Uganda is Africa’s most complete bird watching destination, with more than 1000 bird species recorded. Birdlife is profile throughout Uganda, but certain key destinations should not be left out for bird lovers while designing your itinerary; bwindi national park for rift endemics, Queen Elizabeth national park for a peerless checklist of 600 species.
Mabamba swamp for shoebill, Semuliki national park for Congo basin endemics the community trail in bigodi swamp near Kibale forest for great blue turaco and numerous colorful birds and Murchison falls national park for savannah specialists like Abyssinian ground hornbill, red-throated bee-eater and a key bird location in eastern Uganda is lake Bisina, a strong hold for papyrus-dwellers and endemic fox weavers.
All this makes Uganda the best place to see numerous bird species like the shoebill.
Anyone who loves birds should visit Uganda because Pamora Safaris Uganda is committed to supporting birding as a premium product in tourism, when it comes to birding; Uganda is full of surprises that will leave you with 1000 lasting memories.
That is the number of species found across the valleys, plains, lakes and in the tropical forests of the western mountains, these include some very rare species, such as Shelley’s Crimson-wing or the Black-breasted Barbet and imposing birds like the Shoebill.
According to Africa Geographic, it is believed some of the birds living in the remote forests of Uganda may not even be classified yet. Experts will tell you there are slightly over 1000 species, but who is going to quibble when the adventure of spotting them is so compelling and fun.
In November 2016, Uganda will host the first ever African Bird Expo. The Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and Uganda Tourist Association are putting their heads together to showcase a simple premise: ‘Birds love Uganda.
Uganda lies within Tropical Africa and is crossed by the equator. South of the country is Africa’s largest fresh water lake (Victoria) which has fringing habitats of wetlands, forest and papyrus swamps which are important bird habitats. To the western border, Uganda lies within the Albertine rift valley which is an Endemic Bird Area. Uganda has over 25 Albertine endemic species some of which are globally threatened.
Uganda's main attractions are in its forests and swamps, where many species with restricted range can be found. Whilst it only has one endemic species, Fox's Weaver, which occurs in swamps north of Kampala, it has several species which are endemic to specific habitat areas, shared with other countries.
Uganda is home to very many bird species, which can be found across a range of habitats from forests, swamps and agricultural lands, to lakes and savannahs. Uganda is crossed by the equator and the Albertine Rift valley can be found in the west of the country. We encourage birding lovers to consider visiting this beautiful country!
Pamora Safaris best birding spots in Uganda:
Murchison Falls National Park
The varied habitats of Uganda’s largest park make it home to a variety of birds with 451 species recorded. It is also Uganda’s oldest and largest national park, named after the mighty Murchison Falls covering an area of about 3,893km2 and it’s known to be one of Uganda’s well protected area and ancient conservation areas.
Its vegetation comprises of Savannah, woodland plus riverine forest. Murchison falls national park is reached by air and road transport. In case you are to use road, the crossing of the river Nile is at Paraa; it takes roughly 5 hours drive from the capital Kampala.
The park is home to over 450 bird species and birding can be done on a game drive, via a boat trip (on the Nile) or a nature walk. A variety of bird habitats exist in the national park, including forests, swamps, riverine woodland, savannah and plains of acacia trees. Look out for the elusive shoebill, swamp flycatcher, goliath heron, abyssinian ground hornbill, northern red bishop, red-throated bee-eater, African quail finch, pied, malachite and giant kingfishers.
Mabamba Bay Wetland at Lake Victoria
Mabamba Bay or Swamp is located on the fringes of Lake Victoria and its one of the best places to catch a glimpse of a shoebill, Lake Victoria is the largest freshwater body in Africa and is home to numerous water birds. Looking for many of the Victoria specials, including, Carruther’s Cisticola, White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Gonolek. While other wetland birds that can be viewed are the Blue-breasted Bee-eater, ducks,
herons, egrets, plovers, gulls, Malachite and Pied Kingfishers, black-headed weaver, black kite, African open-billed stork, African jacana, lesser jacana, and African marsh harrier and the most amazing of all the incredible Shoebill, which is seen here from time to time.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi‘s impenetrable forest was voted Africa’s best birding spot by Africa Bird Club, owing to the rare bird species found here and the park’s conservation efforts. It lies in southwestern Uganda on the edge of the Rift Valley. The park boosts an attraction of 350 bird species including 23 Albertine Rift endemics of which 14 are not recorded anywhere else in Uganda and provide great opportunities for birding at the Albertine rift valley. Its mist-covered hillsides are blanketed by one of Uganda's oldest and most biologically diverse rain forests. The Park is a pristine rainforest on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley. The terrain is a string of ridges and valleys covered in very dense impenetrable forest.
It is a thick impenetrable forest with thick undergrowth in a small forest of (327 sq km) lying 1160m and 2650 m above sea level is and easily accessible for birding with maintained birding trails in the forest.
Species to look out for include the African green broadbill, Chapin’s flycatcher, Shelley’s crimson wing, handsome francolin, mountain-masked and collared apalis, white-bellied robin chat, black billed turaco, Fraser’s eagle, western bronze-napped pigeon, purple-breasted, blue-headed, regal sunbirds, African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill. Birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall Trail and along the bamboo zone and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park is a birdwatcher’s haven that boosts an excess of 600 species of birds that have actually made it a charming destination for guests that love watching birds. The park is situated in Rukungiri district in southwestern Uganda covering a total land area of 1 978 sq km. It sits at an altitude of 900 meters on the adjacent Lake Edward up to 1 845 meters at the peak of the western Rift Valley’s – eastern Escarpment.
Among the bird habitats offered within this national park are Open woodlands, rivers, open grassland, lakes seasonal as well as permanent swamps. The birds are relatively easy to spot, and you can expect to take great photos as you explore the park and its various environments.
The bird species to look out for include the African mourning dove, swamp flycatcher, grey-headed kingfisher, African skimmer, malachite and pied kingfishers, white-winged terns, grey-capped warbler, collared pratincole, pin-tailed whydah, martial eagle, Gabon and slender-tailed nightjars, black-headed gonolek, Verreaux’s eagle-owl, sedge warbler, papyrus canary, great white and pink-backed pelicans, African mourning dove and yellow-billed stork. Also look out for the flamingos at the salt lakes of Katwe and Bunyampaka.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to about 180 bird species located in the southern part of Uganda, bordering Rwanda and DR Congo with some of the spectacular Albertine Rift endemics. The bird species in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include Kivu ground thrush, cinnamon bracken warbler, white-starred robin, Rwenzori batis, Archer’s robin chat, olive pigeon, black-headed waxbill, western green tinker bird, Cape robin, white-starred robin, brown woodland warbler, stripe-breasted tit, and scarlet-tufted, greater double-collared sunbirds.
The Park offers excellent bird viewing opportunities along the three to four hour Gorge Trail between Gahinga and Sabinyo that provides a spectacular sightings of the Dusky turtle Dove, Cape Robin-chat, Kivu-ground Thrush, Olive Thrush, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bronze Sunbird, Regal Sunbird, Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Black-headed Waxbill and Streaky Seedeater. Birding can be done all year round in the park but the best time however is April to Mid-May, and October to November where the vegetation in the park is mostly afro montane vegetation supported by cool climate.
Other good birding areas are at the bamboo belt at about 2,500m above sea level, and the tall montane forest at 2,660m. The Rwenzori Turaco is mostly sighted at around 2,700m. Along the Uganda-Congo border and on level ground, the Chubb's Cisticola, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Banded Prinia and Doherty's Bush-shrike are vocal yet inconspicuous inhabitants of the tangled vegetation at the forest’s edge.
Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is located in western Uganda in the Albertine Rift valley and has a record of harboring a large number of predominantly Central African species of over 441 species which cannot be found anywhere else in East Africa and these include some of the continent's most spectacular and sought-after birds such as; the Long-tailed Hawk, Congo Serpent Eagle, Lyre-tailed Honey guide, Black-wattled Hornbill, the Nkulengu Rail.
Sempaya and Ntandi provide excellent viewing of the birds where the shoebill stork is regularly seen at close quaters on Lake Albert. Forests walks also provide tracking for water birds, piping hornbill, 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, African piculet and swamp palm bulbul.
Kibale National Park
Kibale Forest is a prime birding spot with over 375 bird species and it is the most magnificent of Uganda’s tropical rain forest and one of the most rewarding areas to explore, including six endemic to the Albertine Rift area. It is an excellent birding spot with varied habitat and dense vegetation.
The number one sought after bird in the Kibale Forest is the green-breasted pitta. Other bird species to look out for include the red-chested owlet, purple-breasted sunbird, blue-breasted kingfisher, crowned eagle, little greenbul, black bee-eater, white-naped pigeon, scaly-breasted illadopsis, yellow-throated nicator, white-headed wood hoopoe, red-headed malimbe, yellow-spotted barbet, dusky-blue flycatcher, grey-throated flycatcher, grey-winged robin, crested flycatcher, blue-shouldered robin chat, yellow-spotted barbet, black-billed turaco, white-naped pigeon, red-chested flufftail and tiny sunbird. Some other rare species include the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, White-collared Oliveback and Papyrus Canary.
Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, located just outside the park, is home to 138 bird species which may be seen during guided walks along the boardwalk trail and viewing platforms.
These could include the White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Western Nicator, Grey-winged Robin-chat, White-tailed Ant-thrush, Brown-backed Scrub-robin, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Superb Sunbird, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Bocage’s Bush-shrike, Black Bishop, White-breasted Negrofinch and Black-crowned Waxbill among others.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
The Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda are home to over 177 bird species, including 19 Albertine Rift endemics and it’s located near Kasese, Western Uganda with snowcapped peaks whose highest point reaches 5,110m. And can also be accessed by Air travel if arranged from Entebbe by Chartered flights.
Most of the birding is done while hiking in the forest zone and species to see include Rwenzori turaco, long-eared owl, Archers’ robin-chat, Lag den’s bush shrike, blue-headed and golden-winged sunbird, white-starred robin, slender-billed starling, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, bearded vultures, and swifts.
Lake Mburo National Park
The park has an impressive list of species like Caruthers’s cisticola and white winged warbler which are rare in other Important Bird Areas and threatened species such as the lappet faced vulture, great snipe and lesser flamingo. The park is refreshing and full of life which makes birding one of the major activities in Lake Mburo National Park, and the best spots for birding are near the swamps at Warukiri and Rwonyo.
The park is home to 332 bird species recorded which include the crested francolin, emerald-spotted wood dove, brown parrot, barefaced go-away bird, red-necked spurfowl, common quails, black-billed barbet, greenwood hoopoe, blue-napped mousebird, lilac-breasted roller, African-grey hornbill, Nubian woodpecker, trilling cisticola, bee-eaters and the cheeky bronze-tailed starling and the majestic crowned crane.
You also have chances of sighting the rare African fin foot, shoebill, African fish eagle, and malachite and pied kingfishers while on a boat safari on Lake Mburo.
Kidepo National Park
The park has got a variety of birds that will leave you with amazing memories to remember as you look through your gallery for shots taken during your adventure in Kidepo National Park. Birding experience can also be done on the fringes of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys.
The park can be accessed by four routes by road from Kampala via Lira, Kotido, Kaabong and then to kidepo, from Kampala via Mbale, Soroti, Kotido and on to kidepo from Kampala through Gulu, Kitgum and to Kidepo. Among the birds seen are the Abyssinian Roller, Purple Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Clapperton’s Francolin, which is found only in Kidepo. The activity can be arranged both in the morning and evening.
It is home to more than 350 bird species, with the most sought-after birds in this area being the Cassin’s spine tail, chestnut-capped flycatcher, Ituri batis, Nahan’s francolin, black-collared lovebird, brown twinspot, chocolate-backed, blue-breasted and African dwarf kingfishers.
The Park has two main sections – Kaniyo Pabidi found in Murchison Falls National Park, and the Royal Mile and Busingiro areas found south of the park. It lies at the edge of the Albertine Rift valley, protecting the largest natural forest area in East Africa.