Birding Tours in Uganda
Uganda is a land-locked country located in the East African plateau. The country was globally renowned due to its unsound political and economic past. However blessed with pristine and rich wilderness, Uganda is today known as the “Pearl of Africa” and tourism is rapidly growing at an exponential rate as people flock here to appreciate its natural diversity and beauty.
The country boasts over 1000 species of birds of which 27 are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley and nearly impossible to see anywhere else other than in Uganda. It is home to 50% of the global mountain gorilla population, as well as other threatened and rare primates such as chimpanzees. There are 60 protected area’s including 10 national parks which include Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Kibale National Park, Kidepo Valley National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, Mgahinga Gorilla National Park, Mount Elgon National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, Rwenzori Mountains National Park, Semuliki National Park.
Also known as the ‘Great Lakes Region’, Uganda is well watered with 1/5 of the country covered by lakes and wetland. Lake Victoria lies to the south of the country and is the second largest fresh-water lake in the World by area. Lake Victoria drains into the Nile River and is one of the major sources to the world’s longest river.
Mabamba Swamp is a wetland located just outside of Entebbe on the edge of Lake Victoria, the wetland is approximately 16,500 ha and is one of the most convenient destinations to view one of Africa’s most highly sought after bird species the African Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex). Best access to the wetland area is via boat from Entebbe across Lake Victoria. The shoebill and other rare birds can be viewed from the boat or by paddling in canoes through the water ways with-in the wetland.
Royal Mile, Budongo Forest Reserve
The Budongo forest is a famous semi deciduous forest reserve that lies on the edge of the Albertine Rift and to the South of Murchison Falls National Park. At approximately 435km² it is one of Uganda’s most important forests and within the boundaries lies a well-known straight dirt track that bisects the tall trees that was frequented by Ugandan Royal in the past and currently known as the ‘Royal Mile’. This birding hotspot with approximately 360 bird species contains many west and central African birds. In particular Nahan’s Francolin, Ituri Batis, Uganda Woodland Warbler and Lemon-bellied Crombec. African Dwarf, Blue-breasted and Chocolate-backed Kingfishers can often be relatively easy to see.
Murchison Falls National Park
The 3893 km2 Murchison Falls National Park forms the core of Uganda’s largest protected area. Together with the adjoining Bungungu and Karumu wildlife reserves, it forms a vast wilderness covering 5072 km2, containing a wide variety of wildlife including big game, forest primates and 450 bird species. The mighty Nile, the longest river in the World, flows through the heart of the park for a distance of 120km, on its 6500km journey from Lake Victoria to Egypt and the Mediterranean Sea. The park’s centrepiece is the explosive, 40-metre high Murchison Falls where the Nile is forced through an 8-metre gap in the Rift Valley escarpment.
Murchison Falls National Park offers a great birding variety and is great place to find some Albertine rift endemics. Birding along the Nile River offers a second great opportunity to look for Shoebill. Other species include Uganda’s National Bird, the Grey Crowned Crane as well as Senegal Thick-knee, Rock Pratincole, Red-throated Bee-eater and Blue-headed Coucal.
Kibale Forest National park
The Kibale Forest National park is approximately 795km². This outstanding tropical forests supports a diversity of flora and fauna, the forest is also home to the largest concentration of chimpanzees in Africa, as well as a outstanding variety of other primates, birds and insects. Kibale’s fluctuating altitude supports different types of habitat, ranging from wet tropical forest to woodland and savanna .The forest boasts 375 species of birds including the extremely rare Green-breasted Pitta (Pitta reichenowi). Whilst other Kibale specials include Afep Pigeon, Black-billed Turaco, Black Bee-eater, Joyful Greenbul and Lowland Masked Apalis. Sometimes Red-chested Owlet or White-naped Pigeon may also be seen. Other primates include Central African and Guereza Colobuses, Grey-cheeked Mangabey and Blue and Red-tailed Monkeys.
Kazinga Channel – Queen Elizabeth National Park
The Queen Elizabeth National Park is the largest and one of the most popular national parks in Uganda. Beautifully set against the back drop of the Rwenzori Mountains. The Kazinga channel is a 32Km long natural channel linking Lake Edward and Lake George, famously known for its dense population of hippos and crocodiles Queen Elizabeth National Park is classified as one of Uganda’s Important birding Area’s (IBA) and hosts over 600 different bird species. It’s varying habitats range from moist semi-deciduous forest, rivine bush-land, moist thicket and riparian forest. Among the bird habitats offered within this national park are open woodlands, rivers, open grassland, lakes seasonal as well as permanent swamps. Key species include African Skimmer with marvellous photographic opportunities for general waterbirds including Pink-backed Pelican and White-breasted Cormorant, White-winged Warbler, Carruthers’s Cisticola and Papyrus Gonolek.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Located in the South-west of Uganda and on the edge of the Albertine Rift Valley lies this ancient, impenetrable and rich forest. Also known as the ‘place of darkness’ this forest is home to 50% of the world’s remaining mountain gorilla population. The park is an ancient sanctuary for 120 species of mammals and 350 species of birds, a remarkable 23 are endemic to this area of the Albertine Rift Valley. Albertine Rift endemics include Red-throated Alethe, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, Neumann’s (or Short-tailed) Warbler, Mountain Masked Apalis, Blue-headed Sunbird with possible sightings of Willard’s Boubou or Jameson’s Antpecker.
Uganda has an equatorial climate which is generally sunny and warm year out with little temperature fluctuations. The annual average temperature is approximately 26 degrees Celsius. The hottest months are January and February where temperatures can reach up to 40 degrees Celsius in the northern parts. There are two rainy seasons in the south of the country, March – May and November – December although it can rain at any time of the year, the north has 1 wet season from March – November.
Birding in Uganda is good all year round although migratory birds come and go with their different cycles during the year, it is generally better for birding in the drier months of May, June and July.