Uganda, a birding paradise, is known as Africa’s premier birding destination boasting a huge bird list of over 1061 bird recorded species, making 50% of Africa’s bird species. Many of these birds live only in tropical forests with rare sightings being described as “mythical” while it is believed that some of the birds living in the remote forests of Uganda may not even be classified as of yet! The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats that include arid semi-dessert, rich savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, vast wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. Birding in Uganda rewards with so many bird sightings by covering just a small area or even birding for a small time period.
Birding in Murchison Falls National Park
First gazetted as a game reserve in 1926, it is Uganda’s largest and oldest conservation area. The park is home to over 451 bird species, Both the game drives and the launch trips offer an opportunity for one to come across distinct birdlife, including savannah forest birds, water birds and Albertine Rift endemics. The park’s main birding attraction is the Shoebill but Also you will Look out for the swamp flycatcher, goliath heron, abyssinian ground hornbill, northern red bishop, red-throated bee-eater, African quail finch, pied, malachite and giant kingfishers.
Birding in Mabamba Bay Wetland at Lake Victoria
Mabamba is an extensive stretching through a long narrow bay, fringed with papyrus towards the western main body of Lake Victoria and is home to numerous water birds. Here 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. Apart from Murchison Falls National Park, Mabamba bay is the only place and site where the elusive Shoebill can be spotted at any time of the day.
Birding in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
The varied habitats of Uganda’s oldest forest mean it is the ideal habitat for a variety of birds, with 350 species recorded, including 23 endemics (90% of all Albertine Rift endemics) such as the Short-tailed Warbler and Blue-headed Sunbird as well as seven IUCN red data listed species. Bird species to look out for are the African Emerald Cuckoo, Common Bulbul, African Blue and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers and Red-headed Bluebill. Other 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. Birding takes place along the main trail, the Buhoma Waterfall and Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija.
Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birding International, Queen’s great variety of habitats mean it is home to over 600 species. This is the greatest of any East African national park. The park’s convergence of savanna and forest, linking to the expansive forests of the DR Congo allow visitors to spot East as well as Central African species. 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.
Best birding hot spots in Queen Elizabeth National Park are: Kazinga Channel, Kasenyi Area, Mweya Peninsula, Maramagambo Forest, Ishasha Sector, Lake Kikorongo, Katunguru Bridge area and Katwe Area.
Birding in Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is a compact gem, located conveniently close to the highway that connects Kampala to the parks of western Uganda. It is the smallest of Uganda’s savannah national parks and but home to 350 bird species. Species observed include the Rufous-bellied Heron, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Green Wood-hoopoe, Common Scimitarbill, White-headed Barbet, Red-faced Barbet, Nubian Woodpecker, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Long-tailed Cisticola, Yellow-breasted Apalis, White-winged Tit Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, Black-bellied Bustard, Brown-chested Lapwing, Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove, Brown Parrot, Red-headed Lovebird, Ross’s Turaco, and Finfoot among others.
Birding in Lake Bunyonyi
Lake Bunyonyi is the second deepest lake in Africa with its deep end being at 900m and one of the stunning places in the country which provide a breathtaking atmosphere. There are over 200 bird species at the Lake and these include; White tailed blue monard, African Harrier Hawk, grey crowned cranes, Herons, egrets, the cardinal woodpecker, the levillant cuckoo, slender-billed baglafetch, weavers, levillant cuckoo etc…
Birding in Budongo Forest
Budongo forest reserve is a semi-deciduous rain forest located in western Uganda district of Masindi. It covers a total of 435sq km of mostly forest woodland, savanna and riverine swamps. The forest is the second most important birding area in Uganda after Semliki National Park and two species of birds found in Budongo forest are not found elsewhere in East Africa. Species to look out include Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Little Green Sunbird, Grey-headed Sunbird, Olive Green Camaroptera, Blue-throated Roller, African pied , Black and White Casqued Hornbills, Speckled Tinker-bird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Cassin’s Honey guide, Puvell’s Illadopsis, Brown Twin-spot, Cameroon Somber Greenbul, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, Crowned Eagle, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, etc..
Birding in Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park sprawls across the floor of the Semliki Valley on the remote, western side of the Rwenzori with 220km2 of area. This is one of Africa’s most ancient and bio-diverse forests; one of the few to survive the last ice age, 12-18,000 years ago. There are 441 recorded species, representing 40% of Uganda’s total bird species and 66% (216) of the country’s forest bird species. Birders who make it to Semuliki will be indisputably rewarded with some of the Africa best forest birding. Sempaya and Ntandi provide excellent viewing of birds including the White-crested Hornbill, Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue turaco, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill Piping Hornbill, Ross’s Turacos, etc…