Uganda’s 10 Best Birding Spots

Uganda is home to over 1,050 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 enthusiasts to consider visiting this beautiful country! 

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In no particular order, here are Kagera Safaris‘ best birding spots in Uganda:

1. Mabamba Bay Wetland at Lake Victoria 

Mabamba is 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. Look out for the shoebill, swamp flycatcher, papyrus gonolek, malachite kingfisher, pied kingfisher, black-headed heron, black kite, African open-billed stork, African jacana, lesser jacana, winding cisticola, Veillot’s black weaver, grosbeak weaver, black-headed weaver and African marsh harrier.

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2. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi‘s impenetrable forest is 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 is easily accessible for birding with maintained birding trails in the forest. Bwindi is home to about 350 species of birds, including 23 Albertine Rift endemics of which 14 are not recorded anywhere else in Uganda. Species to look out for include the African green broadbill, Chapin’s flycatcher, Shelley’s crimsonwing, handsome francolin, mountain-masked and collared apalis, white-bellied robin chat, black billed turaco, Fraser’s eagle, western bronze-naped pigeon, purple-breasted, blue-headed and regal sunbirds.

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3. Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls is Uganda’s oldest and largest national park, named after the mighty Murchison Falls – the world’s strongest waterfalls formed as the Nile is forced through a 7-metre gorge. 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.

4. Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is a birdwatcher’s haven with over 600 bird species. 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.

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5. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is home to about 180 bird species with some of the spectacular Albertine Rift endemics. It is located in the southern part of Uganda, bordering Rwanda and DR Congo. Mgahinga offers excellent bird viewing opportunities along the gorge trail, bamboo trail and farm/community trail. 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, brown-crowned tchagra and scarlet-tufted, greater double-collared sunbirds.

6. Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park, located in western Uganda in the Albertine Rift valley, has a record 441 species in its riverine, forest and grasslands avian habitats. It hosts Guinea-Congo biome species in its lowland forest. The species to look out for include the African piculet, Maxwell’s black weaver, blue-billed malimbe, yellow-throated nicator, black dwarf hornbill, Nkulengu rail, 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.

7. Kibale National Park

Kibale Forest is a prime birding spot with over 375 bird species, 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.

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8. Rwenzori Mountains National Park

The Rwenzori Mountains in Uganda are home to over 177 bird species, including 19 Albertine Rift endemics. The mountains lie in western Uganda, with snowcapped peaks whose highest point reaches 5,110m. 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, Lagden’s bush shrike, blue-headed and golden-winged sunbird, white-starred robin, slender-billed starling, cinnamon-chested bee-eater, bearded vultures, and swifts.

9. Lake Mburo National Park

Birding is 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 315 bird species, 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 finfoot, shoebill, African fish eagle, and malachite and pied kingfishers while on a boat safari on Lake Mburo.

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10. Budongo Forest

Budongo Forest 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. 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.

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Source: First published by Kagera Safaris, Africa Geograhic in January 2016.

Author: PATRICK KATEREGGA   2016-08-09