Fairend Safaris

Birding in Uganda

Birding is among the top safari activities that attract tourists to the pearl of Africa. Uganda is a top birding paradise with over 1073 recorded bird species, accounting for 50% of Africa’s and 11% of the world’s species.  This is yet another destination to enjoy birding since it hosts both permanent and migrant bird species. Birds can be sighted in a short time within a small area. Not forgetting that in Africa there is a high chance of seeing many species on a regular safari since it is dominated by open grasslands rather than deep rainforests. Queen Elizabeth National Park and Rwenzori National Park are Uganda’s best destinations for birding.  

Where to go for birding in Uganda

Birding in Uganda can be done in different established areas gazenetted for bird watching and birding trips. Importantly,  a distinguished Ugandan birding community helps to identify bird species, birding areas, and trails. There is usually a great level of success and guides are equipped with information about bird species within the area. The places to see birds include;

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is the top area for birding in Uganda. It has over 600 bird species including migratory birds, woodland birds, aquatic birds, and forest dwellers. These bird species can be found at Myeya peninsular, Maramagambo forest, Kasenyi Plains, and Katunguru bridge. Additional areas to see birds include Ishaha sector, lake Katwe, and around Kazinga Channel. During a boat cruise which is done twice a day birds like grey capped warbler, grey-headed kingfisher, and yellow-backed weaver among others can be seen.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park is known for gorilla trekking. However, it is home to over 350 bird species, 400 plant species, and 120 animals. Different types of birds can be seen within the forest as you carry on other activities. Some of the birds to look out for are; regal sunbird, black bee eater, mountain oriole, black billed turaco and many more. Bwindi is East Africa’s richest dense rainforest with biodiversity of trees, plants, butterflies, and birds.

Mabamba Bay

Mabamba Bay is greatly known for its Shoebills and is an excellent destination for birding. It is strategically located near Kampala and Entebbe making it accessible. Four vulnerable species can be seen on this bay, including the Papyrus Gonolek, Blue Swallow, Pallid Harrier, and White-Winged Warbler.

Birders get chances to see many birds without having to travel to the parks that are out of the city. Other birds that can be seen here include Yellow Wagtail, Yellow-billed duck, Yellow-billed Ducks, yellow-throated Greenbul, Yellow warble, Yellow-billed Kite, Wood Sandpiper, Winding Cisticola, White-winged Warbler and White-winged Black Terns.

Entebbe Penisula

Entebbe Penisula is equally a great destination for a quick birding tour in Uganda. This peninsula is located in Entebbe and can be visited upon arrival as it is near Entebbe Airport. Travelers interested in birding safaris usually start their birding tour from here. Birding at the lakeshores allows seeing a good number of water species, as over 100 species have been recorded at three common sites throughout the peninsula. The best time to visit is from early September to early March when many migrating birds arrive.

Lutembe Bay Wetland

Lutembe Bay Wetland is located about 4 kilometers from Namulanda on the Kampala-Entebbe road. It is well known for Shoebill sightings but is home to almost 200 bird species.  The wetland is on Lake Victoria however it is not a commonly visited destination though offers some bird species that are hard to find. The best time to visit Lutembe bay is  September to March to see many species which include migratory birds.

Kibale Forest National Park

Kibale Forest National Park is usually well known for chimpanzee trekking however, it is a great destination for birding. The park is home to over 350 bird species among which are indigenous to this area. Due to the presence of thickets and trees which provide shelter, breeding areas and food for the birds, this accounts for why there are many birds. Visitors to this park usually enjoy birding as they trek the chimpanzees on different trails.

Birding in Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park offers great bird-watching experience, it is one of the popular activities carried out in this park. Birding is usually carried out in the morning or evening with the help of an experienced birding park guide.

This activity is usually carried out in the outskirts of Narus Valley, around Apoka rest camp, and within Namamkwenyi Valley. Birders can see and learn about various bird species such as superb sterling, ostrich, Abyssinian ground hornbill, clapper tons francolin, purple heron, secretary bird and many more.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is home to the world’s most powerful falls and is also a great destination for bird watching. The park is home to over 451 bird species including Albertine Rift endemic species, water birds, and savannah birds. One of the most exciting activities on a Ugandan trip is bird viewing amid Murchison’s stunning terrain and spectacular fauna. The birds found in this park are the Gray-crested crane, Giant Kingfisher, Giant Heron, Shoebill stork, Nightjars, Marabou stork, and Black-headed lapwing.

What is the best time for birding in Uganda?

The month of June, July, August, and September are considered the best months to visit Uganda for birding. Besides August is the most popular and is also considered to be the best month for birding watching. Uganda welcomes African migrant birds from southern and Northern Africa, and Europe.

Birding is best done after the rainy season since the vegetation is great with plenty of fruits for birds to feed on. Some birding destinations in Uganda, like Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park, are arid and thus less affected by rain than forested birding destinations like Bwindi Forest Park, Semuliki National Park, Kibale National Park, and Budongo Forest.

What to Pack on Your Birding Tour in Uganda

Binoculars, Cameras, lenses and, Spare batteries. Remember to carry a flashlight, torch, or headlamp. A First Aid kit is usually important, a snack, bottled water, and last but not least toiletries among others.

What are the Most Popular Birds in Uganda ?

Bird lovers from all over the world come to Uganda to complete their birding bucket lists.  With a wide range of  bird species,  Uganda offers the  best birding tour and some of the birds to look out for include;

Green-Breasted Pitta, Chocolate-Backed, African Skimmer, Papyrus Gonolek,  Puvel’s illadopsis, Lühder’s Bushshrikes, Red-throated Alethe, Kingfishers, Blue-Breasted Kingfishers, White-Thighed Hornbill, Piping Hornbill, Forest Wood-Hoopoe, Black-Billed Turaco, Black Bee-Eater, Nahan’s Francolin,  Handsome Francolin, Olive Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-throated Roller, Congo Serpent Eagle, Dusky Crimsonwing, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Denham’s Bustard, African Grey Parrot, African Green Broadbill, Green-Breasted Pitta, African Pitta, African Finfoot, Afep Pigeon, Bar-Tailed Trogon, Great Blue Turaco, Rwenzori Turaco, Short-Tailed Warbler,  Red-Faced Barbet, African Dwarf Kingfishers and Jameson’s Antpecker among others.

What are the tips for a Tropical Birding safari?

Here are some of the things to do and watch out for to  have a great bird-watching experience,

  1. Maintain silence, because loud noises alarm birds, causing them to fly for safety. It is often difficult to get closer to birds since they have considerably greater hearing than you can imagine.  Maintain silence as much as you can to avoid some disturbances.  
  2. Be Patient, bird watching typically requires one to be patient and wait for the birds to appear in the best position for one to take a great photo since they usually do not keep in one place and position for a long time.
  3. Avoid movements, both loud noises and quick movements are known to scare away birds. To be able to get close to birds you need to move slowly and carefully. A sudden move even when swinging your binoculars up to your eyes can cause a bird to fly away.
  4. Don’t wear bright color clothes because you need to blend into the background, wear khaki clothes and avoid bright attire, such as whites, orange, and other colors as they appear more visible.
  5. Learn about when and where they are. Each bird is uniquely adapted to its environment. Great blue turacos enjoy forested and swampy areas while Shoe bill storks prefer a swamp.  Lastly, birds such as  African jacana like open savanna grasslands. What you see will be influenced greatly by the tropical birding destination you choose