Best Birding spots in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park

March 28, 2022
News Journeys Uganda

Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park is an incredible treat as this is Uganda’s most popular and highly visited with about 612 bird species recorded making it possibly the highest number of bird species any Protected park in Africa, if not the entire world, and a truly remarkable figure for a reserve that is relatively small by continental standards. In addition to over 50 raptors, the checklist includes virtually every water bird that is resident in Uganda, and a variety of woodland and forest bird species, this bird species diversity can be accounted for by the various habitats that range from grasslands to wooded savannah supported be numerous mashes to lowland forests. Most of the bird species in Queen Elizabeth National Park are famous and almost a must see for anyone doing a bird watching safari in Africa! The most important areas to do bird watching in Queen Elizabeth National Park include; The Kasenyi Plains, Immaramangambo forest, the Mweya peninsula, Birding the road from Mweya Park Headquarters to Ishasha, Ishasha sector, the Kazinga Channel, Lake kikorongo and the Katunguru bridge area

Best Birding spots in Queen Elizabeth National Park

Birding the Kasenyi Plains: Stretching east from the Kasese road towards Lake George, the Kasenyi plains probably supports the largest concentration of game and grassland birds than anywhere in Queen Elizabeth National Park, and a very different selection of species from those most frequently observed around Mweya. In this open, grassy area dominated by savannahs grasslands and a few acacias, we always find species like the: Ruppell’s Griffon, Lappet-faced, Hooded, African White-backed Palm-nut and White-headed Vulture, Martial and Wahlberg’s Eagle, Black-breasted, Banded and Brown Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Long-crested Eagle, Grey Kestrel, African Crake, Black-bellied Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, Crowned, Kittlitz’s, Caspian,  African-wattled Senegal Plover, Red-capped, Rufous-napped, Flappet Lark and White-tailed Lark, Brown-backed and White-browed Scrub-Robin, Zitting, Wing-snapping and Croaking Cisticola, White-browed Coucal, Arrow-marked and Black-lored Babbler, Grey-capped Warbler, Grey-backed Fiscal, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Black-headed Gonolek, Holub’s, Little, Lesser-masked, Village and Black-headed Weaver, Harlequin Quail, Blue Quail, Small (Common) Buttonquail, Black-crowned Tchagra, Fork-tailed Drongo Common, Fawn-breasted and Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Cinnamon-breasted Rock and Golden Breasted Bunting, African Firefinch the very shy Clack-chinned Quail-Finch, Black-winged Pratincole and Pin-tailed Whydah among others.

The Mweya Peninsula: This site is between the Kazinga Channel and Lake Edward where most tourists are based in Queen Elizabeth National Park. The Mweya peninsula is a roughly 10km2 wedge of hilly land connected to the mainland by a narrow natural strip little wider than the road that traverses it. With outstanding views across the channel to the glacial peaks of Mount Rwenzori on the rare occasions when they are not blanketed in clouds the peninsular has a good network of game-viewing roads that run till the main Kasese road north of the channel giving us chances and access to birds including the Blue-spotted, Ring-necked, Laughing and African Mourning Dove, Diederik Cuckoo, there have been recent records of the Crested Barbet, Speckled and Blue-naped Mouse, Green-winged Pytilia, Nubian Woodpecker, Grey-Headed and Pygmy Kingfisher, Red-chested Cuckoo, Golden-backed, Slender-billed and Spectacled Weaver,  Little Bee-eater, Black and Brown-crowned Tchagra, Black-headed Batis, Pin-tailed Whydah, Grey-capped Warbler, Swamp Flycatcher, Scarlet-chested, Variable, Mariqua, Purple-banded and Red-tested Sunbird, Black-headed Gonolek, Band Swallow, Swifts, and in the night there are many chances of the Black-shouldered, Squire-tailed and Swamp Nightjar, the Bat Hawk is likely as the bats fly out to forage as dusk.

Immaramagambo Forest and the Kyambura Gorge: Immaramagambo forest covers a big part of Queen Elizabeth National Park along the Kicwamba escarpment close the Eastern wall of the Western arm of the Albertine Rift valley. For committed bird watchers, the most rewarding walk is likely to be the longer loop around the back of Lake Nyamasingiri, which typically takes half a day if lucky to complete, and offers the opportunities to seek out rarities and Skulking species like the Brown and Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, Snowy-crowned Robin-chat,  Chestnut Wattle-eye, the confusing hybridized African Paradise Flycatcher,. Along the lake we have had greater views of the dark blue capped Shining-blue Kingfisher, the secretive African Finfoot, Little Grebe among others The forest interior and edges host the Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller, Black Bee-eater, Red-chested Cuckoo, African Emerald, Klaas’s, Black and African Emerald Cuckoo, Yellow bill, Yellow-billed and Hairy-breasted Barbet, Red-capped and Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, Crested Guinea-fowl  White-breasted Negrofinch, Elliot’s and Brown-eared Woodpecker, Green Crombec, Honey guide Greybull, the main road to the forest is dominated by wounded savannahs with patches of grasslands and will have Black-and-white Shrike Flycatcher, the Red-shouldered Cuckoo-shrike, Broad-tailed Grassland, Grassland Moustached, Grey-capped and Dark-capped Yellow-Warbler, Trilling, Siffling and Croaking Cisticola, Black-headed Batis, Western Black-headed Oriole, Brubru, Black-crowned, Brown-crowned and Marsh Tchagra, Sulphur-breasted Bush-shrike, Southern Red and Black Bishop, Red-collared and White-winged Widowbird,  the African Crake always spends time feeding on the road, Red-necked Spurfowl, White-headed and Double Toothed Barbet, Black Coucal and many more.

Katwe Area: In this area, there are several salty crater lakes and swamps and the birdlife can be spectacular: most notably the large flocks of Lesser Flamingo and a few Greater ones that amass seasonally on the crater lakes, together with a wide selection of waders including the Pied Avocet, Common Greenshank, Three-banded, Little and Common Ringed Plover, Little Stint, Common, Wood and Curlew Sandpiper, Grey-headed and Lesser Black-backed Gull, Whiskered and Gull-billed Tern, a few migrating Palearctic raptors like the Eurasian Mash, Montagu’s and Pallid Harrier, Many swifts and Swallows among the many bird species.

Birding the Ishasha Sector in Uganda: The remote Ishasha plains are a stretch of about 70 km from the main park headquarters to the southwest of Queen Elizabeth National Park, despite being very popular for its rare tree-climbing lions, the sector is home to a good Species of birds some of which have already been mentioned and these include: The area to the Edward flats has records of the Shoebill Stork while the vast savannahs host the Double-toothed and White-headed Barbet, Lesser and Greater Honey guide,, African Pendilne-Tit, Red-faced and Northern Crombec, Common Scimitarbill, Red-billed Wood-Hoopoe, African Cuckoo-Hawk, Hooded Vulture, Palm-nut, African White-backed, Whited-headed, Ruppell’s Griffon and Lappet-faced Vulture, Martial, Brown-snake, Wahlberg’s and Long-crested Eagle, Bateleur, Helmeted Guinea fowl, the massive and heavily marked African Crowned Eagle, Grey Kestrel, African Crake, Black-bellied Bustard, African Wattled, Striped Kingfisher and Woodland, Senegal and sometimes the migrating Brown-chested Plover, African Green Pigeon, Bare-faced Go-away Bird, Ross’s Turaco, Broad-billed Roller, Nubian, Cardinal and Grey Woodpecker, White-browed Robin-Chat, Brown-backed Scrub-Robin, Green Crombec, Stout, Siffling, Trilling and Croaking Cisticola, Grey-backed Fiscal, Yellow-billed Oxpecker, Yellow-throated Longclaw, Senegal Coucal, Fawn-breasted, Zebra, Common and Crimson-rumped Waxbill, Blue-naped Mousebird the list is endless.

Lake Kikorongo: Kikorongo is extension of the Lake George environs which is an Important Bird Area and a habitat to several water birds and waders like the Goliath, Grey and Common Squacco Heron, Saddle-billed Stork, the globally threatened Shoebill, Glossy, Hadada and Sacred Ibis, Knob-billed Duck, Common Moorhen, Little and Dwarf Bittern, Black Crake, African Jacana, Yellow Wagtail, Lesser and Greater Swamp Warbler, White-winged Warbler, Carruther’s Cisticola,  Papyrus Gonolek, Black-winged Stilt, Three-banded Plover, Collared Praticole and many more.

Katunguru Bridge Area: The Katunguru Bridge is a unique area with a papyrus bedding and almost mark the beginning of the Kazinga Channel with a connecting bridge from Kasese district to the current day Rubirizi district, while here we lookout for the Lesser-swamp Warbler, Greater-swamp and  White-winged Warbler, the pick Pink-backed Pelican are in the nearby kazinga waters, Gull-billed, Whiskered and White-winged Tern, Pied and Malachite Kingfisher, Little Swifts breed under the bridge, African Skimmers can be sighted at a distance, the nearby papyrus harbours the Carruther’s Cisticola and common but hard to see Papyrus Gonolek, Blue-headed Coucal and Grey-capped Warbler.

Uganda is among the fastest growing birding destinations with a checklist of over 1060, with only one Fox’s Weaver as the only endemic to the country but with numerous rarities in the Guinea Congo biome and almost 30 Albertine Rift Endemics, with Journeys Uganda expert and energyetic guides, in a two weeks birding safari to Uganda expect close to 500 bird species to be ticked off.

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