Best Bird watching destinations in Uganda
Uganda is one of the best birding destinations in Africa boasting a massive bird list of more of than 1,073 recorded different bird species making up 50 percent of Africa’s bird species and 11 percent of the world species. This huge bird list is contained within a small territory hence having one of the highest concentrations of birds in Africa. The incredible diversity of habitats like no other in Africa is the reason Uganda harbours such a huge diversity of birds and collects so many migrant birds during the year. Uganda lies in a unique position where she shares Africa’s major ecological zones and each has associated bird species, including many that are range restricted.
Uganda has up to 34 Important Bird Areas (IBA) many of which have been developed for birdwatching and birding tours. Also, the birding community in Uganda continues to identify other new bird-rich spots across the country and establishing birding trails. Despite the fact that Uganda has about 34 birding destination, here are the top 10 birding spots in Uganda.
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Mabamba Swamp; Mabamba swamp is a prime wetland birding site famous for the Shoebill stock bird commonly regarded as “Uganda’s most sought bird” by nature lovers. Mabamba Swamp is located west of Entebbe on the northern shore of Lake Victoria, covering about 2,424 hectares with thick marshes of papyrus, water lilies and other wetland grasses. Mabamba swamp is a Ramsar site and Important Bird Area (IBA).
The wetland hosts over 300 bird species including the many globally threatened species, 7 of Uganda’s 12 Lake Victoria biome restricted species that is the Papyrys Gonolek and plenty of wetland specialties. The wetland also hosts huge flocks of Palearctic migrants every year from October to March. Birding in Mabamba swamp on Lake Victoria features counts of birds including the rare and the Vulnerable Shoebill stork, the Allen’s and Purple Gallinule, Grey herons, Jacanas, Ruffaus Squaco, the globally threatened Pallid Harrier and Bellied Heron.
Mabamba Swamp can be accessed on a number of routes from Kampala or Entebbe. The easiest route is via the Nakiwogo landing site in Entebbe where you take a 10 minutes ferry crossing to Kasanje landing and from there drive for about 20 minutes to Mabamba passing through cultivations and open fields that will provide plenty of garden birds. Birding in Mabamba swamp is done from a motorized wooden boat by riding through a maze of trails cutting through the thick marshes.
Entebbe Botanical Gardens;
The Entebbe botanical gardens are usually visited by people who want to relax under the cool of the trees, a popular spot for leisurely nature walks to enjoy the lush greenery and observe monkeys and birds. However, the Botanical Gardens is one of the renowned birding spots in Uganda and often birded as single entity. The gardens were established as far as 1901. They extend from the shores of Lake Victoria to cover a lush zone of forest with big trees.
The Entebbe botanical gardens are such a beauty for bird watching with a good mix of water, open country and woodland species. Some of the birds to be found here include: Pink-backed Pelican, Long-tailed Cormorant, Black-crowned Night Heron, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Black-headed Heron, Hamerkop, African Open-billed Stork, Saddle-billed Stork, Marabou Stork, Egyptian Goose, Yellow-billed Duck, and Black Kite to mention but a few.
Semuliki national park
Semiliki national park is located in the Bundibugyo district near Fort portal town adjust to Congo Ituri rain forest. The park is a home to Uganda’s largest Sempaya hot springs, about 53 mammal species and over 400 bird species recorded in this park thus making it one of the top birding destination in Africa earning a title of “True birders Haven” Semliki Forest represents the only example of Congo-Basin vegetation in Uganda given that a large number of Guinea-Congo biome species reach their Eastern limits in Semuliki, which makes it one of the richest for forest birds in the country.
There are about 130 Guinea-Congo forests Biome species recorded in Semuliki forest. Other bird species include; the Capuchin, white-tailed/Piping hornbill, blue headed, crested flycatcher, Orange Weaver, and Red-billed Malimbe. Semuliki national park is also close to Mount Rwenzori where River Semuliki winds along the western border down to Lake Albert, surrounded by swamps where we find birds like the Papyrus Gonolek, Caruther’s Cisticola. Other interesting birds in semiliki national park include; Black-wattled hornbill, Congo Serpent Eagle, Lyre-tailed Honeyguide, Nkulengu Rail, Long-tailed Hawk to mention a few.
Lake Mburo national park
Lake Mburo national park is Uganda’s smallest savannah national park where we only find the Impalas antelope species. However, Lake Mburo national park is also Uganda’s top birding destination making travellers to confirm Uganda safaris tours for a bird viewing and wildlife safari. The park has about 350 bird species and the key birding spots include the swampy valleys of Miriti and Warukiri, the viewing platforms near the salt licks and in the forest as well as the roadsides between Rwonyo camp, Jetty and Rubanga forest.
Examples of commonly spotted birds in Lake Mburo national park include; Emerald-spotted wood, Red-headed Lovebird, Grey Crowned crane, Green Wood-hoopoe, Ross’s Turaco, Coqui Francolin, Black-bellied, Red-faced Barbet, Woodpecker, Finfoot, white-winged Tit and the Brown Parrot to mentioned a few. This is where you can only see the red faced Barbet which is the forest featured species. Doing a birding safari on a Uganda Safari tour is a good decision for any traveller particularly Lake Mburo national park to be able to do other activities like game viewing, horseback rides, and boat trips.
Bwindi Impenetrable national park
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is mainly popular for gorilla trekking in Uganda however, Bwindi forest has become a bird haven for bird lovers because Bwindi forest has one of the best montane forest where we find different bird species. Bwindi forest has about 350 different bird species where by 14 of those birds can only spotted only here in Uganda. The Albertine rift has over 90 percent of the Albertine rift endemic, also has about 24 unique Albertine birds such as the blue-headed sunbird, and the Neumann’s warbler.
The Grauer’s Broadbill and the Shelley’s Crimsonwing are the most endangered species. The main places for bird watching in Bwindi forest include; the Buhoma waterfalls in Buhoma sector of Bwindi Impenetrable national park, the Mubwindi swamp trail and the Bamboo zone. Some of the bird species spotted in Bwindi forest include; the Rwenzori Double-collared, Strang Weaver, Regal Sunbird, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Grauer’s Rush Warbler to mention a few. Other bird species to be spotted in Bwindi forest include; Evergreen Warbler, Rwenzori Batis, Turner’s Eremomela, African Pitta, Yellow browed Camaroptera, Cassin’s Honeybird, Compact Weaver, Dusky Long-tailed to mention a few.
Queen Elizabeth national park
Queen Elizabeth National park is situated in Rubirizi district in western part of Uganda covering a total land area of 1 978 sq km, making it the second largest national park in Uganda. It sits at an altitude of 900 meters on the adjacent Lake Edward up to 1,845 meters at the peak of the western Rift Valley’s – eastern Escarpment. It has a home of the tree climbing lions however; it is listed as one of the 10 bird watching destinations in Uganda.
Queen Elizabeth national park has recorder a number of about 550 species of birds making the park one of the charming destination for travellers on a Uganda safari tour. The park birds’ species available in Queen Elizabeth national park vary in Open woodlands, Rivers, Open grassland, Lakes as well as permanent swamps.
There are several aquatic birds species that are spotted during a boat cruise along the Kazinga channel such as the White-faced Whistling, Spur-winged Plovers, Squacco Heron, Fish Eagle, Pink and White backed Pelicans, Long tailed Cormorants, and African Jacana, just to mention a few. Some of the other birds that can be spotted in park include; the black-ramped buttonquail, Papyrus canary, Black bee-eater, African fish eagle, Long-tailed cormorants, White winged terns, Grey-headed kingfisher, and the thin-tailed Nightjars. Some of these birds are normally heard in the morning echoing in the tree branches. Other places in Queen Elizabeth national park good for bird watching is Kyambura gorge, birds like the Hairy breasted Barbet, Grey wood pecker and other can be found while on a hike into the verdant gorge, the Maramagambo forest, the Kasenyi area, Mweya Peninsular, Ishasha sector, Lake Kikirongo and Katunguru Bridge area and Katwe. Minimum of 3 days is quite enough for a bird watching experience in Queen Elizabeth national park while on a Uganda safari.
Mabira forest was once the largest rainforest in Uganda however due to deforestation as a result of commercial purposes; the forest’s now is covered by an area of about 306sqkm. Mabira forest became a great tourism destination especially for bird lovers because it is a great birding site and home to more than 300 different bird species. Mabira Forest Reserve is located 56km on Kampala-Jinja highway in Buikwe district, quite accessible from Kampala and other towns of Uganda.
Book a trip with Intaresafaris for an excursion to Mabira forest for a day bird watching experience. This birding adventure begins when you are picked up your hotel in Kampala/Entebbe then drive to Jinja taking about 2-3 hours on Kampala-Jinja route depending on the traffic jam. When you reach the forest, report to the offices where you will be briefed about the forest and also be allocated a guide who will help you search and identify the different birds during your walk in the forest. Expect to see a lot of birds as you can expect to see over 100 birds in a day such as the Long-crested Eagle, Red-chested Sunbird, Open-billed Stork, White-threatened Bee-eater, Cattle Egret, Marabou Stork, there is the Pied Crow, also the Black Kite, Lizard Buzzard, the Black-headed Weaver, African Thrush, Hadada Ibis, Hamerkop, Broad-billed Roller, Palmnut Vulture and Bronze Mannikin as well as the Great Blue Turaco. Examples of other birds include; The Forest Wood Hoopoe, The Yellow White-eye, The Hairy Breasted Barbet, The Bockages Shrike, The Tambourine Dove, The Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, The African Harrier Hawk, The Speckled Tinker bird, The Great Blue Turaco, The Black, and-white Mannikin, The Chestnut Wattle-eye, The Superb Sunbird, African Grey Parrot, The Jameson’s Wattle-eye, The African Shrike Flycatcher, The Red-headed Malimbe, The Velvet-mantled Drongo and Black-billed Turaco, among others.
Apart from bird watching in the Mabira forest, your day trip can be combined with other activities like the Zip-lining experience and a primate’s walk. The forest is said to host about 6 species of primates such as the Grey cheeked Mangabey monkeys, Vervet monkeys, Black and white Colobus monkey to mention a few, Other features include the tree species and visit of the Griffin falls in the forest.
Murchison falls national park
Murchison falls National Park is the largest national park covering an area of about 4,300 square kilometres, named after the dramatic Murchison falls that flow into a gorge where the world’s longest river blasts and flows down to become a River. The park is characterised with Uganda savannah, riverine forests, woodland vegetation and large animals. It is known to be a home for big 4 game including the lions, leopards, Buffaloes and Elephants. Other animals include; the Giraffes, Hartebeests, Oribis, Kobs to mention a few. Murchison falls National Park is one of the top ranking birding destinations in Africa hosting about 460 different bird species. These birds can be spotted in Karuma wildlife reserve, Budongo forest and the northern bank of the park where game drives are done. The park supports 20 species from the three non-qualifying biomes, 11 species of Guinea-Congo forest, 6 species of the Afro-tropical highlands and 3 of the Somali-Masai biome. A boat cruise to the delta is a highlight for an enthusiastic birdwatcher. The park is rich in both land and waterbird species. Some of the bird species found here includes; African Fish Eagle, African Skimmer and the elusive Shoebill stock which is easily seen at the banks of the Riverside. Other bird species we find in Murchison falls national park while on a Uganda safaris tours include; Blue-napped Mouse birds, Silver Bird, Grey-crowned crane, Bluff-bellied Warblers, Goliath Heron, Black-headed Batis, Green-winged, Ptyilia, Long-toed, Vitelline Masked Weaver, Long-tailed and Pennant-winged Nightjars, Standard-winged Nightjar, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Saddle-billed Stork just to mention a few
Lake Bunyonyi is located in southwestern Uganda between Kabale and Kisoro. The word Bunyonyi is translated as small birds meaning ‘a place of little birds.’ It certainly is a magical spot for bird watching and what’s more interesting, it is encircled by steep terraced hills and is reputed to be the deepest lake in East Africa with a depth of about 900 meters. Lake Bunyonyi has recorded over 200 bird species and some of these include; the Grey crowned crane, the White tailed blue monard, the herons, the African Harrier Hawk, The egrets, Slender-billed baglafetch, Levillant cuckoo, Levillant cuckoo, and the cardinal woodpecker, and many more. The lake has over 40 small islands including the punishment Island, Bwana, Kyahugye, Njuyeera, Bucuranuka, Bushara to mention a few. All these Islands have got many bird species that can be enjoyed by the many bird watchers that visit the Lake. This same lake is also home to many otters, the crayfish and its bird paradise to many species of birds and lies between Kisoro and Kabale districts that are close to the border of Rwanda.
Apart from bird watching, bird lovers can also take part in some other activities including the spot fishing, boat rides, cultural walks, camping, the bamboo walks that are guided trails and these have been established and are so recommended for anyone who may be looking for a long stretch, nature walks and many more. Lake Bunyonyi is known to be a relaxation after gorilla trekking in Bwindi Impenetrable national park. Lake Bunyonyi lake can be visited throughout the year.
Kibale forest national park
Kibale forest national park is best known for chimpanzee trekking in Uganda. The forest is located in the western part of Uganda in Kabarole district near Fort portal which is the tourism city of Uganda. Kibale forest contains one of the loveliest and most varied tracts of tropical forest in Uganda. Forest cover, interspersed with patches of grassland and swamp, dominates the northern and central parts of the park on an elevated plateau. Kibale forest contains 375 bird species and these birds can be spotted in the park while on a chimpanzee trekking experience and in Bigo swamp, this swamp is actually the best place to spot a variety of bird species and primates.
The Green-breasted Pitta is the most sought bird species in the forest. Some of the other birds recorded in Kibale forest include; the Black-capped Cuckoo, Black-crowned Tchagra, Barn swallow, African Dusky Flycatcher, Black-necked Weaver, African Wood Owl, Chubb’s Cisticola, African Shrike-flycatcher, Black bee-eater, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, African/Rwenzori Abyssinian, Black and white Mannikin, Black-faced Rufous, Blue throated Roller, African Blue Flycat, just to mention a few.
Best Time for bird watching in Uganda
The best time for birding or bird viewing in Uganda is usually not known as a birding safari can be done any time of the year. However, the month of January, March, July, August and September are said to be the best time to do a bird watching experience in Uganda as compared to the other months which are the rainy seasons, when the rains are heavy, there are challenges like difficulty in crossing the roads and thus delaying because of the impassable roads and it also makes the hiking trails slippery which can lead to limiting ones bird watching time. Plan your birding safari carefully. Book a birding safari on a Uganda safaris tour and enjoy the sight of a variety of bird species.
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