The Albertine rift endemic bird species are birds found only within the Albertine rift region. The Albertine rift is a geographical region that stretches as a western branch of the East African rift. Albertine rift stretches from north of Lake Albert to the south of Lake Tanganyika crossing the countries of Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.
The Albertine rift endemics are part of what each passionate birder on a Uganda birding safari wishes to sight and these include;
Handsome Francolin (Pternistis nobilis)
It’s a terrestrial forest Francolin about 35cm long with a dark brown plumage (duller for the young ones), brown iris, bare red orbital skin, grey head, red bill and legs. The female is slightly smaller though both sexes are physically similar. The Handsome Francolin is elusive and shy bird more easily heard than seen. It can easily be seen early morning and late evening. Its feeding is mainly on seeds. It flies for short distances.
Ruwenzori Turaco (Gallirex johnstoni)
The Ruwenzori Turaco is mainly herbivorous with 92% of its diet being fruit and 6.3% leaves. The plumage is brilliant green and violet blue with red primaries. The crest is glossy green or purplish blue and short. The chin and throat are blue black. It’s about 45 cm beak to tail, feeds on fruits and berries. Its native to the countries of Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo with movement in the Rwenzori mountains range. They live in pairs or small family groups.
Ruwenzori Batis (Batis diops)
The Ruwenzori Batis is a small flycatcher-like and shrike-like bird with contrasting black, grey and white colors. It’s 11-12cm long beak to tail. Its feeding is mainly on insects like beetles, caterpillars and flies are eaten in a while. Its voice makes simple whistles, repeated at 2 second intervals. They are restricted to montane evergreen forests with bamboo.
Shelley’s Crimson-wing (Cryptospiza shelleyi)
Shelley’s Crimson-wing is a brightly colored plumage finch with a bright red bill. It’s about 13cm (5.1in) long living in altitudes of up to1960m and 3400m. The female Shelley’s Crimson-wing has an olive head and some red on the mantle and rump. The male has bright red crown, face and back, olive yellow underpants with contrasting black wings and tail. Its voice is high and sharp with a tit tit tit call.
Dwarf Honeyguide (Indicator pumilio)
This is a very small honeyguide with a stubby bill. Both sexes have olive, green and grey plumage with white mark on the loral area (region between the eyes and nostrils of the bird). Its feeding is dependent on flies, insects and bees wax. It seems to lack an advertising song therefore needs keen sighting.
Dusky Crimson-wing (Cryptospiza jacksoni)
The Dusky Crimson-wing is one of the Crimson wing species about 11cm weighing 14g. The bird has most of the head red, upperparts dark crimson-red, nape grey, tail, side of neck to chin, throat and underparts dark grey and upper wing blackish grey. The feeding is mainly of seeds of grass, beetles and small snails. It’s sound is a soft call of “tzeek” or “tsit“.
African Green Broadbill (Pseudocalyptomena graueri)
The African Green Broadbill is a small plump bird with bright grass green plumage and a pale blue tinge to the throat, breast, base of the short tail and the feathers covering the ears. The bill is wide, flattened, slightly hooked and black in color. It has a widely varied diet consisting invertebrates like small beetles, snails, insects, vegetables, small seeds, flower buds and fruits. They live in small flocks of up to ten (10) birds.
Bird watching tours in Uganda are amazing when you sight the Albertine rift endemics, when its rare go find it and be among the few lucky tourists. The other birds shall be further explained in the next article.