The Rewarding Makanaga Bay Swamp; Shoebill Stork birding spot-Uganda Safari News
Makanaga Bay is one of the swampland extensions of the shore of Lake Victoria-Africa’s largest continental lake, situated in Mpigi district. Makanaga swamp is a rewarding birding excursion spot and one of the closest points from Kampala-Uganda’s capital for spotting the shoebill stork. From Kampala, you drive along Kampala-Masaka road for about 1 ½ hours to Kamengo then on about a 20 minutes’ drive on a dirt road to Namugobo landing site. From Kamengo landing site, you take a 10 minutes boat ride to the swampland. Makanaga Bay is one of the highly recommendable Uganda birding safari spot for avid birders searching for the shoebill stork. It provides a perfect environment to see the elusive shoebill stork in a less spoilt environment.
Makanaga bay on the shores of lake Victoria offers a perfect point to view not only the shoebill stork but also rewards with bird species like; the Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, White-faced Whistling Duck, Little Stilt, Black-winged Stilt, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Long-tailed Cormorants, Great Cormorants, Spur-winged Lapwing, , Common Squacco Heron, Black-winged Terns, Little egret, Great Egret, Gull-billed Terns, African Jacana, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfishers and many more.
About the Shoebill Stork
The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is a very large stork-like bird that has previously been classified with the storks in the order Ciconiiformes based on its morphology though with genetic evidence it is placed with the Pelecaniformes. It has a somewhat stork-like overall form deriving its name from its enormous shoe-shaped bill measuring an incredible 23 centimeters in length and 10 centimeters in width, with a razor-sharp, curved hook at the end. The shoebill is a rare bird species found in the marshes of East Africa surviving in few numbers. The adult shoebill is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner in plumage.
The Shoebill is a tall bird with a typical height ranging from 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55in) and length ranging from 100-140cm (39 to 55 in). Its wing span is 230 to 260cm. Many tourists on Uganda birding safaris have always gone for the search of these bird species in the wetland Marshes.
The big bird can actually fly when they have to though they cannot fly very far.
Shoebills feed on lung fish (staple food), other bird species, baby crocodiles, frogs, terrapins., water snakes and even small mammals. Seeing a shoebill catch its early morning prey is one of the best moments for many birders on birding safaris in Uganda.
The large bill of the shoebill is used to carry large ‘gulps’ of fresh water back to the nest in order to douse eggs or chicks when the sweltering heat of the swamps drives temperatures beyond normality. The other fascinating techniques to cool down involve defecating on their legs just as storks do too.
The shoebill always hatches two chicks though only one that proves to be the strongest survives and grows to an adult.
Best birding time for Makanaga shoebill excursion
The swamp is open all year round and can be visited during the times of your Uganda birding tour especially during the months of may to September. However, if you are visiting Makanaga swamp as part of a tailored trip to south western Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in search of the Albertine rift endemics, May to June is the nesting season. Though, from mid-April to mid-May the rains might still be too heavy.
Uganda is a never disappointing birding destination therefore, opt to tailor in all of the best birding spots in your itinerary.