Best places to see Albertine Rift Endemic bird species in Uganda

Best places to see Albertine Rift Endemic bird species in Uganda

What are the best places to see Albertine Rift Endemic bird species in Uganda? Albertine Rift Endemic bird species can be described as birds whose range is confined to Montane forested habitats associated with the western rift valley escarpment which is found between the north of Lake Tanganyika in Tanzania and Lake Albert which also acts as a part of the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This area is known as the Albertine Rift and forms the western arm of the great East African Rift Valley. The western arm of the Great East African Rift Valley spans 5 countries: Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This part of the East African Rift Valley is extremely diverse hosting a variety of rare, endangered, and high-altitude species such as the highly social Golden Monkeys,  the gigantic and humble Mountain Gorillas, Grauer’s Broadbill, and the fascinating and shy Shelley’s Crimsonwing.

Shelley’s Crimsonwing

The Albertine Rift is home to many different animal species, especially the endangered and famous Mountain Gorillas which can only be found in the Virunga Conservation area and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Other primate species found in the area include the Rwenzori Lolobus, the endangered Golden Monkey, the jumpy Black and White Colobus, the Red-tailed monkey, the Blue Monkey, L’hoest’s Monkey and Vermins such as the Olive Baboons

Statistically, this area hosts 50 per cent of the bird species on the African continent. The Albertine Rift comprises 37 Albertine Rift Endemic bird species half of which are considered to be of global conservation concern.  All the 37 species have been recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, only 9 of these are endemic to the Democratic Republic of Congo

Over 20 Albertine Rift endemic bird species can be spotted in Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Only 2 of the Albertine Rift Endemics extend their range southwards to Tanzania. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda offers the best chances to spot Albertine Rift endemic bird species as all the 24 that occur in Uganda can be spotted in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, especially in the eastern sector of the park called Ruhija

These species also occur in some other key sites such as Mountain Rwenzori in Uganda where 17 Albertine Rift Endemic bird species can be spotted, the Mgahinga National Park where 14 Albertine Rift Endemic species occur such as the very shy Shelley’s Crimsonwing and the Echuya forest in southwestern Uganda with 12 Albertine Rift Endemic bird species.

Furthermore, Rwanda’s Nyungwe forest on the eastern escarpment is recommended for a unique birding experience of the Albertine Rift endemics. The forest offers an opportunity to observe several species that are difficult to locate or absent in Uganda. 29 Albertine Rift endemics occur in the Nyungwe forest such as the Kunga Apalis which also occurs in the Karamoja region, the unique Red-collared Mountain Babbler among others.

Chapin’s Flycatcher

Also, the Itombwe Mountains which rise from the Congolese shore of northern Lake Tanganyika contain the largest block montane forest which is home to over 565 bird species of which 31 are Albertine rift endemics and 3 of these species only occur here and nowhere else in the world such as the Congo Bay Owl which was classified as a living fossil and was first collected in 1952 and is currently present for avid birders to spot. The Albertine rift endemics share stronger relations with the extinct Asian genres than most of the species inhabiting the African continent.

Albertine Rift bird species occur in Uganda where they can be sighted.

Uganda is an ecotone which consists of 24 Albertine Rift endemic bird species and is mainly sighted in the South-Western part of Uganda in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Mgahinga National Park, Mountain Rwenzori, Echuya Forest and a few in Kibale National Park. The list below shows the Albertine Rift endemic bird species in Uganda, where they can be sighted and which ones are endangered. You should note that all these birds can be sighted in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Albertine Rift Species Scientific name of species  Where species can be best sighted Status of Speceis
Rwenzori Nightjar Caprimulgus Rwenzori Bwindi Ruhija and Mountain Rwenzori
Handsome Francolin Francolinus nobilis Bwindi Ruhija, Echuya Forest and Mountain Rwenzori
Chapin’s Flycatcher Muscicapa Lendu Bwindi Buhoma and the neck area, Mountain Rwenzori Endangered
Grauer’s Broadbill Psuedocalyptomena Bwindi Ruhija and the neck
Mountain Masked [ Black-faced] Apalis Apalis personata Bwindi, Mgahinga and Rwenzori Mountains
Rwenzori Apalis Apalis rwenzori Bwindi, Mgahinga, Echuya, Mountain Rwenzori and Kibale
Dwarf Honeyguide Indicator pumilio Bwindi Ruhija and the Neck area Endangered
Rwenzori Turaco Tauraco johnstoni Bwindi, Mgahinga, Mountain Rwenzori and Echuya forest
Archer’s Robin-chat Cossypha  archeri Bwindi, Echuya, Mgahinga and Mt Rwenzori
Red-throated Alethe Alethe poliophrys Bwindi, Echuya, and the Rwenzoris
Kivu Ground Thrush Zoothera tanganjicae Bwindi, Echuya, Mgahinga and Rwenzori Endangered
Nuemann’s Warbler Hemitesia neumanni Bwindi Buhoma forest rivers
Grauer’s Warbler Graueria vittata Bwindi Ruhija
Red-faced Woodland Warbler Phyloscopus laetus Bwindi, Mgahinga, Echuya, and Mt Rwenzori, Kibale
Grauer’s Rush Warbler Bradypterus grouri Bwindi, Echuya, Mgahinga and Mt Rwenzori
Rwenzori Batis Batis diops Bwindi, Echuya, Mgahinga and Mt Rwenzori
Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher Melaenornis ardesiascus Bwindi
Regal Sunbird Cinnyris regia Bwindi Ruhija and the neck area, Mgahinga, Echuya and Mt Rwenzori
Purple-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia purpureiventris Bwindi, Mgahinga, Echuya and Mt. Rwenzori.
Rwenzori Blue-headed Sunbird Nectarinia alinae Bwindi, Mgahinga and Mt Rwenzori
Strange Weaver Ploceus alienus Bwindi Ruhija, Echuya, Mgahinga and Mt Rwenzori
Shelley’s Crimsonwing Cryptospiza shelleyi Bwindi, Mgahinga and Mt. Rwenzori Endangered
Dusky Crimsonwing Cryptospiza Jacksoni Bwindi, Echuya, Mgahinga and Mt. Rwenzori
Stripe-breasted Tit Parus fasciiventer Bwindi Ruhija sector and Mgahinga
Grauer’s Broadbill in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

What is the best time to do birding with a focus on Albertine Rift Endemics in Uganda?

The best time to spot Albertine Rift endemics while in Uganda is from June, July and August as this is the breeding season for most of Albertine Rift Speceis

Recommended guidebooks for a Uganda Birding Safari.

Birds of East Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda by Terry Stevenson and John Fanshawe

Birds of Africa, south of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan

The Bradt Travel Guide Uganda by Phillip Briggs and Andrew Roberts