Uganda, although land locked, is a country gifted by nature. From the tropical rain forests, to savanna grasslands, to the snow capped mountains and the immense freshwater lakes; the diverse environment can only mean one thing – a diversity of animals, birds and lots of other creatures. With over 1079 bird species, Uganda has become a well known bird watching destination in the whole of Africa. Below is a list of the top bird watching destinations in Uganda.
What makes Uganda a great bird watching destination? There are many bird watching destinations in Uganda. This is because of the various national parks that are actually the biggest habitats for most of the bird species in the country. The best birding season is during rainy months of March to May and September to November when birds are most active and breeding. But still Uganda remains the finest birding destination all year round. As you take time to marvel at the spectacular birds, you will certainly come across a diversity of wildlife like elephants, hippos, lions, leopard, antelopes and primates. As a result, your bird watching safari into a memorable encounter.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a well renowned mountain gorilla sanctuary. And now, it has become a key bird watching destination in Uganda. With an impressive list of species, Bwindi is indeed Africa’s richest forest. Bwindi species include 51 reptiles, 88 moths, 120 mammals, 200 trees, 310 butterflies, 348 birds.
Bird watching in Bwindi Forest National Park takes place mainly along the forest trails of Buhoma area and the Mubwindi Swamp and community trails of Ruhija section. 348 bird species have been recorded at Bwindi. These include 24 restricted-range species, 23 of which are confined to the Albertine Rift and 4 are globally threatened; hence making Bwindi impenetrable national park- africa’s number one birding spot. Endangered Grauer’s Broadbill, Grauers’ Rush wabbler, vulnerable Shelley’s crimsonwing, Regal sunbird, Chestnut throated Apalis and Chapin’s Flycatcher, Purple breasted sunbird, and Blue headed sunbird can be spotted here.
Other key species include: the Rwenzori batis, cinnamon chested bee eater, handsome francolin, white tailed crested flycatcher, yellow eyed blue flycatcher, red-faced woodland warbler, Ross’s Turaco, black bee-eater, Grey-cheeked hornbill, and so many more.
Mabamba bay is a wetland on the edge of Lake Victoria. The wetland was designated as a Ramsar Site and an Important Bird Area. It is home to over 260 bird species, most key of which is the elusive shoebill. It is also believed to be a major breeding site for the endangered shoebill, a bird species loved by many bird watchers.
But there are other bird species found in Mabamba Bay. They include the African jacana, blue swallow, papyrus gonolek, yellow warbler, malachite kingfishers, lapwings, Blue breasted bee-eater, common moorhen, swamp flycatcher, African water rail, Goliath Heron, Winding cisticola, African pygmy goose, African pied wagtail, osprey, red bellied firefinch and hammer kops among others.
Bird watching in Mabamba, as the canoe is navigated in the marshy waters is quite an adventure itself.
Uganda’s biggest national park, Murchison Falls, well known for its 43m tall waterfall and a diverse of wildlife is another key bird watching destination in Uganda. It also offers a wide variety of experiences – wild life game viewing, boat cruise to the world’s most powerful waterfall, hiking to the top of the falls and bird watching.
With over 451 bird species, Murchison Falls makes one of the best birding spots. And the great thing about bird watching here is that it can easily be done anywhere, or with any activity; during game drives, on the boat cruise along the River Nile or while taking a savannah walk.
The bird species one is likely to spot here include both Albertine rift endemics, water and savannah birds like the shoebill along the Victoria Nile delta mash, African Darter, weaver birds, long tailed nightjar, osprey, Palm-nut vultures, Abyssinian ground hornbill, martial eagle, Giant kingfisher, black headed lapwing, grey headed kingfisher, sandpipers, Denham’s bustard and pied kingfishers. Others include the Gray Crowned crested crane, Saddle billed stork, secretary bird, and black billed barbet and a lot more.
Budongo forest gazetted as a forest reserve in 1932 and neighbors Murchison falls National Park in the South. It is known for its high concentration of hardwood trees mainly mahogany species. The reserve is also home to 360 bird species, 290 species of butterflies, 24 mammals 465 species of trees and shrubs. The forest also supports 11 species of Guinea-Congo Forests, 6 species of the Afro-tropical Highlands and 3 of the Somali–Masai biome.
Bird watching in Budongo forest (Royal mile sector) reveals key species like chocolate backed kingfisher, chinspot batis, Green backed eremomela, and Puvels illadopsis. Other notable species are Chin-spot Batis, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Lemon-bellied Crombec, African Moustached Warbler, Yellow-throated Greenbul, African Citril; African Golden-breasted Bunting, Black-crowned Waxbill, Bronze Mannikin, Black-billed Bluebill, Black-winged and Red Bishop.
This beautiful jewel of a national park offers the perfect getaway for a long weekend. It is located 3.5hours to Kampala city and offers a variety of antelopes like the impala, buffalo, Topi and the largest herds of zebra together with a vast variety of birds.
The park is home to over 350 bird species – both migratory and residential. Some of the bird species found here include the African Finfoot – one of Uganda’s most sought after bird known for being shy and secretive, the papyrus gonolek; black headed gonolek, Holub’s Golden weaver- one of the biggest weavers in Africa. Others are saddle billed stork, papyrus yellow warbler, white winged warbler, brown chested wattled plover; black-bellied bustard, bare faced go-away bird, rufous-bellied heron, coqui francolin, black collard, red faced barbet, spot flanked and crested barbets.
Queen Elizabeth National Park is the most popular destination in Uganda. It is mostly famous for tree climbing lions in the Ishasha sector. The park is blessed with an assortment of crater lakes, savanna plains, swamps, rivers and the amazing Kazinga Channel which is home to an abundance of wildlife and spectacular birds. Queen Elizabeth National Park has the highest number of bird species in Uganda; with over 600 species recorded.
Key species here include: the African Mourning dove, Grey Headed Kingfisher, Swamp Flycatcher, Grey-capped warbler, black headed Gonolek , red Chested sun-bird, Slender-billed, Yellow –backed and lesser masked weavers, pin-tailed Whydah and Brimstone canary. Gabon and Slender –tailed Nightjars, Temminck’s courser, Collared Pratincole, Red- capped Lark, spur-winged plovers, Squacco heron, Pink and white backed pelicans, yellow backed weavers, pied kingfishers and a lot more. A boat cruise on the Kazinga channel reveals an amazing combination of water birds in large numbers.
Kibale Forest National Park is famously known for chimpanzee tracking. The park is also home to other 12 primates and hence is also known as the “primate capital of the world.”
But Kibale is not only a primates’ paradise. With its thick forest cover, sprinkled with patches of grassland and swamp, Kibale is indeed one of Uganda’s most rewarding birding destinations.
The park contains over 375 bird species. The green breasted pitta- another Uganda’s most sought after can only be found in this part of the country. Bird watchers also visit Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, another top bird watcher’s destination. Bigodi is also the home of the Great Blue Turaco. Other species found here are: the papyrus Gonolek, White winged warbler, papyrus canary, white-collared oliveback and white spotted flufftail. The yellow spotted barbet, hairy breasted barbet, Yellow-billed barbet, grey winged robin chat, and superb sunbird, black crowned waxbill, black bishop; brown-throated wattle eye are also seen here.
At just 33.9 sq km, the small park enjoys a magnificent setting on the northern slopes of the Virunga Volcanoes. Two rare primates, the Mountain gorilla and the Golden monkey can easily be tracked here. In addition to this, mountain hiking to the dormant volcanoes is another activity that can be done here.
In Mgahinga, bird watching is mostly done on the edge of the park or along the buffalo wall. Although the park is small in size, bird watching here is very rewarding. Over 76 bird species are recorded and notable birds spotted here include Rwenzori Turaco, Black kite, crowned crane, crowned hornbill and Handsome francolin. The Kivu Ground Thrush, Alpine chat, Dusky turtle dove, White-tailed Blue flycatcher, Lagdens’s Bush shrike, montane Double collared sunbird and scarlet-tufted malachite sunbird among others.
Bird watching in Semliki National Park is spectacular, with over 441 recorded species. This represents 40% of Uganda’s total bird species and 66% of the country’s forest bird species. Birders who visit Semliki are richly rewarded with the very best forest birding in Uganda.
On a birding tour, species to look out for here include: White Crested hornbill, Black-casqued Wattled hornbill, Black Dwarf hornbill, Maxwell’s black weaver, Crested Malimbe, the Nkulengu Rail, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, Piping Hornbill, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, White-crested Hornbill, , Red-rumped Tinkerbird, African Piculet, White-throated Blue Swallow, Yellow-throated Nicator, Leaf-love, Swamp Palm Bulbul, Lemon-bellied Crombec, Red-bellied Malimbe, Blue-billed malimbe, Chestnut-breasted Negro Finch, and the Orange-cheeked Waxbill.
Kidepo Valley National park is indeed a true African Wilderness and another top bird watching destination in Uganda. Big game favorites, the elephant, giraffe, zebra, eland, Hartebeest, lion, hyena, buffalo and cheetah roam the rolling grasslands; far beyond the horizon into the distant mountain ranges
Kidepo Valley also boasts of a variety of bird species (470 species). The namaqua dove, Abyssinian roller, Abyssinian ground horn-bill, Black breasted barbet, Abyssinian scimitar-bill; chestnut weaver, Golden pipit and Greater kestrel call this paradise home. Other species seen are Karamoja apalis, Northern carmine bee eater, red throated bee eater, white bellied go-away and purple grenadier.Do not miss out the Fox kestrel; Jackson’s hornbill, pygmy falcon, rufous chatterer, and clapper-ton’s Francolin.
Bird watching tours in Kidepo Valley National Park are very interesting as rare species are easily spotted. Here bird watching can be done all year round, although the months of November, March to April are great for spotting bird specials.
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