Birding or bird watching is one of the trending Africa safari activities in search of the savannah grasslands, forest and water bird species throughout the continent. Many passionate birders wonder why they should opt to go birding in Uganda out of all the continent countries and here is why;
With about 1,072 bird species Uganda is a prime birding destination. A country where you can’t miss to see a bird in every Kilometer of your safari. The beautiful birds are savanna, forest, water, intra-Afro migrant and Euro-Asian migrant(palearctic) species forming almost 50% of Africa’s bird species and 11% of the bird species in the world. With these numbers with coverable square kilometers in a single safari why not take a Uganda birding safari.
On a birding safari in Uganda expect to see several bird species inclusive of which are Ostriches, Pelicans, Cormorants, Darters, Turacos, Cuckoos, Kingfishers, Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, Hornbills, Herons, Storks, Shoebill and many more.
The variety in bird species isn’t just coincidental but then the transitional position of the country offers a variety in habitats. Uganda is transitionally positioned between the East African savanna, the west African rainforest and the semi-desert of the north. The altitudinal variation of the forest ranging between 1,190-2,600m on both mountain and lowland areas gives a variety of habitat for different bird species. This offers habitat ranging from water bodies like Lakes, Rivers, deep valleys, African dense forests, marshes and swamps to open savannah.
Within the Albertine rift, are 24 endemics and part of the sought-after species by Uganda bird watching safari tourists. Some of these include the Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Willard’s sooty Boubou, Dwarf Honeyguide, Black-faced Apalis, Regal sunbird, Strange weaver and many more unique bird species.
How to best plan for a Uganda bird watching safari
Birding Uganda safari tours have been so popular of recent because of the easily seen birds. Planning for a birding safari in Uganda requires prior preparations but even before packing your bags remember to choose the best birding spots. Each single national park and most of the areas in Uganda have birds but choosing the heavily bird filled areas is necessary.
Before going for a birding safari always familiarize yourself with the bird species in this area by buying a bird guide book and reading through to know which birds you will actually find. Learn how to differentiate them by sound or color.
After booking your bird watching tour in Uganda, knowing what to carry on your safari is necessary. What to carry depends on where you are doing the bird watching from either in a tropical rainforest or in the wilderness.
What to pack when Planning for a birding safari in Uganda
What to wear or carry depends on where birding is going to be done;
If it’s in the tropical forest either in Bwindi impenetrable national park, Mgahinga gorilla national park, Rwenzori mountains national park or Semuliki national park, wearing long-sleeved shirt and trousers is necessary. Wear trekking shoes since you will have to trek the mountain as you do the birding.
Carry a sweater and rain coat since the temperatures in the forests are low.
Birding in other national parks like Murchison Falls national park or Queen Elizabeth national park that are in lower altitude areas require wearing light clothes. Light shoes and a hat for protection from the scotching sun are important. Carry sun glasses and bottled drinking water too.
In Kidepo national park-Africa’s best wilderness, carry light clothes, light shoes and a hat for protection from the scotching sun rays in the wilderness. Pack enough drinking water to take during the birding process.
In any birding spot, remember to carry the best pair of binoculars, birding guide book and book your safari with the best birding Uganda tour operators.
Best time for birding in Uganda
Bird watching can be done all year round however, the best season for a Uganda birding safari is during the dry season in the months of January to March when the tropical forests are accessible and the not slippery for hiking.
The breeding season however, is during the month of June and this is when the birds are very colorful.
Reasons why tourists go to Uganda for birding
Uganda was ranked to have the best birding spot and this was Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. The park offers the best 350 montane-forest (mountain forest) bird species seen on Uganda birding tours and still home to the globally threatened bird species such as the African Green Broadbill and the Shelley’s Crimson-wing. The park also hosts 23 out of the 24 Albertine rift endemics (90% of all Albertine rift endemics) and these are;
the Handsome Francolin, Dwarf Honeyguide, Archer’s Robin-chat, Dusky Crimson-wing, Rwenzori Batis, Regal Sunbird, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Strange weaver, Blue- headed sunbird, Purple-breasted sunbird, Red-faced woodland Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Grauer’s Rush Warbler, Collard Apalis, Rwenzori Turaco, Montane Masked Apalis, Red-throated Alethe, Stripe-breasted Tit, Shelley’s Crimson-wing, African Green Broadbill, Chapin’s flycatcher, Rwenzori Nightjar and Short tailed Warbler.
The sought-after bird specie by tourists on birding safari trips in Uganda include, the elusive shoebill stork that is best sighted at Mabamba bay wetland at the edge of Lake Victoria-the world’s largest continental lake. The other bird species include the country’s endemic (it’s found only in Uganda) known as the Fox’s weaver that can be sighted in Eastern Uganda wetland marshes in the vicinity of Lake Opeta and Lake Bisina.
Uganda welcomes the Euro-Asian migrant(palearctic) birds like the white winged terns and Teals.
The bird list check species while birding in Uganda, include;
the Black billed Turaco, Giant kingfisher, Cinnamon–chested bee-eater, African green pigeon, African harrier hawk, Evergreen Warbler, Chestnut-throated Apalis, Coppery Sunbird, Crowned Hornbill, Dark-backed Weaver, Dusky Crested Flycatcher, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Dusky Tit, Buff-throated Apalis, African Pitta, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Cardinal Woodpecker, Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle, Cassin’s Honeybird, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Collared Sunbird, Common Bulbul, Compact Weaver, White-breasted Negrofinch, Grey-headed Sparrow, Grey-throated Barbet, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Honeyguide Greenbul, Black bee-catcher, Kivu ground Thrush, crowned hawk eagle, mountain buzzard, rufous-chested sparrow hawk, spotted eagle owl, long crested eagle, augur buzzard and very many more forest bird species.
Other bird specials seen while birding in Uganda’s Bwindi Impenetrable forest include the migratory birds like the black kites that are present from November-April.
The country has for long been the enthusiast birders leading destination because it offers easy access to several bird-rich habitats for tourists who choose to go birding in Uganda within its boundaries.
Never the less can you only go birding in the country since there a possibility of tailoring birding and a Uganda gorilla trekking safari to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park or Mgahinga Gorilla National Park adjacent to the gorilla safari Rwanda destination of Volcanoes National Park. Many also opt to tailor their safaris with a wildlife safari in Uganda to any of the national parks close to the birding areas.
Birding is Uganda is great and memorable but planning for the right time and best spot makes the safari more memorable.