Why you should do Birding in Uganda; Twice the size of Pennsylvania

Why you should do Birding in Uganda

March 26, 2022
News Journeys Uganda

Why you should do Birding in Uganda; Twice the size of Pennsylvania, located in East Africa and a landlocked country, it is bordered on the west by Democratic Republic of Congo, on the north by South Sudan, on the east by Kenya, on the south by Tanzania and Southwest by Rwanda.

Uganda lies across the equator and is comprised of ideal habitats which make it a haven of wildlife that is Tropical and Afro-montane rain forests, swampy low and highlands, a fertile plateau with wooded hills, and semi-arid region. Lake Victoria forms part of the southern border with numerous surrounding equatorial forests.

Emerging from the shadows of its dark history, a new dawn of tourism has risen in Uganda, polishing a glint back into the ‘pearl of Africa’. Worthy streaming in to explore what is basically the best of everything the whole continent has to offer, within an area of about 90,041sq miles and a land area of only 77,108 sq miles, it boasts over 10% of the world’s total bird life and 50% of those that dwell on the African continent having only one endemic, the Fox’s Weaver that inhabits the wetlands of the Eastern part, 25 Albertine Rift Endemics including :

Grauer’s Swamp-Warbler, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Handsome Francolin, the Rwenzori Double-collared, Blue Headed and Regal Sunbird, Mountain Masked Apalis, Shelley’s Crimson-wing, African Green Broadbill among others and other African highly sought after species like the Green-breasted Pitta, Karamoja Apalis, Papyrus Gonolek, Shoebill, Nahans Francolin, Woodhouse’s Antpecker, Brown-Chested Plover, Black-Breatsed Barbet while the west African forests will produce the unique, Guinea-Congo biome endemics like the Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Chestnut-Capped Flyctatcher, African Piculet, Gray’s Malimbe, Leaf Love, Ituri Batis, White Crested, Thighed, Wattled Casqued, Black Dwarf, Piping and Red Billed Dwarf Hornbills among others.

With all the above, a safari to Uganda is a mix of activities and to my thinking of potential priorities to any other destination in Africa, the possibility of combining birds, large and small mammals, big primates like Chimpanzees and Gorillas, is quite an eclectic mix, that any tourist to this continent should not miss, come and Journeys Uganda puts together a life time and memorable safari.

It is home to one of the tallest mountain range in Africa, the source that feeds the world’s longest river and the continent’s largest lake. And with half the remaining mountain gorillas residing here, as well as the Big Five to be ticked off, wildlife.

Birding In Uganda

Uganda has a great variety of habitats, packed into a fairly small area, with clear evidence that it is Africa condensed and has a bird list nearly on a par with the huge neighbouring Kenya, covered by Land  – 199,710 Km2 (84.6%), Water –  36,330 Km2 (15.4%) with Bio-Physical Environmental Interfaces & Implications Accounting for Wider Climatic Conditions; in Time and Space coupled with Higher Opportunities for Suitable Habitats or Niches or life support conditions for relatively More Species (Plants, Animals and Man inclusive) and their populations.

Uganda has several excellent game reserves, including Murchison Falls, Lake Mburu and Queen Elizabeth, and many less-visited ones, such as Kidepo Valley and Semliki, which offer a good variety of more-widespread African bird species, as well as a good variety of large mammals. With the popular must visit parks for kin birding clients like the Semliki, Bwindi and Mgahinga Uganda Parks.

Uganda’s main attractions are in its forests and swamps, where many species with restricted range can be found. Whilst it only has one endemic species, Fox’s Weaver, which occurs in swamps of Eastern Uganda, it has several species which are endemic to specific habitat areas, shared with other countries.

One such area is the western arm 0f the Albertine Rift, an area of lakes, mountains and forests – Riverine, Afro Montane and tropical , which stretches from northern Uganda along its borders with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Several species endemic to this area are found in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Semilki National Park, Rwenzori Mountains and Mgahinga. These include the African Green Broadbill, Red Faced, Grauer’s Rush and Grauer’s Warblers, Shelley’s and Dusky Crimsonwings, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Strange Weaver, Rwenzori Double-collared, Regal, Purple-breasted, Blue Headed and Blue-throated Sunbirds, Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Stripe-breasted Tit, Red Throated Alethe and much more.

In the papyrus swamps around lakes, the unknowable and globally threatened Shoebill can be found, as well as specialties including Papyrus Yellow and White-winged Warblers, Carruther’s Cisticola, Papyrus Gonolek, African Reed Wabler and Orange Weaver.

There are also several highland and lowland forests spread across the country, which offer species that are generally West African. Great Blue and Black-billed Turacos, African Grey Parrot, Green-breasted Pitta, several Woodpeckers, Barbets and Greenbuls, and scarcities such as Weyn’s Weaver, Nahan’s and Forest Francolins all occur.

In addition to the birdlife, a great attraction is the opportunity of trekking for Mountain Gorillas in Bwindi and Mgahinga, as well as Chimpanzees in the Kyambura gorge, Kibale and Budongo Forest.

Even if you are only passing through Uganda, a good range of species can be seen within a few hours of Kampala, in Entebbe Botanical Gardens, Mabamba Swamp and Mabira Forest, including several of the sought-after species above. Add to this the fact that there is a very big value of us working with a network of local Bird Guides in Uganda in active communities there by encouraging conservation and thus birding tourism Uganda there by Uganda being a must-visit locality

Uganda has more bird species per square kilometre than any other country in Africa. Uganda, roughly the same size as the UK, or the State of Oregon in the USA can boast a national list of 1042 species! This figure represents 10% of the bird species that can be found in the whole world.
The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats: arid semi-dessert, rich savannahs, lowland, Riverine, tropical and montane rainforests, vast wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone. Uganda covers an altitude from 610 to 5115m above sea level.

Forests and birding

Situated on the equator Uganda has an area contiguous with the great Guinea / Congo Basin Rainforest on its Western border making it the only East African country that attracts the Guinea – Congo Biome endemics  having subsequently a number of west and central African bird species occurring in Uganda. There are more than 700 forest reserves in Uganda. One particular region is the Albertine Rift Endemic Area (ARE), which has 38 species of birds confined to Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and the Congo. Of these ARE’s Uganda has 25, mostly confined to the forests of Mgahinga and Bwindi National Parks in the Southwestern part of the country.

Wetlands and birding

  • Uganda has 30,000 square kilometers of wetland.
  • 210 species from the Shoebill and African Skimmer to the endemic Fox’s Weaver.
  • 4 Papyrus endemics; Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, White-winged Warbler and Papyrus Yellow Warbler.
  • A White-winged Black Tern roost of 2-3 million birds between the Entebbe and Mpigi area on Lake Victoria.

Savannahs vary from the remote, semi-dessert, dry thorn-scrub region of Karamoja in the Northeast, to the richer fertile savannahs of the western Rift valley. Queen Elizabeth National Park has a bird list of 612 species the highest for any protected area in Africa and perhaps the whole world.

Therefore Birding in Uganda can be done in different natural habitats around the country from the source of the White Nile on Lake Victoria to the snow-capped Ruwenzori Ranges, the montane forests of the Virunga volcanoes or conservation area in Africa, harbouring some of the last remaining Mountain Gorillas, to the extensive savannas around the Kidepo Valley via Murchison Falls, Uganda is an equatorial country of astonishing contrasts. No other country in Africa can match its amazing diversity of habitats, and this richness is reflected in its incredible bird list of over 1030 species. Amongst these are many highly sought-after birds, such as the unique Shoebill and the numerous spectacular endemics of the Albertine Rift Valley, currently impossible to find anywhere else. The huge bird list is all the more remarkable given the small size of Uganda (approximately equal to Great Britain), having 10% of the world’s birds, making it, arguably, the richest African birding destination, with the services of our bird guides who are specialized and experienced in this field all this making Uganda a friendly and safe country to visit and its attractions vary, birds alone shouldn’t diverge you from Uganda’s other wildlife like the Endangered Mountain GorillasCultural safaris, the courteous and Friendly people to mention but a few.

Birding Safaris In  Uganda

The perfect formula for Birding in Uganda safaris

While birding with a group of 12 people can be fun in some Jungles and tropical rain forests of Uganda but mostly in the savannahs, group size is something we take very seriously on our strict forest birding safaris and Albertine Rift Birding. We recommend a group of 6, with a consideration that seeing these secretive and skulking birds needs great devotion, swift eyesight and observation of silence.

Birding to satisfy every preference

Each of our birding safari has been crafted to capture the best of a particular destination. Some days of birding require early rises to be in the field, ready for action, at dawn. People of reasonable fitness will have no trouble undertaking any of our tours. When there are optional days that require a difficult hike, birding in Uganda guide(s) will inform you well ahead of time and take preparations needed for this particular day. On many occasions we shall always carry a picnic lunch to maximize on our birding in the forests while those people wishing to relax earlier will always be led back to the lodge.

Guaranteed departures with satisfaction

Uganda’s No.1 birding company – Birding in Uganda offers guaranteed departures on certain tours. This means that even if you are the only one booked the trip proceeds exactly as planned and ends successfully with your own personal Birding in Uganda guide. Even when we do have a minimum required number of birding clients, it is as low as two. To date we have nurtured and we are very proud that we have never disappointed any of our clients by canceling their reservation and in relation to the above, we pride in meeting the needs of birding clients with different ages, levels of experience and passion. We advise savannah and easy birding safaris to those who have limited exposure to hard core or our classic birding safaris, and who would like to spend more time in one area learning about the new families, behaviors, breeding and roosting habits of birds. At extremes our classic and hard core birding safaris can take you to some of the rarities, endemics and most difficult species thus making the hard birds easy where our birding plan is to target those birds mentioned earlier.

Not birding alone though prioritized

Although birding is always first and foremost on our trips, the fact is that Uganda is Africa condensed and thus we offer some of the beauties and abundance of wildlife it has. It is fairly usual for our trips to encounter 13 species of primates and over 30 species of mammal in a 17 days birding safari. Furthermore, on our tours there is seldom a dull moment. The characters that make up the Birding in Uganda team are a lot of fun to be around, and people that we meet as clients often leave as good friends and always say ‘once is not enough’.

Africa’s No.1 birding destination

The truth is that there can be few destinations on Earth where you can expect to find 612 species of birds in one park alone – in Uganda Queen Elizabeth National Park is it. 350 species have been recorded in the Bwindi Impenetrable forest the number one birding site according to African Birding Club and Murchison Falls being the 3rd best birding site. These three among the ten parks are among the richest protected areas to be found anywhere on Earth. Tribute for Uganda’s birding delights are rarely understated.  Many say, “In terms of its size, Uganda is the richest country for birds in Africa”. And this immense volume and diversity occurs incredibly in a space which keen birders can cover in a relatively short visit.

In relation to the above, Uganda is an ornithologist’s paradise as well as a natural habitat for immeasurable plants, from the luxuriant growths of the rain forest to tiny alpine flowers on the mountains. Although a comparatively small country, Uganda has a recorded 1042 different species of birds from great eagles and globally threatened shoebill storks to tiny shimmering, warblers, cisticolas and tiny sunbirds.

Request to our clients

Given that most of you come from different nationalities, professions and (birding) backgrounds, but only together for a common cause at our destinations which is birding. We visit many places where we may be the only foreign visitors; in effect we are envoys from our countries and our hobby, we should always act accordingly. While on tour we encourage people to express their very wide range of opinions from vastly different life experiences, but our guides and clients are never disrespectful to other tour participants or the people we encounter from the different chosen birding sites around Uganda.

Birding with professionals and experienced Bird Guides

Being practically guides with the sense of right and wrong that success of any safari greatly depends upon the character of the Guide/Driver and being involved in the training of Safari Guides in Uganda and Rwanda, courtesy of Uganda Safari Guides Association, we shall take great care in selecting our Guides/Drivers who will be able to provide a cheerful, thoughtful and attentive service to our clients.  All our guides shall be trained and members of the Uganda Safari Guides Association with a deep knowledge of all routes, conditions, cultures of the local people, local attraction with enormous ability to spot animals and birds. 

Birding with obsession/passion

Finally, no matter what you do and want, at times we are highly affected with vagaries of nature making the birding slow or boring due to weather conditions. Although your Birding in Uganda guide is sweating or trembling and trying his level best to find you birds, he also strives to maintain a friendly atmosphere so you still have a great time. None the less finding birds is always difficult anywhere in the world and requires good spotting, luck and perseverance. There are always going to be some species seen well and others not at all in a single visit, so it is just about impossible to “mop up” all wanted species. This can be frustrating if you don’t take a more philosophical approach and count on the positive side of all the special, localized and endemic birds that you see on a single birding trip. We seriously take it that this is your holiday and our guides are on duty.