Uganda is often called “the pearl of Africa” due to its stunning natural beauty and variety of wildlife. Its thick jungles and rolling hills play host to an abundance of bird species, making it one of the best birding spots in the world. With over 1,100 species of birds registered in Uganda, it’s no wonder why ornithologists flock to the country in search of rare and interesting specimens.
1. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
Mgahinga Gorilla National Park is one of Uganda’s best-known safari parks, famous for its mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, and more than 180 species of birds – some of which are Albertine Rift endemics. Tourists interested in bird-watching will be elated to find the Kivu Ground Thrush, Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, White-starred Robin, Rwenzori Batis, Archer’s Robin-Chat, Olive Pigeon, Black-headed Waxbill, Western Green tinker bird, Cape Robin, White-starred Robin, Brown Woodland Warbler, Stripe-breasted tit, Brown-crowned Tchagra, and Scarlet-tufted, Greater double-collared Sunbirds. If you’d like to maximize your bird-viewing opportunities, plan on staying in Mgahinga for at least two or three days.
2. Echuya Forest Reserve
Echuya Forest Reserve is yet another example of Uganda’s finest birding destination. Located at the border between Kisoro and Kabale districts, it’s a stunning span of 3,400 hectares of montane rainforest. With over 150 recorded species, 18 of which are endemic to Echuya, this is an A-list bird-watching destination, particularly for those interested in Grauer’s Swamp warbler, which can only be found here. Uganda tours can be tailored to take you through the Echuya Reserve, with local tour guides who are experts in the environment.
3. Nyamuriro Swamp
Nyamuriro Swamp is found in the vast Ruhuhuma swamp of Kageyo valley and has been noted for supporting a high rate of papyrus Cyperus papyrus. This area is particularly special for being one of the few spots in Africa that hold sustainable populations of Chloropeta gracilirostris. Other papyrus-dwellers here include Acrocephalus rufescens, Cisticola carruthersi, Bradypterus carpalis, and Serinus koliensis.
4. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is the place for you if you’re looking to find a great diversity of birds: Africa’s Bird Club voted it the best birding spot in Africa. Out of the 24 Albertine rift bird species, 23 of them are found in Bwindi. Not only is there an impressive amount of wildlife, 14 of these species cannot be found anywhere else in Uganda.
Highlights here are the African Green Broadbill, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Handsome Francolin, Mountain-masked Apalis, White-bellied Robin-Chat, Black Billed Turaco, Fraser’s Eagle, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon, Purple-breasted, Blue-Headed, and Regal Sunbirds. Whether you’re interested in bird-watching or gorilla trekking, Bwindi is an absolute must-visit.
5. Rwenzori Mountains National Park
Rwenzori Mountains National Park is a treasure trove of birdlife with 177 species recorded, 19 of which are Albertine Rift endemics. Birding in this park is best done during hikes in the forest area, where you’ll find Rwenzori Turaco, Long-eared owl, Archers’ robin-chat, Lagden’s bush shrike, Blue-headed and Golden-winged Sunbird, White-starred robin, Slender-billed starling, Cinnamon-chested bee-eater, Bearded vultures, and swifts.
6. Kibale Forest National Park
Kibale Forest National Park is one of the top 10 bird-watching spots in Uganda, offering visitors the chance to glimpse 375 different species, 6 of which are Albertine Rift endemics. Among the most commonly seen birds is Green-breasted pitta, but there are also Red-chested owlet, Purple-breasted sunbird, Blue-headed kingfisher, Crowned eagle, Little greenbul, Black bee-eater, White-naped pigeon, Scaly-breasted illadopsis,Yellow-throated nicator, White-headed wood hoopoe, Red-headed malimbe, Yellow-spotted barbet, Dusky-blue flycatcher, Grey-throated flycatcher, Grey-winged Robin, Crested flycatcher, Blue-shouldered robin chat, Yellow-spotted barbet, Black-billed turaco, White-naped pigeon, Red-chested flufftail, and Tiny sunbird.
7. Queen Elizabeth National Park
Queen Elizabeth National Park offers an impressive 600 bird species, many of which can be spotted while on game drives, sailing the Kazinga Channel, or taking forest or nature walks. Examples of common sight here include African mourning dove, Swamp flycatcher, Grey-headed kingfisher, African skimmer, Malachite and pied kingfishers, White-winged terns, Grey-capped warbler, Collared pratincole, Pin-tailed whydah, Martial eagle, Gabon, and Slender-tailed nightjars, Black-headed gonolek, Verreauxs eagle-owl, Sedge warbler, Papyrus canary, Great white and pink-backed pelicans, African mourning dove, and Yellow-billed stork. Flamingos are alsoseasonal visitors to Katwe and Bunyampaka salt lakes. A two- or three-day bird-watching safari is recommended to those who really want to take in the nature of the park.
8. Kyambura Wildlife Reserve
Kyambura Wildlife Reserve, located at the Kazinga Channel junction, is similar in ecology to Queen Elizabeth National Park, yet still manages to stand out thanks to its boundaries and varied habitats. Over 332 recorded species exist, 7 of which are of global conservation concern, with Lake George, Kazinga Channel, and seven of its crater-lakes particularly popular spots for wetland birds.
Examples include Crested francolin, Emerald-spotted wood dove, Brown parrot, Barefaced go-away bird, Red-necked spurfowl, Common quails, Black-billed barbet, Greenwood hoopoe, Blue-napped mousebird, Lilac-breasted roller, African-grey hornbill, Nubian woodpecker, Trilling cisticola, Bee-eaters, Cheeky bronze-tailed starling, Crowned crane, African finfoot, Shoebill, African fish eagle, and Malachite and pied kingfishers.
9. Semuliki National Park
Semuliki National Park is a larger area of 441 recorded species and is locates in the Albertine Rift Valley. Fromforest, grasslands, to riverine species, there’s something to see here all year-round. Notable species here include African piculet, Maxwell’s black weaver, Blue-billed malimbe, Yellow-throated nicator, Black dwarf hornbill, Nkulengu rail, Piping hornbill, Blue-billed malimbe, Yellow-throated cuckoo, Dwarf honeyguide, Great blue and Ross’s turaco, Purple-breasted sunbird, Orange weaver, White-crested hornbill, Red-billed dwarf hornbill, African piculet and Swamp palm bulbul.
10. Lake Mburo National Park
Lake Mburo National Park is the smallest savannah park in Uganda and yet it’s home to 315 bird species. Bird-watchers should go to Warukiri and Rwonyo swamps, or the lake itself, to spot Crested francolin, Emerald-spotted wood dove, Brown parrot, Barefaced go-away bird, Red-necked spurfowl, Common quails, Black-billed barbet, Greenwood hoopoe, Blue-napped mousebird, Lilac-breasted roller, African-grey hornbill, Nubian woodpecker, Trilling cisticola, Bee-eaters, Cheeky bronze-tailed starling, and Majestic crowned crane. Also, don’t forget to keep a look out for African finfoot, Shoebill, African fish eagle, and Malachite and pied kingfishers. for gorilla tracking in Uganda.
11. Mount Moroto Forest Reserve
Mount Moroto Forest Reserve is situated on the Eastern Rift Valley escarpment just east of Moroto town. The Reserve stretches far into various types of savanna land including Combretum woodlands, bushland, and tree/shrub-steppe. It is a paradise for bird lovers as it is home to a total of 220 species, including the Stone Partridge, Black-headed Plover, White-bellied Go-away Bird, Jackson’s Hornbill, Hemp Rich’s Hornbill, Handsome Silver bird, Grey-headed and Pygmy Batises, Bristle-crowned and Superb Starlings, Eastern Violet-backed Sunbird, White-headed Buffalo Weaver, Purple Grenadier, and Straw-tailed Whydah.
12. Kidepo Valley National Park
Kidepo Valley National Park is recognized as one of Africa’s best wilderness areas with an immense variety of wildlife and over 450 bird species, including the Near-threatened Shoebill, Papyrus Gonolek, and Papyrus Yellow Warbler. The ideal place to stay and begin a birding adventure is Apoka Rest Camp where one can view birds migrating at the small permanent water hole in the morning. The seasonal wetlands, thorn trees, and the Narus and Namamukweny Valleys are also prime spots for bird-watching.
13. The Nabajjuzi Wetland
The Nabajjuzi Wetland is an important dwelling for vulnerable and threatened species of birds and animals. Some of the species residing here include Grey Crowned Crane, Coland Grey Parrot, White-collared Olive-back, Black Bee-eater, Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Blue-throated Sunbird, White-naped pigeon, Cinnamon-breasted Bee-eater, and Blue-throated Roller.
14. Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve
Kasyoha-Kitomi Forest Reserve is renowned for its unique beauty and its diverse bird population. It is home to over 308 bird species including the Yellow-rumped Seedeater, Silver Bird, Small Bands of Yellow-billed Birds, Afep Pigeon, Blue-headed Sunbird, and the Blue-throated Roller. Along with these, the Reserve also supports several reptile species and butterfly species.
15. Bugoma Central Forest Reserve
Bugoma Central Forest Reserve is situated east of and overlooking Lake Albert and is home to two globally threatened species; Nahan’s Francolin and Grey Parrot. In addition, the Rocky Mountains and Buhaguzi/Bugahya counties of the Administrative District of Hoima also endorse a variety of Forest-dependent, Biome-restricted, and Lake Victoria Biome species.
16. Kibimba Rice Scheme
Kibimba Rice Scheme, located near the town of Bugiri in Eastern Uganda, is home to numerous Palearctic wading birds, such as the Wood Sandpiper, Garganey, Ruff, and Black-winged Stilt, Storks, and Egrets, as well as the Grey-Crowned Crane, in addition to Ducks and Geese. In 2009, Wattled Crane, a first for Uganda, also made the Scheme its home.
17. Mount Kei Forest Reserve
Mount Kei Forest Reserve is located in the north-western part of Uganda, close to the international border with Sudan. This wildlife haven harbours a multitude of species, with some only known to be found here, such as Accipiter brevipes, Buteo auguralis, Merops orientalis, Euschistospiza dybowskii and Nectarinia osea.
18. Mount Otzi Forest Reserve
Mount Otzi Forest Reserve is situated in the north of Uganda, near the border with Sudan. This area has been recorded to have 168 species of birds, including some exclusive to the Sudan–Guinea Savanna biome, such as Falco alopex. A lot of open-habitat and savanna woodland species can also be spotted here.
19.Doho Rice Scheme
Doho Rice Scheme is based on the River Manafwa flood-plain and is primarily a rice cultivation area. As a result, different bird species have been attracted to the area and it serves as a breeding ground for Balearica regulorum, Ardea melanocephala, Threskiornis aethiopicus and Platalea alba. There are also instances of over 800 nests of Bubulcus ibis being recorded in the region.
20. Lake Nakuwa
Lake Nakuwa is situated in the eastern part of Uganda and its wetlands are part of the larger Lake Kyoga basin. It is here that papyrus endemics are often sighted, along with migratory birds such as Himantopus himantopus, Limosa limosa and Tringa erythropus.
21. Lake Bisina
Lake Bisina, near Kumi District, is possibly one of Uganda’s most virgin rainwater reserves, and is also a Ramsar World Heritage Site. It is home to exotic birds such as Shoe-billed Stork, Karamoja Apalis, White-backed Duck, Cormorants and Green-backed Heron, as well as the highly endangered Fox’s Weaver.
22. Lake Opeta
Lake Opeta is a marshy wetland located in the Karamoja area. With its surrounding natural environment, it makes for a perfect habitat for bird species, many of which are endemic to this region.
23. Mount Elgon National Park
Mount Elgon National Park is a great area for bird watching and hiking. It is home to over 300 species of birds, with some only found in the park, such as Jackson’s Francolin, Moustached Green Tinkerbird, and Alpine Chat. If lucky, one might even spot the Lammergeier or Bearded Vulture flying high across the caldera and Suam Gorge.
24. Budongo Forest Reserve
Budongo Forest Reserve is one of the premier bird-watching spots in East Africa. Located on the edge of the Albertine Rift valley, this nature reserve is home to over 350 species of birds, including the rare Cassin’s spine-tail, chestnut-capped flycatcher, Ituri batis, Nahan’s francolin, Black-collared lovebird, Brown Twinspot, chocolate-backed, blue-breasted and African dwarf kingfishers. Two to three days of birding in Budongo Forest is recommended, providing enough time to explore the Royal Mile and Busingiro areas south of the Murchison Falls National Park.
25. Murchison Falls National Park
Murchison Falls National Park is not to be missed. This longstanding national park with the powerful Murchison Falls as its centerpiece is home to over 450 species of birds, many of which can be seen during game drives, boat safaris, or while enjoying a guided nature walk. Bird lovers should keep an eye out for the elusive Shoebill, Swamp Flycatcher, Goliath Heron, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Northern Red Bishop, Red-throated Bee-eater, African Quail Finch, Pied, Malachite, and Giant Kingfishers.
26. Ajai Wildlife Reserve
At Ajai Wildlife Reserve, visitors can find a unique habitat of swamps and woodlands that is home to countless species of birds, including Marabou Storks, Weaver Birds, African Fish Eagles, and Grey Crowned Cranes. Former American President Theodore Roosevelt made the reserve famous when he visited in 1910 on a hunting expedition. This spot gives birders the chance to explore a variety of species in a short period of time.
27. Musambwa Islands
Musambwa Islands are located on Lake Victoria in Uganda, and are known for their vast breeding colony of Grey-headed Gulls – the largest of its kind in Africa. The island’s ecosystem houses more than two thousand snakes and reptiles, along with an impressive variety of bird species. This unique and important habitat offers visitors the chance to watch the Grey-headed Gulls nesting, as well as many other birds in their natural environment.
28. Lutoboka Point
Lutoboka Point can be found on the eastern side of Lugala Island – the largest of the 84 islands in the Ssese archipelago. It welcomes travelers with a medium-altitude moist evergreen forest dominated by Piptadeniastrum and Uapaca trees. The most interesting feature is a strip of tall trees along the edge of the forest, which is known for its high population of breeding Phalacrocorax carbo – with over 5,000 pairs counted at Lutoboka Point and 500 on the Banga rocks near the southern tip of the island.
29. Nabugabo Wetland
Nabugabo Wetland, another major Important Birding Area, is a combination of Lake Nabugabo and its extensive surrounding swamps and forests. The area encompasses parts of Masaka, Kalungu, Mpigi, Butambala, and Gomba Districts, and has so far observed the presence of over 180 species, the most notable being the scarce Serinus koliensis.
30. Mabamba Bay
Mabamba Bay is the perfect destination for a one-day birdwatching tour in Uganda. Sitting on the shores of Lake Victoria, the wetland is known for its giant population of Shoebill Storks, as well as Papyrus Gonoleks, Kingfishers, Black Kite, Swamp Flycatcher, Black-headed Heron and African Marsh Harrier.
31. Lutembe Bay
Lutembe Bay, located in Wakiso District, is recognized for its numerous migratory birds, along with seven species of global concern such as Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Shoebill, African Skimmer, Pallid Harrier, Great Snipe, and Madagascar Squacco Heron. The basin also offers an abundance of fish and plays a key role as a source of water for the surrounding area.
33. Mabira Forest Reserve
Located close to the city center is the Mabira Forest Reserve – a great one-stop destination for bird watching enthusiasts. This area boasts a wide array of over 315 birds belonging to the 74 species found in the overlapping Guinea-Congo and Uganda Forests biome. The reserve has developed trails and paths, like the Red-tailed Monkey Trail, the Turaco Trail and the Buttress Trail. Wildlife fans can also view several endangered species while here, such as the Nahan’s Francolin and Cassin’s Hawk-eagle.
34. Sango Bay Area
A lesser-known spot to visit is the Sango Bay Area. On the northern border of Tanzania, it stretches from the Masaka-Mutukula road in the west to the shores of Lake Victoria in the east. The bay contains wetlands, grasslands and forests and is home to multiple reserve forests. Spectators can also take in the stunning views of the Grey-headed Gulls who, in this area, make up 16.5% of the species’ global population. Further, the bay area hosts Pelicans, Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, and Kingfishers.
Tips for Birding in Uganda
To make the most of your birding experience in Uganda, it is important to adhere to a few guidelines:
- Be respectful of the wildlife: Respect the wildlife and environment of the areas you visit and make sure to stick to designated paths while birding.
- Bring the right equipment: Make sure you bring binoculars, a field guide and camera so that you can get the best view and capture amazing shots of the birds you see.
- Wear appropriate clothing: If you plan on visiting the jungle, wear light, brightly colored clothes to avoid any potential run-ins with dangerous animals.
- Stay in a birding lodge: Bird watching lodges often have experienced birders on staff that can provide invaluable advice on the best spots to go birding and make the experience more enjoyable.
Uganda is a paradise for birders and offers a wealth of opportunity for those looking to observe some of the world’s most spectacular species. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced observer, Uganda’s birding hotspots provide the perfect opportunity to observe and appreciate these incredible creatures.