Explore Uganda’s Avian life, Visit top Birding Sites

For those seeking an exceptional birding safari in Africa, Uganda, a country proclaimed as the “Pearl of Africa” is the absolute goal. This small landlocked country is undeniably an exceptional birdwatching destination. At about 241’038sq.km, Uganda is the smallest among all its counterparts whose bird-list notches the one thousand mark. It is a perfect destination to spot an assortment of bird species like the migratory species, tropical species, savanna species, rare and endemic species among others that may be on the bird-list or itinerary of a birding enthusiast.

There’re a number of attributes which make Uganda a great birdwatching safari destination. It’s not only endowed with some of the most remarkable avian sites on the African continent, but also has some of the most sought after bird species. Some of these include the Pre-historic looking Shoebill Stork, African Green Broadbill, Great Blue Turaco, Shelley’s Crimson-wing, Standard-winged Nightjar among others.

Among some of the attributes that make birdlife flourish and Uganda a birders success story, include;

It’s location, the country is sandwiched between the East African savannas and West African jungle so this makes it a great spot for both forest and open savanna species. The diversity of its eco-system composed of marshes, open water bodies like lakes and rivers, mountainous terrain and much more make Uganda a prolific birding destination.

Uganda’s total bird count is over 1,060 recorded bird species. This accounts to nearly 73% of East Africa’s population, half of Africa’s population and 11% of the Global bird population.

Uganda’s best spots for birding safaris include; its tropical forests and savanna national parks, as well as wetlands. Specialist safaris through the western tourism circuit routinely notch up an incredible tally of about 400+ species within 14 days, while budding beginners to semi-professionals might reasonably hope to aim for a 200 tally within the same time on a single birdwatching Uganda safari.


The Grey Crowned Cranes, Uganda's national bird
                                    The Grey Crowned Cranes, Uganda’s national bird


Some Places to consider for a Birding safari in Uganda

Due to its abundance of birdlife, birding is possible almost everywhere in Uganda and there are notable sites that definitely must not miss out on any birding itinerary. The country’s various regions each has its good share of avian life. Below we briefly highlight some of these places.


Queen Elizabeth National Park: It’s Uganda’s most bio-diverse conservation and protected area situated on the rift valley floor. Its eco-diversity takes in a variety of habitats such as swamps, lakes, forest and savanna zones. The park has composition of the Central African forest and East African savanna vegetation due to its location which make it a perfect place to see species from either sides (East and Central African species) as well as making birdlife flourish.

Queen Elizabeth is classified as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by Birding International. Its recorded bird count is over 600 species, a number that’s greater than any of East Africa’s protected area. Birding in Queen Elizabeth is possible almost everywhere and can be done on various activities like nature walks, boat trips and safari drives. The plains around Kasenyi, Katwe, Mweya and Ishasha can be explore for savanna specials on safari drives, while sites around Lake Edward and George as well as the Kazinga channel are explore by boat to see the various water birds.

Close to the park are the forest fringed extensions and reserves like Kyambura Gorge and wildlife reserve and Maramagambo forest which are notable for the forest specials. Species such as Flamingos can occasionally be seen around Kyambura and Katwe soda lakes, the Shoebill Stork around Edward flats, while various species like the elegant African Fish Eagle, Palm-Nut Vulture, Grey Crowned Crane, Collared Pratincole among others can be seen.


Semliki National Park: The 220sq.km park is dominated by forest vegetation, making it a great spot to see the forest variety and specials. The park is part of the Guinea-Congo biome and its a low-land forest hosting over 435 bird species including the Albertine Rift Endemics like Dwarf Honey Guide and Purple-breasted Sunbird. It also hosts limited range species like White-tailed Hornbill, Capuchin Babbler, Blue-headed Crested Flycatcher and Orange Weaver.

Most of the birding in the park occurs on nature walks around the forest fringed zones. These walks range from short -3 or 4 hours walks to long ones of over 6-8 hours. The area around Lake Albert; near by Rwangara is a place to spot the Shoebill Stork.


Kibale Forest National Park: Though its popularly known for the primate diversity and tracking safaris, Kibale is dominantly a tropical forested park whose bird-list notches over 350 species hence being a fine place to be for a birding safari in Uganda. It hosts a number of forest species, and a good count of Albertine rift endemics like Dusky Crimson-wing, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Collared Apalis and others while there are those specials to the park like the Green-breasted Pitta, African Pitta and others which can be seen on nature walks.

Close to Kibale forest is Bigodi wetland, a community project which acts as a wildlife corridor to the park. The wetland is a popular and rewarding spot for nature walks aimed at birding safaris and it has over 200 bird species. Popular species to find here include the Great Blue Turacos, Papyrus Gonolek, various species of Kingfishers, Hornbills among others.


The Green Breasted Pitta one of Kibale Forest Specials
                                                      Green Breasted Pitta in Kibale Forest


Murchison Falls National Park: The 3’840 sq.km park is Uganda’s largest national park with more than 450 bird species most of which are savanna species. The greater Murchison Falls conservation area has a diversity of eco-system i.e. tropical forested zones, savanna, wetlands zones and the Victoria Nile and each of these points has a greater appeal to birders. The Delta point where the Nile links with Lake Albert is a perfect spot for birders accessed on boat safaris down stream, and the key species to lookout for here is the Shoebill Stork while other species like African Fish Eagle, Egrets among others can be seen here.

The northern bank is usually browsed on safari drives and its a place most open savanna species can be seen. Common species which can be seen here include; Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Grey Crowned Crane, Denham’s Bustard and many more.

In the south of the park is Budongo Forest and trails through the forest reserve are perfect to see the forest variety. There are two top birding sections in this ironwood forest reserve; along the Royal Mile and in Kaniyo Pabidi and some of the special species to look out for here include the Puvel’s Illadopsis and Yellow-footed Flycatcher. There are over 350 species in Budongo including 10 of the Sudan-Guinea savanna biome and 60 which are regarded to be Central and West African species.


Bwindi Impenetrable forest:  A UNESCO site and accolade winning Park in 2012 (number 1 among Africa’s top birdwatching sites by the African Bird Club). Bwindi is a perfect site for birdwatching safaris in Uganda. This popular Gorilla park has various zones for birding and with more than 350 bird species most of which are forest species. The park has a remarkable count of the Albertine Rift Endemics, with a list of 23 species as well as 14 species which are restricted to Bwindi. Birding here is done on nature walks and the best spots are Mubwindi swamp, Munyanda and Ivi river trails.


Mabamba wetland: The wetland is located on the shores of Lake Victoria near Entebbe in Kasanjje. It is a Ramsar site covering an area of about 64sq.mi and its a premier Uganda birding site popular for its rewarding Shoebill Stork sightings. It is a species ardent birders never want to miss on any Birdwatching trip in Uganda and the site offers more chances than any other place in Uganda to spot this pre-historic looking bird in a natural setting.  Birding here is done on a motorized canoe paddled by a local skipper and professional bird guide.

Other sites which one on a core birding safari around Uganda may consider include; Lake Bisina in Eastern Uganda- which is a stronghold for the endemic Fox’s Weaver and swamp dwellers like the Shoebill and Papyrus Gonolek. Lugogo Swamp in Ziwa Rhino sanctuary, forest reserves like; Mpanga, Tooro-Semliki wildlife reserve and Mabira forest.

The mountain parks like Elgon, Rwenzori and Mgahinga  offer a setting to see low-land and highland species.

If you’re a birding enthusiast looking to plan a professional birding trip to East Africa and Uganda in particular, or if your love for birds is just developing, contact us and our expert will curate for you a perfect trip.