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Uganda’s Important Birding Area (IBA)



Uganda is known to harbor more than 50% of Africa’s bird species and 11% of the entire world’s bird species making it a birding paradise possessing an enormous bird list of more than 1,073 recorded bird species. Uganda harbors such a huge diversity of bird species due to Her magnificent diversity and assortment of habitants that range from waterbodies like Lakes, swamps and Rivers to dense forests and savannah grasslands or bushes. These varied habitats also offer a remarkable opportunity to closely observe a wide range of bird species such as embarking on a canoe ride or boat cruise and trekking on foot along developed walking trails through several forests. Several migratory bird species are attracted to Uganda due the country’s warmer regions that have constant food supply and favorable weather conditions. Therefore fluctuations in weather and food availability trigger most bird migrations to Uganda and several other states.

Uganda has more than 34 Important Bird Areas that have been developed for birding and birding excursions. These Important Birding areas have developed birding trails and trained local site birder guides that do easily help one in bird species identification. Below are some of the Important Bird Areas in Uganda;

Queen Elizabeth National Park

Queen Elizabeth National Park is one of the Important Bird Areas in Uganda located in western region of the country. Queen Elizabeth National Park is a haven to a plethora of bird life due to its varied habitats that range from the tropical forests of Kyambura gorge to the Kazinga channel that links Lake Edward to Lake George and its neighboring wetlands. This National Park harbors over 600 bird species that have been recorded making up the most comprehensive checklist of any protected area in East Africa. While in Queen Elizabeth National Park bird species to look out for include the African fish eagle, African jacana, squacco herons, yellow-backed weavers, spur winged plovers, white backed pelicans, water thick knee, knob billed duck, long tailed cormorants, black crake, spoon billed storks, white faced whistling ducks, grey headed kingfishers, shoe bill stork, pied kingfishers, martial eagle, African skimmer, papyrus canary, swamp fly-catcher, papyrus Gonolek, white winged warbler, collard pranticles, white winged terns, thin tailed nightjars, black bee eater, African fin-foot, black-ramped buttonquail to mention but a few. These bird species can be sighted around the Kazinga channel, Lake George wetlands, Kyambura gorge and the savannah plains.

Murchison Falls National Park

Murchison Falls National Park is the country’s oldest and largest National Park covering an area of about 3893 square kilometers. This National Park is a home to the magnificent water falls after it was named, animal species as well as several bird types. Murchison falls National Park is one of the Important Bird Areas harboring to about 460 bird species. The Park is composed of vast habitats for example the woodlands, riverine forests, savannah grasslands, Albert Nile and the Victoria Nile banks. These do harbor a variety of bird species for example water birds, savannah bird types and the Albertine rift endemic bird species. Bird species to look out for while in Murchison Falls National Park include the pre-historic shoebill stork, giant kingfishers, Abyssinian ground hornbill, grey crowned cranes, giant herons, back-bellied bustard, African darter, grey-headed kingfishers, long-toed plover, black-headed lapwing, marabou stork, veracious dove, yellow-fronted tinker bird, rock pranticole, weaver birds, black-bellied barbet, long tailed nightjar, martial eagles, silver bird, yellow-billed stork, standard winged nightjars, sandpipers, pied king fishers, blue-headed coucal, malachite kingfishers, swamp fly-catcher, Denham’s bustard, African jacana, secretary bird Senegal thick knee, whit-browed sparrow weaver, African qualifinch, saddle billed stork, piapiac, palm nut vulture and many more. Bird species with in Murchison Falls National Park can be spotted in various places such as Budongo forest which harbors up to 360 bird species with 2 endemic bird species namely the puvel’s illadopsis and yellow-footed flycatcher. Other birding spots with in the Park include Lake Albert delta, Paraa area, Kaniyo Pabidi forest and along the Nile River.

Lake Mburo National Park

Lake Mburo National Park is the country’s smallest savannah National Park known for prime Uganda wildlife safaris. This National is also a perfect destination for birding safaris since it harbors over 350 bird species that dwell in the woodland acacia vegetation and several swampy Lakes all over the Park. Birds to lookout for include the elusive shoebill stork, African wattled lapwing, red-faced barbet, African fish eagle, yellow-rumped tinker bird, African fin foot, papyrus Gonolek, grey-crowned cranes, lilac-breasted roller, buff-spotted woodpecker, African grey hornbill, red-winged francolins, rufous chested swallow, crested coqui, blue-spotted wood dove, go-away bird, brown parrot, blue quails, green hoopoe, blue-napped mousebird, blue-breasted kingfisher, wing snapping cisticola, red-necked spur fowl, swamp warblers, yellow-throated long caw, white headed barbet, common scimitar bill, temminck’s couser, flapped larks to mention but a few. The best spots for bird watching in Lake Mburo include areas around Lake Mburo, Rubanga forest, Waruki swamp, Miriti swamp and areas around the salt licks.

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park is a renowned home to the endangered mountain gorillas housing up to over half of the world’s remaining gorilla population. These misty forests are not only a home to the gorillas but also a haven to over 350 bird species 14 of which are exclusive birds in the Park. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park houses 23 of the 24 Albertine Rift Endemics for example the breasted sunbird, regal sunbird, handsome francolin, Rwenzori turaco and many more. Other bird species that can be spotted with in Bwindi National Park include the short-tailed warbler, African green broadbill, grauer’s warbler, red-headed bluebill, common bulbul, white-tailed blue-flycatcher, African emerald cuckoo, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, stripe breasted tit, Rwenzori nightjar, red throated alethe, yellow eyed black flycatcher, montane masked Apalis, kivu ground thrush, largdens bush shrike, dusky crimson-wing, archer’s robin chart, yellow crested helmet shrike, Rwenzori batis, red-faced woodland warbler to mention but a few.

Kibale National Park

Kibale National Park is not only Uganda’s primate capital but also a birders paradise known to harbor over 350 bird species six of which are endemic to the region. Kibale National Park is labelled an important bird area due to its forest nature and Bigodi wetland which is a jungle swamp situated at the outskirts of the Park that are habitats to several bird species. Bigodi wetland itself harbors to about 138 bird species that can be spotted during bird watching in Kibale National Park. Bird species that can be looked out for in Kibale National Park include green breasted pitta which is the most sought after bird species, papyrus canary, white collared olive, papyrus Gonolek, zebra waxbill, brown eared woodpecker, Cameroon somber greenbul, African pied wagtail, blue throated roller, blue shouldered robin-chat, black and white shrike-flycatcher, African dusky flycatcher, black-billed weaver, black-billed turaco, barn swallow, African green pigeon, black-crowned Tchagra, alpine swift, ashy flycatcher, African wood owl, yellow-ramped tinker bird, blue breasted kingfisher, black-caped waxbill, Chubb’s cisticola, yellow-spotted nicator, African pitter, dusky crimsoning, collared Apalis, Abyssinian ground thrush, crowned eagle, great blue turaco, Abyssinian hill-babbler to mention but a few.

Mgahinga National Park

Mgahinga National Park is the country’s smallest National Park located in the southwestern region bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. This National Park is a home to mountain gorillas, golden monkeys, Virunga Mountains as well as several bird species of up to 180 bird types of which 14 of them are part of the 24 Albertine endemics and about 39 of the 88 Afro tropical highland bird species. Most sought after bird species in Mgahinga National Park include the Rwenzori turaco, Rwenzori batis, Kivu ground-thrush, black-collared Apalis, blue-headed sunbird, red-throated alethe, purple-breasted sunbird, cinnamon-chested bee eater, red-faced woodland warbler, African olive pigeon, Rwenzori nightjar, black-caped Apalis, common bulbul, dusky crimson wing, black-collared Apalis, pin-tailed whydah, speckled moosebird, African fire finch, olive thrush, handsome francolin, strange weaver, cinnamon chested-bee eater, white-tailed blue flycatcher, bronze sunbird, regal sunbird, black-headed waxbill, western tinker-bird, blue headed coucal, Doherty’s bush-shrike, Archer’s robin-chat, grey crowned cranes, white-necked raven, brown crowned Tchagra, olive woodpecker, dusky turtle dove, grey capped warbler, yellow-vented bulbul, Lagden’s bush shrike, moorland chat, hadada ibis, black kite, yellow-billed kite, banded prinias, buff spotted fluff tail to mention but a few.

Mabamba wetland

Mabamba wetland is a swamp thicket situated on the shores of Lake Victoria north of Entebbe town covering to about 2424 hectares covered with papyrus, lilies and other water grass. This jungle wetland is famous for the elusive shoebill stork which is the most sought after bird type by bird enthusiasts. This is a Ramser site that was listed as one of the Important Bird Areas in Uganda boasting with over 300bird species many of which are threatened bird species. Mabamba wetland harbors 7 of Lake Victoria’s biome endemics most notably the papyrus Gonolek and several other water birds. Palearctic migratory bird species usually flock this swamp from October to March. Other bird species of Mabamba wetland include the Marsh harrier, malachite kingfisher, common moorhen, orange weaver, common squacco heron, orange weaver, cattle egrets, pied kingfishers, goliath herons, common sandpiper, double toothed barbet, great white egret, green cuckoo, great white pelican, glossy ibis, great cormorant, goliath heron, great white eagle, gull-billed tern, harmerkop, little egret, hadada ibis, long-tailed cormorant, little stilt, long toed lapwing, pink-backed pelican, pied wagtail, purple heron, pin-tailed whydah, red-headed love bird, red-eyed dove, speckled mouse bird, shining blue kingfisher, veilot’s black weaver, swamp flycatcher, spur-winged lapwing, spur-winged goose, water thicknee, white-throated bee-eater, white-winged tern, white-browed cuckoo, white-faced whistling duck, winding costocola, wood sandpiper, yellow-billed kite, woodland kingfisher, African fish eagle, African green pigeon, African jacana, African pigmy goose, black crake, African marsh harrier, black-crowned waxbill, black-crowned night heron to mention but a few.

Semliki National Park

Semliki National Park is situated western parts of the country on Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Semliki National Park is one of Uganda’s top birding destinations harboring over 441 bird species including 23 Albertine rift endemics, 35 Guinea-Congo forest biome, forest bird species, migratory bird species and many more. Bird species to look out in Semliki National Park include the lesser Kestrel, long-tailed hawk, Congo serpent eagle, black-wattled hornbill, lyre-tailed honeyguide, Nkulengu rail, white-headed barbet, black-billed barbet, double-toothed barbet, yellow-billed barbet, hairy-breasted barbet, Gabon woodpecker, swamp nightjar, bates’s nightjar, blue-headed coucal, Afep pigeon, grant’s bluebill, chestnut-flanked goshawk, red-thighed sparrow hawk, long-tailed hawk, Eurasian oystercatcher, black saw-wing, capped wheatear, yellow-throated nicator, western nicator, purple-throated cuckoo shrike, white-bellied kingfisher, shinning blue kingfisher, white-tailed robin-chat, northern bearded scrub-robin, red-eyed puff-back, common stonechat, Abyssinian ground-thrush, grey-ground thrush, little-grey greenbul, Toro olive-greenbul, mountain greenbul, blue swallow, white-throated blue swallow, swamp palm bulbul, spotted greenbul, white-stared robin, lowland Akalat, red-throated alethe, fire-crested alethe to mention but a few.

Kidepo National Park

Kidepo National Park is one of Uganda’s Important Bird Areas located in the northeastern region of the country bordering Kenya and South Sudan. Kidepo National Park is a home to over 480 bird species recording the second highest number of bird species in the country after Queen Elizabeth National Park. This isolated National Park is a home to Sudan Guinea biome endemics and over 28 Somali-Masai bird species. Kidepo National Park also supports some of the rarest bird species in Uganda for example the Karamoja Apalis and the black-breasted barbet. Other bird species that thrive in this National Park include the red-cheeked cordon-blue, yellow-billed shrike, yellow-ramped seedeater, black coucal, African moustached warblers, broad-tailed warblers, marsh Tchagra, crimson-ramped waxbill, superb-starlings, Nubian woodpecker, mosque swallows, Bruce’s green pigeon, rose-ringed parakeet, white crested turaco, white-bellied go-away bird, white-faced scoops owl, long-tailed nightjars, little green bee-eater, common ostrich, secretary bird, African swallow-tailed kite, pigmy falcon, fox kestrel, stone partridge, heuglin’s francolin, yellow-necked spur fowl, violet-tipped courser, Kori bustards, white-bellied bustards, black-headed plover, white-bellied tit, northern white-crowned shrikes, fan-tailed raven, superb sterling, red-billed Oxpecker, pygmy sunbirds, rufous sparrow, chestnut sparrow, yellow-spotted Petronia, white-headed buffalo weavers, white-bellied buffalo weavers, four-banded sand grouse, Abyssinian rollers, rufous-crowned rollers, Abyssinian ground hornbills, eastern yellow hornbills, Jackson’s hornbills, red-fronted barbets, black-breasted barbets, singing bush lark, African grey-flycatcher, Ethiopian swallow, red-winged lark, red pate cisticola, white-browned weavers, chestnut sparrow-crowned weavers, speckle-fronted weavers, black-bellied waxbills to mention but a few.

Mountain Elgon National Park

Mountain Elgon National Park is located in the eastern region of the country known to house Mountain Elgon that has the world’s largest volcanic base which is situated at the Uganda-Kenya border. Mountain Elgon National Park hosts over 300 bird species of which 40 bird species are restricted to this area. This Park as well harbors 56 of the 87 Afrotropical highland biome bird species for example the Alpine chat, tinker bird, Moustached green, moorland francolin and many more. There are other bird species whose Ugandan range is limited in this Park include Tacazze sunbird, black-collared Apalis, Jackson’s francolin, black-shouldered kite and many more. Other bird species that can be spotted in this Park include Baglafecht weaver, hartloub’s turaco, Moustached tinker bird, cinnamon bee eater, luhders bush-shrike, dohertys bush-shrike, mackinnon’s fiscal, chinspot batis, white-chinned prinia, tacazze, chubb’s cisticola, African Goshawk, African blue fly-catcher and many more. Mountain Elgon National Park has various birding spots where several bird species can be spotted such as Kapkwai forest exploration center and many more.

Best time for bird watching in Uganda

Bird enthusiasts can visit Uganda all year round though the best time for bird watching in Uganda is during the two dry seasons of December to February and June to September with August particularly being the best. Uganda receives several migratory bird species from Europe for example the Afro-Palearctic migrants that arrive in October and depart in March and others arrive in August and head back in April while Intra-African migrants start arriving in July and depart from September onwards.


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