Best Places to do Birding in Uganda

Best Places to do Birding in Uganda

February 20, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

What are the best places to do birding in Uganda? Yes, Being the pearl of Africa, Uganda has a pleasantly warm and conducive tropical climate, which makes it one of the most eminent birding destinations in Africa. The diverse habitats in Uganda’s natural tropical rain forests, savannah grasslands, marshes, and water bodies make it a perfect home rich in various bird territories as well as harbouring 50% of Africa’s bird species.

Birding in Uganda offers an epic birding experience of the rare Shoebill stork, one of Africa’s most sought-after bird species, in the famous Mabamba wetland. Other popular and best places to do birding in Uganda include; Semliki Valley National Park (a true birders’ haven), Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Lake Mburo National Park, and Kibale National Park, among others.

Best Birding sites in Uganda

Mabamba wetland

The Mabamba Wetland covers an area of ​​16,500 hectares and is located in the western part of the Entebbe Peninsula, 53 km from the capital Kampala, on the shores of Lake Victoria. The wetland is a paradise for bird lovers and attracts various species of birds due to its numerous species of fish, such as lungfish, mudfish, nile perch, tilapia, and many more.

Mabamba wetland is the best place in Uganda to spot the elusive Shoebill stork and other unique bird species like Pied Kingfisher, Papyrus Gonolek, African Marsh Harrier, White-winged Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Village Weaver Saddle and African Open-billed Stork, Malachite Kingfisher, Rufous-bellied Heron, African Swamphen, Lesser and African Jacana, Allen’s Gallinule, and many others.

This famous wetland has various birding trails, of which Nkima Forest is the most popular. It is located about 2 kilometres from the main Mabamba landing site and provides a valuable forest bird experience closer to the wetland.

The cost of bird watching in Mabamba Wetland depends on the number of days. A bird watching day trip to Mabamba costs $210 for a single birder, $128 per person for two people, $100 per person for a group of three, and the discount continues as the number of birders increases.

This White-bellied Crested Flycatcher is commonly found in the dense forest of  Bwindi Impenetrable Forest along the Buhoma section.

Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

In the southwest of Uganda, on the border with the Democratic Republic of the Congo, lies this magnificent, ever-green, lush forest of Bwindi on the edge of the Great East Africa Rift Valley. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park covers an area of about ​​32,000 hectares and is over 540 km from Kampala. It is known for its unique diversity. Its mist-shrouded slopes are covered with biologically diverse rainforests home to over 357 bird species such as Black Bee-eater, Collared Apalis, Mountain Oriole, Doherty’s bush strike, Grauer’s Broadbill, Western Bar-tailed Trogon, Black-billed Turaco, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Evergreen Forst, and Cinnamon Bracken Warbler among others.

Bird watching in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is generally done along the main trails, Buhoma main Trail, Mubwindi Swamp Trail, and Ruhija Bamboo Area. However, on a lucky day while in Bwindi you can come across other forest species such as the giant mountain Gorillas, Forest Elephants, Duikers and others

Lake Mburo National Park

The Saddle-billed Stork lunge it’s prey.

In western Uganda along Masaka-Mbarara road about 229km, lies the impressive Lake Mburo national Park, one of the best bird watching sites in Uganda. The Park is not only home to many zebras but also about 351 bird species, making it one of the top bird watching spots in Uganda. The park is the only one in Uganda where you can go on a horse safari and spot some species of birds during the ride. Bird species in Lake Mburo National Park include: African-wattled Lapwing, Nubian Woodpecker, Saddle-billed Stork, Trilling, Croaking and Tabora Cisticola,  other special birds of Lake Mburo include the Red-Faced Barbet which is endemic to East Africa, Black-collared, Crested and Spot-flanked Barbets, the intra African migrating Brown-chested Lapwing, Crowned, Wattled and Senegal Lapwings, Northern and Southern Black Flycatcher, the route from Rwakaobo Rock is nice for the Slate-coloured Boubou, some eagles like Bateleur and Wahlberg’s, Wahlberg’s Honeybird, Black Cuckoo-shrike, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, White-winged Black-Tit, Little Bee-eater, Wattled Starling, Emerald-spotted Wood-dove, Meyer’s Parrot, Thick-billed Cuckoo, the boat on Lake Mburo will always offer great views of the African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron and Giant Kingfisher and many more.

Semliki National Park

The beautiful colored Regal-Sunbird in Semliki Valley National Park.

This park is located in the western part of Uganda, in Bundibugyo district, on the border between Uganda and Democratic Republic of Congo. Semliki National Park lies at the foot of the Semliki Valley in the isolated western part of Rwenzori, the only region in East Africa with true lowland rainforest, rich in African biodiversity of flora and fauna.

It is one of the most popular bird watching destinations in Uganda, an extension of the  Ituri Forest with over 441 species of birds, including a few endemic species of the Albertine Rift, 35 forest biomes of Guinea-Congo, forest species and interesting species of birds such as the Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Black-casqued  Hornbill, Eastern Long-tailed Hornbill, the Dwarf and Eastern Little Hornbills, Yellow-throated Cuckoo, African Piculet, Yellow- Spotted Nicator, White-bellied Kingfisher, Yellow-footed Flycatcher, White-thighed, Pipping and Congor Pied Hornbill, Spot- breasted Ibis, Blue-billed, Red-bellied and Crested Malimbe, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, the Waxbill looking Pale-fronted and Chestnut-breasted  Nigrita and many others.

The birders’ paradise of Semliki National Park has various bird watching trails including Sempaya Nature Trail in Ntandi, Semliki River, Kirumila Trail and along the road where various species of birds can easily be spotted.

The African Fish Eagle with an exceptional sight in Murchison Falls National Park.

Murchison Falls National Park

It is Uganda’s largest national park located about 305km north-west of Kampala. The park takes its name from the mighty Murchison Falls which was named by Sir Samuel Baker in company of his wife Florence after the President of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS), where large volumes of Nile water are forced through a narrow, 7 meters wide gorge before falling approximately 45 meters downstream, hence the most spectacular nd powerful waterfall in the world.

 Around 451 species of birds have been recorded in Murchison Falls National Park, which are best spotted on a safari birding drive mostly done on the northern bank of the Park or on a boat trip to the base of the falls at Victoria Nile and to the Nile Delta. Murchison has a blessing of excellent forest birding done in the southern sector of Budongo – Royal Mile and Busingiro areas then the kaniyo Pabidi section very popular for the Puvel’s Illadopsis Bird species in Murchison Falls National Park include: Goliath Heron, Swamp Flycatcher, African Fish Eagle, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Bee-eater, Northern Red Bishop, Senegal Thick-knee, African Quail, Giant Kingfisher, Pel’s Fishing Owl, Dark-chanting Goshawk, Red-throated, Northern Carmine and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater and many others.

Some of the most popular bird watching trails in Murchison Falls National Park include the Budongo forest nature walk, nature walk to the top of the falls, the guided nature walks along the Nile and the boat ride that will make a memorable birding experience that exposes you to the Rock Pratincoles and Shoebill Storks.

Queen Elizabeth National Park

The Malachite Kingfisher in Queen Elizabeth National Park, well known for it’s monocular vision in air and binocular in water.

This park is located along Mbarara-Kasese high way about 373km from Kampala. It is one of Uganda’s most visited national parks and is home to many species of  birds. With over 600 bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the best places for birders to spot even the rare bird species on a safari along the magnificent Kazinga Channel.

Bird species in Queen Elizabeth National Park include; Black-headed Gonolek, African Skimmer, Wing-snapping, Croaking, Zitting, Short-winged and Stout Cisticola, flocks Red-billed Queleas and White-winged Widowbird, Southern and Black-winged Red Bishop, White-headed and Spot-flanked Barbet, Pin-tailed Whydah, Moustached Grass-Warbler, Fan-tailed Grassbird, African and Greater-painted Snipe, Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Scaly, Crested and Red-necked Spurfowl, African crake, Grey-headed Kingfisher, Red-chested, Variable, Mariqua, Copper and Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Verreaux’s Eagle-owl, Gull-billed Tern among others.

Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

The Rwenzori Turaco is an herbivorous bird, a native to the Albertine Rift montane forests.

The park is located in Kisoro district southwestern Uganda and covers an area of approximately 13.1square miles. In addition to its small size, it is one of the natural habitats of the spectacular, endangered giant mountain gorillas, with over 184 species of birds. In addition to bird watching, tourists can also participate in gorilla tracking with Nyakagezi and Hirwa Gorilla families. Bird species in Mgahinga Gorilla National Park include; White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, Bronze sunbird, Cape Robin, White-star Akalat, Rwenzori Turaco, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Handsome Spurfowl, Ruwenzori Turaco, Shelley’s and Dusky Crimsonwing, Archer’s Ground Robin-chat, Lagden’s and Doherty’s Bushshrike, Malachite Sunbird, Kivu Ground Thrush and many more.

The Narina Trogon from Kibale National Park is native to forests and woodlands of Afro-tropics.

Kibale National Park.

Kibale National Park, an evergreen forest, is located in western Uganda, south of Fortportal in Kabarole District, about 348 km from Kampala. It covers over 766 square kilometers of spectacular and attractive landscapes interspersed with lowland and montane forests. It is home to more than 375 bird species, six of these bird species are endemic to the region. In addition to being a popular home for primates, the park is also one of the most prominent bird watching destinations in Uganda and the second most popular attraction for tourists visiting the primate capital of the world.

In addition to chimpanzee safaris, the forested nature of the park that provides shelter is probably the reason for the presence of such a large number of bird species such as the Lowland Masked Apalis, Narina Trogon, Red-chested Owlet, Green-throated Sunbird, Crowned-hawk Eagle, Black Bee-eater, Sooty Flycatcher, many chances of the White-napped and Afep Pigeon, Blue-throated Roller Gray-throated Flycatcher, African Pitta was recorded in July 2023 and of course here lies the biggest chances of the Green-breasted Pitta whos hunt always starts at around 6:30 am since it is the most active time for its display call and others.

Best time to visit Uganda for a bird watching Safari in Kibale forest for the Green Breasted Pitta

Birding in Uganda is relatively possible all year round, although it varies from each park, your wishlist and luck. However, the best time to visit Uganda for a bird watching safari is during the rainy season when birds are most active which starts from March to May and September to November.

In addition to the famous and wonderful bird watching areas mentioned above, most of which are wildlife parks, they also offer other incredible tourist activities such as game drives, cultural safaris, nature walks, gorilla tracking, primate tracking, hiking and other safari activities that can spice up a traveler’s safari to the Pearl of Africa. This gives tourists an opportunity to enjoy the spectacular and unforgettable nature experiences accompanied with thrilling beautiful sceneries. Therefore, Uganda continues to be at the forefront with other bird watching destinations including: Kidepo Valley National Park, Rwenzori National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Lake Bunyonyi and others.

For detailed itineraries of these attractions, please contact us at Journeys Uganda via email.