Top Birding Sites in Uganda
Top Birding Sites in Uganda : Birding safaris in Uganda have gained a lot of momentum amongst tourists traveling to Uganda over the years. A large number of bird lovers flock into the country just to catch a glimpse of their favorite bird species in the various birding destinations in Uganda.
Uganda is ranked as one of the Top 10 birding destinations in the world with more than 1040 bird species that have been recorded in the country. The wide variety of bird species in Uganda is what has made the country a renowned birders’ paradise on the African continent and in the world at large.
Crammed into this diminutive country is an astonishingly rich diversity of habitats from the scenic shores of Uganda’s many great lakes to the lush forests of the Albertine Rift and the banks of the mighty Nile River.
The most prized bird species in Uganda is the incredible rare and pre-historic Shoebill Stork, which is predominately found in papyrus swamps. Birders should also keep an eye out for the beautiful grey crested crane, which also happens to be the national emblem on the Ugandan Flag. These elegant birds have wild gold crests and sport the same colors as the Uganda flag (red, yellow and black).
Birding Sites in Uganda
Murchison Falls National Park
Birding safaris in Uganda can be done in Murchison falls national park, located in the Northwestern part of the country. It is located about 305km from Kampala capital city. The national park is one of the best birding destinations in Uganda, with over 451 bird species including water birds, savannah birds and those endemic to the Albertine rift.
Birding in Murchison falls national park can be done during the game drive, boat cruise or on a guided nature walk in Budongo forest. Some of the birds to look out for during your birding tour in the park include; the Rare Shoebill Stork, the Goliath Heron, Grey crested cranes, the Swamp Flycatcher, Squacco Heron, African Jacana, the Black-headed Gonolek and the African Quail-Finch to mention but a few.
Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Birding in Queen Elizabeth national park is such an incredible treat as it contains a variety of habitats that range from savanna to wetlands to lowland forests. This diversity is reflected in the list of over 600 recoded bird species, the biggest of any protected area in East Africa. It is precisely for this reason that the park is classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International. Majority of the birds found in this national park are regarded as famous birds of East Africa and are a must see for birdwatchers in Africa.
Present in the park are numerous water birds, woodland and forest dwellers in the Maramagambo Forest, 54 raptors and various migratory species. Key bird species in the park include; the martial eagle, black-rumped buttonquail, African skimmer, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Pink-backed Pelican, Verreaux’s eagle owl, lesser and greater flamingos, and of course the Shoebill Stork among others.
For best birding in Queen Elizabeth national park, don’t the following birding hot spots like; Kazinga Channel, Kasenyi Area, Mweya Peninsula, Maramagambo Forest, Ishasha Sector, Lake Kikorongo, Katunguru Bridge Area and Katwe Area.
Lake Mburo National Park
Around 315 bird species have been recorded in Lake Mburo national park. The national park, which is located in the western region of Uganda, is the smallest savannah national park in the country.
Some of the bird species found in Lake Mburo national park include; the red- faced barbet, African Finfoot, Shoebill stork, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Saddle-billed Stork, Brown-chested Lapwing, African-wattled Lapwing, Carruther’s Cisticola, Tabora Cisticola, Africn Scops Owl and the Ayssinian Ground Hornbill to mention but a few.
Acacia woodland bird species are especially well represented, while forest species may be found in Rubanga forest. These include Blue- breasted Kingfisher, Hairy-breasted Barbet and Yellow-rumped tinker bird among others.
Other great birding spots in Lake Mburo national park are the swampy valleys of Warukiri, the road between Rwonyo Rest Camp and Rwonyo jetty, and the viewing platform which overlooks the salt lick. Bird species found at these locations include the Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard, the Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, the Common Scimitar bill and the Green Wood-hoopoe among others.
Kibale Forest National Park.
Bird watching safaris in Uganda can also be done in Kibale Forest national park. The park boasts of more than 375 species of birds. Some of the bird species to look out for in Kibale forest include; the African Pitta, Green-breasted Pitta, the White- naped Pigeon, Crowned Eagle, Yellow- rumped Tinker bird, Little Greenbul, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Grey Parrot, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis and the Brown Illadopsis among others.
Birding walks in Kibale Forest national park start at 7am at Kanyanchu; you are advised to book in advance. Rare species in the park include; the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, white-collared olive-back and papyrus canary.
Other birding sites outside the national park include Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, which is home to about 138 bird species. Some of the Bigodi specials include; the White- spotted Flufftail, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, Black-and-white Shrike Flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch, Black-crowned Waxbill and many more.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
Although Bwindi impenetrable national park is quite famous for its habituate mountain gorillas, the park is also a great birding destination in Uganda. Located in south western Uganda in Kanungu district, Bwindi is one of the most visited national parks in the country. The national park is a home of about 19 habituated gorilla families which are visited on daily basis during gorilla trekking and it’s also the only destination in the world where gorilla habituation takes place.
Bwindi impenetrable national park is home to over 360 bird species; with 23 bird species endemic to Albertine rift and 14 species not recorded anywhere else in Uganda. The park was voted as Africa’s top birding site in 2011 which makes it a birders’ paradise.
Birding in Bwindi impenetrable national park is usually done along different trails in the park such as; Buhoma waterfall trail, Mubwindi swamp trail in Ruhija, bamboo zone among others and you will be able to spot bird species like broadbill, ross’s Turaco, black bee-eater, handsome francolin, Rwenzori batis, red faced woodland warbler, white tailed crested flycatcher, yellow whiskered, grey cheeked hornbill, double toothed barbet, blue spotted wood dove, brown capped weaver, dusky twin spot, African goshawk, African wood owl, African pygmy kingfisher, white throated greenbul, archer’s robin chat, African emerald cuckoo, African hawk, kivu ground thrush, giant kingfisher among others.
Semuliki National Park.
The birdlife in Semuliki national park is quite spectacular. The park has over 441 recorded bird species, which is about 40% of Uganda’s total bird species and about 216 of the country’s forest bird species. An interesting fact to note about Semuliki national park is that it is home to 46 Guinea-Congo biome species which can’t be found anywhere else in the East African Region. In addition to this, the park also shelters 35 other bird species which can be seen in only three other birding sites in Uganda.
Bird species to look out for during your birding safari in the park include; the Nkulengu Rail, White- crested Hornbill, White-throated Blue Swallow, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Maxwell’s Black Weaver, Black-casqued Wattled Hornbill and the Red and Blue-billed Malimbes among others.
Kidepo Valley National Park.
Kidepo Valley national park is the most isolated national park in Uganda, situated in the far Northeastern park of the country. The park is located in Kaabong district bordering Uganda’s border with Sudan and Kenya. It is commonly referred to as the ‘Masai Mara’ of Uganda because of its beautiful and vast savannah landscapes, as well as its large population of wildlife.
The park is one of the top birding sites in Uganda because it harbors over 470 bird species with about 60 species endemic to only the park which makes it a birders paradise for bird lovers. There quite an number of great birding spots in Kidepo national park which include; at the water hole which is situated at the edge of Apoka Rest Camp, along Narus and Namamukweny valley among others.
While birding in Kidepo valley national park, you might want to look out for bird species such as; Clapperton’s Francolin, African swallow tailed kite, golden pipit, yellow necked spur fowl, black breasted barbet, scarlet chested sunbird, pygmy falcon, fox kestrel, white bellied bustard, superb starling, four banded sand grouse, standard winged nightjar, little green bee-eater, grey flycatcher, rufous crowned roller, slate coloured boubou, Bruce’s green pigeon, Abyssinian ground hornbill, grey capped social weaver, red fronted barbet, speckle fronted weaver, beautiful sunbird, singing bush lark, straw tailed whydahs, secretary bird, Kori bustard, ostrich, among others.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Mgahinga Gorilla national park located in the Southwestern region of Uganda is another great birding site in Uganda. Although the park is famous for is habituated gorilla group (Nyakagezi gorilla group), it also shelters quite a stunning population of bird species in Uganda.
Mgahinga national park shelters about 184 species of birds, including the Ibis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black Kite, Rwenzori Nightjar, the Paradise Fly-catcher, and the Double-collared Sunbird to mention but a few.
Birders in the park can also take a 3-4 hour hike along the Gorge trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo mountains which provides spectacular sightings of bird species such as; the Dusky-turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill and the Streaky Seedeater among others.
Mabamba swamp is a one of the top birding site for the Shoebill Stork in Uganda. It harbors over 300 bird species including migratory and endemic species. Birding in Mabamba swamp is conducted from a motorized wooden boat which you will ride through different trails, thick marshes among others.
While birding in Mabamba swamp do look out for bird species like; the Black headed heron, African fish eagle, blue checked bee-eater, goliath heron, malachite kingfisher, red eyed dove, swamp flycatcher, yellow billed tinker bird, white browed cuckoo, spur winged goose, speckled mouse bird, saddle billed stork, pied king fisher, papyrus Gonolek, great blue Turaco, double toothed barbet, common squacco, black crowned night heron, African pygmy goose, African fish eagle, cattle egret, grey parrot, yellow billed duck, spur winged goose, swamp flycatcher among others.
There are other birding destinations in Uganda like Rwenzori national park, Mabira forest, Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Entebbe Botanical Gardens, Kaniyo Pabidi forest among others therefore visitors who want to view different bird species on a birding safari have a wide range of Top Birding Sites in Uganda to choose from.
Best Time for birding safaris in Uganda
Birding can be done anytime throughout the year, although the best time is from March to May and September to November. This is also known as the breeding season for birds therefore you will be able to view colorful bird species, migratory birds during the months of November to April and a wide range of bird species during September in that there will be abundant food for the birds because it’s the fruiting season.
What to pack for a birding safari in Uganda
When planning for your birding safari in Uganda, your checklist must include the following essential items; a pair of binoculars, hiking boots, camera and extra batteries, long sleeved shirts and trousers, water bottle, sunscreen and insect repellent cream, light raincoat, bird guide book, hat, sunglasses and a backpack.
Conclusion: You can also combine your birding safari in Uganda with other interesting activities such as; guide game drives, gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest National Park, mountain climbing, boat cruise, guided nature walks and even community cultural tours.