Birding Spots In Uganda: The Mabira Forest is a rainforest area covering about 300 square kilometres

Birding Spots In Uganda

March 26, 2022
News Journeys Uganda

Birding Spots In Uganda: The Mabira Forest is a rainforest area covering about 300 square kilometres in Uganda, located between Lugazi and Jinja, in Buikwe District. Mabira Forest Reserve is the largest block of moist semi-deciduous forest remaining in the central region of Uganda. It has been protected as Mabira Forest Reserve since 1932. It is home for many endangered species like the Nahan’s Francolin; Black shouldered Nightjar, Capuchin Babbler, Yellow and Grey Long-bills, Yellow-mantled weaver.

The site also holds one species of the Sudan-Guinea Savanna biome and four of the Afro-tropical Highlands biome. There are over 10 km well maintained trail systems for birding nature walks.

The reserve occupies gently undulating country, characterized by numerous flat-topped hills and wide, shallow valleys. Some of these valleys have papyrus (Cyperus papyrus) swamps. The topography is such that the land drains to the north, even though the reserve’s southern boundary lies only 13 km from the shores of Lake Victoria. The closeness of Mabira to Kampala, and the presence of various ecotourism facilities, makes this site popular for visitors especially bird watchers.

By virtue of its location between two main urban centres, the reserve assumes increasing importance as a recreational area; it is already popular for picnics, nature walks especially for bird watching ,butterfly viewing, and trail-biking.

Kidepo Valley National Park

Kidepo is one of Uganda’s most spectacular parks. It harbors scenery unsurpassed in any other park in East Africa. Tucked into the corner of Uganda’s border with Sudan and Kenya, the park offers breathtaking savannah and mountain landscapes which end in a rugged horizon.

A huge altitude range, correspondingly wide climatic conditions have evolved an extremely diverse flora. As a result the variety of animal species in the park is equally abundant including, many which are found nowhere else in Uganda like the cheetah.

Birding Uganda in Kidepo valley National Park

Kidepo Valley is second  to Bwindi in Bird species  diversity. It Has specials not found in any other Ugandan national parks and some of East Africa’s rarest and most sought after birds as Black-breasted Barbet and Karamoja Apalis.

Other species that are in Kidepo include; Golden Pipit, Fox’s Weaver, Ring-necked Spurfowl, Black-winged Pranticole,  Taita Fiscal, Rufous Chatterer, Fox’s Cisticola, Yellow and red spotted Barbet, Lesser Kestrel, Pallid Harrier, , White-bellied Go-Away bird,  White-crested, Hartlaub’s Turaccos, Abyssinian Scimitar bill, Jackson’s and African-pied Hornbills, Yellow-billed Shrike, Emin’s Shrike, Dusky-turtle Dove,  Piapiac, Red-winged Lark, Black-rumped Waxbill. .

The park has 23 of Uganda’s 32 Somali-Masai biome species. There are also 21 Afro-tropical highland species Notable species are Little Rock thrush and Brown Parisona.

Mabamba Bay

Mabamba is an extensive swamp stretching through a long narrow bay, with papyrus, towards the western main body of Lake Victoria in Mpigi District. It has the status of unprotected area with bird categories, threatened species and Lake Victoria Basin biome species. This Important Bird Area (IBA) is one of the best areas along the northern shores of Lake Victoria for bird watching

Birding in Mabamba bay

Mabamba bay has grown into one of the most interesting and spectacular site for birding in Uganda and is one of the wetlands of International Importance. Apart from Murchison Falls National Park, Mabamba bay is the only place and site ( so far rated as the best in Africa and/or the whole world) where the elusive Shoebill Stork can be spotted at any one time of the day. Recently, Mabamba has become one of the strong holds for the migrant Blue Swallow with over 100 individuals recorded every year. Mabamba has been surveyed in recent years and now boosts of over 260 species with one day’s record of about 157 species.

There are other four globally threatened species and other species of regional significance: the Pallid Harrier, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and the Blue Swallow

Recent surveys have also confirmed presence of flocks of other species especially migrants such as Gull-billed Terns, and Whiskered Terns, White-winged Black Terns and residents such as Grey-headed Gulls.

Other interesting species found in the marsh include good numbers of Goliath Herons, Spur-winged and Pygmy Geese, Malachite kingfisher, Papyrus Canary, Northern Brown-throated weaver, Carruther’s Cisticola and a number of other birds.

Murchison Fall National Park

The Park derives its name from the Murchison Falls where the mighty River Nile explodes through a narrow gorge and flows down to become a river whose banks are spread with hippos, crocodiles, waterbucks and buffaloes. The vegetation is characterized by savannah, riverine forest and woodland. Wildlife includes lions, leopards, elephants, giraffes, buffaloes, hartebeest, oribis, Uganda kobs, chimpanzees and many bird species including the shoebill.

Bird watching in Murchison Falls National Park

A variety of unique habitats and lots of superb birds make a visit to Murchison Falls National Park worth for every birder. The birding experience here is immensely enhanced by the abundant wildlife and scenic landscape.

The Shoebill  is an important tourist attraction of park, the only park where one is almost certain of seeing the bird, which is regularly recorded along the Nile inside the park, especially at the delta and on two islands in the river. Lesser Flamingo and Great Snipe have occasionally been recorded. The park is particularly important for Sudan-Guinea Biome species with 14 out of 22 species recorded in the park; several of these are very common. 4 of 12 Lake Victoria species, 11 of 44 Guinea-Congo forest species, 6 out of 86 Afro-tropical Highland species and 3 of 32 Somali-Masai Biome species. When the flow of the Nile is low, African Skimmers gather on sand banks a few kilometers below the Falls, but none are present at times of high water when the banks are flooded.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is covered by tall grass savanna dotted with Acacia and Euphorbia trees. Dense thorn thickets along the watercourses. The park contains an extensive area of wetland, harbors several species of mammals and a great bird population.

Birding in Lake Mburo, Uganda

Common birds you are most likely to encounter while driving through include; Crested Francolin, Red-necked Spurfowl, Nubian Woodpecker, Arrow marked Babler, Emerald spotted wood Dove, Brown Parrot, Barefaced Go-away -bird. Northern Black Flycatcher, Blue-napped and Speckled Mousebird, Lilac-breasted and Broad-billed Roller, and Green Wood-hoopoe, common scimitarbill, African Grey Hornbill, Spot-flanked Barbet, Trilling Cisticola, Yellow-Breasted Apalis, Chin-spot Batis, Greater Blue-eared starling and Marico sunbird, Coqui Francolin, Red-necked Spur fowl, Black-bellied Bustard, Temminck’s Courser, African Wattled Plover, Rufous-Naped and lapped Larks, Rufous-chested Swallow, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Southern Red Bishop, African Scops Owl; Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl and Fiery-necked, White-tailed and Pennant-winged Nightjars, African Darter, Water Thicknee, Hamerkop, African Water Rail, Spur-winged Plover, Giant, Pied and Malachite kingfishers, and Yellow-throated Leaf love ,Black-collared Barbet, Long tailed warbler, Red-headed lovebird, Narina Trogon, Lead-coloured Flycatcher, Green-capped Eremomela and the Black Cuckoo-shrike, African White-backed, Reppell’s Griffon, Lappet-faced and white headed Vultures, African Marsh Harrier, Black-chested, Brown and Banded snake, Bateleur, African Harrier Hawk, Shikra, Gabar and Dark chanting Goshawks, Lizard and Augur Buzzards, African Fish, Tawny, Steppe, African Hawk, Long-Crested and Martial Eagles and Grey Kestrel, Red-faced Barbet. It’s surprising that such large number of raptors occur in this relatively small park.

Semiliki National Park

Semliki National Park is situated in the extreme west of Uganda, in Bundibugyo District. It lies along the Uganda/ Democratic Republic of Congo border within the western arm of the East African Rift Valley. Semliki National Park is an eastern extension of the vast Ituri Forest in DRC

Adventure in Semuliki National Park is breathtaking especially for birders, primate, butterfly and plant lovers. The jungle walk takes one up to the meandering River Semliki, the only one of its type in East Africa. You may also see forest buffaloes and elephants, sitatungas, leopards, crocodiles, various primates and a wide range of forest and water birds. You can also come with fishing facilities for sport fishing along the river.

Bird watching in Semliki Conservation Area

A large number of Guinea-Congo biome species reach their eastern limits here, which is one of the richest for forest birds in the country. Semliki Forest represents the only example of Congo-Basin vegetation in Uganda.

No less than 131 of the 144 Guinea -Congo forest Biome species have been recorded in Semliki Forest, as well as 31 Guinea Congo Biome species, and 39 others that are only known from Semliki  national park in Uganda. Other species such as White-tailed/Piping Hornbill (also recorded in Budongo forest reserve), Capuchin Babbler and Blue-headed, Crested flycatcher are now known from Mabira forest reserve, the Orange weaver is common along the northern shores of Lake Victoria and the Red-billed Malimbe has been recorded from Kibale National Park.

Semliki forest is close to the Mt. Rwenzori ranges, and the River Semliki meanders (forming ox-bow lakes in some places) along the western border down to Lake Albert and is surrounded by swamp where four Lake Victoria biome species, including Papyrus Gonolek and Caruthers’s Cisticola are recorded. Other species include some of the continent’s most spectacular and sought-after birds such as Congo Serpent Eagle, Long-tailed Hawk, Nkulengu Rail, Black-wattled Hornbill and Lyre-tailed Honey guide.

Budongo Forest Reserve

Budongo is one of the most complete forest reserves with a round eco-system. It over 360 bird species, 290 species of butterflies, 130 species of Moths, 465 species of trees, 24 species of mammals – 9 of which are primates.  Budongo Forest reserve, one of the most important birding areas in Uganda, lies on then escarpment north-east of Lake Albert. The forest is drained by four small rivers (Sonso, Waisoke, Wake and Bubwa) which flow into Lake Albert. Budongo has five main forest types: colonizing, mixed, Cynometra, Cynometra-mixed and swamp-forest. The majority of the reserve is covered by tropical high forest communities.

Two species of birds found in Budongo forest are not found elsewhere in East Africa. The forest is the second most important birding area in Uganda (after Semliki National Park) for species of the Guinea-Congo forest Biome. Yellow-footed Flycatcher, only known from Budongo in Uganda, used to be common in mature forest, but is now extremely hard to find.

Other bird species in Budongo include; Sabine’s spine tail, Cassin’s Spine-tail(rare), Pygmy Crakes, Kingfishers( Chocolate-backed, Blue-breasted, Dwarf), White-spotted Fluff tail, Ituri Batis, Puvell’s Illadopsis, Brown Twin-spot, Cameroon Somber Greenbul, Cassin’s Hawk-eagle, Crowned Eagle, Yellow-crested Woodpecker, Forest Robin, Little Green Sunbird, Grey-headed Sunbird, Olive Green Camaroptera, Blue-throated Roller, African pied , Piping, Black and White Casqued Hornbills, Speckled Tinker-bird, Yellow-spotted Barbet, Cassin’s Honeyguide, African shrike Flycatcher, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Chestnut-capped Flycatcher, Yellow-browed Carmaroptera and many others.
Bird watching in the forest is well facilitated with an extensive well maintained trail.

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is an extensive national park, protecting a large block of rainforest that offers excellent flora and fauna. With tropical rain forests and fascinating diversity, it is one of the most beautiful and stunning forests in Uganda.

It harbours the greatest variety and concentration of primates found anywhere in East Africa. It is a home to the largest number in Uganda to the endangered Chimpanzee as well as the Red Colobus Monkeys.

In Kibale, birdwatchers look out for the Nahan’s Francolin, an endangered species found in three other forest reserves, the Forest ground thrush recorded in only two other birding areas.

Other interesting species include Yellow-spotted Nictor,  Yellow- ramped Tinker bird, Speckled Tinker bird, Little Greenbul, Superb Sunbird, the African Pitta, Yellow-spotted Barbet,  Red-chested Flufftail, Joyful Greenbul, Cabanis Greenbul, Grey-throated Tit Flycatcher, Scarlet-tufted,White-thighed hornbill, Grey-winged Robin, Blue shouldered Robin Chat, Green-throated, Purple-Breasted sunbirds, White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Masked Apalis, Tiny SunbirdBlack-billed Turacco, White-naped Pigeon, Green-breasted Pitta, Purple-headed Starling,White-collared Olive-back and the Black bee-eater any many others.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable Conservation Area lies in the Kigezi highlands of South Western Uganda. The altitude variation, combined with its location within the Albertine Rift that results in Bwindi impenetrable being the richest forest in East Africa in terms of its trees, butterflies and birds. Bwindi is a home to about 400 Gorillas a half of the world’s population of mountain gorillas.

Bwindi is a bird watchers’ haven, holding a record 347 species of birds. The forest has 10 of the 26 globally threatened species in Uganda. Bwindi has 23 of the locally habituated Albertine Rift endemic species in the country and some, such as African Green Broadbill, Chapin’s Flycatcher and Shelley’s Crimson-wing have limited distributions elsewhere in their range.

Bwindi has 76 of 144 Guinea -Congo forest biome species that occur in Uganda, recorded especially in the North sector. The site also qualifies for Afro tropical highland biome species with 68 of 86, and for the Lake Victoria biome with 4 of 12 species.
The park is blessed with 90% of all Albertine Rift endemics, difficult or impossible to see in any other part of East Africa. An experienced birder watcher can identify over 100 species in a day.

Ruhija is likely to be one of the highlights of any birding safari to Uganda with excellent birding in spectacular surroundings. Birds are both plentiful and with luck easy to see; many species associating in mixed feeding flocks that are active throughout the day.

An early start offers the best chance of finding the striking Handsome Francolin, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Western Green Tinkerbird, Mountain and yellow-streaked Greenbuls, Mountain masked and chestnut-throated Apalises, Red-faced woodland Warbler, Rwenzori batis, white-tailed crested Flycatcher and many more.

Rwenzori National Park

The fabled “Mountains of the Moon” lie in the western Uganda on the Congo border with snow covered, equatorial peaks rising to a height of 5110m and lower slopes blanketed in moorland and rich montane forest. A trip into the Rwenzori’s is an exhilarating and rewarding experience but one, which must be well planned. The key to an enjoyable visit is to “be prepared” the central circuit hike takes six nights/ seven days and reaches an altitude of 14,000 ft (4,267m) above sea level. The conditions on the mountain are a challenge to even an experienced hiker. This mountain is renowned for its un-engineered, steep and slippery trail and frequent rain. Rain and cold temperatures, bogs, mud, steep terrain and high altitude make a challenging trip. Never the less it is exciting, you need to try it.

Birding in Rwenzori Mountains National Park

In total, 217 species have been recorded in the park. The park contains 18 restricted range species Albertine endemics, the second highest in Uganda to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park which has 24 restricted range species. In addition, the park has 60 of 86 afro-tropical highland biome species, the second highest of these after Bwindi Impenetrable. They include some rare and spectacular birds like the Rwenzori Turaco, Bamboo Warbler, Golden-winged Sunbird, Scarlet-tufted Malachite Sunbird and Stuhlmann’s Double-collared Olive-back.
There are also 17 species of the Guinea-Congo forest Biome but all are well represented in other sites.

Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary

Bigodi village is situated in the highlands of western Uganda, in the shadow of the Rwenzori Mountains, the famous “Mountains of the Moon”. The community is located about 40 kilometers south of the town of Fort Portal, and borders Kibale National Park, which has the highest density of primate life in the world in its forests.

The Bigodi Wetlands Sanctuary features 8 primate species, numerous other interesting mammals, over 200 bird species, many reptiles, and uncounted varieties of trees, shrubs and vines

Visitors may tour the wetlands only when accompanied by a trained Sanctuary guide. The best start times for the tour, which takes up to 3 hours, are 7:30-9 AM or 3 PM. The tour goes deep into the wetlands, in many places on boardwalks that are just above the water.

Birds are everywhere in the Sanctuary. Perhaps the favorite of visitors is the great blue turaco. Also frequently seen are varieties of Papyrus Gonolek, hornbills, waxbills, weavers, cuckoos, kingfishers, flycatchers, and many, many others.