Birding in Uganda
Uganda is one of the best places in East Africa to go on a birding safari as it is a known bird haven hosting different bird species with the most sought after being the Albertine Rift Endemics. The country hosts about 1073 species of birds that have been recorded, Uganda therefore offers the specialist birder incredible sightings while visiting. A number of birding hot spots are available in Uganda and birders are able to explore these areas, some are located in the Albertine Rift region others are located in dry woodland and semi-natural ecosystems. Uganda has a number of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) also making birding in Uganda a fulfilling adventure.
Uganda also hosts a number of moist lowland forests and therefore has more endemic forest bird species than any other part of Africa. Below are the top birding spots in Uganda that offer incredible birding opportunities;
Top Birding Spots in Uganda
Entebbe Botanical Gardens
Entebbe Botanical Gardens located in Entebbe town is a 40 acre botanical garden that is rich in interesting birds and offers incredible sightings. Birds are seen perched on tree branches and some spotted along the shores as Entebbe Botanical garden includes a stretch along Lake Victoria, Uganda’s largest fresh water body. Birds to look out for while birding here include Red-billed firefinch, Black and white Cascaded Hornbill, Common Bulbul, Black-headed Gonolek, Hadada Ibis, African openbill the Black-winged Stilt that is often seen along the shores, Speckled mouse bird, Village weaver, Crowned Hornbill, Yellow-billed Kite, the Eastern Plantain-eater which is a non colorful bird that is part of the Turaco family, the Hamerkop which is a close to the Shoebill family and egrets that are often seen on the shores of Lake Victoria. Entebbe Botanical Gardens is a birding hot spot that is a great start to your birding in Uganda trip. The botanical gardens also host a variety of beautiful tree species,plants and you might spot some wildlife like vervet monkeys hopping around the gardens.
Mabamba Bay Wetland
Mabamba Bay Wetland is home to the pre-historic and elusive Shoebill and is a birding attraction as in addition to looking out for the Shoebill we have an opportunity to look out for papyrus endemic and other interesting birds. Mabamba Bay Wetland is an Important Bird Area (IBA) and about 260 species of birds have been recorded at the swamp. Mabamba is also the best place to see the Shoebill as the bird likes the marshy areas of the swamp where it likes to hunt for lung fish, on a lucky day you can have an opportunity to see the Shoebill as it hunts and feeds. Other species to look out for while on this birding excursion include the African Jacana, Blue-headed Coucal often seen perched on the papyrus in the swamp, the Lizard buzzard, Papyrus Gonolek, Blue-breasted Bee eater, Yellow-billed ducks, Pied Kingfisher, Papyrus Canary, Blue Swallow, White-winged warbler, Yellow-backed weaver, Wood Sandpiper, Woodland Kingfisher, and White-browed Cuckoo. Mabamba Wetland is a birding haven and offers such fulfilling bird watching opportunities and for the expert birder is worth adding to areas to visit.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National park located in western Uganda is a great park for birding in Uganda as it hosts over 315 species of birds. The national park consists of rocky ridges, papyrus swamps and forested gorges which all are habitats bird species. The journey to Lake Mburo national park is rewarding as you bird along the way as you look out for species like the Long-crested eagle that are often seen perching on top of power poles.
Birds to look out for while in Lake Mburo national park include Bare-faced Go-away bird, Red-chested cuckoo, Crested Francolin, Little Bee-eater, African fish eagle, Meyer’s parrot, Red-faced Barbet which is an endemic specie, African Green Pigeon a specie with striking colors, Black Heron, African Grey Hornbill, African finfoot, Greater Blue-eared Starling, African Stonechat,Slate-colored boubou, Papyrus gonolek, Carruther’s Cisticola and the Red-billed ox-pecker which is a less common specie. While in Lake Mburo national park you can do a game drive to look out for some nocturnal species like the Black-shouldered night jar and the Freckled night jar. The park also offers wildlife sightings during day game drives that include zebras, impalas, Uganda kobs, hippos, eland antelopes, giraffes, water bucks, bushbuck, topi and crocodiles that can be seen while on a boat ride on Lake Mburo.
Mabira Forest Reserve
Mabira Forest Reserve is a moist semi-deciduous rain forest located along the Kampala-Jinja highway. The forest is rich in bio-diversity with about 312 tree species, plant species, butterfly species and 23 small mammal species. Mabira Forest is also home to the endangered specie- the Uganda Mangabey. In terms of birding Mabira forest offers great sightings and is a great option for visitors who are around for a short time but would like to bird, since its a few hours from Kampala and Entebbe a one day birding trip can be done.
About 315 species of birds have been recorded at the forest reserve and birds to look out for while in Mabira forest include Great Blue Turaco, Forest wood-hoopoe, African Grey parrot, Nahan’s Francolin, Weyns’s weaver, White-spotted Flufftail, Blue-throated roller, African pied hornbill, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill, Dusky Long-tailed cuckoo, Hawk-eagle, Cassin’s Spine tail, Speckled Tinkerbird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Yellow-billed Barbet, Red-capped Robin-Chat, Little Greenbul, Hairy-breasted Barbet and a number of other bird species. Mabira Forest is a birding hot spot it hosts 74 of the 144 bird species of the Guinea-Congo Forests biome. The forest reserve is accessible and just an hours drives from the city center – Kampala.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable national park is a must visit while birding in Uganda as it is one of the best places to see Albertine Rift endemics and high elevation birds. Bwindi national park has a high record of over 350 species of birds which include forest specialists and migratory species. The most sought after bird in Bwindi is the African Green Broadbill also known as the Grauer’s Broadbill which is endemic to the Albertine Rift Mountains of Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Bwindi national park covers an area of 321 square kilometers and birding in Bwindi an opportunity to exhaust the forest while birding. Different sectors of the park offer different birding experiences and chance to see different bird species.
Birds to look out for include – Handsome Francolin, Cinnamon-Chested Bee-eater, Western Tinkerbird, Variable Sunbird or Yellow-bellied Sunbird, White-browed Robin-chat, White-starred Robin that belongs to the flycatcher family, Strange weaver, Regal Sunbird, Rwenzori Apalis an Albertine Rift endemic, Yellow-eyed Black flycatcher, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Snowy-Crowned Robin-chat, Northern double-collared Sunbird, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Black Bee-eater, Cassin’s Flycatcher, African Black Duck, Levaillant’s Cuckoo, Holub’s Golden Weaver, Ruwenzori Apalis, Brown-capped weavers, Frazer.s eagle owl,Black-billed Weaver, Equatorial Akalat, Brown-throated Wattle eye, Blue-throated roller, Speckled Tinker bird, Many-colored Bushshrike, Bar-tailed Trogon, African Broadbill and the Kivu Ground thrush a rarely seen but beautiful specie. Birding in Bwindi is done in Ruhija sector which has a number of high elevation endemics, Rujija is at about 1900-2500m above sea level, birding is also done in Buhoma sector via the Neck a popular birding trail in Bwindi. Other bird species are sighted while at the lodge and while on community walks, Bwindi national park is rich in bird life.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth national park is a popular birding destination in Uganda and more than 600 bird species have been recorded in the park. The park has water birds, woodland species and forest birds mainly spotted at Maragambo forest , a medium-altitude rain forest adjacent to Queen Elizabeth national park. The national park located in western Uganda covers an area of 1,978 square kilometers that consists of abundant wildlife, plant life, mammal species, crater lakes, forested areas and open savanna.
Birds to search for while in Queen Elizabeth national park include – Sooty Chat, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Crowned Lapwing, Senegal Lapwing, Pin-tailed Whydah, Red-faced Cisticola, Moustached Grass-Wabler, African Harrier-hawk, Banded Snake-eagle,Yellow-billed Oxpecker, African Skimmer, African Spoonbill,Red-necked Spurfowl. While in Queen Elizabeth national park you go on the Kazinga channel boat ride and while here you look out for water birds like the White-breasted Cormorants, Yellow-billed Stork, Great egrets and Marabou Storks. The Kazinga Boat ride is also an opportunity to see wildlife like Hippos, crocodiles, African Elephants, Water bucks and Cape buffaloes that like to come to shores to drink water on a hot day. The park is also home to vultures like the Ruppell’s Vulture, White-backed Vulture and Lappet-faced Vulture that can be encountered while feeding on the remains of a lion’s hunt. Queen Elizabeth national park therefore a perfect mix of birding and wildlife sightings.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale national park located in western Uganda is also a top birding destination and is part of the Albertine Rift Zone with mid-elevation and lowland forest bird species. The park hosts 375 bird species with Albertine Rift Endemics like the Green-breasted Pitta that is often found perched in the moist evergreen rainforest. Kibale national park is also home to the chimpanzees in Uganda and visitors often combine birding with the chimpanzee trekking adventure. The park that covers an area of 766 square kilometers is rich in bio diversity with a high presence of primate species and consists of lowland forest, montane forest, 229 tree species, plant species,herbs and shrubs.
Kibale forest is a bird watcher’s paradise and species to look out for include – Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, Double-toothed Barbet, White-Collared Oliveback, Northern masked Weaver, African Grey Parrot, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Green throated Sunbird, Speckled tinker bird, Masked apalis. The Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary is also another birding area where a walk in Bigodi swamp has you looking out for the Great Blue Turaco which is the highlight sighting while on the swamp walk, other birds on this trail include the Western Nicator, White-spotted Flufftail, Yellow-billed barbet, White-tailed ant thrush. The swamp walk also offers a chance to look out for Kibale’s primate species like the red-colobus monkey an endangered specie, olive baboons and vervet monkeys. The monkeys here are cheeky and sometimes they can be seen feeding on maize that they will have stolen from the nearby gardens since Bigodi swamp is situated next to the local communities.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison falls national park is the largest national park in Uganda and is well known for its spectacular game viewing and thunderous Murchison water falls that are the park’s most popular attraction. The park is rich in wildlife and also makes for a great birding haven as it hosts 650 species of birds and harbors the elusive Shoebill that is best seen while on the Delta Boat ride. The park is home to escarpment species, low land species, savanna birds and hosts 14 of the Sudan-Guinea Biome species offering the specialist birder incredible sightings!
Birding to Murchison falls national park begins en-route as you look out for species like the Stripped Kingfisher, Grey-headed Oliveback, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu and the Brown Babbler. Birding Murchison then continues at Budongo Central Reserve at the Royal Mile which is a stretch of murram road between the main research station and a forestry college. The Royal Mile is known as the richest bird watching site in Uganda and about 366 bird species have been recorded at the site. Birds to look out for at the Royal Mile in Budongo forest include the African Yellow Warbler, Cabanis’s Bunting, African Pygmy Kingfisher, Forest-Robin, White-thighed Hornbill, Uganda Woodland-warbler, African dwarf Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (a rare sighting), Black headed Gonolek, Purple-headed starling.
Birding then continues to the main Murchison Falls reserve where you do full day game drives and boat ride on Victoria Nile in search of water birds, escarpment species and savanna species. Birds in the national park include Bateleur, Gray-headed Bushshrike, Marsh Tchagra, Dark Chanting Goshawk, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Abysinnian Ground Hornbill, Red-necked Falcon, Spotted thick-nee, Greater Painted-snipe, Northern Carmine Bee-eater, Red-throated Bee-eater, Grey Crowned cranes, Senegal thick-knee, Water thick-knee, Black-bellied Bustard, Silver Bird, Gray Kestrel, White-faced Whistling duck, Saddle-billed Stork, African Swamphen, Rock Pratincole usually seen on a hike to the bottom of the falls perched on rocky outcrops, and the Goliath Heron which is the world’s largest heron which is resident to Murchison Falls national park. Nocturnal species to look out for while on a night game drive in the park include the Slender-tailed Night Jar and the Greyish Eagle-owl.
Semuliki National Park
Semuliki national park is located in Bundibugyo district in the western region of Uganda. The national park is situated along the border of Democratic Republic of Congo and lies in the western section of the East African rift valley and is at the base of the Albertine Rift region.
Semuliki national park is rich in birdlife making it a bird watcher’s paradise with over 441 species of birds and at least 300 species of butterflies. Semuliki is mainly visited by bird watchers to look for the 35 Guinea-Congo forest biome bird species which are only found in this park and nowhere else in East Africa. Bird species to look out for in Semuliki national park include Yellow-throated cuckoo, Brown-eared woodpecker, White-crested Hornbill, Yellow-throated nicator, Red-Tailed Greenbull, African crake, Abyssinian Ground hornbill, African Dwarf Kingfisher, Marsh tchagra, Leaflove, Congo serpent eagle, Papyrus gonolek, Long-tailed hawk, Black-wattled hornbill, Carruthers’s cisticola, owls, Standard-winged night jars among other species. Semuliki national park is also to the unique and elusive Shoebill which can be sighted while on boat trip on Lake Albert at Ntoroko. The national park also has 53 mammals that include primates such as the chimpanzees, black-and-white colobus, red-tailed, red-cheeked mangabey, olive baboons, vervet monkey. Other large mammals in the park include elephant, bush pig, buffalo, sitatunga and white-bellied duiker.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains national park covers an area of 996 square kilometers which protects the upper slopes of the Rwenzori Mountains which stretch for almost 120 kilometers along the Democratic Republic of Congo border west of Kasese and Fortportal towns.
The park hosts 217 species of birds including the Albertine Rift Endemics and has a diverse eco system that is composed of montane forest, giant lobelias, wildlife, small waterfalls and lakes. The birds to look out for in Rwenzori mountains include Ruwenzori Turaco, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Long-eared owl, Barred long-tailed cuckoo, White-starred forest robin, Blue-headed sunbird, Ruwenzori batis, Lagden’s bush shrike, Montane sooty boubou, Golden-winged sunbird, Strange weaver, fly catchers, crimson wing, barbets, and green buls.
Birding Tours in Uganda – Our Tailored Birding Itineraries