GUIDE TO BIRD WATCHING IN UGANDA.
Birding in Uganda is so diverse and is done in the most scenic destinations. Birds in Uganda can be spotted everywhere starting from the Entebbe international airport, Uganda has an impressive abundance, of birds some of which are typical Africans, endemic birds and others are migrant birds. Uganda is a birders haven having more than 1000 bird species spread throughout the whole country
While bird watching in Uganda, you will get a chance to encounter the Albertine rift endemics birds, the famous shoebill stock, the breasted pitta among other birds.
A birding safari in Uganda is more rewarding due to the availability of many bird species each with a different unique feature, attractive colors and so much more to discover while on a birding tour in Uganda. You also get a chance to see other tourist attractions Uganda offers.
Bird species you can find in Uganda include, but not limited to,
Shoebill [balaeniceps rex], Marabou stork, Saddle-billed stork, Hamerkop, Goliath heron, African darter, Pelicans, Common ostrich, Flamingoes, Secretary bird, African fish eagle, Planet vulture, Lappet-faced vulture, Bateleur, long crested eagle, Jackson’s francolin, Helmeted guineafowl
Some of the famous birding destinations in Uganda.
1.Mabamba bay wetland
Mabamba birding sight famously known for the shoe bill, Uganda’s most sought-after bird by the tourists.
The wetland is located on the shores of Lake Victoria in Entebbe, famous for the shoe bill stork birds. The wetland provides the best environment and weather for the birds that live near water bodies.
Mabamba bay has over 300 bird species and hosts a flock of migrant birds every October to March.
Birding watching at mabamba bay is done as you ride a canoe through the wetland, you get to see birds like the shoe bill stork, malachite, black kite, African marsh harrier, African open billed stork, black headed heron, papyrus gonoleks, swamp flycatcher, pied kingfisher and more birds.
Apart from birds, the mabamba wetland has a lot of fish species like the Rung fish which is loved by the shoebill. The best time to go birding in mabamba island is 7am in the morning.
While birding at Mabamba bay wetland, you follow a trail from mabamba landing site. Upon reaching the site, you are welcomed by a number of birds even before reaching the wetland, this is because the wetland is surrounded by a lot of trees which harbor bird nests.
You board a canoe and sail on the wetlands as you sight a lot of birds which include the Rufous napped lark, sooty chat, scrub robins and a lot more birds.
You can decide to head to Nkima forest to expand your birding tour, this is a small forest on a hill overlooking mabamba wetland, it’s a 20 minutes’ walk from the wetland. It also has a lodge where you can stay while on your birding tour. The nkima forest lodge has 8 cottages which are spacious and overlooking the wetland.
2.RWENZORI MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK
The park is located in western Uganda and is home to more than 217 bird species. This rewards you with a better experience while on your birding tour.
Birds in Mountain Rwenzori national park include; slender billed starling, archers’ robin chat, lag den’s bush, Rwenzori turaco, white starred robin, blue headed sunbird, golden winged sunbird, black eagle
3.Semuliki national park
Birding in semuliki national park offers one of the best birding experiences in Uganda, semuliki harbors a big percent of Uganda’s birds with unique species only found there, like the Albertine rift valley endemics found in semuliki national park. The park is home to more than 441 bird species.
This park is located in western Uganda in the Albertine rift valley situated with in the rain tropical forest, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo. The bird species here include; purple breasted sunbird, great blue turaco, maxwell black weaver, yellow throated cuckoo, blue billed malimbe, black dwarf hornbill, piping horn bill, nkulengu horn bill, yellow throated nicator, Congo serpent Eagle, the hornbills, Sassi’s olive greenbul and so much more.
The best time for bird watching in Semuliki national park
It’s better you do bird watching in dry seasons when there is less or no rainfall, during the month of May to September. You can also watch migrant birds in the months of November to April
Budongo forest is an eco-tourism site in Uganda located in Murchison falls national park having more than 300 bird species. Budongo forest harbors the unique Guinea Congo bird, the yellow footed flycatcher and Pavel’s illadoposis which cannot be seen anywhere in East Africa. The best place to watch birds in budongo forest is Busingori in Kaniyo pabidi area which hosts the migrant birds which come in November to April.
The forest is also known as the haven for birders in Uganda due to a large number of birds it harbors.
Birds in budongo forest include; nahan’s francolin, blue breasted kingfisher, lturi batis, African dwarf kingfisher, cassin’s spine, chestnut capped flycatcher, black lured, harriers, barbets, eagles, Ethiopian swallow, arrow marked, rollers, Nubian woodpeckers, sooty chat and so many others.
Best time for birding in budongo forest.
The best time for birding in budongo forest is February to April and June to September, you can also find the migratory birds in November to April.
5.Murchison Falls National Park
This is the largest national park in Uganda having more than 400 bird species. You can watch birds in Murchison falls national park while on a game drive and boat cruise to the bottom of the falls. Birds in Murchison falls national park include; giant king fisher, African quail finch, northern red bishop, red throated Bee eater, Abyssinian ground horn bill, swamp flycatcher, goliath heron, osprey, rock pratincole, silver bird, African jacana and much more.
Birds can be watched throughout the year, however the best time to watch them is between the month of January to march and December to February
6.Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Located in south western Uganda, it harbors more than 100 bird species. Mgahinga hosts over 30 afro-tropical bird species the Biome. Bird species found in Mgahinga national park include; cape robin, white starred robin, brown woodland, cinnamon bracken, Rwenzori batis, greater double collared sun bird, archer’s robin chat. Only birding tour in Uganda, bird watchers should come with a field guide book, binoculars to see far away and small birds clearly.
Birding in Mgahinga national park follows Gorge trail through Gahinga and Sabinyo, on the trail, you can see birds like the dusky turtle dove, the cape robin-chat, the brown-crowned tchagra and more birds. Other birds can be spotted in bamboo belt, the commonly seen bird in this region is the Rwenzori Turaco.
7.Bwindi Impenetrable national park.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is one of the most popular birding sites in Uganda and East Africa at large. Bird watching in Bwindi is done along the main trails of bamboo zone, buhoma waterfall zone and mubwindi swamp trail found in Ruhija.
The best time for bird watching in Bwindi impenetrable national park include;
December to April, may to June, March to May and November to April is you want to see the migrant birds.
Bwindi national park is not only endowed with gorillas, it is also home for about 350 bird species, these include; black billed turaco, African green broadbill, chapin’s flycatcher, Fraser’s eagle, handsome francolin, collared apalis, white robin chat among others.
8.Kibale Forest national park
Kibale is not only gifted with chimpanzees it is also home to over 300 bird species, it is one of the best birding destinations in Uganda. The best birding spot in kibale national park is Bigodi wetland sanctuary. Bird species found in kibale national park include grey throated, African pied wagtail, great blue turaco, pin-tailed whydah, tropical boubou, Afep pigeon, grey parrot, western nicator, yellow rumped tinkerbird, black and white casqued horn bill, Green breasted peter, black billed turaco, yellow billed tinker bird, double toothed barbet, shinning blue kingfisher,.
9.Queen Elizabeth national park
Queen Elizabeth national park is one of the most visited national parks in Uganda with over 600 bird species. The park is located in the western part of Uganda. Queen Elizabeth national park has lake Munyanyange as seasonal crater lake which harbors hundreds of flamingos which migrate from lake Nakuru in Tanzania, flamingos can be spotted in the month of October to April when water levels of the lake are higher. Queen Elizabeth national park hosts the migrant birds, the endemic and typical African birds. Birding in Queen Elizabeth national park is done in areas of katunguru, katwe, Maramagambo forest, lake kikolongo area, Mweya peninsular, Ishasha sector and kasenyi area.
Birds found in Queen Elizabeth national park.
Collared practincole, palm nut vulture, pel’s fishing owl, shoebill, swamp flycatcher, African finfoot, African hobby, African skimmer, Ayres’s hawk eagle, black bee eater, Caspian plover, common sand martin, heuglin’s gull, shoebill, red chested sunbird, yellow throated cuckoo, white winged tern and so many other bird species.
10.Echuya forest reserve
Echuya forest reserve is located in south western Uganda between lake Bunyonyi and Mgahinga national park close to the Rwandan border. The reserve has over 150 bird species some of which are endemic. Some of the birds in this reserve include grauer’s warble, dwarf honeyguide, red-throated Aletha, Archer’s robin chat, red faced woodland warbler, collars Apalis among others.
11.Lake Mburo national park
Lake Mburo national park is one of the smallest parks in Uganda and the nearest park from Kampala city. Birding spots in lake Mburo national park are Warukiri and Rwonyo. Lake Mburo national park harbors over 300 bird species, for example the African finfoot, shoebill, African fish eagle, kingfishers, malachite, crested francolin, spotted wood dove, common quails, red necked spurfowl, black-billed barbet and so much more.
Mabira forest is located along jinja road approximately 59km from Kampala city with over 300 birds. The forest has well established trails for easy access during your bird watching trip. Birds you can spot in mabira forest include, the nahan’s francolin, white spotted flufftail, white-bellied kingfisher, African pied hornbill, hairy breasted barbet, brow eared, cassin’s guide, grey-green bush-shrike, honey guide, green bul, fire-breasted Aletha, buff spotted woodpeckers.
Musambwa island is located on Lake Victoria and near Uganda’s capital city Kampala, it is famously known as the home for snakes and reptiles, Musambwa island has the breeding colony of the Grey-headed gull. Apart from snakes and reptiles, the island has a wide range of bird species and these include; the great cormorant, little eaglets, the long-tailed cormorant, the grey headed gull and more birds.
Lutembe bay is located in wakiso district near Kampala city. Lutembe bay is home to birds like the great snipe gallingo, pallid harrier circus, African skimmer rhynochops, shoebill, papyrus gonolex among other bird species.
Nabugabo bay is a shallow lake located in masaka district having over 100 bird species. You can find birds like the serinus koliensis which is a rare bird to see in other places in Uganda.
What to carry while on a birding tour in Uganda
Most of Uganda’s birds are small and fly high, having binoculars will help you zoom in and observe their features in a good angle.
Don’t forget to carry a camera.
Carry a camera to enable you capture different bird species and your memories while on a birding tour.
A wide hat will protect your skin and eyes from sunshine.
Have a water bottle to hydrate your body after and during long nature walks.
Field guide book.
Expect to hike through forests and wetlands while on your birding tour to Uganda. Sturdy hiking boots will be of much help.
Water proof field bag
This will help you pack your most needed items like the binoculars, camera, phones, extra batteries and storage drives. A water proof bag is needed because rain can fall any time of the day, or your essentials may accidentally fall into water while watching birds in wetlands.
Don’t forget your personal toiletries like bathing soap, toothbrush, lotions, creams and toothpaste. You can as well buy these while in Uganda, your tour operator can help you purchase them from the supermarkets = or local shops.