malachite and many others on a boat cruise along Lake Mburo.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

The Bwindi National Park in Western Uganda is one of Africa’s best birding destinations in the world, it was voted by the African bird club as number one in the continent, due to the number of rare bird species found in the park. Bwindi impenetrable national park has well maintained birding trails, easily accessible and navigable by the travelers.

It accommodates more than 350 bird species including 23 Albertine rift endemics of which 14 are not recorded anywhere else in the country. Some of the bird species found in this park include the African Green broadbill, Shelley’s crimsonwing, handsome francolin, mountain-masked and collared apalis, white bellied robin chat, black billed turaco, Fraser’s eagle, western bronze naped pigeon, purple breasted, blue-headed and regal sunbirds and many others.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Bird watcher’s haven, Queen Elizabeth national park provides shelter to over 600 bird species and in this park birds are easily spotted and travelers are expected to take great photos as they explore the park and its spectacular scenery dotted with abundant wildlife.

Some of the resident bird species to explore in Queen Elizabeth National park include the African mourning dove, swamp flycatcher, grey-headed kingfisher, African skimmer, malachite and pied kingfisher, white-winged terns, grey capped warbler, collared pratinvole, pin tailed whydah, martial eagle, Gabon and slender tailed nightjars, black headed Gonolek, Verreaux’s eagle owl and many others. Flamingos can be spotted at the salt lakes of Katwe and Bunyampaka.

Semuliki National Park

Semuliki national park has over 441 bird species in its riverine, forest and grassland habitats. Semuliki has Guinea-Congo biome species and they are found in the park’s lowland forest. Other bird species to look out for include Black dwarf hornbill, Nkulengu rail, piping hornbill, African Miculet, Maxwell’s black weaver, blue billed Malimbe, yellow throated cuckoo, dwarf honeyguide, great blue and ross’s turaco, purple breasted sunbird, orange weaver, white-crested hornbill, red billed dwarf hornbill and many others.

Uganda generally is gifted with nature so it has very many birding spots, some are protected and others are not protected. Other important birding areas in Uganda include Kibale national park, Mgahinga national park, Budongo forest, Rwenzori mountains national park and many others.

Kasenge Forest Resort: Where Bird Watching is WOW!!

If you are an adventurer in quest for bliss amongst the expanse of nature, plentiful of birds and some real good people, this sanctuary is hypnotizing.

Situated approximately 30km from Kampala along the Kampala – Jinja Road, Kasenge is a vast tropical forest with a fully-fledged forest safari lodge offering sensational experiences that revitalize mind, body and spirit. It is a harmonious sanctuary where you can spend a few hours and emerge feeling as fresh as the daisy flowers that thrive in her shades.

It is not a zoo like destination where birds are kept in enclosures. The sanctuary in the philosophy of wildlife parks, allows the birds to enjoy utter freedom. Entrance fee to Kasenge is UGX 10,000 (roughly $3) for adults and free for children.

For Details

Facebook: Kasenge Forest Resort Beach

Contact: +256 772 321383

Top 5 Best Birding Destinations in Rwanda

There’s something to be said for travelling in summer or winter to any destination around the world but for bird watching in Africa have a lot to say like the different bird species spotted in different places, cheap accommodation, comfortable food, less crowded destinations and several trip special moments. Some travelers enjoy getting away from it all while others choose to immerse themselves in the local culture and traditions of the area they visit. If you’re the latter, then you’ll be pleased to know the main birding watching destination of Rwanda which make you spot most of the bird species listed before the trip.

Being a fascinating destination for bird watching activities, Rwanda alone boasts 670 bird species in a country small as Belgium. On a safari in Rwanda, some of the highlights of your trip will include the fabulous shoebill, Great blur turaco, Purple-bleasted Sunbird, Red-faced Barbet, Little Bee Eater, Collared Apalis, and Fraser’s Eagle Owl. Rwanda’s national parks are the main birding destinations with 100s of birds ready to be spotted by park visitors.

Akagera National park

North east of Rwanda along the border of Tanzania is where you can find the Akagera national park a park named after Akagera River a breath taking place and the most desired feature of the park.The park reflects a wide variety including 44 species of raptors the grey hornbill, crested barbet, Falco naumanni, black headed gonalek, heuglin’s robin-chat, gorgeous lilac-breasted roller, Palearctic migrants and others which had been recorded. Besides bird watching is on the prominent activities of the park a famed point for many water birds in the East African region. Boat rides and Game drives are things which go hand in hand with birding and plenty of animal species including buffalo, elephants, hippos, zebra, crocodiles, bush baby and many other mammal species are viewed. Guests also take advantage of the gentle hills blending with beautiful lowland swamps and water bodies giving way to nice photo captions of the parks beauty.

Nyungwe forest national park

Nyungwe forest is not only the Chimpanzee play ground but also a birding paradise of Rwanda.Visitors to the beautiful forest get a chance to spot over 300 bird species including Albertine Rift endemics (notable targets include Red-collared Babbler, Kungwe Apalis, Shelley’s Crimsonwing and Albertine Owlet).Birding guests also view different primate species for free since they are also sighted during the bird watching session in the the forest. If time permits don’t forget to be part of the Forest Conopy walk an activity which make you appreciate nature and its surrounding. Nyungwe shouldn’t miss out on your visit & if circumstances don’t permit find time again in the near future and return back to view over 13 species of primate, 300 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species, 32 amphibian and 38 reptile species among others.

Still to come include Volcanoes national park, Rugezi Swamp, Akanyaru, Nyabarongo and Cyamudongo.Lake kivu etc.Trust me you will see many bird species in different unique remarkable birding destinations in Rwanda .This is because Rwanda is located in the Albertine Rift and is also blessed with the green dense forests. Even in the Kigali city one can spot the African Reed Warbler and Great Sedge Warbler, the Winding Cisticola as well as the Common Waxbill, Grey-backed Fiscal, Tropical Boubou, Red-rumped and Mosque Swallows, African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Great White Pelican, Common Moorhens, Grosbeak Weaver, Grey Heron, Yellow-backed (Black-headed) Weavers, and the Pied Kingfisher at Lake Nyarutarama near the golf course. Therefore always start your Rwanda birding trip right from Kigali to the parks which is rewarding to birders.