There’s great joy in the simple, but rewarding hobby of birdwatching. Enthusiasts travel far and wide to feast their eyes (and their camera lenses) on the magnificence of the world’s feathered creatures. There are numerous birdwatching hotspots across the globe, but few come close to Uganda, a place of diverse landscapes, vibrant wildlife, and an abundance of rare birds.
Home to 50 percent of all birds on the continent, Uganda is Africa’s birding paradise. Dazzling birdlife can be found throughout the East African country, across a variety of habitats; some migrate to the capital city of Kampala - where you may spot more than 300 species in just one day! - from the shores of Lake Victoria. But, the best place to watch these feathered friends is in Uganda’s renowned national parks.
Semuliki National Park, for instance, is where you can find over 441 different species; most of them rare, and many endangered. Just some of the colourful birds you can expect to see include the Blue-Headed Sunbird, Dusky Crimsonwing, Yellow-Eyed Black Flycatcher and the African Green Broadbill. There are also about 46 Guinea-Congo biome species you won’t find anywhere else in Africa – or the world. At Semuliki, you can combine your birdwatching with any number of easy or challenging forest hikes for a more memorable experience.
Another excellent birding site is the Mabira Forest Reserve, a 306 square-kilometre rainforest in the central part of the country and home to over 300 types of bird. There, you can revel in sightings of the Turaco, Grey Parrot, Dusky Long-Tailed Cuckoo or the Nahan’s Francolin, which has been placed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List of endangered species.
In western Uganda, there is the Kibale National Park and Bigodi Wetland. While the latter is home to 138 types of bird that can easily be seen on any of their tours, the vibrant birds of Kibale National Park are best spotted on the guided forest walks offered by the park’s experienced staff. Apart from birding, Kibale boasts the highest number of ape species in East Africa.
Uganda has long been touted among the best birdwatching sites in the world. As birding expert and author Nigel Wheatley writes in Where to Watch Birds in Africa, “In terms of its size, Uganda is the richest country for birds in Africa; and this immense volume and diversity occurs miraculously in a space which keen birders can cover in a relatively short visit.”
So, next time you yearn for a rare aesthetic treat or need to take your birdwatching game to the next level, pack your bags and head to Uganda’s lush green forests of unrivalled beauty.