Bird Watching in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Bird Watching in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Are you looking for excellent bird watching trip in Nyungwe Forest National Park Rwanda? Nyungwe forest is a lush green tropical forest in Nyungwe Forest National Park which is one of the four national parks in Rwanda. The captivating natural wonder is located in southwestern Rwanda near the border with Burundi. The park contains one of the oldest rainforests in Africa that covers an impressive 1019 square kilometres. It is a mountainous region teaming with diverse wildlife such as a variety of avian species including the Archer’s Robin-chat, Kungwe Apalis, Rwenzori Turaco, Regal Sunbird, Rwenzori Apalis and Batis, the distinctive tricoloured Red-collared Mountain-Babbler, the rare Albertine Olwlet and the Dusky Crimsonwing among others, and over 12 primate species like Chimpanzees, Congo Pied Colobus and L’hoest’s Monkey. The park has a lush expanse of Afromontane forests, grasslands, wetlands and bamboo-covered slopes. It also feeds two of the largest rivers in the world which are River Congo and River Nile. Given its rich ecosystem, the park is home to 275 bird species, 1068 plant species, 85 mammal species and a variety of reptiles and amphibians making it a biodiversity hotspot.

The dense canopy shelters a vibrant ecosystem making the forest a birding paradise. The park is an exhilarating adventure for bird enthusiasts visiting Africa. It boasts of a rich bird diversity that inhabits a staggering 278 bird species. 26 of these species are Albertine rift endemics including rarities like the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler mostly found inaccessible swamps.

Archer’s Robin-Chat one of the endemics to the Albertine Rift

The park was considered an Important Birding Area (IBA). The Nyungwe forest is a dense forest whose birds are not easy to see since most of them like to stay on top of the canopy. There are places in the park that are excellent for bird watching for example the Kamiranzovu swamp, the Bigugu mountain, the Gisakura Tea estate and the Karamba area near Gasikura.

Birding Trails in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park offers many birding trails that will let you immerse yourself in the captivating avian life of this unique montane forest. Whether one is a curious beginner or an avid birder, the trails in Nyungwe Forest promise exciting encounters with unique bird species. Some of the notable birding trails in the national park are:

  1. Karamba Trail:

Karamba trail is 4 km long and is located in the western part of Nyungwe Forest National Park. This trail is relatively flat and open since it was historically a centre of trade and mining, influencing its current landscape. This landscape makes it easier for bird watching while in the park. While at the Karamba trail, keep an eye out for the enchanting Blue-headed Sunbird, Archer’s Robin-Chat, and Yellow-eyed Black Flycatchers. The red wings of the Great Blue Turaco may also grace your view along this trail.

  1. Bigugu Trail:

This trail is a challenging 13 kilometres long and takes approximately 6 hours to be completed. It leads to the highest peak of Nyungwe, which is 2950 meters above sea level. The Bigugu trail is strenuous as it is steep and demanding especially during the wet season when it gets muddy and slippery. Despite the strenuous nature of the trail, it offers a chance to spot the elusive Red-collared Mountain-Babbler– a highlight for birders. – Other commonly spotted species include the Chestnut Owlet which is a small Owlet that roosts in tree hollows, and the tiny Stripe-breasted Tit which is an active bird that flits through the branches among others.

  1. Kamiranzovu Trail:

The Kamiranzovu trail is approximately 6 kilometres and it provides plant and wildlife experiences. The trail winds through swampy areas at higher altitudes. Along the Kamiranzovu trail, look out for the endemic Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, pairs of the majestic Great Blue Turaco, the striking Grey-crested Kakamega and the elusive Short-tailed Warbler usually spotted flitting among the vegetation.

Grauer’s Swamp Warbler in Nyungwe Forest

Bird Species in Nyungwe National Park

Nyungwe Forest National Park in Rwanda is a haven for bird watchers that offers a rich diversity of bird species. Some of the fascinating avian species you can encounter in this lush forest: are the social Rwenzori Hill Babbler which are often seen in small  groups hopping around the forest floor, the melodious Archer’s Robin-Chat often found in the understory, the tiny and olive green Kungwe Apalis which is an Albertine Rift endemic often flitting among the leaves, the colourful Western Bar-tailed Trogon which is a forest dweller with distinctive calls, the small Dwarf Honey Guide which has a fascinating relationship with Honey badgers, the Mountain Masked Apalis which loves the forest canopy, the beautiful Great Blue Turaco, Blue-headed Sunbird often seen near flowering plants, Purple-breasted Sunbird, the elusive Nuemann’s Warbler usually identified by their distinctive markings, the rare and colourful Dusky Crimson Wing, the melodious Eastern Mountain Greenbul, Chin Spot Batis, Albertine Owlet, the small Rwenzori Batis often found in the forest canopy and the melodious and ground-dwelling Kivu Ground Thrush among others.

Requirements for Birding in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Birding permit: Bird watching in Nyungwe Forest National Park requires visitors to get a birding permit. This permit is applied for online through the Rwanda Development Board. Alternatively, one can use an authorised tour operator like Journeys Uganda which will assist in the process.

Valid passport: Ensure you have a valid copy of your passport.

What to carry for bird watching in Nyungwe Forest National Park?

  • Our intrepid and keen guide Paul Tamwenya on the lookout

    Binoculars: A good pair of binoculars is crucial for spotting birds high up in the canopy.

  • A field guidebook: Visitors should consider carrying field guidebooks to help them identify species for example The Birds of East Africa and The Bradt Guide among others.
  • Hiking shoes: Sturdy footwear is essential for trekking through the forest.
  • Camera: Capture those beautiful bird moments
  • Professional Guide: Book an experienced and knowledgeable birding guide who is keen enough to identify birds by their calls and songs. Journeys Uganda has the best birding guides in East Africa such as Paul Tamwenya.
  • Snacks and water: Stay hydrated and energized during your birding excursions.
  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Hat
  • Sun glasses
  • Medication

What is the best time to go birding in Nyungwe Forest National Park?

Birding in the Nyungwe forest is excellent throughout the year. However, the perfect time to go birding in Nyungwe is from March to May. This is because during this period it is when birds are more vocal, others are actively breeding hence they are more active and visible, and also several migratory birds appear during this time such as the Eurasian and pale-arctic migrants.