Birding in Northern Murchison Falls National Park

Birding in Northern Murchison Falls National Park

March 15, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

Are you looking for Birding in Northern Murchison Falls National Park? In Murchison Falls National Park, the northern region is located across the bridge on the route to the Pakwach neighbourhood. The Nile River, which rises at the top of the falls and flows down the Albert Delta before emptying into the Delta Point at Lake Albert, is another feature that divides the northern and southern regions of the park. This area has a wide variety of bird life, making it a sanctuary for avian enthusiasts. The opportunity to see a variety of bird species, such as savannah birds, water-associated birds, migratory birds, and other common and unique birds, will excite birdwatchers. For those who enjoy the outdoors, the northern section of Murchison Falls National Park has an abundance of thrilling activities to choose from, including boat excursions, game drives, trekking to the top of the falls, and nature walks, among others.
Murchison Falls National Park, located in the western region of Uganda, is a remarkable destination for bird enthusiasts. This vast park covers an area of 1,952 square kilometres and boasts diverse habitats, including woodland, savannah grasslands, and riverine forests. Here are some fascinating birds you can spot in the Northern Murchison Falls National Park:

Species to spot during birding in the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park

Savannah birds include:

Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius):

The secretary bird, with its striking ability, enables it to deal with pests and snakes.

Appearance: known for its long legs and crest of feathers on its head.
Habitat: Often seen striding through the savannah grasslands.

Black-bellied Bustard (Lissotis melanogaster):

Description: A ground-dwelling bird with beautiful plumage.
Habitat: Found in open grass areas.

Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus):

Appearance: A large wading bird with a bald head and massive bill.
Habitat: Often seen near water bodies.

Open-Billed Stork (Anastomus lameligerus):

Appearance: recognisable by its distinctive bill that doesn’t close completely.
Habitat: Found near rivers and swamps.

Grey-crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum):

Significance: Uganda’s national bird.
Behaviour: Known for elegant dance displays.

Yellow-Billed Stork (Mycteria ibis):

Appearance: A wadding bird with a striking yellow bill.
Habitat: Spotted near water sources.

Red-Throated Bee-Eater (Merops bulocki):

Description: Vibrant colours and distinctive call.
Behaviour: Often perched on branches.

African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer):

This majestic raptor is often seen perched near water bodies, scanning for fish. Its distinctive white head and powerful beak make it an iconic sight.
Listen for its melodious call, which resembles a loud, echoing cry.

Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis):

The Pied Kingfisher is a small, black-and-white bird with a prominent crest.
Watch as it hovers above water, then dives swiftly to catch fish.

Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus):

These oxpeckers are often found on large mammals like buffalo and giraffes.
They feed on ticks and other parasites, providing a helpful service to their hosts.

Red-throated Bee-eater (Merops bulocki):

Look for these vibrant birds with their iridescent green plumage and reddish throats.
They specialise in catching flying insects, including bees and dragonflies.

African Grey Hornbill (Tockus nasutus):

They are recognisable by their long, curved bills and striking black-and-white plumage.
They often move in pairs or small groups through the savannah.

Northern Carmine Bee-eater (Merops nubicus):

These bee-eaters are a visual delight with their bright carmine plumage.
They nest on riverbanks, digging burrows for their chicks.

Senegal Thick-Knee (Burhinus senegalensis):

The Senegal thick-knee gets its name from the swollen knee joint on its long yellowish legs.

Also known as the Senegal Dikkop, this bird has cryptic plumage that blends well with its surroundings.
It’s often active during twilight hours.

African Skimmer (Rynchops flavirostris):

Keep an eye out for these unique birds with their elongated lower mandibles.
They “skim” the water surface to catch fish.

White-crested Turaco (Tauraco leucolophus):

Spot this colourful turaco with its green body, red undertail, and striking white crest.
They are arboreal and often seen in forested areas.

Black-headed Gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster):

Look for this striking bird with its black head, red belly, and yellow underparts.
Their melodious calls echo through the savannah.
Remember to explore different habitats within the park, from riverbanks to woodland, to maximise your chances of encountering these avian wonders.

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill: This large ground-dwelling hornbill is commonly seen in the plain savanna grasslands. Males have a mix of blue and red bare facial skin, while females have entirely blue facial skin. They often move in pairs or small groups.
Black-headed Lapwing: These lapwings are frequently spotted in semi-arid and bushed plains. Look for their thin black crest and the black line down the centre of their breast. Others include the giant kingfisher, the giant heron, and others.

Occasional Sightings:

Shoebill: The prehistoric-looking shoebill stork is a rare treat. Although sightings are occasional, they are more likely during the dry season (January to March). Boat trips on the Victoria Nile towards the Lake Albert delta offer excellent opportunities for Shoebill sightings. Giant Kingfisher: Keep an eye out for this impressive kingfisher along the waterways.

Common Birds:

Grey Crowned Crane: Uganda’s national bird, the elegant grey crowned crane, is a common sight.
Senegal Thick-knee: These birds are often seen in the park. Their cryptic plumage helps them blend into their surroundings.

Other notable birds:

African Jacana: Known for its long toes, this bird gracefully walks on floating vegetation.
Black-billed Barbet: Look for its striking black bill and colourful plumage.
Blue-headed Coucal: Spot this secretive bird in thickets and grasslands.
Denham’s Bustard: These large ground birds are well-camouflaged.
Malachite Kingfisher: Their vibrant colours make them stand out near water bodies.
Palm-nut Vulture: Keep an eye on the skies for this distinctive vulture

Other activities to do in the northern part of Murchison Falls National Park after birding.

Game Drives:

Description: Game drives are the most popular activity in the park. Visitors can explore the wildlife and stunning landscapes while spotting various animals.

Best Time: Early mornings and late afternoons provide optimal lighting for photography.

Wildlife:

Expect to encounter numerous animal species along tracks like Buligi Circuit, Victoria Circuit, Queen Circuit, and Albert Circuit; all are spotting tracks of different bird species and animals such as elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, lions, Jackson’s hartebeests, patas monkeys, and many more.

Guides: Knowledgeable guides accompany you to enhance the experience.

Boat Safaris:

Description: Boat safaris along the Nile River offer a unique perspective of the park. You’ll witness wildlife congregating near the water, including hippos, crocodiles, and diverse bird species.

Murchison Falls (the world’s most powerful water falls). 

Uganda’s magnificent Murchison Falls is a place where the power of nature takes centre stage!

Note:

The boat ride takes you to the base of the mighty Murchison Falls, where the Nile forces its way through a narrow gorge—a spectacular sight!

Guided Walks:

Description: Explore the park on foot with experienced guides. Guided walks allow you to appreciate the smaller details of the ecosystem, such as flora, insects, and tracks.

Scenic Trails: Walk along the riverbanks or venture into the savanna for a closer look at nature.

Cultural Encounters:

Description: Interact with local communities near the park. Learn about their traditions, dances, and way of life.

Opportunities: Visit nearby villages, participate in cultural performances, and gain insights into Ugandan heritage.

Sport Fishing:

Description: The Nile River within the park offers excellent sport fishing opportunities. Catch nile perch, catfish, and tilapia.

Permits: Obtain a fishing permit and enjoy a relaxing day by the river.

Remember to respect the park’s rules and guidelines as immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Murchison Falls National Park!

When to do Birding in Northern Murchison Falls National Park

Birding in Murchison Falls National Park is a delightful experience, and the timing can significantly impact your sightings. Here’s when you can make the most of your bird-watching adventure:

January to March:

Best Time: This period is exceptional for birding. The birdlife is abundant, and the weather is pleasant.

Why: During these months, the park experiences a low tourist season, which means fewer crowds and more bird activity.

Rainfall: Expect minimal rain during this time.

Notable Birds: Keep an eye out for the prehistoric-looking shoebill stork, the Abyssinian ground hornbill, and various water-associated birds.
November to April:

Migratory Birds: This period hosts migratory birds. Their presence adds diversity to the avian population.

Boat Trips: Take a boat trip on the Victoria Nile towards the Lake Albert delta for guaranteed shoebill sightings and other water-loving birds.

December to February:

Least Rain: These months have the least rainfall, making it easier to explore the trails.

Scenic Beauty: The landscape is stunning during this time.

April to May and August to October:

Rainy Season: These months have the most rain.

Considerations: Heavy rains may lead to impassable roads and slippery trails, affecting your bird-watching time.

Essential items to pack on a birding safari in Northern Murchison Falls National Park

Remember to pack essentials like waterproof shoes, cameras, extra batteries, a water-proof jacket, a telescope, a drinking water bottle, mosquito repellent, a hat, long sleeves and pants, a backpack bag, sunglasses, a torch, binoculars, and a birding manual book.

Accommodation facilities in Murchision Falls National Park include:

Go beyond the lavish luxury rooms to the overall serene environment and experience the hotel provides.

There is a choice of lodges ranging from luxury, mid-range, and standard lodges such as Paraa Safari Lodge, Red Chill Rest Camp, Nile Safari Lodge, Baker’s Lodge, Pakuba Safari Lodge, Chobe Safari Lodge, Murchison River Lodge, Twiga Safari Lodge, and many more.

Remember, birding in Murchison Falls National Park can be enjoyed year-round, but the best time is during the dry season (January to March). The park also hosts migratory bird species from November to April, including those from the nearby Democratic Republic of the Congo forests. For birdwatching, explore areas like Budongo Forest, where approximately 360 bird species reside, including the endemic Yellow-footed Flycatcher and Puvel’s Illadopsis.