International Birders Praise Uganda

Uganda receive the three prominent international birders recently, one is the organizer of the world’s largest bird fair in the UK called Tim Appleton, the other is Bill Thompson, the editor and co-publisher of Bird Watcher’s Digest, one of the most read North America’s birding magazines, and Dominic Mitchell, who is the founder and managing editor of Bird Watch, Europe’s leading monthly magazine. These three prominent international birders roomed the country, a first ever since the Big Birding Week started 11 years ago and paid glowing tribute to Uganda’s nature and proved that Uganda is really a pearl of Africa.

As he was speaking on the event, Appleton said that Uganda has the possibility to attract ten of thousand traveler’s whole over the world because Uganda is proved as a bird’s paradise with all most all types of birds. These entire where said during the launch of the big birding week at forest resort in Kasenge, Mukono district. He also noted that, ‘’Uganda has the highest population of birds not only in the east Africa but also in Africa, and not only seeing birds but birders also have the chance of seeing other mammals and primates like the gorillas on a gorilla safari and chimpanzees among others,’’. Appleton, however, noted that Uganda needs to improve its infrastructure if it is to attract more birdwatchers. He also added that Uganda needs more nice wide trails for better viewing of birds because there is no point in having small trails where if some in front of you sees a bird, the one behind misses it,” he said’’. He also asked the Uganda tourism board (UTB) to get involved in the UK Bird Fair, which, he said, attracted more than 22,000 people from 68 different countries annually.

Uganda is a God gifted country with very many species of birds and Uganda is considered the best safari destination for birders and it boosts of more than 1,057 species accounting for 11%of the globe’s total and 50%of Africa’s. The African bird club ranking Uganda as home to two of the top 10 birding sites on the continent. Bwindi impenetrable forest national park is ranked number one birding destination and Murchison falls national park in the ninth position. Nature Uganda in 2003 started the concept of the birding week which is developed into the big birding day, this came after seeing the potential that lies in birds. This year the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) and Uganda Bird Guides’ Club, among others, partnered with Nature Uganda to organize the event which was so colorful.

Maria Mutagamba the minister of tourism, wildlife and antiquities was represented by Rosemary Komutagi, the acting commissioner for tourism development in the ministry of Tourism. As she was speaking on the event, she said that very may bird species visiting Uganda had increased and this has resulted to the increase in the number of tourists who droop in to watch them in their natural habitat last year alone over 3,000 birders where registered in the country, according to Komutagi, spent $5,000 on average, bringing in $15 million. She urged tour operators to prioritize birds because they bring in more money than all the other tourism products. According to records she said, ‘’on approximation, each birder spends about 3 weeks on safari as compared to one week of a safari tourist’’

The executive director of nature Uganda Mr. Achilles Byaruhanga in his speech on the event said that despite the growing interest in birds and tourism in general, the number of birds is reducing, in the last 30 days over 90% that’s from 10,000 to 100,000 of the grey crown crane (crested crane), which is the country’s national symbol. “Although the interest is growing, we are losing the numbers. The challenge is matching the enthusiasm in bird watching to conservation,” he said. However he credited the decline to the fact that most of the birds are living outside the protected areas that’s on people’s private land, where they are easily killed. He said that there are over 34 birding areas according to the research carried out by Nature Uganda including Mabamba, bwindi impenetrable national park, Murchison fall national park, queen Elizabeth National Park among others. He said also that some thing must be done to preserve birds because they can easily migrate since they don’t need visa to fly.

Events News

Nature Uganda Announces Dates for the ‘Big Birding Day’

Those who love the birds of the feathered kind will be marking November 27th 2014 in their calendar, when from midnight to midnight ornithologists and hobby birders will once again swarm Ugandas best, and also the lesser known sites to collect sightings and audible identifications of as many of the 1.065 species confirmed to have been recorded in the Pearl of Africa.

Every year families, individuals, conservationists and the tourism industry come together to celebrate Uganda’s Big Birding Day (BBD). Whether you are young or old, a beginner or a professional ‘twitcher,’ the Big Birding Day has something for everyone. For tourists taking safaris in Uganda, don’t forget to mark this great day on your calender. If you’re competitive, you might like to join one of the teams of professional birdwatchers looking to improve on last year’s incredible score of 275 bird species seen in one 24 hour period in Mt. Elgon National Park.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority and the National Forest Authority are once again participating in the event and will be offering free entrance to participants to the parks, reserves and national forests, to broadly promote domestic tourism and in particular raise awareness for the rich variety of birds found across the country. Last year some 40 official teams covered 38 sites across Uganda and brought home sightings of 622 species, something the organizers hope to better this year with more participants covering yet more of the country.

First launched in 2009 by Nature Uganda and conservation partners, the #BBD this being the hash tag on Twitter for the event besides #VisitUganda or Big Birding Day has since evolved into a major conservation and domestic tourism event, held annually and promoted by safari companies, safari lodges, the Uganda Tourism Board, the Uganda Wildlife Authority and the National Forest Authority. Companies have last year sponsored teams, collecting bird sightings and reporting them back via twitter to base for instant computation and updates and the social media will again be playing a major role in publicizing the event more broadly around the world, perhaps with enough hash tags even trending.

The winners of the event will be announced and celebrated on October 27th at a venue still to be announced, so watch this space for future updates. Meanwhile, visit with specific questions.

Events News

The Big Birding Day

While planning your birding tour to Uganda, as a birder I advise fellow birding travelers to book their birding trips corresponding with the dates of Uganda Big Birding Day Event. Here you with your guide will meet various birders and interact to learn more about Uganda’s birds and the migratory birds from Europe. On this event you will visit most of the important bird areas-including Mabira forest, Katomi Kingdom resort-Garuga, Lutembe bay, Uganda wildlife education centre and Botanical gardens Entebbe, Mpanga forest, Mabamba bay swamp for the rare stork shoe bill.

Mabamba Bay is one of the spotlight site where the highest number of Shoebills has been recorded in one day and over a relatively small area. This kind of concentration of the species has attracted tourists as well as wildlife traffickers looking for both the eggs and the birds for trade. Recent reports from immigration office indicate increased incidences of culprits of wildlife trafficking being arrested at border points, however, many still go unnoticed.

On the other hand it presented opportunities for income generation for communities through eco-tourism. Uganda tour operators and other sectors like Nature Uganda aims to support and strengthen the Mabamba community groups for long term conservation of the wetland.

This is mainly through:

  • Specialized training of selected community members in conservation linked livelihood alternatives such as tour guiding, crafts and eco-tourism,
  • Promoting avian – tourism especially Shoebill trekking in Mabamba Bay,
  • Getting selected community members trained to undertake basic site monitoring to track status – threats at the site and conservation actions within the site and
  • Community compliance policing undertaken on a regular basis to strengthen the implementation of the community management plan and improve on wetland management by the District.

The information collected will contribute to the effort to develop a global species action plan for the shoebill and creating a community-government partnership to cab wildlife trade.


New Bird Guides Passed out in Uganda

The Uganda tourism Board passed out over 53 bird guides in Kibale National park with enforcement of being disciplined and professional. This will help in improving the operation of the birding safaris within the country. The head of Uganda Tourism Board also commented that 50% of the tourists who come to Uganda are as a result of the referrals. He added that bad hospitality due to such factors as poor integrity which can lead to negative referrals and hence Uganda losing out.

The boss of UTB urged the passed tour guides to keep the high levels of integrity to attract tourism growth within the country which will also help in increasing the number of tourists interested in coming for birding safaris in Uganda. Birding is also a gold mine which meant that the guides must keep the standards and the integrity within the tourism sector. The new safari birding guides were advisable not to be so early to compete but in a hurry to cooperate. They were also advisable to learn more language to be able to add value to their birding training.

The training took two weeks and was sponsored by Uganda Tourism Board, United Nations Development Fund and also conducted by the Uganda Safari Guides Association. Tourism has fetched high revenues for the country which has helped in the development of the country, the guides are the eyes of the tourism sector and so they have to maintain discipline of the highest order. The passed guides will emphasize the quality of all services provided to the tourists within the tourism industry.

There are many skills of birding ecology which were learnt by the guides and these include; flight actions, feeding habitants, various bird feets, how to bird on foot, in a car, using boats and at night. They also learnt about the origin, evolution and the ecology of birding, behavior of birds, birds which are nearing to extinction, parasitic birds and the migratory birds. The guides are so essential in any completion of any safari tour in the country.



Uganda Declared Top Birders’ Destination in Africa for 2013

Uganda has 34 key bird viewing points in wetlands, water bodies, wildlife reserves, national parks and forest reserves. Common bird species include shoebills, herons, eagles, blue throated rollers, red headed malimbe, scaly breaste illadopis, titi hylia, giant king fisher, scaly francolin among others.

If you are looking to a birding safari in Uganda, there are about 70 professional and well-equipped guides who can whistle and call birds at a given point, identify them and take you to their destination under their umbrella body Uganda Safari Guides Association (USGA)

Statistics from Minim show that Tourism contributed 9.0 percent of Uganda’s GDP, US$ 805 million foreign exchange earnings from 1.2million visitors in 2011. The tourism accolades never stop coming for Uganda. On top of being voted Best Tourist Destination for 2012, Uganda was declared Africa’s Preffered Birding Destination in October after Africa Bird Club voted two of Uganda’s birding sites among the top 10 birders’ destinations in Africa.

Bwindi Forest, the best place for gorilla safaris in Africa was, actually, voted the best birding site in Africa with Murchison coming in at no. 9 – and with over 1050 bird species within its borders, Uganda sits comfortably among the best birding
destinations in the whole world.

Birding is one of the most important tourist activities in the world garnering chunks of money for countries that have given it priority.

To ensure that Uganda stays in the international tourism limelight, the ministry of tourism and other stakeholders have declared 2013/2014 the “Year of Birding” in Uganda.

The minister of tourism, wildlife and antiquities Ms Maria Mutagamba did the declaration at Kasenge Resort Beach in Mukono on Saturday.

“As we begin our journey through our next 50 years of Independence allow me declare Uganda as the favourite birding destination for 2013/2014,” said an evidently joyful Mutagamba.

This declaration comes weeks after Birdlife International, a global program on conservation and protection of birds and their habitants, alongside Nature Uganda announced that there are 34 important bird areas in Uganda with diverse bird species that qualify Uganda to be the leading birding destination on the continent.

Mutagamba said that Uganda has been priding in recent accolades like the one of Lonely Planet which was influenced by the iconic Mountain Gorillas but birds will give Uganda even new dimensions and more options to shine on international tourism market.

The minister said the two accolades provide an important avenue and platform for showcasing Uganda’s rich bird diversity that shows the country’s endowment of having 1056 bird species that account for 10 percent of the globe’s total bird species and 50 percent of Africa’s bird species population.

Uganda Tourism Board Executive Director Cuthbert Baguma said that it’s now very important to start promoting the country as a major birders’ destination.

“This country is for all Ugandans that calls for patriotism by positively promoting the country in order not to kill the thriving tourism industry,” he said. He said they want to form a crisis management committee responsible for responding to all negative publicity that has smeared the country’s image, especially on the relentless Ebola and Marburg cases.

“There needs to be a committee which counters these negative and – most of the times – exaggerated stories and show people that things are under control,” added Baguma. “And they’re.”

Mr Hebert Byaruhanga, the chairman Uganda Safari guides Association (USAGA) said that Uganda beats many African countries in having rare bird species that can bring in money but the business hasn’t been tapped into.

He said that despite being a land-locked country, Uganda has over 1000 bird species including migratory birds which normally flock ocean coasts.

He also emphasized the fact that birding needs as much promotion as gorilla tracking. “A Gorilla tracking tourist may only spend 2 to 3 days leaving only US$500 for a gorilla permit and maybe some more little dollars but a tourist interested in birding will spend between 14 to 21 days and they spend over $5000 and that should be simple mathematics of what is more important,” he said.

The guides also said that usually tourists who come in for birding also do gorilla tracking yet those who come to see the primates are specific.


The Uganda Big Birding Day 2011

Friday 30th September 2011 will be the BIG BIRDING DAY 2011! It is a day when bird watching enthusiasts come together to celebrate Uganda’s famous bird species whose population is said to be one of the highest in Africa. It is the third consecutive year that the day will be celebrated after it was officially launched in October 2010.


Uganda, with 11% of the global bird diversity, is regarded as Africa’s best birding destination for ‘birders’ and other nature enthusiasts. With many bird species concentrated in large protected wilderness areas, a bird-watching trip to Uganda is the most leisurely in the east and central tropical bird-watching destinations. Uganda has more bird species per square kilometre than any other country in Africa. Uganda, the size of the UK, boasts of over 1050 species. This is about 50% of the bird species that can be found in the whole of Africa. This diversity is attributed to its variety of habitats, which include arid, semi-dessert, savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone..


Birds are a important part of our ecosystems. They are universal, penetrating the remotest deserts, oceans and mountains on earth. They are numerous, widely distributed, easily observed and form a vital part of our natural heritage.

Bird watching is a booming international business opportunity that attracts low volume, low impact and high return visitors that can boost rural tourism economies and support jobs in rural areas. Bird watching and birding remains one of the world’s leading recreational activities.

With more accessible birding and bird watching destinations available, there has been a massive increase in the number of bird watchers travelling the world over in search of birds to tick off the “life” list.

But despite the large number of birds in Uganda, very few Ugandans are aware of this rich diversity present in this country and this immense potential. The sector is more patronized by foreign visitors who come to watch special bird species, such as the shoe bill stock, etc.

For this reason, the conservation and tourism marketing partners: Nature Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Bird Guides Association, Star Uganda, National Forest Authority, Uganda Community Based Association and Association of Tour Operators have come together once again to rekindle the interest in birding and create awareness through the “Uganda Big Birding Day” .

Economic benefits:

Birdwatchers are generally more independent, focused and committed than other travelers. The average age for birders is estimated at 25-55 with an equal distribution of men and women. Income levels are generally high among birders. Birds take priority over comfort and many birders will stay in basic local lodging establishments in order to see the species of interest to them.

The high expectations of many birdwatchers, combined with their high average incomes example, in 2008 less than 2000 birders spent about US$6M more than $3.3m spent on gorilla tracking in Uganda. Birding has a potential to generate over US$20-45million annually if 10,000 birders visited Uganda.

Also bird watching can generate the following benefits:

  • has the highest potential to create incentives for local community economic livelihoods that can easily motivate them to learn about the values of biodiversity and protect natural areas outside protected areas
  • has the highest potential to generate income at local levels and contribute to poverty alleviation while protecting natural areas,
  • Can result in large financial contributions to UWA and neighboring localities visited.
  • Given their education and high expectations, bird-watchers are more likely to make efforts to reduce their environmental impacts, to appreciate the distinctness and significance of different ecosystems and to pay the required protected-area fees while travelling.

For example avi-tourism is proving to be one of South Africa’s most powerful conservation tools. Tourism has outperformed all other sectors in South Africa’s economy, with two popular ‘Birding-routes’ generating an estimated US$6.4 million annually for local people. Although avi-tourism is developing in Uganda, it is mainly by tourists and very few locals

The Programme

29th September 2011

Flagging off the big birding groups will take place at midnight on 29th September 2011, after which each group will begin recording the different birds they identify in their chosen sites until midnight the following day. The groups will then submit their records to the tally centre at Nature Uganda offices, which will proceed to compile the results followed by an official announcement of the winners during the Big

30th September 2011

The day will be celebrated nation-wide through a series of activities including a big birding race that involves bird-watching groups competing in the race on who identifies the biggest number of bird species in their respective sites. Because it is a race, each group aims to record as many bird species that they have identified in their respective birding area that day.

The overall aim of this exercise is to see how many bird species can be recorded in a single day in our rich country Uganda. The event will also use bird watching to help bridge the information gap between bird conservation and tourism in Uganda. It will also link up all bird watchers, tourism promoters, conservationists and policy makers in the country and the rest of the world.

Free entry for all participants bird watching in National Parks, Wildlife Reserves and Forest Reserves on this day has been granted by UWA and NFA.

Birding Festival on Saturday 1st October 2011.

As part of this year’s Big Birding Day celebrations, a Birding Uganda website will be launched. The website will be the main avenue for promoting bird watching activities in Uganda, and will also provide as much information as possible to the international community about Uganda’s bird species.

The results of the Bird Counts will be announced and the winners recognized.

We will also show a documentary about Birds and listen to some speeches from prominent and inspiring Ugandans about Birds, their economic and Conservation Value.

There will be a lot of entertainment

The theme for the Event

The theme for the event is : Connecting Birds to People and Nature.

This theme is very relevant to this year because, if harnessed properly, people could substantially improve their welfare and the country could benefit from the value chain of the birding cycle in Uganda. However, we need to conserve the natural environments and habitat for these birds in order to realize these tangible benefits.

Initiatives to develop Birding in Uganda

  • Birding is slowly but surely being recognized on the tourism events calendar and is taking center stage with involvement of more and more stakeholders every year
  • Birding website has been developed with the technical and financial assistance of Star Uganda and partners
  • Training and up skilling of bird guides by USAGA and a lot guides trained. The Guides Certification process is ongoing
  • Birding trails have been cut in some of the protected areas and procurement of birding equipment such as binoculars, recorders and bird hides in the parks has commenced
  • A birding survey was implemented and findings of the study is now being used to improve the birding development
  • Checklists and Books on birding in Uganda are now available
  • Assorted promotional books on birding are also available

How the birding will be organised

The birding event will include guided nature walks throughout the country. We shall have expert ornithologists and bird guides from Uganda Wildlife Authority, Nature Uganda and Uganda Bird Guides Club (UBGC) who will lead participants at various locations to a competition on Bird watching throughout the country.

The event will be a 24 hour bird watching contest throughout the country, from midnight to midnight the following day. The event will involve selecting groups each with at least 2 members who are experienced bird watchers to confirm the species identification.

Special sites have been selected where efforts must be made to send teams for birding. These sites were chosen to represent all the different vegetation types in Uganda to try and record all birds that can be seen in Uganda. All birds seen and heard calling within these sites will be recorded.

A tally centre will be set up at Nature Uganda to receive all records from participating teams and summarise them. These will then be announced at the Big Birding Festival, which will be the climax of the events.


The proposed sites for birding on the BBD include;

Bwindi Impenetrable NP, Mgahinga Gorilla NP, Kibale NP, Rwenzori Mountains NP, Tooro Semliki WR, Semiliki NP, Katonga WR, Kidepo Valley NP, Lake Mburo NP, Mt. Elgon NP, Murchison Falls NP, Queen Elizabeth NP, Kyambura WR- QENP, Ishasha- QENP, Budongo FR, Kasohya Kitomi FR, Echuya FR, Mabamba/ Makanaga Bays, Mabira FR, Lutembe Bay, Kumbu Forest -Nabajjuzi Masaka, Musambwa Islands, Lakes Bisina & Opeta, Mt. Otzi CFR, Mt. Kei CFR, Mt. Moroto CFR, Gulu University, Mbale/ Kibimba, Entebbe Peninsula, Kawanda-Namulonge-(Gayaza RD), MUST- Mbarara, Park Alexander, Makerere University, Bahai Temple, Rwenzori Bottling Co. Namanve

How you can participate

Everybody is invited and called upon to participate in this National event.

To participate, please register with Nature Uganda at their office on Plot 83 Tufnell drive Kamwokya or at their website, or at their branches at the Universities in Gulu, Mbarara and Mbale and at all National Parks and Wildlife Reserves.

Please note that those intending to travel to National parks or other sites need to make their private arrangements for travel and accommodation.