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.

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