10 of the best birding destinations in Uganda
Uganda, often referred to as the “Pearl of Africa,” is one of the world’s premier birding destinations with her over 1050 bird species record. Transitional to the East African Savannah and the Western rain forests, no other country in Africa can match its amazing diversity of habitats. The alluring bird list is a reflection and attests to this. Uganda has over 30 recognized Important Bird Areas (IBA). In this article, we explore 10 of the best birding destinations in Uganda and the remarkable avian diversity that awaits enthusiasts.
For dedicated ornithologists, Uganda’s prime attraction is the presence of more than 100 West African forest species at the most easterly and most accessible extent of their range. These forest specialists include the Great Blue Turaco, Black and White Casqued Hornbill, Green Broadbill as well as 23 other species endemic to the Albertine Rift. Also, Uganda is the best place to see what many rate as the most sought after African bird, the Shoebill. It is a massive prehistoric-looking swamp-dweller notable for its heavy clog-shaped bill.
With the remarkable bird species list however, it is surprising to note that only two of these are endemic to Uganda. These are the Fox’s weaver and the exotically named Rwenzori double-collared sunbird. A further 35 species, though, are classified as near endemic. Birdlife is prolific throughout Uganda but certain key bird hotspots must be included in any birding Safari itinerary.
10 of the Best Birding Destinations in Uganda
Mabamba Swamp, the Shoebill Wetland
Mabamba Swamp near Entebbe is a large wetland area situated on the northern shores of Lake Victoria. Mabamba is approximately 50 kilometers west of Kampala, the capital city of Uganda. The wetland is recognized as an Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA) due to its significance in supporting a diverse avian population. The swamp provides a unique ecosystem with extensive papyrus reed beds, channels, and open water areas
Mabamba Swamp is also renowned for its rich biodiversity. It is however particularly a crucial habitat for the elusive and sought-after Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex). The Shoebill is a large bird species with a distinctive shoe-shaped bill. Other bird species at Mabamba include the Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, Yellow-backed Weaver, Blue-headed Coucal, Northern Brown-throated Weaver and others. A birding adventure at Mabamba wetland is done on a canoe. Although the target is mainly for the elusive Shoebill and other swamp specialities, enjoying the natural beauty of the wetland awaits as a bonus.
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park
With its more than 610 bird species, Queen Elizabeth National Park stands as Africa’s protected area with the largest bird species list. Covering an area of about 1,978 square kilometers, the park is known for its diverse ecosystems, including savannas, wetlands, forests, and the stunning Kazinga Channel. One of the park’s prime birding spot is the Kazinga Channel, a natural magnet for water birds. Here, birdwatchers can spot species such as the Great White Pelican, Pink-backed Pelican, African Spoonbill, African Jacana, and numerous species of kingfishers and herons. The shores of the channel are also frequented by elephants, hippos, and crocodiles, adding an exciting element to birdwatching sessions.
Apart from the Kazinga Channel, the Mweya Peninsular is another ideal habitat for a variety of bird species, including the Black-rumped Buttonquail, African Mourning Dove, and African Broadbill. Several other areas within the park are recognized as birding hotspots. The Ishasha sector, located in the southern part of the park, is renowned for its tree climbing lions, and birders can spot species such as the African Finfoot, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler and the Shoebill. The Maramagambo Forest, located in the southeastern part of the park, is an excellent place to explore for forest-dwelling species, including the African Pitta, White-naped Pigeon, and Black Bee-eater. Read more about birding in Queen Elizabeth Park.
Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park
What is the Best time for Birding in Uganda?
The dry season is the best though each (season) has its unique advantages. Also note that while the dry seasons are generally preferred, Uganda is a year-round birding destination, The wetter months (March to May and October to November) bring lush green landscapes, and some migratory birds may be present. However, the wetter conditions can make travel more challenging, and certain areas may be less accessible due to muddy roads.