A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

Uganda is famous for its endangered mountain gorilla in Bwindi Forest and Mgahinga Gorilla National, however, the country offers more than just mountain gorilla trekking. For bird lovers, Uganda is superb birding destination in Africa. Uganda is known to be one of the top birding destinations in Africa due to its diverse habitats and unique geography. The country’s birdlife is incredibly rich, with over 1,080 bird species recorded within its borders. This represents more than 10% of the total bird species in the world and about 50% of the total bird species on the African continent. This Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda will give you a comprehensive understanding of Uganda birdlife, birding sites in Uganda, best time for birding in Uganda among others.

Every year round, many birding enthusiasts from every corner of the globe flock to Uganda for birding safaris. The diverse birdlife in Uganda is spread all over the country, inhabiting various ecosystems and habitats. A glimpse of some of the astounding 1080 bird species in Uganda is amazing. Birding in Uganda can be done with ease, from the moment you land to the moment you depart, you are guaranteed to spot different bird species. As you safari in the country, you are likely to come across many of these gorgeous bird species without actively looking for them, as they will keep flying over.

Why Uganda has a rich diversity of birdlife? – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

One of the primary reasons for Uganda’s high bird diversity is its wide range of habitats. These include forests, wetlands, savannas, mountains, lakes, and rivers, each supporting a distinct avian community. The country is also located along the Great Rift Valley, which serves as a migration route for several bird species. Birding safaris to Uganda are really rewarding with opportunities to spot the endangered, rare and endemic species.

Uganda is home to numerous endemic bird species. Endemic species are those that are found exclusively within a particular region and are not found naturally anywhere else in the world. Uganda has about 35 endemic bird species, which means that these species have evolved and adapted specifically to the country’s unique environment.

Some notable endemic bird species found in Uganda include the African Green Broadbill, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Archer’s Robin-Chat, and the Fox’s Weaver. These species are highly sought-after by birdwatchers and bird enthusiasts who visit Uganda, as they offer a special opportunity to observe birds that cannot be found elsewhere.

Uganda also hosts several globally threatened or endangered bird species within its diverse habitats and ecosystems. Some of these globally threatened species in Uganda include; the African Grey Parrot, Shoebill, and the Green-breasted Pitta are among. All these birdlife can be spotted during Uganda Birding safaris/Uganda Bird-watching safaris/ Uganda birding tour.  Plan your dream Birding safari to Uganda with us and experience the abundant birdlife in the country.

 

What we will cover in this Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda – Table of Content

  • Unique Species of The Albertine Region
  • Birding sites in Uganda
  • Best time for birding safaris in Uganda
  • Packing list for a birding safari to Uganda

 

  1. Unique Species of The Albertine Region – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

The Albertine Rift Valley stretches in northern part of Uganda and follows its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda to the southwest. The region is one of the best birding sites in Uganda especially for those interested in spotting the endemic Albertine species. The Albertine Region is famous for its incredible variety of avian fauna, especially the endemic and some migratory species from the nearby parks and reserves.

Some of the must look out for while on birding safaris in This region include; strange weaver, Ruwenzori nightjar, yellow-eyed black flycatcher, red-throated alethe, Kivu ground thrush, African green broadbill, stripe-breasted tit, short-tailed Warbler, and Rwenzori turaco.

You will also have opportunities to spot the red-faced woodland warbler, sunbird, Grauer’s warbler, handsome francolin, dwarf honeyguide, masked apalis, Shelley’s crimson wing, Rwenzori batis, collared apalis, purple-breasted sunbird, dusky crimson wing, mountain archer’s robin-chat, and regal sunbird at the Albertine region.

For those willing to dig deep during their safaris, you will also have opportunities to spot more of the birdlife in the region, especially those that adorn the landscape with their brilliant colors. Some of these species include the Neumann’s Warbler, shoebill stork, papyrus yellow warbler, white-winged warbler, Carruther’s cisticola, orange weaver, swamp flycatcher, papyrus gonolek, and many more. The Albertine Region is a must visit during Uganda Birding safaris tours.

  1. Birding Sites in Uganda – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

Uganda has several bird watching spots all over the country that you can visit for your Birdwatching tours. Here are the top birding sites in Uganda

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Although famous for its endangered mountain gorillas, the Bwindi forest is home to an incredible number of bird species. There are about 350 different bird species recorded in Bwindi, most of which are forest birds. While on safaris Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, one of the top experiences to do is bird watching. Bwindi has some of the best bird watching spots such as Ruhija and Buhoma.

Some of the bird species that you are likely to encounter during your birding safaris to Bwindi include; the montane double-collared sunbird, Chaplin’s flycatcher, Lagden’s bush shrike, Oberlander’s ground thrush, and the dusky twinspot. Other species include the white-tailed blue monarch, Wilcock’s honey-guide, Gruel’s rush warbler, the short-tailed warbler, and the bar-tailed trogon. Birding in Bwindi is rewarding and thrilling since it allows you to connect with nature while sighting some of the rare bird species in the world.

 

Mabamba Wetland – Bird at Mabamba Swamp

The Mabamba wetland is one of the popular and closest birding site in Uganda. The wetland is a Ramsar site and one of the Important Birdin Areas in Uganda (IBA). Mabamba is close to Uganda’s capital city of Kampala and Entebbe town and can be accessed by road.

Mabamba is popular for its iconic shoebill stork, a majestic bird that is rare and only found in a few place on the African continent.

Besides the iconic shoebill, Mabamba is also home to about 300 different bird species that can be witnessed during Uganda Birding tours. The best way to explore the wetland and its bird life is by going on a traditional canoe trip along its narrow channel. During the trip, you will spot many of the fascinating species of birds that thrive here. Some of the species you may encounter include the lesser jacana, African jacana, Blue-breasted bee-eater, and pied kingfisher among others. Birding in Mabamba is a major highlight of Uganda Birding safaris and a must-include destination in Uganda.  This Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda wouldn’t qualify as a guide if we didn’t talk about the Mabamba Wetland.

 

Kibale National Park – Birding in Kibale – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

Although famous for primate tracking, Kibale National Park is another top birding site in Uganda. The Kibale forest is home to an impressive bird species with about 375 species recorded within the area. Most of the bird life in Kibale is resident although during the month of November and April when there are heavy rains in the north, this park receives a number of migratory species. Birding in Kibale National Park is remarkable since it will allow you to spot some of the rare and unique birdlife in the world.

There are designed trails and viewing platforms within the forest that allow you to spot different birdlife from the ground dwellers, trunk dwellers and the high canopy birds. Some of the commonly sighted bird life in Kibale includes; the white-tailed ant-thrush, hairy-breasted barbet, yellow-billed barbet, black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, brown-throated wattle-eye, and several others. Birding safaris to Kibale National Park are best done at the Kanyunchu area, but other parts of the forest provide unbeatable bird sightings as well. You can also visit the nearby Bigodi wetland sanctuary for more sightings.

 

Kidepo Valley National Park – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

Although this safari park is detacthed from the popular safari circuit, Kidepo Valley National Park is one of the best Safari destinations in Uganda. This National Park is popular for wildlife safaris although there is more to just wildlife in the park. Kidepo Valley National Park is home to an impressive population of birds with up to 475 different bird species recorded within the park boundaries. Among the diverse birdlife in Kidepo, 60 species can not be spotted in any other  National Park in Uganda. Birding safaris to Kidepo Valley guarantee sightings of rare and unique birdlife especially if you visit top birding spots like the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys.

During your birding safaris in Kidepo, you will spot several bird species including the four-banded sandgrouse, Clapperton’s francolin, Ruppell’s and superb starlings, black-breasted barbet, crimson-rumped waxbill, little weaver, vinaceous dove, red-cheeked cordon-bleu, mosque swallow, Nubian woodpecker, marsh tchagra, broad-tailed warbler, Abyssinian roller, and ground hornbill among others. Kidepo Valley is also a unique a beautiful National Park in Uganda, and perhaps one of the most Beautiful safari Parks in Africa.

 

Mgahinga Gorilla National Pak

Besides the elusive mountain gorillas, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is also a top birding destination in Uganda especially for those interested in sighting some of the rarest birdlife. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is the smallest National Park in Uganda but boasts an impressive  population of bird life with about 115 different species. Of these, 39 are native to the Afrotropical mountainous regions and 14 are native to the Albertine Rift Valley, one of the best place to spot Uganda’s Endemic species.

Although most of these species are permanently resident in the park, during November and April, the park receives a number of migratory species that add up the color. If you visit between May and June, you will witness most species nest since food is most plentiful till September. During birding safaris in Mgahinga, you will encounter several bird species including; the yellow-vented bulbul, Ruwenzori turaco, grey capped warbler, olive pigeon, black kite, blue-headed coucal, ibis, and firefinch stonechat.

Murchison Falls National Park – Birding Safaris in Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is the largest protected area in Uganda, home to an incredible diversity of both wildlife and bird life.  The National Park is one of the most visited birding destinations in Uganda. This National Park is a prime birdwatching locale that tourists make a point to visit. Murchison Falls National Park is home to over 450 different bird species and most of these species inhabit the various ecosystems in the parks.

The best way to explore the park’s birdlife is by taking a boat ride downs stream at the Albert Nile. You can also visit the park’s forest like Budongo for sightings of the forest bird species. Some of the birdlife to look out for during safaris in Murchison Falls National Park include; Abyssinian ground hornbill, crombec, secretary bird, open-billed stork, various kingfishers, Marabou stork, African fish eagles, red-throated bee-eater, and various aquatic species. A boat safari to the Albert delta is also rewarding with sightings of some unique birdlife.

 

Queen Elizabeth National Park – Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

Also known as the ‘‘Medley of Wonders’’, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best birding sites in Uganda. Recognized as an important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International, Queen Elizabeth National Park is home to an impressive and astonishing 600 species of bird. The diverse habitat within the park provides refuge for the various bird species in Queen Elizabeth National Park. To better experience this array of birdlife in the park, a 2 to 3-day safari is recommended.

 

Some of the best sites to visit for bird viewing in Queen Elizabeth Naational Park include the Lake Kikorongo, the Kazinga Channel, Maramagambo Forest, the Ishasha sector, Katunguru Bridge, the Mweya Peninsula, Kasenyi, and Katwe area. Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park is rewarding with sightings of rare, endemic and migratory species from the neighboring D.R Congo.

During a birding safari in the Park, you will spot unique species such as the cormorants, the elusive forest fly-catchers, weaver birds, marabou storks, Rwenzori turacos, shoebill storks, flamingos, white-naped pigeons, fish eagles, great egrets, and bats. You will also visit the Maramagambo Forest and the famous Cormorant House, a giant tree adorned with the white guano of the unbelievable number of birds roosting on it. Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park is rewarding.

Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park is a top safari spot for birding safaris in Uganda. This wildlife reserve is the oldest in the country, established and open for tourism in the 1920s.  This birding site is home an impressive array of birdlife with more home to more than 440 species recorded in the park. While on a birding tour in the park, you can enjoy impromptu photography sessions as your these avian species display their colorful plumage.

 

The park has 46 Guinea-Congo Biome species and 5 endemic species to Uganda’s Albertine region. There are several other bird species that you can spot during safaris such as the northern bearded scrub robin, Xavier’s greenbul, orange-cheeked waxbill, Maxwell’s black weaver, yellow-throated nicator, red-billed dwarf hornbill, green-tailed bristlebill, spot-breasted ibis, fire-crested alethe, western bronze-naped pigeon, red-rumped tinkerbird, Nakulenge rail, black dwarf hornbill, red-bellied malimbe, crested malimbe, blue-headed crested flycatcher, white-crested hornbill, leaf-love, piping hornbill, and wattled hornbill.

 

Lake Mburo National Park – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

Although renowned for wildlife safaris, Lake Mburo National Park is a top birding site in Uganda. One of the most stand-out species in the park is the rare red-faced barbet, this bird is a rare sight during Uganda birding safaris however, it can be spotted in Lake Mburo National Park. Besides the rare red-faced barbet, Lake Mburo is home to other 350 bird species that reside in the swamplands of Miriti and Warukiri, Rubanga Forest, and the boardwalk beside Camp Rwonyo among other areas in the park.

Some of the common sighting in Lake Mburo National Park include; Ross’s Turaco, brown-chested lapwing, red-headed lovebird, common scimitarbill, brown parrot, emerald-spotted wood-dove, and green wood-hoopoe. We also recommend a boat trip on Lake Mburo to view the water birds such as the African finfoot and fish eagles. If you are lucky, you may also spot the shoebill stork and red-faced barbet.

  1. Best time for Birding in Uganda – What is the best time to go for bird watching tours in Uganda?

The best time for birdwatching in Uganda is generally during the dry seasons, which occur from December to February and June to August. During these periods, there is less rainfall, and the bird species are more active and easier to spot.

December to February: This is a great time for birdwatching in Uganda as it coincides with the short dry season. The weather is generally warm, and there is minimal rainfall, making it easier to navigate through the parks and forests. During these months, many birds engage in breeding activities, creating opportunities to witness courtship displays and nesting behaviors. Migratory bird species from Europe and Northern Asia can also be observed during this time.

June to August: This period is also considered a good time for birdwatching in Uganda. It marks the long dry season and is characterized by clear skies and cool weather. The vegetation is less dense, making it easier to spot birds. This is also the best time to observe birds of prey, as they take advantage of the dry season to hunt small animals.

It is important to note that Uganda provides excellent birdwatching opportunities throughout the year. Even during the rainy seasons (March to May and September to November), birdwatching can be immensely rewarding. The rainfall brings out lush greenery, attracting various bird species.

  1. Packing list for a birding safari to Uganda – A Complete Guide for Bird Watching Safaris in Uganda

When packing for a birdwatching safari to Uganda, it is important to be prepared and have the right equipment and essentials. Here is a list of some items to consider including in your packing list when planning a Uganda Birding Tour:

Binoculars: A good pair of binoculars is essential for birdwatching. Opt for lightweight and compact binoculars with a magnification of at least 8x or 10x.

Field Guide: Carry a bird field guide specific to Uganda or East Africa. This will help you identify the different bird species you encounter. Although your Driver guide will also help you identify several species since they are highly knowledgeable about different species.

Camera and Telephoto Lens: If you enjoy photography, bring a camera with a telephoto lens to capture the moments and document the unique bird species you come across.

Clothing: Consider packing lightweight and breathable clothing for the warm climate. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are useful for protecting yourself from the sun and insects. Also, pack a lightweight rain jacket or poncho for unexpected showers.

Hat and Sunglasses: Protect yourself from the sun by wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. This will also make birdwatching more comfortable and enjoyable.

Insect Repellent: Uganda is home to mosquitoes and other insects, so it is important to pack a good quality insect repellent to protect yourself from bites.

Comfortable Shoes: Pack a sturdy pair of walking shoes or hiking boots for exploring diverse habitats and walking through parks and forests.

Snacks and Water Bottle: Bring some lightweight snacks and a reusable water bottle to stay hydrated and energized during your birdwatching excursions.

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