Birdwatching checklist Uganda
Birdwatching checklist Uganda: Uganda is a true paradise, boasting over 1,000 bird species, making it one of the top birdwatching destinations in the world. From the lush rainforests to the vast savannas and the serene lakeshores, Uganda offers a diverse range of habitats that attract an incredible variety of avian species. In this birdwatching checklist, we will explore some of the most iconic and sought-after birds that can be spotted in Uganda, as well as the best birdwatching hotspots across the country.
The Crested Crane (Balearica regulorum): The national bird of Uganda, the Crested Crane, also known as the Grey Crowned Crane, is a striking and elegant species. Its tall stature, gray plumage, golden crown, and vibrant red throat pouch make it a captivating sight. The Crested Crane is often associated with royalty and is depicted on the Ugandan coat of arms. It can be found in wetlands and grasslands throughout the country.
Shoebill Stork (Balaeniceps rex): The Shoebill Stork, with its massive shoe-shaped bill, is an extraordinary bird that fascinates birdwatchers from around the world. Uganda offers one of the best chances to spot this elusive and prehistoric-looking bird, especially in the vast swamps of Mabamba Bay on the shores of Lake Victoria.
African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer): A symbol of power and beauty, the African Fish Eagle is a common sight in Uganda. With its striking black, white, and chestnut plumage and its haunting call, it is often seen perched near water bodies, waiting to swoop down and catch fish.
Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata): The Great Blue Turaco is a large and colorful bird, known for its vibrant blue and green plumage and its striking crimson facial patch. It can be found in the dense forests of Uganda, particularly in places like Kibale National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
African Green Broadbill (Pseudocalyptomena graueri): The African Green Broadbill is a small, elusive bird with a stunning emerald-green color. It inhabits the Albertine Rift montane forests, and birdwatchers can try their luck at spotting this rare gem in places like Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park.
Ruwenzori Turaco (Ruwenzorornis johnstoni): The Ruwenzori Turaco is a beautiful bird with a mix of green, blue, and red plumage. It is endemic to the highland forests of the Rwenzori Mountains, often referred to as the “Mountains of the Moon.” Birdwatchers seeking unique species will find this bird a must-see in Uganda.
African Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus): The African Grey Parrot is a highly intelligent and talkative bird. It is well-known for its ability to mimic human speech and sounds. While these parrots are widespread across Africa, Uganda’s forests and woodlands provide an excellent opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat.
Marabou Stork (Leptoptilos crumenifer): The Marabou Stork is an enormous and somewhat grotesque-looking bird with a bare head and neck. Though it may not be the most visually appealing species, it plays a vital role in the ecosystem by scavenging on carrion. They can often be seen around rubbish dumps and near water bodies.
African Pygmy Kingfisher (Ispidina picta): The African Pygmy Kingfisher is one of the smallest kingfisher species in Africa. Despite its tiny size, it exhibits stunning iridescent colors of blue and orange. It can be spotted perched near water sources in Uganda’s woodlands and forests.
Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus): The Yellow-billed Oxpecker is a peculiar bird that has a unique and fascinating symbiotic relationship with large mammals such as buffalo, rhinoceroses, and elephants. These birds feed on parasites found on the mammals’ skin, providing a beneficial cleaning service to their hosts.
Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius): While not a true raptor, the Secretary Bird is an impressive bird of prey with long legs, found in Uganda’s savannas.
African Fish Eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer): Recognizable for its distinctive call and striking appearance, this raptor is often seen near lakes and rivers, where it hunts for fish.
African Pitta (Pitta angolensis): A colorful and secretive bird that’s challenging to spot, the African Pitta frequents the undergrowth of Uganda’s forests.
Nubian Woodpecker (Campethera nubica): With its bold black and white plumage and distinctive red cap, this woodpecker is a common sight in wooded regions.
Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill (Bycanistes subcylindricus): A large and impressive hornbill species, known for its striking black and white plumage and imposing casque.
Red-throated Bee-eater (Merops bulocki): This colorful bee-eater with its stunning red throat is often spotted perched on branches in open woodlands.
Ross’s Turaco (Musophaga rossae): Another magnificent turaco species, Ross’s Turaco stands out with its vibrant crimson and green colors.
Shelley’s Crimsonwing (Cryptospiza shelleyi): This beautiful and elusive finch inhabits the high-altitude forests of Uganda, making it a challenge to find.
Black-headed Gonolek (Laniarius erythrogaster): With its striking black and red plumage, the Black-headed Gonolek is a vocal and conspicuous species in wooded areas.
Pied Kingfisher (Ceryle rudis): A common and recognizable kingfisher species often seen hovering over water before diving for fish.
African Finfoot (Podica senegalensis): This unique bird, resembling a mix between a rail and a grebe, can be found in slow-flowing rivers and swamps.
Blue-breasted Bee-eater (Merops variegatus): A stunning bee-eater species with iridescent blue and green colors and a distinctive long tail.
African Spoonbill (Platalea alba): This graceful wader, with its spoon-shaped bill, is often seen in wetlands and shallow waters.
African Openbill Stork (Anastomus lamelligerus): This stork is known for its uniquely shaped bill with a gap, which it uses to feed on snails and mollusks.
Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus aegyptius): A common raptor with its characteristic forked tail, often seen soaring over grasslands and open areas.
Bar-tailed Trogon (Apaloderma vittatum): A striking and colorful trogon species found in the forests of Uganda.
African Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides typus): This bird of prey, also known as the Gymnogene, is an expert at raiding nests for eggs and chicks.
Eastern Plantain-eater (Crinifer zonurus): A large, greenish bird with a prominent red facial patch, often seen in savannas and wooded areas.
White-headed Saw-wing (Psalidoprocne albiceps): This small swallow species is recognizable by its white head and distinctive flight pattern.
African Pied Wagtail (Motacilla aguimp): A charming bird with its contrasting black and white plumage, commonly found near water bodies.
Speckled Mousebird (Colius striatus): Small, noisy, and gregarious, the Speckled Mousebird is a common sight in Uganda’s woodlands.
Hadada Ibis (Bostrychia hagedash): Recognizable by its loud and distinctive calls, the Hadada Ibis is often seen foraging in grassy areas.
Scarlet-chested Sunbird (Chalcomitra senegalensis): A dazzling sunbird species with striking colors, commonly seen in gardens and forest edges.
White-browed Robin-Chat (Cossypha heuglini): With its white eyebrow and rich orange breast, this chat species is a treat to watch in the forest understory.
African Grey Hornbill (Lophoceros nasutus): A medium-sized hornbill with a unique curved bill and a distinctive cackling call.
Black Bee-eater (Merops gularis): This striking bird, adorned with black, blue, and green colors, is often spotted perched on branches or telephone wires.
Pin-tailed Whydah (Vidua macroura): The male of this species is a stunning bird, especially during breeding season when it develops long, tail feathers.
Orange Weaver (Ploceus aurantius): A bright orange weaver bird that constructs intricate nests, often seen in the savannas.
African Firefinch (Lagonosticta rubricata): A small, beautiful finch with crimson-red plumage and a preference for grasslands and open areas.
White-crested Turaco (Tauraco leucolophus): Another striking turaco species, with a white crest and green and red plumage.
These are just a few highlights from the extensive birdlife that Uganda has to offer. With its stunning array of avian species, breathtaking landscapes, and warm hospitality, Uganda is a dream destination for birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts alike. Whether exploring the lush forests, tracking birds in the savannas, or venturing into the swamps, Uganda’s rich birdwatching opportunities promise an unforgettable experience for any bird lover. Remember to respect the environment and local regulations while birdwatching, ensuring that this natural treasure is preserved for generations to come.
Best Birdwatching Hotspots in Uganda
Bwindi Impenetrable National Park: Famous for its population of mountain gorillas, this park is also a treasure trove for birdwatchers, with over 350 species recorded. The varied altitudes and dense forests provide habitat for many endemic and rare birds.
Murchison Falls National Park: Located in the northwestern part of Uganda, this park is home to numerous waterbirds, raptors, and savannah species. The Nile River and Murchison Falls offer excellent opportunities to spot a wide variety of birds.
Queen Elizabeth National Park: Known for its diverse wildlife, this park is also a prime birdwatching destination, with over 600 bird species recorded. The Kazinga Channel, Kyambura Gorge, and Maramagambo Forest are excellent birdwatching spots within the park.
Kibale National Park: Renowned for its chimpanzee tracking, Kibale is also a great place for birdwatching in Uganda, especially for forest species. The dense canopy provides a habitat for a wide range of birds, including many colorful species.
Semuliki National Park: Situated in the western part of Uganda, this park is a haven for birdwatchers interested in Albertine Rift endemics. The Ituri Forest and the Semliki River offer great opportunities to spot rare and unique species.
Lake Mburo National Park: This park’s mix of savannah, woodland, and wetland habitats provides a diverse birdwatching experience in Uganda. It’s an excellent place to spot the African Fish Eagle, African Finfoot, and other water-associated birds.
Mabira Forest Reserve: Located along the Kampala-Jinja highway, this lush forest is easily accessible from the capital city and offers a chance to spot a variety of forest species, including the Great Blue Turaco.