Uganda is undoubtedly the most attractive country in Africa of bird watching for bird-watchers not only because of the rare number of species recorded within its borders but also because it offers easy access to several bird-rich habitats that are difficult to reach elsewhere. Uganda’s remarkable avian diversity of about 1079 species recorded can be attributed to its location at a transitional point between the East African savanna, the West African rainforest and the semi-desert of the north.
The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats which include; arid semi-dessert, rich Savannah, lowland and montaigne rainforests, vast wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone.
Birds of Uganda
Some of the eye-catching bird species that can be found in Uganda include the Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Karamoja Apalis, Grey-crowned Crane, which is also the national bird. You can also look forward to seeing the Abdim’s Stork, Night Herons, Ituri Batis, Northern Carmine Bee-eaters, Martial Eagle, Giant kingfishers, Ostriches, Black-billed Turaco, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Regal Sunbird, African Quailfinch, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Pink-backed Pelican, Flamingoes, Archer’s Robin Chart, Green Breasted Pitta, Yellow-spotted Barbet,White-spotted Flufftail, Long-eared Owl, Nubian Woodpecker, the African finfoot, African Fish Eagle, Nahan’s Francolin, Brown twinspot, Dwarf Kingfishers and many more.
Some of Bird Species Found in Uganda
Africa Jacana – it has long toes and long claws that enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes their preferred habitat. Jacanas are common in most wetlands in Uganda.
Gray Parrot – they are mostly seen in any forested habitat.
African skimmer – It is found along rivers, lakes and lagoons.
African Emerald Cuckoo are normally seen in riparian areas and lowland forests.
Great Blue Turaco – found in forested areas including Entebbe Botanical gardens.
Black Bee-eater – found at the edges of the rainforests and in secondary woodlands.
Verreaux’s Eagle-owl – largest owl species in Uganda and mostly seen during night drives.
Shoebill – The shoebill also known as whale head or shoe-billed stork is a very large stork-like bird. It derives its name from its enormous shoe-shaped bill. They are mainly seen in Semuliki Wildlife Reserve, Mabamba Swamp and Murchison Fall National Park.
Goliath Heron – this is commonly seen during boat trips in Murchison Falls National Park.
Pennant-winged Nightjars – mostly seen on the road to the top of Murchison falls after dusk.
Common Ostrich – this is the World’s largest bird and it’s restricted to Kidepo Valley National Park.
Pelicans – these are water birds and commonly found in Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Harmerkop – this is a medium sized water bird seen on the Mweya Peninsula in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Saddle billed Stork – this is the largest and most handsome of several storks usually seen in pairs on game drives in Murchison falls.
Gray Crowned-Crane – Uganda’s national bird common in swamps and grasslands. They can also be found in marshes, cultivated lands and grassy flat lands near rivers and lakes in Uganda.
Marabou Stork – this is a large wading bird in the stork family usually found in both wet and arid habitats often near human habitation especially landfill sites. It is sometimes called the “undertaker bird” due to its shape from behind- cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of “hair”.
Flamingos – these are tropical wading birds which have long legs with backwards-bending knees, long curvy necks, and most noticeably; they are pink. Flamingos tend to congregate in mudflats or lagoons where they can find shallow saltwater prey.
Eastern Plantain-eater – this species is a resident breeder in open woodland habitats in Uganda and feeds on fruits especially figs and other vegetable matter.
Piapiac – its main habitat is towards the more open country of cultivated land with fields and pasture and small associated towns and villages. In Uganda, it’s commonly found in Jinja and Murchison falls.
African Finfoot – this is an aquatic bird and normally seen on lakes and rivers. It’s commonly and easily seen on Lake Mburo.
Giant Kingfisher – the Giant Kingfisher frequents rivers, streams, lakes, dams and even mountain streams with marginal wooded areas both in forests and savannahs.
Red-throated Bee-eater – breeds in tall sandbanks on Lake Albert and the Nile below Murchison falls.
Pied Kingfisher – is sighted along the lake shores hovering above the water while searching for fish.
Lilac-breasted Roller – usually found alone or in pairs. It perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level.
Fork-tailed Drongo – These insect-eating birds are usually found in open forests or bush and are tolerant of arid climates.
Jackson’s Francolin – found in mountainous forests and stands of bamboo.
Denham’s bustard-It is found in open grounds including agricultural land, grassland and flood-plains.
Chocolate-backed Kingfishers – these are birds of primary and secondary lowland rain forests. They feed on insects, mainly grasshoppers and beetles, but also many other invertebrates as well as small lizards.
Papyrus Gonolek – It occurs singly or in pairs in papyrus swamps lurking among the vegetation and only flying occasionally usually a short distance over water to another patch of papyrus.
Red -headed bluebill – found in forest undergrowth, damp areas in thickets, near streams, clearings and edge of the forests.
Malachite Kingfisher – is seen beside lakes and rivers, perched on tall grass stems or looking for small fish. It’s normally seen so focused on the water that it can be approached quite closely.
Best Time for Bird Watching
From a birder’s perspective, Uganda is good all year-round, especially since the main birding interest lies in the resident birds. The climate is the main factor to take into consideration. Uganda is a very wet country. During the Wet seasons, roads and forest trails might be in poor condition and rains could interfere with birding time.
In general, the best time for bird watching is from late May through September, when the rain is less and food is abundant. The main nesting season in Bwindi and Mgahinga (key sites for the Albertine Rift endemics) in May and June, but from mid-April to mid-May the rains might still be too heavy.
February and early March is the only time Toro-Semliki is relatively dry, but it is uncomfortably hot in the north, including in Murchison Falls NP. December and January are also good months since the north is not yet too hot and there is less rain in the south. The best time for primate tracking and wildlife viewing in the savannah reserves is also in the Dry season, from June to August and December to February.
Why opt for birding in Uganda Safari?
Uganda offers top bird-watching sites with rare species like the indescribable shoe billed stork in Mabamba Swamp and the impeccable Mubwindi swamp which is possibly the leading destination for Birding safaris. Uganda is a leading destination for anyone with an interest in birding due to its diverse landscape with swamps, forests, lakes, mountains and savannas inhabiting 1025-1065 bird species.
What to carry on your Birding in Uganda safari?
- A rain-gear as well as long-sleeved pants and shirt
- Hiking boots are preferable for forest bird-watching
- For those great pictures a camera with good zoom or telephoto lens is needed
A birding in Uganda safari will offer you a wonderful serenity as you tick off the bird species off your bucket list. We at Wave Expeditions will tailor make a suitable birding safari to suit your taste and predilection and make it a memorable safari of an era.
What to expect while on your Bird Watching safari
Birding watching in Uganda is mostly done in selected wildlife conservation areas that are located in almost all regions of the country considered into National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, Ramsar Sites, Forests and Sanctuaries.
You can certainly expect to record over 500 species of birds over a period of a few weeks as your ace and appreciate Uganda’s beautiful fluffy population.
Most of the destinations are home to the Big game, Mountain Gorillas, chimpanzees, these areas have a variety of wildlife ranging from mammals, reptiles, amphibians, vertebrates, invertebrates and rodents, insects, plants and people.
Important Birding Spots in Uganda
With over 1050 bird species recorded in Uganda, a safari in Uganda would be incomplete without engaging in birding tour for the famous shoebill, the Albertine Rift Endemics, the Great Blue Turaco, the Denham’s Bustard and the central Africa species. These can be viewed in the different birding spots including:
The Mabamba Wetland area is famous for harbouring the rare Shoe billed stork and was recently acknowledged as an International conservation area.
Kibale National Park
This Forest is mostly known for its Chimpanzee Trekking Safaris though it is also home to a variety of forest birds including the Red Winged Francolin Red Chested Fluftail African Pita, Joyful greenbul and many other bird species totaling to about 335.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
The park is mostly famous for its wildlife including the famous tree climbing lions though the park also hosts over 550 bird species including 11 types of Kingfisher, several falcons,eagles and black bee eater.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
This impenetrable forest is one of the top riches flora and fauna forests of East Africa where you can encounter over 357 bird species including the Albertine rift Endemics, Rwenzori Batis, Black bee eater and the African Green Broadbill.
Murchison Falls National Park
Most travellers visit this park for its majestic Murchison Falls where it derives its name though the park has a lot to offer including 370 bird species; the shoebill, giant kingfisher, bee eaters and other species.
Best Parks for Birding –Including Birding Rating
Murchison Falls is excellent for seeing a wide display of common birds and specials, including the sought-after shoebill. Bwindi Impenetrable and Mgahinga National Park are the most reachable sites for Albertine Rift endemics, and Semuliki is the only place in East Africa to see many Guinea-Congo regional species.
Other Birding Areas include
- Budongo Forest
- Mabira Forest
- Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary
- Mgahinga National Park
- Lake Mburo National Park
- Entebbe Botanical Gardens
- Mpanga Forest
- Mount Elgon National Park
- Kidepo Valley National Park
- Semliki National Park