With over 1080 bird species, Uganda has become a well known premier birding destination in Africa. Many of these birds live in the tropical forests, savannah plains and the marshy swamps scattered across Uganda. The country is also home to an enviable list of rare Albertine endemics. And it is believed that some of the birds living in the isolated forests of Uganda may not be classified as yet. This beautiful country must be on any passionate birder’s bucket list. But here is our list of top 10 rare birds to see in Uganda.
The number one on the list of top 10 rare birds to see in Uganda is the Shoebill. Birders from across the world flock to Uganda to get a rare glimpse of this giant of a bird! The shoebill gets the name from its enormous shoe-shaped bill. It is also known for its slow movements and tendency to stay still for long periods. This is why some give it the “statue-like” description.
These iconic birds are also pretty susceptible to human disturbances and may abandon their nests if troubled by humans.
Best Places to see the shoebill: The shoebill is endemic to Africa. It is therefore distributed in freshwater swamps of central tropical Africa. In Uganda, the best places to see the the shoebill are:
The Grauer’s Broadbill (previously known as African Green Broadbill) is a bird endemic to the montane forests of the Albertine Rift Mountains in Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The bird is easy to identify: by the beautiful leaf-green plumage, pale blue throat, upper breast and vent. It feeds on seeds and fruit, flowers and flower buds and some invertebrates.
Best Places to see the Grauer’s Broadbill: This bird is a rare resident in Uganda; but can be seen in Ruhija (Mubwindi swamp) in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (about 2100 to 2200 meters altitude).
This is a very colorful ground dwelling bird: with a strong straight bill, short tail and long legs. Despite its bright colors, it’s not easy to see as its fast. Although breeding birds call and display in the canopy, they can also be found in leaf litter on the forest ground.
Best Places to see the Green Breasted Pitta: restricted to interior forests of West and South West Uganda but the best place to see this beautiful bird is Kibale Forest National Park.
This shy and elusive underwater bird resides in a range of habitats (forest, wooded savannah, swamps) across Africa; most probably where there are rivers, streams or lakes with a good cover by the banks. Physical features include a long neck, bright red-lobed feet with fin-shaped protrusions (thus giving it its name) and a striking sharp beak.
Usually seen singly or in pairs, finfoots are also very secretive and are often on a birdwatcher’s “wanted list“. Even experienced ornithologists see them very rarely; hence making them a prized sighting for both birders and twitchers.
Best Places to see the African Finfoot: Rare sightings around Lake Mburo within the National park. Boat cruises on the lake increase chances of sighting this shy bird.
This is another Albertine Rift endemic occurring commonly in highland forests including edges and clearings above 1800m altitudes. Just like all males of the sunbird species, the Regal Sunbird is portrayed by its iridescent plumage and a decurved bill. Females are dark-olive green, with bright yellowish-olive edges on the primary feathers.
The Regal sunbird is native to the tropics of Western and Central Africa. Its range includes Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda. Favorable habitats include evergreen mountain forest, mixed forest, secondary growth forest, scrubland and bamboo.
Best Places to see Regal Sunbird: Ruhija, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park.
Another of the top 10 rare birds to see in Uganda is the Papyrus Gonolek. This is a species of bird in the family Malaconotidae. Records show sightings in Uganda, then Congo, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. Like its name suggests, it has specialized habitat requirements; which are mostly restricted to papyrus swamps near rivers and lakes. Although it is not yet a threatened species, it has become rare due to habitat loss and pollution.
In Uganda, the shy papyrus gonolek lives in most swamps around Lake Victoria. But it is not easy to see as it hides amongst the papyrus reeds.
Shelley’s Crimsonwing is larger than the other known crimsonwing, with a distinctive red bill. It is also a rare endemic confined to the mountain forests along the Albertine Rift. This colorful finch inhabits closed-canopy moist forest, often in lush valleys near water, as well as forest edges and bamboo thickets.
The Shelley’s Crimsonwing lives in the Rwenzori Mountains and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest of Uganda. Other places include: Itombwe Mountain and Lake Kivu in Democratic Republic of Congo, Nyungwe Forest, Gishwati in Rwanda and Buruli forest in Burundi.
The Kivu Ground thrush is also another rare bird to see in Uganda. Its natural habitat is the subtropical or tropical moist montane forests. Other places where this bird is include: Kibiri Forest in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Nyungwe Forest in Rwanda.
Although currently considered a subspecies of the Abyssinian Ground Thrush, the Kivu Ground thrush differentiates from it by its brighter plumage. This bird is rare, only occurring in Buhoma area of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest (1500 – 1850m) and on Mt. Muhavura (2900m).
The Karamoja Apalis is a nominate and rare race only found in the Karamoja region in Uganda. The bird is around 11 cm long, with ash-grey color above. It has a short whitish supercilium and a relatively long tail. Both males and females look alike.
It is a very localized and uncommon East Africa endemic with two known populations. One is in the Mt. Moroto to Kidepo Valley National Park area in North Eastern Uganda. The other population is in the Wembere floodplains of Central Tanzania.
At about 20 cm in length, the Nahan’s Francolin is a relatively small and terrestrial bird with red legs and eye ring; brownish upperparts and black and white under parts and head. It is an unusual francolin occurring in small groups, although often shy and difficult to observe.
They draw attention to themselves with their loud calls especially in the mornings and evenings. During this time, they may appear along forest edges and trails.
In Uganda, this endangered species is restricted to Budongo, Bugoma and Mabira Forests.
The Rwenzori Batis is a small, shy but active black and white bird. Key physical characteristics include a very broad black breast band and two small white spots on the fore crown. The sexes are similar; they only differ in eye colour. Males have yellow eyes while females tend to have orange / red eyes.
The Rwenzori Batis is an Albertine Rift endemic, particularly to the Ruwenzori Mountains in Uganda. It inhabits montane forests from 1600 – 2600 m altitudes, but with a preference for forest undergrowth and mid-level tangles.
Last on our list of the top rare birds to see in Uganda is the Chapin’s Fly catcher. It is among the varied group of grey and brown forest flycatchers restricted to the West. It is a rare and little known bird which inhabits forest tree canopies. Buhoma in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is where the rare bird resides.
Chigo Tours Africa offers a wide range of bird watching tours in Uganda. Contact us for an exciting and memorable bird watching safari in Uganda!
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