Birdwatching in Uganda

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Explore Uganda’s Birdlife on an Exceptional Birdwatching Safari. Visit Uganda’s top Birding Sites

For those seeking an exceptional birding safari in Africa, a Uganda birdwatching safari or tour is worthwhile. Uganda is a small landlocked nation but stunningly beautiful and proclaimed as the “Pearl of Africa”. At about 241’, it’s 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, tropical, savanna, rare and endemic species among others. So these may be some to consider on the bird-list or itinerary of a birding enthusiast in Uganda.

A number of attributes make Uganda a great birdwatching safari destination. It has some of the most remarkable avian sites on the African continent as well as some interesting bird species. The Pre-historic looking Shoebill Stork, African Green Broadbill, Great Blue Turaco, Shelley’s Crimson-wing and Standard-winged Nightjar are some of them.


Some of the attributes making birdlife in Uganda flourish and a birders success story, include;

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

The best spots for birding safaris in Uganda would be around its tropical forests and savanna national parks. To add on would be some wetlands. Specialist birdwatching safaris through Uganda’s western tourism circuit routinely notch up an incredible tally of about 400+ species within 14 days. But the budding beginners to semi-professionals might reasonably aim for a 200 tally within the same time on a single birdwatching Uganda safari.

The Hamerkop birding safaris by ATW Holidays Africa
The Hamerkop – Birding in Uganda
Some Places to consider for a Birdwatching safari in Uganda 

Due to its birdlife abundance, birding is possible almost everywhere in Uganda but there are notable sites that definitely must not miss out on any Uganda birdwatching itinerary. Various regions across the country have their share of avian life but below we briefly highlight some places to consider.


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. This makes 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 Birdlife International. Its recorded bird count is over 600 species, a number that’s greater than any of East Africa’s protected area. Birding in Uganda’s 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.

Yellow Billed Stork in Queen Elizabeth National Park
Yellow Billed Stork along Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth


Semliki National Park:

The 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 Uganda’s Semliki national 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.


Murchison Falls National Park:

The 3’840 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 birdwatching activities 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.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Murchison Falls ATW Holidays Africa
Abyssinian Ground Hornbill in Murchison Falls National Park

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 Uganda’s premier 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 birdwatching trip to East Africa and Uganda in particular, or if your love for birds is just developing, contact us and our travel expert will curate with you a perfect Uganda birdwatching trip.