Birding in Kidepo Valley National Park

March 21, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

Kidepo Valley National Park is a hidden gem nestled in the northeastern corner of Uganda. Its rugged beauty, vast savannahs, and dramatic mountain ranges create an ideal habitat for a diverse avian population. Prepare to be serenaded by the calls, songs, and vibrant plumage of Kidepo’s feathered residents. With over 463 confirmed bird species (and a few that are sadly vigrant), Kidepo is a haven for birdwatchers and still a great reflection of African naturalness. Whether you’re a seasoned birder or a curious novice, the park offers something extraordinary. Keep your binoculars ready for rare sightings and delightful encounters. Kidepo’s birdlife spans from the plains to the mountains. Some stars of the show include the Ostrich, which is the world’s largest bird striding across the savanna; the Kori Bustard, which will make you Marvel at its impressive size and intricate plumage; White-bellied Go-away Bird: Listen to its distinctive call echoing through the acacia trees. Northern Carmine Bee-eater: Watch these jewel-toned birds darting after insects, Abyssinian Roller, the Red-billed Hornbill, known for its striking bill and playful antics; Jackson’s Hornbill, which is a master of camouflage in the treetops; the Black Coucal; and the Karamoja Apalis, which is a tiny gem with a melodious song and among the top 10 birds looked out for in Uganda.

Bird species found in Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo Valley National Park is a haven for birdwatchers, with an impressive bird list of more than 470 species—the second-highest population of any Ugandan reserve, following only Queen Elizabeth National Park. Here are some notable bird species found in Kidepo and their behavioural characteristics:

  • Dark Chanting Goshawk: Behaviour: This upright and bold stance perching raptor often seen perched on prominent high branches, scanning the ground for prey. Plumage: dark brown with striking yellow eyes and orange cere.
  • Kori Bustard: Behaviour: the largest Bustard and ground-dwelling bird known for its elaborate courtship displays. Plumage: Mottled brown and buff, with a distinctive black neckband.
  • Little Bee-eater: Behaviour: A colourful bird that hawks insects in flight. Plumage: bright green with a yellow throat and a slender curved bill.
  • Common Ostrich: Behaviour: The world’s largest bird is often seen running across the savanna.

Plumage: Mostly brown with long legs and a small head.

Common Ostritch in Kidepo
  • Red-and-Yellow Barbet: Behaviour: A noisy bird that excavates nest holes in tree trunks. Plumage: vibrant red, yellow, and black with beautiful white spots
  • Abyssinian Roller: Behaviour: A striking bird known for its acrobatic aerial displays during courtship.

Plumage: turquoise-blue with a chestnut crown.

  • Abyssinian Scimitar Bill: Behaviour:  bird that feeds on insects and small caterpillars, Plumage: Black with a curved bill.
  • Black-breasted Barbet: Behaviour: A solitary huge bird that feeds on fruits and insects. Plumage: black head, white throat, and a black breast.
Black-breasted Barbet one of the most sought after bird species in Kidepo Valley National Park
  • Chestnut Weaver: Behaviour: A skilled nest builder who weaves intricate nests from grass.

Plumage: chestnut-brown with a black face mask.

  • Karamoja Apalis (near-endemic): Behaviour: A small, elusive bird found in thickets and shrubs.

Plumage: greyish-brown with a distinctive white eye-ring.

  • Pygmy Falcon: Behaviour: A tiny raptor that preys on insects and small birds.

Plumage: pale grey with black markings.

  • Rose-ringed Parakeet: Behaviour: A noisy, social bird often seen in flocks.

Plumage: green with a distinctive rose-coloured ring around the neck.

  • Rufous Chatterer: Behaviour: A ground-dwelling bird that forages for insects and seeds.

Plumage: Rufous-brown with a white belly.

  • White-bellied Go-away Bird: Behaviour: Known for its loud, repetitive call that sounds like “go away.”

Plumage: greyish with a distinctive white belly.

Kidepo Valley NP is especially good for spotting raptors, with 56 species recorded.

Best Birding Sites in Kidepo Valley National Park

  1. Apoka Rest Camp:

Located at the park’s heart, Apoka Rest Camp offers excellent views of the Narus Valley. Settle in, grab your binoculars, and prepare to be amazed by the avian activity around you. Keep an eye out for these notable birds, such as the Dark Chanting Goshawk, D’Arnaud’s Barbet, Bruce’s Green Pigigeon, Denham’s Bustard, Little Bee-eater, Ostrich, and the Red-and-Yellow Barbet, the emerald green Rose-ringed Parakeet, Pale-Prinia, Northern-white Crowned Shrike, Superb Starling, Clapperton’s and Heuglin’s Spurfowl, Silverbird, Vitelline Masked Weaver and many more.

  1. Narus Valley:

The fringes of Narus Valley are a hotspot for birdwatching. As you explore, keep an eye out for unique species like the Green-wood Hoopoe, White-crested Turaco, Eastern Paradise Whydah, Red-winged Lark, Purple Grenadier, Three-streaked Tchagra,   Pearl Spotted Owlet, Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Boran and Red-pate Cisticola, Cut-throat Finch, Bruce’s Green Gideon, Shelley’s Rufous Sparrow, Chestnut-crowned Sparrow Weaver, Yellow-spotted Bush Sparrow, Silverbird, Pale and Africa Grey Flycatcher, Foxy, Pink-breasted and White-tailed Lark, Long-billed Pipit and many other special Somali habitat associated bird species.

White-crested Turaco
  1. Namamukweny Valley:

This valley is an astonishing bird-watching site. Look out for the striking Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, , the elegant white-crested Turaco, the Rufous Chatterer, Rock-loving Cisticola, Abyssinian and Lilac-breasted Roller,  Stone Partridge, Chestnut Weaver, White-headed, Red-billed and White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Grey-caped Social Weaver, Woodchat Shrike, Dark and Eastern Chanting Goshawk and many more.

  1. Morungole:

Worth hiking, Mt. Morungole offers both birdwatching and cultural encounters. At its summits, you’ll even find the fascinating IK people, adding a unique dimension to your experience. Keep an eye out for the Karamoja Apalis, the Pygmy Falcon, Desert and Tiny Cisticola, Red and Yellow Barbet, Black and Abyssinian Scimitarbill, Peregreen Falcon and the Rose-ringed Parakeet among other bird species.

  1. Lamoj Hills:

Perfect for game viewing, Lamoj Hills is where you might catch a glimpse of the elusive mountain reedbucks. Keep your binoculars handy—you never know what feathered surprises await. Such as Jackson’s and Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

Remember to listen to the rustling leaves, follow the calls, and let the birds guide your adventure. Kidepo Valley National Park is a symphony of wings and melodies.

What is the best time to go birding in Kidepo Valley National Park?

The best time for birding in Kidepo Valley National Park is mostly during the dry seasons as the roads off the tracks are not yet to standard and always very slippery, so consider the months of December, January, February to early march, June and August as the best for birding in Kidepo Valley National Park . The period from late September to early April migratory birds arrive, and the park’s avian population is most active. The lush greenery and pleasant weather make it an ideal time for birdwatching.

Why from March to April?

Migratory Birds: During these months, Kidepo welcomes a host of migratory birds. These feathered travellers journey from distant lands to escape harsh winters and find abundant food and nesting opportunities among which we have Wheatears, Pipits, Harriers, Bee-eaters, Rollers, Swallows, Flycatchers, Cuckoos among others

Breeding Season: March and April mark the breeding season for many bird species. The park comes alive with courtship displays, vibrant plumage, and melodious calls as birds vie for mates and establish territories.

Lush Vegetation: The wet season has transformed the landscape into lush greenery. Trees are in full leaf, flowers bloom, and insects thrive—providing ample sustenance for birds.

Ideal Birding Times

Early Mornings: Rise with the sun—the best birdwatching occurs during the first few hours after dawn. Birds are active, and the air is cool.

Late afternoons: As the day wanes, birds become active again. The sunset casts a warm glow on the savanna, creating magical moments for photography.

Birding Etiquette

Silence and Patience: Birds are sensitive to noise. Move quietly and avoid sudden movements. Patience pays off when waiting for that elusive species to reveal itself.

Binoculars and Field Guide: Essential Tools for Identifying Distant Birds. Familiarise yourself with field marks, calls, and behaviour.

Local Guides: Consider hiring a local birding guide. They know the park intimately and can spot hidden gems you might miss.