Bird Watching in Uganda – Price and Cost of birding in Uganda
Bird watching in Uganda requires adequate preparation and staying out for many hours, some areas (such as Mount Elgon, Rwenzori Mountains, Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks) requiring reasonable level of fitness for hiking while others will require boat cruises/rides hence spicing up your birding experiences.
There are over 1060 bird species in Uganda, making up 10% of the World’s total bird species and about 60% of Africa’s total recorded bird species. It is also in Uganda that you will encounter 24 Albertine Rift endemic bird species that also occupy areas of Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. For Uganda, bird watching takes place within the Protected Areas, Urban Centers, private areas and even at the comfort of your backyard although the habitats with numerous species are rainforests, savannah grasslands, Papyrus swamps and wetlands, woodlands, Agricultural lands, the Afro-pine moorland and Rocky Ridges among others.
Top bird watching areas in Uganda
There are many places in Uganda you can visit for Bird watching tours but 33 are currently recognized as Important Bird Areas. However, the best with numerous and outstanding species include;
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is marked by varied habitats that shelter over 350 bird species including 23 of the 24 Albertine Rift endemic bird species. Views of African blue flycatchers, handsome francolin, blue-headed sunbirds, short-tailed warblers, Emerald Cuckoo, red-headed bluebills, Rwenzori batis, strange weavers and Kivu ground thrush should be expected during bird watching in this Park. The most popular places are the Bamboo zone, Buhoma waterfall trail, Mubwindi swamp trail in Ruhija and many others.
Situated on the fringes of Lake Victoria, Mabamba Swamp is one of the Ramsar Sites and Important Bird Areas in the country with over 300 bird species including the globally threatened species such as shoebill storks. Also expect 7 of the country’s 12 Lake Victoria Biome restricted species especially Papyrus Gonolek. Other birds in this Swamp are yellow-backed weavers, Glossy Ibis, speckled mousebirds, Blue swallow, Spur-winged Lapwing, Hammerkop, Great white pelicans. Brown parrots, Goliath herons, Yellow-backed weavers, Eastern grey plantain eater, Grey woodpecker and many others.
Queen Elizabeth National Park
Situated in western Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park is another Important Bird Area in Uganda with numerous habitats that offer shelter to more than 600 bird species. This Protected Area’s confluence of forest and savannah connecting to the extensive forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo make it possible for birders to spot several East and Central African bird species. Expect forest, aquatic, woodland, wetland and grassland species including shoebill storks, Papyrus canary, Verreaux’s Eagle Owls, Bar-tailed Godwit, White-winged warblers, lesser and greater flamingos and many others.
Murchison falls National Park
Game drives, Launch Cruises and walking safaris in Murchison falls National Park reward bird watchers with the opportunity of encountering over 450 bird species that include Albertine Rift endemics, forest, woodland and water bird species. The shoebill stork is the most sought-after bird in this Park although black-bellied bustards, secretary birds. Giant and malachite kingfishers, African fish eagles, Hammerkop and grey heron among others.
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
With over 115 bird species in the southwestern based Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, the gorge between Sabyinyo and Gahinga Volcanoes, through the lush bamboo forest and montane forest offer unforgettable bird watching opportunities in Uganda. Rwenzori batis, Kivu ground thrush, Red-faced woodland warblers, Bronze sunbirds, Banded Prinia, Cape Robinchat, Doherty’s Bushshrike, Black-headed waxbills and Olive thrush are some of the commonly spotted bird species in the country’s smallest National Park.
Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is another excellent bird watching spot in Uganda with over 350 bird species spotted in the swampy valleys, salt licks, Rubanga forest and areas of Rwonyo Camp as well as the Lake Mburo jetty. Common species are the shoebill storks, African fish eagles, White-winged Tit, Emerald-spotted wood-dove, Rufuous-bellied herons and red-headed lovebirds among others.
Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park shelters over 375 bird species including the rare and sought-after Green-breasted pitta alongside Hairy-breasted barbets, yellow-billed barbets and Black-crowned waxbills among others. Most Bird watching tours in this Park begin by 7:00am from Kanyanchu Visitor Center.
Semliki National Park
For visitors looking for exceptional forest bird species, Semliki National Park is the best place with over 350 bird species. The areas of Ntandi, Lake Albert shores, Kirumia River and Sempaya are known for their excellent experiences. Expect sights and sounds of Piping hornbills, shoebill storks, yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue Turacos, Red-billed Dwarf hornbills and many others.
Kidepo Valley National Park
You can’t talk of bird watching in Uganda without mentioning Kidepo Valley National Park for its 475 bird species, with bird watching tours beginning in Apoka Rest Camp. Areas such as Ridges of the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys are known for offer unforgettable bird watching experiences with Clapperton’s francolin, Purple herons, Karamoja Apalis, Abyssinian Roller and many others being common.
More riveting and unforgettable bird watching experiences can be achieved from Mount Elgon National Park, Echuya Forest, Mpanga and Mabira forests, Kalinzu forest, Nyamuriro Swamp, Maramagambo forest, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Pian Upe Wildlife Reserve, Budongo forest, Katonga Wildlife Reserve and many others.
Packing list for Bird watching in Uganda
The essentials for any bird watching tour in Uganda include Bird guidebook, sunscreen, convertible safari pants of neutral colors, lightweight rain jacket, waterproof hiking boots, hats, gardening gloves, scarf, good pair of binoculars, notebook and pen, first aid kit (with anti-malarial tablets, anti-diarrheal meds, plasters, and many others), camera, flashlight, toiletries (such as toothbrush, sanitary towels for female travellers, toothpaste, lip gloss, hand sanitizer, wet wipes, deodorant and lotion), insect repellant and many others.
Best time for Bird watching in Uganda
Bird watching in Uganda is conducted all through the day but the best time of the day to sight and hear them is the morning hours (between dawn and 10am) when they are most active. When it comes to months, March to May and October are perfect for spotting migratory bird species.