Uganda is undoubtedly the most attractive country in Africa for bird watching not only because of the rare number of species recorded within its borders, but also because it offers easy access to several bird-rich habitats that are difficult to reach elsewhere. Uganda’s remarkable avian diversity of about 1079 species recorded can be attributed to its location at a transitional point between the East African savanna, the West African rainforest and the semi-desert of the north.
The key to Uganda’s diversity is its variety of habitats which include; arid semi-dessert, rich Savannah, lowland and montaigne rainforests, vast wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone.
Considering East Africa, approximately 150 bird species (more than 10% of the regional checklists) are found only in Uganda. This list includes seven of the 20 horn-bill species recorded in the region, five out of 14 honey guides, five out of 20 bush family as well as 13 members of the thrush family, 11 warblers, ten flycatchers, eight sun birds, eight weavers, eight finches, four tinker birds, four pigeons, 3 kingfishers, 3 sparrow hawks, 3 cuckoos and 3 night jars.
Most of these Uganda’s specials are West African and Congolese forest birds that are at times very difficult to see elsewhere. The rain forests of Western Uganda are the country’s most important bird habitat. The most attractive forests for bird watching in Uganda with localized species are Semuliki, Budongo Forest, Kibale Forest and Bwindi Forest. However, Kibale is the Uganda’s spot for forest birds with the nearby Magombe swamp. Even the relatively tame botanical gardens in Entebbe provide several interesting bird species.
Therefore, bird watching enthusiasts in the world have a wide range of birding spots in Uganda. In such a case, visit Entebbe for water and forest birds, Lake Mburo for water and acacia associated birds, Queen Elizabeth National park for over 600 species recorded, Murchison Falls- the best place in East Africa to see the Papyrus-associated shoe-bill and Kidepo Valley National Park for over 50 raptors recorded.
Bird Species Found in Uganda
Common Ostrich – this is the World’s largest bird and it’s restricted to Kidepo Valley National Park.
Pelicans – these are water birds and commonly found in Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
African Darter – it’s a snake like bird with an elongated rufus neck extended in a serpentine fashion.
Goliath Heron – this is commonly seen during boat trips in Murchison Falls National Park.
Harmerkop – this is a medium sized water bird seen on the Mweya Peninsula in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Saddle billed Stork – this is the largest and most hand some of several storks usually seen in pairs on game drives in Murchison falls.
Marabou Stork – this is a large wading bird in the stork family usually found in both wet and arid habitats often near human habitation especially landfill sites. It is sometimes called the “undertaker bird” due to its shape from behind- cloak-like wings and back, skinny white legs, and sometimes a large white mass of “hair”.
Shoebill – The shoebill also known as whale head or shoe-billed stork is a very large stork-like bird. It derives its name from its enormous shoe-shaped bill. They are mainly seen in Semuliki Wildlife Reserve, Mabamba Swamp and Murchison falls National Park.
Flamingos – these are tropical wading birds which have long legs with backward-bending knees, long curvy necks, and most noticeably; they are pink. Flamingos tend to congregate in mudflats or lagoons where they can find shallow salt water prey.
Helmeted Guineafowl – these breed in warm, fairly dry and open habitats with scattered shrubs and trees such as savanna or farmland.
Africa Jacana – it has long toes and long claws that enable them to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes their preferred habitat. Jacanas are common in most wetlands in Uganda.
Gray Crowned-Crane – Uganda’s national bird common in swamps and grasslands. They can also be found in marshes, cultivated lands and grassy flatlands near rivers and lakes in Uganda.
Gray Parrot – they are mostly seen in any forested habitat.
Great Blue Turaco – found in forested areas including Entebbe Botanical gardens.
Ross’s Turaco – this bird is mostly found in woodlands, open forests and riparian habitats. They generally avoid heavily forested areas.
Eastern Plantain-eater – this specie is a resident breeder in open woodland habitats in Uganda and feeds on fruits especially figs and other vegetable matter.
African Emerald Cuckoo are normally seen in riparian areas and lowland forests.
Verreaux’s Eagle-owl – largest owl species in Uganda and mostly seen during night drives.
Pennant-winged Nightjars – mostly seen on the road to the top of Murchison falls after dusk.
Piapiac – its main habitat is towards more open country of cultivated land with fields and pasture and small associated towns and villages. In Uganda, it’s commonly found in Jinja and Murchison falls.
African Finfoot – this is an aquatic bird and normally seen on lakes and rivers. It’s commonly and easily seen on Lake Mburo.
Giant Kingfisher – the Giant Kingfisher frequents rivers, streams, lakes, dams and even mountain streams with marginal wooded areas both in forests and savannahs.
Red-throated Bee-eater – breeds in tall sandbanks on Lake Albert and the Nile below Murchison falls.
Lilac-breasted Roller – usually found alone or in pairs. It perches conspicuously at the tops of trees, poles or other high vantage points from where it can spot insects, lizards, scorpions, snails, small birds and rodents moving about at ground level.
Hoopoes – can be seen in habitats such as heathland, wooded steppes, savannas and grasslands as well as forest glades. The diet of the hoopoe is mostly composed of insects although small reptiles, frogs and plant matter such as seeds and berries are sometimes taken as well.
Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill – normally found in wooded habitats and feeds on mainly figs, fruits, insects and small animals found in the trees.
Fork-tailed Drongo – These insect-eating birds are usually found in open forests or bush and are tolerant of arid climates.
Jackson’s Francolin – found in mountainous forests and stands of bamboo.
Denham’s bustard-It is found in open grounds including agricultural land, grassland and flood-plains.
African skimmer – It is found along rivers, lakes and lagoons.
Blue-throated Roller – generally found inlowland rainforests either undisturbed or mainly secondary forest with clearings, hills. The blue-throated roller tends to remain high up in the tops of trees and hunts above the canopy of primary and secondary rainforest, plantations, gallery forests and relict forest patches in cleared regions. They prefer clearings, riversides and giant emergent trees.
Black Bee-eater – found at the edges of the rainforests and in secondary woodlands.
Chocolate-backed Kingfishers – these are birds of primary and secondary lowland rain forests. They feed on insects, mainly grasshoppers and beetles, but also many other invertebrates as well as small lizards.
Papyrus Gonolek – It occurs singly or in pairs in papyrus swamps lurking among the vegetation and only flying occasionally usually a short distance over water to another patch of papyrus.
Red -headed bluebill – found in forest undergrowth, damp areas in thickets, near streams, clearings and edge of the forests.
Pied Kingfisher- is sighted along the lake shores hovering above the water while searching for fish.
Malachite Kingfisher – is seen beside lakes and rivers, perched on tall grass stems or looking for small fish. It’s normally seen so focused on the water that it can be approached quite closely.
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