Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park

February 20, 2024
News Journeys Uganda

Why Queen Elizabeth National Park is classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) in Uganda? Queen Elizabeth National Park is situated in the southwestern part of Uganda. The park is also the most visited in Uganda given the different attractions and activities that take place in the park. Birding is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying experiences one ought not to miss while in Queen Elizabeth National Park, given the favorable conditions and factors such as the relief of the park, different vegetation types such as the tropical rain forests, acacia, and euphorbia bushes, and other breathtaking features such as lakes both salty and freshwater Lakes such as Lake Katwe, Nyamunuka, and Bunyampaka.  These are the factors that make Queen Elizabeth National Park a top habitat for numerous bird species hence a top birding spot in the region.

The park was classified as an Important Birding Area (IBA) by Birdlife International. It is the park that offers the largest bird checklist more than any protected area in East Africa and perhaps the entire world given the fact that it is home to over 600 different bird species, of which several are regarded as special and unique in the East African region. Central African bird species are also common in the park alongside the Albertine rift species and migratory species. The park established an observatory area in 1997. It was set aside majorly to observe and study resident and migratory bird species in the park.

Queen Elizabeth National Park offers some of the best birding experiences in Africa and should be the highlight of any African Safari. In the case of keen and avid birders, I have listed for you below the different species of birds found in the different sectors or settings in Queen Elizabeth National Park;

Kasenyi plains

This famous area is a must-see wildlife destination while on an African birding Safari. This is mainly because it is among the top habitats of the big African four out of the five hence one of the most perfect spots for big game viewing. Despite being among the best game viewing spots in the region, the Kasenyi plains are a birder’s paradise given the numerous bird species. The vegetation of the area is dominated by the savannah grasslands dotted with a few spaced trees. Some of the bird species that should be included on any birder’s checklist while in the Kasenyi Plains include; Black-headed and Chinspot Batis, Hooded Vulture, Palm-nut Vulture, Black-chested, Banded and Brown-snake Eagle, Lappet-faced Vulture, Bateleur, Martial Eagle, Double-toothed and Spot-flanked Barbet, African Crake, African-wattled Plover, Crowned Plover, Black-Bellied Bustard, Grey Kestrel, Hooded Vulture, Ruppell’s Griffon vulture, Walhberg’s Eagle, White-winged Widowbird, Southern Red Bishop, FLappet Lark, White-tailed Lark, Green-winged Pytilia, Quailfinch, Kittlitz’s Plover, Senegal Plover, Temminck’s Courser, Wing-snapping Cisticola, red-capped and Rufous-napped Lark, Black-Headed Gonolek, Zitting Cisticola, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, Croaking Cisticola, Black-crowned Tchagra, Grey-backed Fiscal, Grey-capped Warbler, Arrow-marked, and Back-Lored Babbler among others.

Black-headed Gonelek

Maramagambo Forest and the Environs

The forest is a habitat for over 60 bird species and is found in the Kicwamba escarpment in the western Rift Valley. The Marabigambo Forest covers a vast part of Queen Elizabeth National Park and a birding experience in this area which is usually carried out by trekking exposes birders to lakes like Kamunzuku and Nyamusingire which attract certain bird species and different primate species like chimpanzees and the loud Colobus Guereza among others. The different bird species usually seen around Marabigambo Forest and the environs include; the Marsh Tchagra, Brubru, Black Bishop, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Black Bee-Eater, Yellow-billed and Hairy-breasted Barbets, Black and Red-Shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, the forest-dwelling Blue-Throated Roller, Honeyguide Greenbul, Green Crombec, Black and White Shrike Flycatcher, Croaking Cisticola, Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Brown-eared Woodpecker, Chestnut-Wattle-eye, Black-headed and African Paradise flycatcher, Fan-tailed Grassbird, Western Black-headed Oriole, African Yellow Warbler, Siffling Cisticola, Blue-spotted and tambourine Dove, the lakes are a goods habitat to the Shining Blue Kingfisher among others.

The Mweya Peninsula

The Mweya Peninsula is a popular birding site in the Queen Elizabeth National Park and is located along the Kazinga natural channel which joins Lake George in the north to Edward in the southern part of the park and is popular for wading birds thus hosting large numbers of tourists. Different bird species that are found on this Peninsula include; the African Pygmy, Woodland and Grey-headed Kingfisher, Ring-necked, African Morning, Red-eyed and Laughing Dove, Grey Kestrel, African Fish Eagle, the winter visiting Peregrine Falcon, Little Bee-Eater, Red-Capped Lark, Nubian Woodpecker, Klaas’s and Diederik Cuckoo, Martins, Blue-Napped Mouse Bird, Swifts, Martins, Swallows, Pin-tailed Whydah, Black-headed Gonolek, Village, Golden-backed, Black-headed Lesser Masked Weaver, Slender-billed Weaver, Swamp Flycatcher, Red-chested Sunbird, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, with nocturnal species like the Squire-tailed, Black-shouldered, and Swamp Nightjar among others with the massive Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl.

Ishasha sector Birding

This unique sector of Queen Elizabeth National Park is popularly known and visited for its rare tree-climbing lions. The Ishasha sector is situated on the southwestern rim of Queen Elizabeth National Park in southwestern Uganda. The sector is also a habitat for some bird species in the park such as White-headed, Blue-spotted Wood-dove, Palm-nut Vultures, Hooded Vultures, Grey Kestrel, Yellow-throated Long-claw, Grey-capped Warbler, Plain-backed and African Pipit, Helmeted Guineafowl, the long-winged African Cuckoo-Hawk, Long-crested Eagle, Green Woodhoopoe, Black-bellied Bustard, Common Scimitarbill, Ross’s Turaco, Broad-Billed Roller, Crested, White-headed and Double-toothed Barbet, Woodland and Striped Kingfisher, Lesser and Greater honeyguide, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Banded and Brown snake Eagle, Grey-backed Fiscal, Northern and Green Crombec, Crimson-rumped, Common and Fawny-breasted Waxbill, Black Coucal, Brubru Stout, Zitting, Croaking, Siffling and trilling Cisticolas, African Grey-Hornbill, African Green Pigeon, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Violet-backed Starling among others.

Broad-billed Roller

Birding in the Katwe Area

The area is characterized by several small lakes such as Lake Munyanyange and swamps which make perfect habitats for the different bird species in the area. The bird species found in the area include; the popular Lesser and Greater Flamingos, Avocet, the winter visiting Pallid and Montagu’s Harrier, Great Painted Snipe, Common Greenshank, Curlew Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Southern Red Bishop, Moustached Grass Warbler, Little Stint, Gull-billed Tern, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, and a Croaking Cisticola among others.

Lake Kikorongo

The lake is known as the home of Waders which is another name for water birds. The Lake is an extension of Lake George. Commonly seen bird species around Lake Kikorongo include; the Saddle-billed Stork, African Jacana, White-faced Whistling Duck, Sacred Ibis, on rare occasions the Shoebill, Common Squacco Heron, Knob-billed Duck, Black Crake, Papyrus Gonolek, the seasonal Yellow Wagtail, Lesser and Greater Swamp Warblers, and the White-winged Warblers among others.

Katunguru Bridge Area

The Katunguru Bridge Area is found where you cross the Kazinga channel from the Kasese district to the Rubirizi district. Beneath the Katunguru Bridge Little and White-rumped Swifts breed there exits a swamp which is a habitat for different bird species such as the Gull-billed Tern, Reed Cormorant, Pink-backed Pelican, Malachite Kingfisher, Black-headed Weaver, Pied Kingfisher, the globally threatened Papyrus Gonolek, the machine gun calling Carruthers’s Cisticola, Lesser, and Greater Swamp Warblers, Little Bittern among others.

What essential items should tourists carry when going for Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park?

All avid birders interested in ticking their bird checklists from Queen Elizabeth National Park should remember to carry a few essential items to ensure a rewarding birding experience in this particular Game park. These include; A pair of Binoculars, which come along with a professional tour guide, a Birding vest/ pack (Which helps you carry all your equipment comfortably), comfortable footwear, a Brimmed hat, a Water Bottle, insect repellant, a notebook, and pen among others

On the whole, birding as a rewarding activity requires professionalism, passion, and skilled tour guides for a satisfying experience. Journeys Uganda offers some of the most successful bird watching Safaris in the region and birders are advised to book their bird watching Safaris with Journeys Uganda in time.

What is the best time to carry out Birding in Queen Elizabeth National Park?

First, bird watching in Queen Elizabeth National Park can be carried out throughout the year. The best time to visit the park and carry out birding is during the drier months of the year which are usually from late November to early March and June to August. During the wet seasons, some roads and trails get slippery and impassable.

How to get to Queen Elizabeth National Park?

The park can be accessed by either Air or Road means of transportation. By air, one can book a flight from either Entebbe International Airport or Kajjansi Airstrip which will fly to one of the nearest airfields in Kasese and this takes at most one hour. By road, it takes roughly 7-8 hours from Kampala the capital city of Uganda to Fort Portal, and is 410 km.

Where to get accommodation in and around Queen Elizabeth National Park?

The Park has a variety of accommodation facilities around it and these cater for both high-end luxurious, mid-range and budget tourists. Some of the notable accommodation Lodges for birders in Queen Elizabeth National Park include; Kyambura Game Lodge, Mweya Safari Lodge, Buffalo Safari Lodge, Park View Lodge,  Marafiki Safari Lodge, Elephant Plains, Kingfisher Lodge, Kyangabi, Pumba Safari Cottages all in the Northern and the southern sector has Ishasha Wilderness Camp, Ishasha Jungle Lodge, Embogo Lodge, the nearby Savannah Resort among others.