Birding in Uganda – Best Places for Bird Watching Safari

It isn’t only the sheer number of bird species documented within Uganda’s boundaries that makes it a paradise for birders. It is easy to admit to the numerous bird-rich territories that are often complicated to get to in other countries.

Birding in Uganda: Top Birdwatching Spots and Bird Species

Birding in Uganda is one of the top safari activities. Uganda is famously known as a birding paradise and haven harboring over half of Africa’s bird species. It isn’t only the sheer number of bird species documented within Uganda’s boundaries that makes it a paradise for birders. It is easy to admit to the numerous bird-rich territories that are often complicated to get to in other countries.

The diverse habitats in Uganda’s most ancient forest appear to be the perfect habitat for a diversity of bird species, with over 1000 species recorded.

These bird species mainly migrated from Lake Victoria’s shores, the source of the Nile, and from the Albertine Rift. You can get to see these species on a birding safari in Uganda in these popular places:

Grey-Crown (Crested) Crane - Uganda's National Bird - Birds of Uganda
Grey-Crown (Crested) Crane – Uganda’s National Bird

Birds of Uganda

These are some of the Albertine Rift endemic bird species to watch out for on your birding expedition in Uganda;

  1. Fox’s Weaver
  2. Blue-headed Sunbird
  3. Short-tailed Warbler
  4. Ruwenzori Nightjar
  5. Rwenzori Turaco
  6. Red-throated Alethe
  7. African Green Broadbill
  8. Red-faced Woodland Warbler
  9. Handsome Francolin
  10. Collared Apalis
  11. Mountain Masked Apalis
  12. Archer’s Robin-Chat
  13. Dwarf Honeyguide
  14. Grauer’s Warbler
  15. Dusky Crimson wing
  16. Rwenzori Batis
  17. Purple-breasted Sunbird
  18. Regal Sunbird
  19. Shelley’s Crimson-wing
  20. Stripe-breasted Tit
  21. Grauer’s Rush Warbler
  22. Kivu Ground Thrush
  23. Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher
  24. Strange Weaver
  25. Chapin’s Flycatcher

Other species that are simple to spot are the Red-headed Bluebill, African Emerald Cuckoo, African Blue plus White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, and the Common Bulbul.

Suggested birding tours in Uganda

great blue turaco - Uganda's Top Bird Species To Look Out For on a Birding Safari

Uganda’s Top Bird Species To Look Out For on a Birding Safari

These are the top 10 bird species that many birders are interested in while on their birding safari in Uganda.

  1. The Shoebill: This is found in Murchison Falls or Mabamba Island, one of the few indefinable and uncommon bird species sited. It is a large bird with a whale-head and can mostly be seen in marshy areas. The adult’s feathers are medium blue-grey in color, while the juveniles are a bit browner.
  2. The Great Blue Turaco: They are large birds often hunted for their meat and feathers. They are also poor at flying and thus end up soaring for shorter distances.
  3. Shelley’s Crimson-wing: These are rarely sighted. Their bills are bright red. The females have olive heads and red mantle, while the males have their backs, face, and crown all covered in bright red.
  4. The Standard-winged Nightjar: They are usually identified with flying foxes (fruit bats). They keep hidden away during resting or daytime by using their brown mottled plumage. Their feathers can stretch 38cm long, and they often soar at sundown into the late evenings.
  5. The Short-tailed Warbler: Often identified as the Neumann’s Warbler. A little bird with a large head with a unique striped outline and a very short tail has a broad arch of hair above each greyish-brown eye and, while the front of its eye is a dull green and white.
  6. The African Green Broadbill: It’s an endangered species globally and is often identified as the Grauer’s Broadbill. It lives mostly in tropical forests. They have a light green shade to their feathers, a blue throat with a small bill.
  7. The Green-breasted Pitta: They are hard to spot but are found in the tropical forests’ soggy lowlands. Its throat is encircled with a black line, and its breast is green in color.
  8. The Doherty’s Bushshrike: They can be heard but never seen. They are green with a cheerful red throat and forehead, a light yellow and lemon-like middle with a black tail, and a broad black-breasted band. The younger birds have a pale green color and striped green and yellow underparts.
  9. The Bar-tailed Trogon: They live in forests. They have yellow feet and a bill and a far-reaching long tail. Females have brown heads and light cinnamon throat and breast, while the males have blue-black heads, two orange and or yellow patches below the eyes that are of bare skin, and luminous colors of green-blue and violet on their upper breast.
  10. The Black-breasted Barbet: They have big heads and a hefty bill that is fringed with hackles. They are solitary birds that classically shell in tree openings. They feed on fruit, insects, and small reptiles. The female lays about 2 to 4 eggs, and both birds then incubate them for a period of 13-15 days.

Some birds can only be found in some areas; however, Uganda is blessed with many birding spots where bird lovers can enjoy a birding trip and look out for these beautiful species. A skilled bird watcher can identify more than 100 species in just a single day. Starting early offers the finest opportunity of finding remarkable, beautiful species.

The Shoebill stork - Best Places for Bird Watching in Uganda
Shoebill in the Lake Victoria Mashes, at Mabamba Swamp

Best Places for Bird Watching in Uganda

1. Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park

Bwindi is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with 347 bird species. It is home to 24 of the total 25 Albertine Rift endemic bird species. Furthermore, Bwindi is the dwelling place for 76 of the 144 Guinea-Congo-forest biome bird species found in Uganda. The area also qualifies for the Afro-tropical-highland biome bird species with 68 of the total 86. The Lake Victoria biome has 4 of the 12 species.

Birds are very abundant and very easy to spot; several species connect in mixed feeding flocks that are active all through the day. The main birding trails where birders can catch sight of these fantastic creatures are the Bamboo Zone, the Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija, and the Waterfall trail in Buhoma.

Some species you may spot on a birding safari in Bwindi include the western Green Tinkerbird, African Wood Owl, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Red-throated Alethe, Fine-banded Woodpecker, etc.

Explore more of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

2. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

Apart from mountain gorillas and golden monkeys, Mgahinga National Park is also home to over 180 species of birds, including the Albertine Rift region endemics. Perfect viewing points are the community and/or farm trail, the Gorge trail, and the Bamboo trail.

Species you can spot on a birding safari in Mgainga include: Brown Woodland Warbler, Kivu Ground-thrush, Stripe-breasted Tit, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Brown-crowned Tchagra, Rwenzori Turaco etc.

Explore the Viringas of Mgahinga Gorilla National Park

3. Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is home to over 451 bird species. The diverse species include the Albertine Rift Endemics, the Waterbirds, and the Savannah Forest Birds. The shoebill is the major bird attraction that many come to see.

Other species you may see on a bird-watching safari in Murchison include the Dark chanting goshawk, Martial Eagle, White-faced Whistling Duck, Hugli’s Francolin, Hamerkop, and Rock Pratincole, among others.

Explore the best of Murchison Falls National Park.

bird watching in Queen Elizabeth National Park

4. Queen Elizabeth National Park

The species range from the forest and woodland dwellers to the 54-raptor species, the water birds, and those that migrated from other areas. There are different sections in this park, with each section harboring different bird species. The sections include;

  • Kasenyi area with over 60 species.
  • Mweya peninsula has over 70 species.
  • Katunguru bridge area,
  • Lake Kikorongo,
  • Ishasha sector,
  • Katwe area
  • Maramagambo Forest.

Queen Elizabeth National Park, in total, has over 600 bird species, and some of these include the hooded Vulture, Martial Eagle, Grey Kestrel, African Wattled Plover, Black-bellied Bustard, Black-lored Babbler, White-tailed Lark, etc.

Find out where to stay in Queen Elizabeth National Park

5. Semuliki National Park

Semuliki National Park harbors over 400 species of birds, with 9 species of Hornbill. It has exceptional watching points at Ntandi, Sempaya, and River Kirumia area.

Species include; Yellow-throated Nicator, Great blue, Ross’s Turacos, Piping Hornbill, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Red-billed Dwarf Hornbill, Xavier’s Greenbul, etc.

7. Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park neighbors the Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary with over 350 species of bird. The Bigodi wetland sanctuary is in Kanyanchu and Magombe swamp and has over 138 bird species observed by the birders’ broad walk trails.

The main bird species you may spot in Kibale Forest include Papyrus Canary, White-winged Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, White-collared Oliveback, Crowned Eagle, and Yellow-billed Barbet. 

Explore the primates and more of Kibale Forest

8. Lake Mburo National Park.

The birding spots in Lake Mburo National Park include the marshy areas of Miriti at the salt lick and in the forest of Rubanga and Warukiri, the waysides amongst the landing stage, and the Camp Rwonyo. Species include; the rare Red-faced Barbet, Grey-crowned Crane, Rufous-bellied Heron, White-headed barbet, Common Scimitarbill, Bateleur, Coqui Francolin, Green Wood-hoopoe, etc.

Explore the plains of Lake Mburo National Park

Rwenzori Turaco - Birdind in Rwenzori Mountains National Park

9. Rwenzori Mountains National Park.

The Mountains of The Moon are home to close to 217 species. Nineteen of these are the endemics of the Albertine Rift Valley Region. Species you likely spot on a birding safari in the Rwenzori Mountains include the Golden-winged and Blue-headed Sunbird, Rwenzori Turaco, White-starred Robin, Long-eared Owl, Slender-billed Starling, Archer’s Robin-chat, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Laden’s Bush-shrike, Bearded Vultures, and Black Eagles, among others.

An adventure you can’t miss: Trekking Rwenzori Mountains Lower Slopes

10. Nile River Birding in Jinja

Birding along the Nile River is done with a boat cruise. An adventure along the Nile will lead you to over 60 bird species. Species here include Giant Kingfishers, Green-backed Herons, African Open-billed Storks, Rock Pratencols, and Great Blue Turacos.

11. Echuya Forest Reserve

This forest reserve has over 150 bird species, and 18 of these species are endemic. Notable species include; Archer’s Robin-Chat, Grauer’s Warbler, Mountain Masked Apalis, Doherty’s Bush-Shrike, Dwarf Honeyguide, Collared Apalis, and Strip-breasted Tit.

12. The Royal Mile- Budongo Forest

The Royal Mile in Budongo Forest near Murchison Falls National Park is home to over 250 bird species. The main bird species include the blue-breasted Kingfisher, Chocolate-backed Kingfisher, Spotted Greenbul, Blue-throated Roller, Fire-crested Alethe, Rufous-crowned Elemomela, and White-thighed Hornbill.

13. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary

Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is home to the rare shoebill stork. The other species include; African Black Crake, African Fish Eagle, Black-crowned Waxbill, African Grey Hornbill, African Golden Oriole, African Darter, and African Broad Bill.

14. Lutembe Bay.

Lutembe Bay is in the Lake Victoria Basin and is home to millions of all kinds of Palearctic migrant and Indigenous birds. It is a habitat for more than 200 bird species. Of these, 26 are migratory. These include the African Pygmy Kingfisher, Holub’s Golden Weaver, White-winged Black Tern, African Green Pigeon, Lead-colored Flycatcher, Sooty Chat, Tropical Boubou, and Brown-backed Scrub robins.

15. Mabamba Swamps.

This swampy area is located at Lake Victoria’s edge and is only an hour’s drive from the City Center. A birding adventure is done with a 3-person wooden boat canoe. You can expect to see; Shoebill Stork, Pied Kingfishers, Blue-breasted Bee-eaters, African and Lesser Jacanas, and African Pygmy Goose.

Things to carry and the best time for a birding safari in Uganda

Things to carry and the best time for a birding safari in Uganda

It is advisable to carry the requirements that will help you on your birding safari in Uganda, including Binoculars, a map of the location, long-sleeved trousers and shirts, enough drinking water, and many more.

Although bird watching can be done all year round, the weather can be a limiting factor for some birders. The best time for bird watching would be the dry season in most parks, between January to February and June to August. The trails are dry and not slippery; thus, trekking can be easy. You will also have enough time for bird-watching. However, some would say the most ideal time is between late May to September when there’s less rain, and the food is abundant. From November to April, migratory birds can be found in the parks. Birding is best done early in the morning and it’s easy to spot many bird species at that time. The parks tend to be crowded in the high season with many visitors coming in between June to September.

Apart from the many birding species found in Uganda, the country offers many other adventurous activities, including mountain gorilla trekking, chimpanzee trekking, mountain climbing, cultural exploration, cycling, white water rafting, bungee jumping, and many more. These are typically included on the birding safari itinerary without interrupting the bird spotting.

Pre-packed birdwatching tours

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Birding in Uganda – Best Places for Bird Watching Safari
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