Ultimate Uganda Birding Tour – Shoebill, Albertine Rift Endemics and Great Apes
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Ultimate Uganda Birding Tour – Shoebill, Albertine Rift Endemics and Great Apes
July 2023/ August 2024
This Uganda birding and mammal extravaganza allows you to find the most important birds and primates that Uganda has to offer. Shoebill is almost guaranteed. Over 20 Albertine (Western) Rift endemics are also sought, including one of Africa’s most fabulous turacos, Rwenzori Turaco, and of course the “must-see” Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill. We have not yet missed Green-breasted Pitta on any of our trips – Uganda has become the classic country for finding this otherwise very difficult bird. We also look for other range-restricted birds, such as Red-faced Barbet that is also found in a remote part of Tanzania excluded from most birding tours to that country. Ross’s Turaco, Great Blue Turaco (almost twice the size of other turacos), and various other birds are virtually garden birds here in Uganda, “the Pearl of Africa”. Other highlights of our Uganda birding tour are a great many primates such as Uganda Red Colobus, Guereza, Eastern (Mountain) Gorilla, and Chimpanzee, not to mention the spectacular scenery, including such famous places as Lake Victoria (the continent’s largest lake), Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and last but not least the Virunga Mountains.
Shoebill is one of the most sought-after birds in the world, and is one of our special targets on this tour!
The latter part of this tour is good for a host of more widespread African birds, Lion, with some luck Leopard, White Rhinoceros, and fabulous sites such as Murchison Falls, where the mighty Nile is forced through a narrow gap.
We have the option to spend some time with Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas on this tour.
PLEASE NOTE: This trip is moderate in terms of fitness required, except for some days that are considered quite strenuous, such as the day of gorilla trekking and the day hike into Mubwindi Swamp and back. Chimpanzee trekking and looking for Green-breasted Pitta can also involve quite a lot of walking. You are welcome to opt out of any activities if you don’t feel you’ll manage them. There are also many days of forest birding; please wear appropriate clothing items (dark/neutral clothing and caps instead of very wide-brimmed hats) and be ready to spend good amounts of time on foot with a good chance of soaking rain, so protection for camera gear is advised.
Itinerary (19 days/18 nights)
Day 1. Arrival at Entebbe International Airport and birding the shore of Lake Victoria
We’ll fetch you from Entebbe International Airport and check in at our guest house before starting the birding. The dazzling Black-headed Gonolek as well as the striking Double-toothed Barbet are both common around Entebbe. Bat Hawk and African Hobby are sometimes seen around town. Broad-billed Roller, Palm-nut Vulture, numerous weavers, and perhaps our first Great Blue Turaco might be seen as we bird the Entebbe Botanical Garden on the edge of Africa’s largest lake.
Overnight: The Boma, or similar, Entebbe
The Great Blue Turaco is magnificent!
Days 2 – 3. Shoebill and transfer to Lake Mburo National Park
Bypassing the bustling city of Kampala (adjacent to the more pleasant small town of Entebbe) we head for Mabamba Swamp, one of Africa’s most accessible sites for the monstrous Shoebill. The papyrus-swamp-loving Red-chested Sunbird, numerous weaver species that build their impressively neat nests in the wetlands, coucals, and many tropical waterbirds such as Lesser Jacana abound as we do a dugout canoe trip into the huge swamp. Swamp Flycatcher is also common here. After seeing Shoebill we continue to our site for Orange Weaver, often seeing Eastern Plantain-eater, Ross’s Turaco, large flocks of the noisy Great Blue Turaco (the far-carrying calls of which are one of the characteristic sounds of Uganda), Grey Kestrel, and a very big, beautiful barbet, Double-toothed Barbet.
We eventually arrive at Lake Mburo National Park (where we’ll spend two nights), which breaks the journey between Entebbe and the southwestern border region of Uganda, where we will look for over 20 Albertine Rift endemics (this, also known as the Western Rift, is a branch of the Great Rift Valley).
The following morning we take a boat trip on the lake, and this is one of the easiest places to find African Finfoot. We sometimes see overwintering Malagasy Pond Heron and Papyrus Gonolek in addition to an array of kingfishers including the likes of Malachite Kingfisher, Giant Kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, and the rare Shining-blue Kingfisher. In general this park gives us an excellent opportunity to see a lot of arid-country birds, which can include Blue-naped Mousebird, Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Golden-breasted Bunting, and the incredibly localized, rather “thin-on-the-ground” Red-faced Barbet, along with a more widespread East African species, Spot-flanked Barbet. Nubian Woodpecker is often heard before it is seen. Like in most arid-habitat parks in East Africa a large bird list can be accumulated very fast, and the above species are just a few of the many goodies we expect to find. This is the only place where we’re likely to see Plains Zebra during our Uganda birding tour, and there are a lot of other mammals as well, such as Hippopotamus, African Buffalo, Defassa Waterbuck, Bohor Reedbuck, Topi, Common Eland, and many more.
Overnight: Rwakobo Rock, Lake Mburo National Park
Sometimes we see up to five African Finfoots at Lake Mburo.
Days 4 – 5. Birding the Virunga Mountains region: Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
The Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas here freely roam into neighboring Rwanda and the DRC, but with extreme luck we might stumble across them (usually we have to wait until we get to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, though). One of the main reasons we include this park on our Uganda birding tour is to look for the gorgeous Rwenzori Turaco. This park has a lot of bamboo forest, in which we search for Abyssinian Ground Thrush. The very rare Shelley’s Crimsonwing is always possible – this Endangered (IUCN) species seems to be declining, and for once not because of humans. We may get a head start with some other Albertine Rift endemics, but most of these will have to wait for Bwindi.
Overnight: Travellers Rest, Kisoro
The beautiful Regal Sunbird is an Albertine Rift endemic.
Days 6 – 7. Ruhija, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park
We travel to one of Africa’s richest forests for primates and birds, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, and start in its high-altitude Ruhija part. We’ll start birding the forest-covered hills as soon as we arrive, looking for the beautiful Black Bee-eater and also trying to find Grauer’s Swamp Warbler at a roadside site, so that we can reduce the length of the long walk on day 6, this warbler occurring right in the lower reaches of Mubwindi Swamp. Mountain Yellow Warbler might also be seen, nice to compare with Papyrus Yellow Warbler, for which we try another day. A walk most of the way down to this swamp can’t be avoided, though, as Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill, one of Africa’s most desirable birds, also occurs there.
The good-looking, highly localized Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher also lurks pretty close to the bottom reaches. The walk down to the site for this broadbill (and back) takes a large part of the day, but this is one of the best birding days of the entire tour. Trip participants usually end up getting a constant stream of life-birds throughout the day, mainly Albertine Rift endemics. Banded Prinia, Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Apalis, Chestnut-throated Apalis, the strange-looking (and dull for a barbet) Grey-throated Barbet, Red-faced Woodland Warbler, and up to four species of quiet, brightly colored forest finches known as crimsonwings (all of them very difficult, though!) are often encountered. There are too many high-quality species to list here, but we hope to find Olive-breasted Greenbul (one of the more attractively colored greenbuls – we’ll see a great many of the duller ones, as Uganda is absolutely full of them, presenting quite an identification challenge). We do need to mention a couple of the other range-restricted species as well, though, – the very long-tailed Blue-headed Sunbird, the dazzling Regal Sunbird, Stripe-breasted Tit, Rwenzori Batis, and also slightly more widespread species like the fabulous Bar-tailed Trogon and Rwenzori Hill Babbler.
Overnight: Trekker’s Tavern Cottages, Ruhija
The highly prized Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill is another major target.
Days 8 – 10. Buhoma, Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park: birds and optional gorilla trekking
En route between the higher-altitude Ruhija and the lower-elevation Buhoma sections of the park we stop to bird “The Neck”, which allows us to see quite a number of species we won’t find elsewhere. Black Bee-eater and Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater are both quite easy to see here. Chubb’s Cisticola duets from the thickets. Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher (also known as Vanga Flycatcher) might be seen – this charismatic bird usually moves around (a lot, it’s an extremely lively species) and makes lots of noise as it flies around from one perch to the next. It has a fabulous crest, but the female is chestnut and white, whereas the male is black-and-white with striking yellow eyes. We might also see Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Mackinnon’s Shrike, Bronzy Sunbird and several other sunbirds, African Grey Woodpecker, Augur Buzzard, etc.
Deep-forest birds we’ll seek include many more localized endemics that barely get into neighboring countries – Grauer’s Warbler (not to be confused with Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, which we should have already seen), Bar-tailed Trogon, Petit’s Cuckooshrike, Lühder’s Bushshrike, Brown-capped Weaver and other weavers of the forest canopy, Red-throated Alethe, and lots of others. We’ll be sure to spend time looking for slightly more widespread birds as well, including the skulking White-spotted Flufftail, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike, Olive-bellied Sunbird, some beautiful forest barbets such as the large Yellow-billed Barbet, the dazzlingly bright and shiny, green-and-yellow African Emerald Cuckoo, and, last but not least, Black-billed Turaco.
Forest-edge birding can be equally rewarding (and often easier for photography!) with such specials as Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Great Blue and Ross’s Turaco, Grey-winged Robin-Chat, Black-necked Weaver, Red-headed Malimbe, Northern Double-collared Sunbird, Grey-headed Nigrita and many others. Over our two full days here we will spend plenty of time birding the forest trails, forest edge and adjacent agricultural areas.
At Buhoma itself, there is the opportunity for one day optionally trekking for Mountain Gorillas (this is a strenuous activity; if you decide not to join, you’ll be taken birding instead, or you can relax or look at and photograph birds around the lodge).
Overnight: Ride 4 a Woman, Buhoma
Bar-tailed Trogon occurs in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.
Day 11. Birds and mammals of Queen Elizabeth National Park
We stop over in Queen Elizabeth National Park (often staying on the Mweya peninsula itself, along the Kazinga Channel) en route to Kibale Forest. England’s queen officially opened this national park (well-known for its tree-climbing lions and boasting 100 mammal species and 600 bird species!) in 1954. One of the highlights of our stay here is getting out on the Kazinga Channel by boat and seeing Nile Crocodile, Hippopotamus, and a great many waterbirds. Naturally we also see Common Warthog, African Buffalo, Uganda Kob, and a plethora of other mammals. Forest Hog usually steals the show, however.
Overnight: Bushlodge, Queen Elizabeth National Park
Days 12 – 13. Kibale National Park – the Chimpanzee/Green-breasted Pitta combo
The drive from Queen Elizabeth to another fantastic national park, Kibale, is amazing: We traverse the foothills of the “Mountains of the Moon” (the Ruwenzori Range) and cross the equator, eventually arriving at the richest forest for primates on the African continent. Our main avian target is Green-breasted Pitta, which is best found at dawn, when its display call allows us to narrow down its whereabouts (otherwise, despite the jewel-like colors of this bird, it’s like looking for a needle in a haystack on the forest floor). While we search for this bird the atmospheric, quite scary noises of large troops of Chimpanzees resonate through the forest. There is also the opportunity for optionally trekking for Chimpanzees. We should also find some other primates such as L’Hoest’s Monkey, Uganda Red Colobus, one of the most striking of all African primates, Guereza (Eastern Black-and-white Colobus), Red-tailed Monkey, Grey-cheeked Mangabey, and other monkeys (not to mention the well-built Olive Baboon, which wanders around in massive groups, usually on the ground). We also have a lot of good birds to see, which might include White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Narrow-tailed Starling, Black-billed Turaco, and Chestnut Wattle-eye.
Overnight: Kibale Forest Lodge, Bigodi
Green-breasted Pitta is another of Africa’s most sought-after species we’ll be targeting.
Day 14. Travel to Masindi
After some final birding around Kibale we head to Masindi. Time-permitting, we can already start birding famed sites nearby such as the Royal Mile.
Overnight: Masindi Hotel, Masindi – Tel. +256-77260420130
Day 15. Birding at Budongo Forest and the beautiful Royal Mile, transfer to Murchison Falls National Park
Budongo Forest is excellent for many special birds we won’t have yet seen during the tour. Chestnut-capped Flycatcher is a star bird – along with two other species: there is a trio of small warbler-like flycatchers that are taxonomically enigmatic, and this is one of them (we usually find the other two on our Tanzania and Mozambique birding tours). Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher is another prized bird here. But it’s the kingfishers (most of them not associated with water!) that make the Royal Mile famous. Chocolate-backed Kingfisher is probably the most popular of them all, but then Blue-breasted Kingfisher, African Dwarf Kingfisher, and others are also completely dazzling. Red-tailed Ant Thrush, Fire-crested Alethe, and Nahan’s Partridge usually stay close to the forest floor. The pretty Rufous-crowned Eremomela, White-thighed Hornbill, and a lot of others inhabit the canopy. Some fantastic forest barbets, tinkerbirds, and woodpeckers abound. There are a great many greenbuls, different species inhabiting different levels of the forest from the undergrowth to the canopy, and these are fun (or, in some people’s opinions, not!) to learn to identify. The Royal Mile is a breathtakingly beautiful forest to spend time in and certainly boasts an extremely rich birdlife. From here we will transfer to Murchison Falls National Park.
Overnight: Twiga Safari Lodge, near Murchison Falls National Park
Days 16 – 17. Murchison Falls National Park
We do boat trips and birding/game drives in this area, where we always add a great many new birds to our list. This is also a brilliant place for big and small mammals that might include Lion, Leopard, Rothschild’s Giraffe, Oribi, Lelwel Hartebeest, Common Warthog, the scarce Patas Monkey, and many others. Black-headed Lapwing, Silverbird, Speckle-fronted Weaver, Abyssinian Ground Hornbill, Red-throated Bee-eater, Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Rock Pratincole, White-headed Barbet, Black-billed Barbet, Meyer’s Parrot, and Bateleur are just a few of the species on our rather large menu.
We should of course mention the fact that the massive volume of the Nile River is forced through a narrow gap here at Murchison Falls – while looking at this site there is a small chance that we might also manage to find Pel’s Fishing Owl or Bat Hawk. Where possible we can arrange night drives for some nightjar and owl species in the area; these may include Long-tailed, Plain, and Pennant-winged Nightjars and possibly Greyish Eagle-Owl.
Overnight: Twiga Safari Lodge, near Murchison Falls National Park
The massive Abyssinian Ground Hornbill can be found in Murchison Falls National Park.
Day 18. Birding Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary on the way back to Entebbe
Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary is the only place in Uganda to see White Rhinoceros and arguably the best place for the incomparable White-crested Turaco. There’s a good variety of other birds as well (as usual), including Bronze–tailed, Purple, Splendid, and Rüppell’s Starlings, Parasitic Weaver, Marsh Widowbird, Weynes’s Weaver, African Hoopoe, African Cuckoo-Hawk, etc. We then transfer back to Entebbe.
Overnight: The Boma, or similar, Entebbe
Day 19. Flights leave Entebbe
Your flight can leave any time today from Entebbe International Airport.
Please note that the itinerary cannot be guaranteed as it is only a rough guide and can be changed (usually slightly) due to factors such as availability of accommodation, updated information on the state of accommodation, roads, or birding sites, the discretion of the guides and other factors. In addition, we sometimes have to use a different international guide from the one advertised due to tour scheduling.Download Itinerary
Uganda Set Departure Birding Trip Report, August 2022
1 – 19 August 2022
By Dylan Vasapolli
DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT
The highly sought-after Green-breasted Pitta was once again seen very well on our tour!
For a long time Uganda has been a popular country for visiting birders, with its high species diversity, notable Albertine Rift endemics, and easily the most accessible country in the world for the highly-prized Shoebill all contributing to this. Our set departure tour spans 19-days, covering the ‘main’ birding circuit through the western half of the country. This is one of our most popular tours, and a full group was present for our 2022 tour. While this tour took place during the Covid-19 pandemic, worldwide travel restrictions were for the most part tremendously eased – which made transit to, and within the country, smooth and easy. We were fortunate with weather conditions being kind to us – although we do time this tour to take place during the dry season the weather can sometimes be rainy in this equatorial country. We lost neither time nor birds due to inclement weather.
Dusky Crimsonwing is one of several Albertine Rift endemics possible on this tour. We were rewarded on several occasions with exceptional views of this shy bird this year!
Beginning in Entebbe, on the shores of Lake Victoria, a search for the iconic Shoebill kicked this tour off, before venturing to the first of several excellent national parks – Lake Mburo National Park. Here we got our first taste of more open savanna birding, along with various mammals, and netted some prized birds like Red-faced Barbet, African Finfoot, White-backed Night Heron and Long-tailed Cisticola, amongst others. We then transited to the very south-western corner of Uganda, bordering Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Here we got our first taste of Albertine Rift birding in the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park – a park sadly skipped on most birding tours to the country. This is the only easily accessible area in Uganda, where Rwenzori Turaco and Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird can be found and we did well on both these fronts, obtaining great views of both species. A number of other Albertine Rift endemics were seen here, including the likes of Rwenzori Batis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Strange Weaver, Dusky Crimsonwing, along with the always difficult Lagden’s Bushshrike. In addition, the papyrus swamps in this part of the country are also the best areas to search for Papyrus Yellow Warbler and Papyrus Canary – both decidedly tricky birds missed on most other birding tours to the country. We again hit the jackpot, scoring both species. We found the rare Ruaha Chat again this year – having successfully found breeding birds on our 2021 tour. A short hop followed, as we spent 5 nights within the incredible Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park, exploring both the higher-lying, and lower-lying reaches of the park, searching for yet more Albertine Rift endemics. The highly sought-after Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill was a major highlight, as were many others including the ultra-shy Doherty’s Bushshrike and Grey-chested Babbler. The higher-lying areas also yielded the likes of Handsome Spurfowl, Dwarf Honeyguide, Purple-breasted Sunbird and the scarce Grauer’s Warbler. The lower-lying reaches of the park were equally successful, if not more so, with both Neumann’s Warbler and Willard’s Sooty Boubou showing themselves, along with many others including Red-throated Alethe, Bar-tailed Trogon, African Broadbill, White-bellied, Blue-shouldered and Grey-winged Robin-Chats. We also enjoyed several primates here, including our first views of Chimpanzees, along with the gentle giants, Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas. Naturally, we incorporated time for folks to track the Eastern Gorillas that call this area home. More game drives and boat trips followed during our brief stop in Queen Elizabeth National Park, where both Lion and Leopard were major highlights, along with a host of exciting birds from the delightful Blue-breasted Kingfisher to African Skimmer and so many more.
Lion is one of several mammals we always search for in the savanna parks in Uganda. Queen Elizabeth National Park in particular often produces the goods.
The Kibale Forest National Park followed, where the mega Green-breasted Pitta was our main target, and was enjoyed at length once again on our tour (we’ve yet to miss this species on our set-departure tours to Uganda). We also got to see Chimpanzees here again, along with other primates, and further exciting birds including the scarce Lowland Masked Apalis and the bright Red-headed Bluebill. A quick stop at the Budongo Forest and Royal Mile broke up our drive to Murchison Falls National Park, where yet more excellent birds were found. Murchison Falls National Park is always a firm favorite amongst the group, with its scenic landscapes, game-filled plains, and bird-rich woodlands keeping everyone on their toes. Here we enjoyed a vast assemblage of birds and mammals, raking up the sought-after Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and Northern Carmine Bee-eater, to more scarce species like Brown-rumped Bunting and Yellow-billed Shrike, amongst so many others. The last stop on our tour was at Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, where we undertook rhino tracking, getting up close and personal with White Rhinos – the only place in Uganda where rhinos can be seen. Birding is part and parcel of our tour, and we added the last of our highlights here with Marsh Widowbird and the incomparable Pennant-winged Nightjar being found. The tour ended in Entebbe following a successful 19-day loop through this incredible country!
This tour never fails to produce vast numbers of birds, and 2022 was no different, with the tour falling just shy of 550 species recorded, with an incredible 535 species being seen. A high mammal count was also achieved with more than 40 species being found, including ‘The Big 5’, and a host of primates and Great Apes. The detailed lists can be found at the end of this report.
Day 1, 1st August. Arrival, and birding around Entebbe
We had a slightly leisurely start to the day, with most folks having arrived in the early hours of the morning. Following breakfast, we set off on a stroll around the grounds of our lodge, and the surrounding area, which was productive. A family of the bright Ross’s Turaco’s started things off, as did noisy Eastern Plaintain Eaters and a few of the sought-after Grey Parrot. We also familiarized ourselves with the more widespread species such as Northern Black Flycatcher, Splendid and Ruppell’s Starlings, African Thrush, Red-chested and Scarlet-chested Sunbirds and Bronze Mannikin. Some careful scrutineering yielded the likes of Meyer’s Parrot, Double-toothed Barbet, snazzy Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Grey-headed Nigrita and Grey-capped Warbler. Checking out our Bat Hawk spot produced the goods, and we enjoyed excellent views of a pair of these sought-after birds! A large flock of Piapiacs was the surprise of the morning. Following our last clients’ arrival into Uganda, we headed off to the always-excellent Entebbe Botanical Gardens for the afternoon. Overcast conditions kept activity high, and we began the walk off with a pair of roosting African Wood Owls that showed well. The massive Great Blue Turaco and Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills were also early highlights, before we headed towards the lake edge for a short while. Scarce weavers were our primary goal, and played hard-ball with us – with the hoped-for Orange and Weyne’s Weavers not showing, and us having to settle for the likes of Vieillot’s Black, Black-necked, Village and Slender-billed Weavers. There was a constant hive of activity here, and we enjoyed several waterbirds such as African Fish Eagle, African Openbill, Striated Heron, Pied Kingfisher and Winding Cisticola, amongst others, while some non-waterbird sightings went to African Hobby, Grey Parrot, masses of Broad-billed Rollers hawking insects, Yellow-throated Leaflove, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher and Olive-bellied Sunbird. We eventually had to tear ourselves away, and settled in for the evening.
Day 2, 2nd August. Shoebill, and transfer to Lake Mburo
As we headed out to the Mabamba Swamps to look for the one-of-a-kind Shoebill – one of the worlds most sought-after birds – a sense of excitement gripped us. Following our arrival, we made our way onto our small boats, and headed off into the swamp. Luck was on our side, as we immediately headed straight out towards a Shoebill, and soon were basking in the glory of this incredible bird! We spent a short while with the bird, following it as it moved deeper into the swamps, and were rewarded with it catching a lungfish, and promptly swallowing it whole! To say we had satisfactory views would be an understatement! We then had a bit of time to try and track down some of the other waterbirds occurring here – chief amongst those being Lesser Jacana. We hunted high and low, and had a few close calls with several juvenile African Jacanas, but failed to find any Lesser’s. We enjoyed a wide range of other waterbirds however, with the beautiful Malachite Kingfishers darting in front of us, while noisy Long-toed Lapwings patrolled the muddy edges, whilst Black Crakes skulked about in the reeds. A Blue-headed Coucal showed well, eventually popping out into the open, while a brief Rufous-bellied Heron flew in and showed to some in the group.
Shoebill is one of the most prized birds in the world, and is readily found in Uganda.
We eventually made our way back to land, and set off to our end destination at Lake Mburo. Stops along the way yielded several exciting birds from the massive Great Blue Turaco, to dainty White-shouldered Black Tits, and lovely Blue-spotted Wood Doves. We paused on the equator, not only for lunch, but also to see the Coriolis Effect. We arrived at the turnoff to Lake Mburo in the late afternoon, with enough time left in the day for a few stops. Our first stop in some dry scrub gave us Trilling Cisticola, Black-headed Gonolek and a few Lesser Masked Weavers in amongst hordes of Red-billed Quelea. Another stop produced others such as Crested Francolin, a brief African Pygmy Kingfisher, Cardinal Woodpecker, Little Bee-eater and the delightful Red-billed Firefinch, amongst many others. We checked into our excellent lodge and settled in for a wonderful evening.
Day 3, 3rd August. Birding Lake Mburo National Park
We awoke to a dense fog covering the area – a result of the recent heavy rains that had fallen prior to our arrival. The first part of our morning was spent in the fog, as it gradually thinned out, before totally disappearing. We found ourselves birding along the road to the entrance of Lake Mburo National Park, where we enjoyed a few species such as Red-headed Lovebird, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, Grey-capped Warbler, Southern Black Flycatcher and White-winged Black Tit, amongst others. Whilst completing the formalities at the gate, our searching finally paid off and we added a fine pair of the highly sought-after Red-faced Barbets. We enjoyed the birds for a while, before they were joined by a Black-collared Barbet – a widespread species in southern Africa, but very scarce in this part of the world. We were bound for the lake within the park, where we had a late morning boat ride. We slowly birded our way to the lake, with several exciting birding stops along the way. We added some typical bushveld birds like Bare-faced Go-away-bird, Yellow-breasted Apalis, Red-headed Weaver, while also finding some more special birds like Long-tailed Cisticola, Crested Barbet (another localized bird in Uganda and East Africa generally) and Little Weaver. Our raptor list also began growing, with us adding White-backed and Lappet-faced Vultures, Bateleur and a close-up Wahlberg’s Eagle.
We eventually arrived at the lake, and set off on our cruise, which was excellent! It was virtually within the first minute when we latched onto our first African Finfoot, swimming in between a pod of Hippos. This species is arguably the main attraction for the lake, as it is surely the easiest place in the world to find this normally secretive bird. While the bird kept its distance, we enjoyed a good sighting, before moving on. The papyrus birds proved difficult with only brief views of Papyrus Gonolek leaving us wanting more, while Greater Swamp and White-winged Swamp Warblers remained hidden. Carruthers’s Cisticola was also present in the area. A wide range of swallows were seen drinking, and we added the likes of Red-rumped, Red-breasted, Mosque and Lesser Striped Swallows, along with many of the snazzy White-headed Saw-wings. We also struck gold finding a pair of nesting White-backed Night Herons, that showed amazingly well. We were sure to keep our distance, so as to not disturb the birds, and left them in peace. The rest of our cruise saw us enjoying a few more African Finfoots, including a fine male, along with many African Fish Eagles, Malachite Kingfishers and several shorebirds such as Water Thick-knee and Common and Wood Sandpipers. We also notched up some of our first plains game, with the likes of Plains Zebra, (Rothschild’s) Giraffe, African Buffalo and Impala being seen. Following a midday break, we resumed our birding in the afternoon where cool and overcast conditions rolled in, and kept the bird activity high. No less than four White-headed Barbets were an early highlight, before a group of Black-lored Babblers flew in and stole the show. We had great looks at the normally secretive Slate-coloured Boubou, and after a bit of a search, we were also finally rewarded with the sought-after Brown-chested Lapwings, with some Senegal Lapwings nearby for comparison. Two rival pairs of Wahlberg’s Eagles interacting provided some good entertainment with lots of aerial maneuvering, and several of the brightly colored Golden-backed Weavers were another highlight. As it started to get dark we enjoyed both Freckled and Black-shouldered Nightjars around the lodge, while Square-tailed Nightjar called in the distance. Following which we set off on a night drive, which was marred with rain for the first half – but did produce excellent sightings of an African Civet and Central African Large-spotted Genet. A lovely dinner rounded off a truly superb day!
A fine male African Finfoot patrols the edges of Lake Mburo.
Day 4, 4th August. Lake Mburo to Kisoro
Armed with a full day of travel ahead, we began early in the day with a short walk around the lodge to start our morning off. It was incredibly birdy, and we notched up the likes of Klaas’s Cuckoo, Black Cuckooshrike, Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye and the tricky Striped Pipit. We also enjoyed several other species such as Ross’s Turaco, before we gathered our things and set off – bound for Kisoro, in the very south-west of Uganda. Our primary reason for visiting this part of the country, which is often missed on conventional birding tours, is to visit the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and try for several Albertine Rift Endemics (AREs) that are not easily possible elsewhere. It is a long drive, and our route was punctured with a stop for the rare Ruaha Chat, which showed brilliantly well, and a stop at Lake Bunyonyi, where we would try for a few rare papyrus birds.
Our lunch break along the lake was very birdy and we quickly added the likes of Brown-backed Honeybird, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Bronzy Sunbird and the smart Black-crowned Waxbill. Our actual papyrus birding proved more difficult and we had to go away largely empty handed, having only heard White-winged Swamp Warbler, and not even had a sniff of either Papyrus Yellow Warbler or Papyrus Canary. We made our final stop for the day at the Echuya Forest Reserve, where we had some extremely productive birding, and got introduced to the first of our AREs. Almost immediately after hopping out the cruiser, we had our eyes locked on the difficult Archer’s Ground Robin, before a Rwenzori Apalis showed up. Before long we had also added the spectacular Regal Sunbird, along with Rwenzori Batis, Mountain Masked Apalis, Red-faced Woodland Warbler and Strange Weaver as yet more AREs, and an honorable mention to Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater and Mountain Yellow Warbler. A pair of White-collared Olivebacks inspecting some old weaver nests rounded off the day in style!
Day 5, 5th August. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park An exciting day awaited us, as we ventured to the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. This park gives birders access to a few AREs not easily possible elsewhere in the country, in particular, Rwenzori Turaco and Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. Shortly after arriving and completing all the formalities, we started off up the slopes of Mount Sabyinyo, and immediately were halted with our first major target – Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird. We took in our first views, and as it would turn out, we would see many individuals throughout the day with the many flowering plants attracting good numbers of them. Further stops yielded Rwenzori Hill Babbler, along with providing us repeat views of Rwenzori Batis and Mountain Masked Apalis. Rwenzori Turaco was proving hard to get, with us having heard several birds early on in the hike, but failing to see any of them. Eventually, our patience and persistence was rewarded as we found an individual that wanted to be seen, and after a bit of back and forth, we tracked the bird down, perched in the open, and enjoyed sublime views of this handsome and very special bird!
Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird is a species missed on most birding tours to Uganda – however, a trip to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park will change that.
With our two main targets out the way, we could concentrate on some of the many other species found here. Doherty’s Bushshrike and Albertine Sooty Boubou played hard ball, with only the latter being briefly seen by some, before some excitement ensued when we located the difficult Lagden’s Bushshrike, which unfortunately disappeared before everyone could get onto it. Our spirits were lifted soon though with a bird party that produced Chestnut-throated Apalis, along with several others like Northern Puffback, Mountain Masked Apalis, Rwenzori Batis and Strange Weaver, before we picked up on a pair of the decidedly tricky Dusky Crimsonwings. After some initially brief views, we were blown away when the pair popped out into the open and gave us the most incredible sighting. With spirits firmly high, we broke for lunch, before resuming our hike back down to the gate. Initial stops along the way gave us White-bellied Crested Flycatcher, Kandt’s Waxbill and Mountain Buzzard. While more dedicated stops produced a showy Western Tinkerbird, along with some much better views of Albertine Sooty Boubou and several Cinnamon Bracken Warblers that actually popped out for us (after having heard many throughout the morning and only seen bushes moving). More widespread species such as Olive Woodpecker, White-starred Robin and Dusky Turtle Dove were also seen during the course of our hike. We made it back down to the bottom, and called it a day – with a bit of free time in the afternoon.
Day 6, 6th August. Kisoro to Ruhija, birding en route
Our morning began off in the Echuya Forest Reserve, en route to Ruhija, where we spent a short while. Bright Mountain Orioles sat in the treetops, while skulking White-browed Crombecs bounced about in the vine tangles, before a strange sound led us to a party of Sharpe’s Starling. These scarce birds showed very well, giving us views at length. We also did well notching up Grey Cuckooshrike, Northern Puffback, Abyssinian Thrush and Northern Double-collared Sunbird while a few of the tricky Horus Swifts gave us looks overhead. Various other species we’d become acquainted with over the past few days showed well again. We then turned our attention to the papyrus wetlands around Lake Bunyonyi where we’d spend some time. Papyrus Yellow Warbler was our first target, and unlike a few days ago, we managed to find a pair very soon after arriving at our site. There were a few nervous moments when only some in the group could see the birds, but we didn’t have to worry as a short while the bird hopped out into the open and we had great looks! A vocal African Rail showed only to some, as did White-winged Swamp Warbler – while a calling Red-chested Flufftail refused to come out for us, despite a concerted effort. Following a break for lunch (where delightful Bronzy Sunbirds and two Spotted-necked Otters kept us company), we resumed with some further papyrus birding. We struck gold almost immediately once more, finding the tricky Papyrus Canary, which also showed remarkably well! Some further exploration of the area yielded a skulking Greater Swamp Warbler, repeat views of Carruthers’s Cisticola, along with a host of seedeaters – Common, Fawn-breasted, Black-crowned and Yellow-bellied Waxbills and Black-and-white Mannikin. Following our successful birding, we made our way to Ruhija, set in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. A confiding Handsome Spurfowl was the only sighting of note along the way. After checking into our lodge set in the highlands, we headed out for our afternoon birding. The afternoon was a bit slow, but we did enjoy sublime views of both Great Blue and Black-billed Turacos, along with our first Grey-throated Barbets and Thick-billed Seedeaters, while repeat views of Sharpe’s Starling were welcomed. A Purple-breasted Sunbird seen by me sadly refused to cooperate, but a pair of Grey-chinned Sunbirds gave us scope views. Before long, it was dusk, and we began searching for Montane (Rwenzori) Nightjar – which took a little while of searching, but showed well in the end!
Papyrus Canary is a scarce species, regularly missed on tours to Uganda.
Day 7, 7th August. Birding on the Mubwindi Swamp walk
This was one of the most anticipated days of the tours, as we made the rather arduous hike down to the Mubwindi Swamp (and back again), in search of a heap of Albertine Rift Endemics (AREs) and in particular Grauer’s Broadbill (African Green Broadbill). This is one of the only sites in the world, and the only ‘easily’ accessible site for this species, which is only possible during a short period around their breeding season, when they stay relatively localized in a small area. The day began early, when we started the walk down to the swamp, with early stops yielding a lively party of Mountain Illadopsis along with some skulky Black-faced Prinias. We tried to keep our stops brief on the way down, in favor of reaching the site for the broadbill and focusing the bulk of our time on this species. This was done, as the birds had left the nest several weeks prior to our visit, and were beginning to range more widely in the area, and becoming trickier and trickier to find. Despite this, we did stop whenever we found an interesting birds, and stops were made for the stunning Blue-headed Sunbird, shy Red-throated Alethes, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatchers, snazzy Stripe-breasted Tits a fine Bar-tailed Trogon, and for the skulking Grey-chested Babbler. The latter in particular is a scarce and infrequently-seen species, and we spent a while working this vocal individual. Sadly, we were only rewarded with brief views that left us wanting a bit more. We eventually arrived into the area for the broadbill, and were soon shepherded up the surrounding hill slopes, where we soon found a pair of Grauer’s Broadbills. We spent some time with the birds, and watched as they gradually moved closer to where we were stationed – with the birds eventually settling just above us, giving spectacular views! This area was also alive with activity, and we enjoyed heaps of other birds, such as Brown-capped Weaver, Waller’s Starling, White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Fine-banded (Tullberg’s) Woodpecker, Black-throated Apalis and Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, amongst others. With smiles still brimming, we made our way to the actual swamp where we quickly managed to get the Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, along with a bonus Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle. Following lunch, we began the ascent back to the top, pausing for bouts of bird activity. We did well, with several exciting stops that produced the scarce Dwarf Honeyguide and a very showy Doherty’s Bushshrike – the latter was much-welcomed, as we had heard many over the preceding days, but not seen any of them. A final stop gave us another excellent view of Dusky Crimsonwing, before we finally reached the top. We could not have asked for a better trip down to the swamp, and enjoyed a well-earned afternoon’s rest.
Grauer’s Broadbill is one of a few mega species that this trip aims to find!
Day 8, 8th August. Ruhija to Buhoma, birding en route
Although this day was set aside as a travel day, we transited only a short distance, from Ruhija set in the high altitudes of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, to Buhoma, set in the lower lying parts of Bwindi – and as such, we had essentially the entire day to cover the short distance. We began our morning off birding the School Trail, at Ruhija, where we were hoping to clean up on some of our missing targets. Purple-breasted Sunbird proved quite easy to find, with two large flowering trees hosting a great deal of sunbirds. We had to be a bit patient, but we were eventually rewarded with good looks at this often-tricky species, in amongst the hordes of Northern Double-collared and Regal Sunbirds, with a few Blue-headed Sunbirds spread in between. Grauer’s Warbler too, didn’t present too much of a challenge, and coincidentally right when we found our Purple-breasted Sunbirds, we heard the tell-tale call, and were soon enjoying excellent views of this skulking species! We then set off, bound eventually for Buhoma, with a few obligatory stops along the way. Our first stop to look for Dusky Twinspot was a roaring success, and almost immediately after arriving on site, latched onto a single Dusky Twinspot, which paused for all to enjoy good scope views! We spent a short while longer here, enjoying repeat and better views of the twinspots along with a great sighting of a pair of courting African Harrier Hawks. Our next stop was at “The Neck”, where we spent a few hours birding in the late morning. As always, birding here can be tricky especially given the time of day, but we managed to find a few feeding flocks, and raked up a few birds in the process. One bout of activity had us all struggling to keep pace with the new birds flooding in. A Red-tailed Greenbul hopped into the open, before a Grey-headed Sunbird zipped into view, when a Buff-spotted Woodpecker stole the limelight for a bit. The shy Black-faced Rufous Warbler showed well, and a pair of Black Bee-eaters, with a sub-adult bird, took our breath away, with some further birding in the area yielding Many-colored Bushshrike, the scarce Kakamega Greenbul and a fantastic aerial displaying Crowned Eagle.
We eventually had to move onwards, arriving at our great lodge in Buhoma – Ride 4 a Women. This establishment has strong ties to the community, and contribute directly to a number of excellent community initiatives and projects, many of which they run. Following a bit of a break, we set off for the nearby forest, where we started off birding the forest edges. The mass of flowering plants on the outskirts proved to be extremely productive, with Green-throated and Blue-throated Brown Sunbirds as new species, along with several other species we had become used to, such as Bronzy, Collared and Green-headed Sunbirds. Here we also did well finding the scarce Green Twinspot, along with Red-headed Malimbe, while Luhder’s Bushshrike showed only to some. It took quite some effort, and a great deal of careful scanning, but we eventually managed to lay our eyes on a calling Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat, which seemed rather unconcerned with our presence. A Red-capped Robin-Chat also showed well, though also took some effort to track down. A flock of Scarce Swifts reeling about overhead brought our day to a close, and we settled in for the evening.
Day 9, 9th August. Birding the Buhoma Main Trail
Ready for a full day of forest birding, we set off on the Buhoma Main Trail early in the morning, bound for the depths of the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. The morning started off a bit slow, with us adding the likes of Rufous Flycatcher Thrush and Sooty Flycatcher, before we found a pair of the scarce Chapin’s Flycatchers feeding a youngster. While enjoying the flycatchers, things picked up with a nearby fruiting tree producing Elliot’s Woodpecker, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Ansorge’s Greenbul and the snazzy Yellow-spotted Barbet, while the shy White-tailed Ant-Thrush showed lower down in the forest. White-bellied Robin-Chat showed well nearby, while the similar Equatorial Akalat played hide and seek with us, showing well to most in the group, and offering the rest only brief views. Further stops were made where we enjoyed a fine displaying African Broadbill, along with a lovely Bar-tailed Trogon. One of our main targets for the day was the recently described Willard’s Sooty Boubou, a shy and down-right difficult species. Fortunately, luck was on our side as we found a vocal and showy pair without major difficulty, and enjoyed great looks at this rare species. The equally difficult Neumann’s Warbler was another major target, and it took a great deal of effort and patience before we were all rewarded with some good views of this shy species – which is no small feat given the nature of this species! In fact, we had all but given up, having only heard the bird, and seen a few branches shaking after a lengthy search, and were starting to make our way back to the main trail, when we lucked into the bird hopping near to the ground around a bend. We carefully positioned ourselves, and had enjoyed our views a short while later – truly fortuitous!
Some final late afternoon activity yielded a plethora of species, and we added Grey-throated Tit Flycatcher, African Shrike-Flycatcher, Bocage’s Bushshrike and the shy Grey-winged Robin-Chat, while a large party of Scaly-breasted Illadopsis bounding through the thickets left us wanting more. As always, many other species were seen and further highlights during the day went to Black Bee-eater, Luhder’s Bushshrike, Dusky Tit, Olive-green Camaroptera, Red-tailed Greenbul, Cabanis’s Greenbul, Red-throated Alethe and Grey-chinned and Blue-throated Brown Sunbirds. Despite our best efforts to try and see them, we also only heard a number of species, including Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo, Western Bronze-naped Pigeon and Willcock’s Honeyguide. An early mammal highlight was a few Chimpanzees that were seen running across the trail in front of us!
Day 10, 10th August. Gorilla trekking, and birding Buhoma
This day was set aside for Gorilla trekking, with some in the group venturing into the hills of Bwindi to see these gentle giants – more specifically Eastern (Mountain) Gorilla. Those that took part in the gorilla trekking came back regaling fine stories of their incredible encounters with these animals. The remainder of the group opted not to go Gorilla trekking, and along with them we once more set out for the morning, birding the Buhoma Main Trail and surrounds. While we didn’t venture as deep into the forest as previously, the area was bustling with life this morning, and we barely made any ground, with early bird parties giving away new species such as Black-billed Weaver, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Green Hylia and Red-tailed Bristlebill. Of course, a great deal of other species were seen, and we far improved our views of several species such as Many-colored Bushshrike, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Pink-footed Puffback, Bocage’s Bushshrike, and enjoyed repeat views of others like Black-faced Rufous Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Ansorge’s Greenbul and Chestnut Wattle-eye. Mountain Wagtail was eventually found along a stream, and a last-gasp bit of activity gave us Petit’s Cuckooshrike and Toro Olive Greenbul, along with others such as White-headed Wood Hoopoe, Black Cuckooshrike, Luhder’s Bushshrike, Black-throated Apalis and Brown-capped Weaver. Just as we were rounding things off some grumbling close by put us on full alert, as it belonged to a Gorilla, and as if on cue, we picked up on a few Eastern Gorillas climbing up into the trees (well spotted, Rosy!). We enjoyed the animals for a short while, before they soon disappeared from sight. We caught up with the rest of the group who had been out trekking gorillas at lunch, and regaled stories from the two encounters. A break during the heat of the day allowed us to catch up on some rest before we resumed with some farmland birding in the late afternoon. We centered our time on trying for Red-chested Flufftail in some wetland areas, and while we spent a long while working various calling birds, we went without a sighting of this elusive species. A number of other birds were around to keep us distracted, and we enjoyed bright Double-toothed Barbets and African Golden Orioles, along with many Bronzy Sunbirds, while also netting others like Woolly-necked Stork, Black Sparrowhawk, Mckinnon’s Shrike, Yellow-throated Leaflove and Black-and-white Mannikin. We rounded our day off with views of the shy Highland Rush Warbler moving about in the surrounding marshlands.
Comical White-headed Wood Hoopoes were a highlight of our time in the forests of Bwindi.
Day 11, 11th August. Birding Queen Elizabeth National Park
Having satisfied our Bwindi birding desires, we set off this morning bound for the more open savannas of Queen Elizabeth National Park. We started off in the Ishasha sector of this massive park . Here a wide range of more open-country birds kept us going, along with a mix of mammals. Early highlights went to the likes of Croaking Cisticola, Moustached Grass Warbler and Crimson-rumped Waxbill, along with our first herd of African Elephants. In no time, we had stumbled into some of the famous Ishasha Lions, as they were camped up in the branches of a fig tree. Our bird list rapidly rose as we added many other species. Notable sightings went to our first group of migrating White-throated Bee-eaters, along with a few groupings of White-headed Barbets, a surprise Brown-backed Honeybird, tiny Grey Penduline-Tits and lively Purple-banded Sunbirds. Wetland areas held yet more widespread species along with others like Grey Crowned Crane and Long-toed Lapwing. With the mercury rising, raptors also started becoming more obvious and several kettles of vultures and other birds of prey were obvious. Small numbers of White-headed and Lappet-faced Vultures were seen amongst the more common White-backed Vulture. While masses of Bateleurs cruised overhead, we also did well notching up Brown Snake Eagle, Martial Eagle and Shikra, amongst others. Just as we were on our way out, we ran into a glorious Leopard perched up in a tree, right next to us (well spotted, Rosie!). We spent a short while with this beautiful cat, before she grew tired of us and disappeared into the vegetation. Following a short break at our lodge, where we would spend the evening, we resumed our birding later in the day with the temperature more reasonable, along the Kasenyi Track sector of the park. While things were quiet initially, activity picked up and we had a great evening drive. Scanning open areas revealed dainty Red-capped Larks and Kittlitz’s Plovers, while grassy areas held the likes of Flappet Lark and the tricky Stout Cisticola. A mass of cars piled up meant there was something of interest, and sure enough, it was Lions. We hung back away from the masses, and as if on cue, one of the Lionesses, walked right up next to us, and along the side of the vehicle, giving us excellent views – all the while the other cars scurried around. Needless to say, we moved on quite quickly, leaving the melee of cars behind us, and soon found a Black-bellied Bustard, which was followed by many more individuals throughout the rest of the drive. Lapwings were also well represented, with Senegal and Brown-chested being notable finds, with African Wattled and Crowned also present. A stop at one of the crater lakes gave up numbers of Lesser Flamingos, along with others like the massive Great White Pelican and Black-winged Stilt, before we found ourselves making our way out the park. Just before we exited, two Small Buttonquails slowly crossed the road, giving us excellent views as well! A short night drive followed, where we managed a Square-tailed Nightjar, while the hoped-for Pennant-winged Nightjar sadly didn’t materialize for us. Content and slightly tired from a good but long day out, we settled in for the evening.
This was a two-cat day, with this glorious Leopard sighting, accompanied by two separate Lion sightings during the day.
Day 12, 12th August. Queen Elizabeth to Kibale
We set off for a half-day in the park shortly after dawn, with our first stop coming in the papyrus along the Kazinga Channel. Here our two targets, Papyrus Gonolek and White-winged Swamp Warbler showed remarkably well for all to see. We were soon heading on our way into the Mweya Peninsula where we would eventually join a boat cruise on the Kazinga Channel. With overcast conditions, the activity level was high, and we enjoyed a very birdy morning. A Grey Tit-Flycatcher played hide and seek with us for a bit, before a pair of the stunning Blue-breasted Kingfishers flew in and gave us great views. We also finally managed to get good looks at Buff-bellied Warbler, while further views of White-throated Bee-eaters followed and were appreciated by all. A lovely pair of Western Banded Snake Eagles calling to one another was another major highlight, whilst other interesting birds went to Western Black-headed Batis, Grey-headed and African Pygmy Kingfishers, Red-headed Lovebird and Copper Sunbird. Soon it was time for our boat cruise and we enjoyed a very productive spell on the Kazinga Channel. Aside from the many African Buffalos and Hippos, and other mammals, a large flock of African Skimmers and the beautiful Red-throated Bee-eaters were big highlights. We also enjoyed a wide range of other more widespread waterbirds, with notable species being Goliath Heron, Yellow-billed Stork, Water Thick-knee and a large mixed flock of Great White and Pink-backed Pelicans. Try as we might, we couldn’t pull out any rare species on the cruise. After a hearty break for lunch back at our lodge, we loaded our things and set off to Kibale – our next destination where we would be based for the next two nights. A brief Chimpanzee sighting on our way through the forest halted us, before we arrived at our comfortable lodge.
A pair of Western Banded Snake Eagles calling to one another with their very strange call was a firm highlight.
Day 13, 13th August. Green-breasted Pitta at Kibale
Another highly anticipated day lay in wait, as we set out to track down the scarce and spectacular Green-breasted Pitta. This is still the only easily accessible site in the world for this rare and poorly known species. Rain earlier in the morning, together with a spate of recent sightings of the pitta, boded well. Following some early excitement with a large Chimpanzee and both Red-tailed and White-tailed Ant Thrushes we arrived in the forest. Fortunately, luck was on our side and we soon found ourselves in the right area and then right on cue, watching two Green-breasted Pittas. We spent a while with the birds, and enjoyed simply superb views as they bounded around the floor eating a wide array of worms and insects, and also perching atop logs and branches. The birds were totally unphased by us, and came within a few meters at times, and after having our fill, we left the birds in peace and continued on with our birding. Aside from the incredible success with the pitta, it was a tricky morning with only a few birds cooperating. A Brown-chested Alethe paused long enough for some views, while a Blue Malkoha sat uncharacteristically out in the open for all to admire it! White-throated Greenbul took a while to track down, but we eventually managed good views, while a Western Oriole left us wanting a bit more. The forest edge proved slightly better, as we quickly notched up the scarce Lowland Masked Apalis, while the tricky Jameson’s Wattle-eye was nowhere to be found. Yellow-billed Barbet and the shy Western Nicator were also enjoyed by all.
Following a midday break, we resumed in the afternoon with a walk through the forest. This was incredibly productive with heaps of birds moving about, and we made little progress due to the virtually constant stream of birds. Some early excitement came with both Mottled and Sabine’s Spinetails moving overhead, before a pale-morph Ayres’ Hawk Eagle came into view, giving us a good flyby and even stooping. Bare trees held numbers of Narrow-tailed Starling, and some careful watching saw us locate their nests, and we even noticed a sneaky Least Honeyguide visiting the nest, and disappearing into the cavity nest for periods of time – all without the starlings being the wiser. Some careful scanning revealed new species such as Velvet-mantled Drongo, Purple-headed Starling and a brief African Emerald Cuckoo, whilst we also enjoyed repeat views of others like the gorgeous Black Bee-eater, Sooty Flycatcher and Petit’s Cuckooshrike. Vast numbers of Thick-billed Weavers and Violet-backed Starlings moved overhead, while we also tracked down others like Hairy-breasted Barbet and Toro Olive Greenbul, amongst others. Kibale is also renowned for being home to many primates, and we added Grey-cheeked Mangabey and Ashy Red Colobus to our list. Eventually, we had to tear ourselves away with the light fading, and we settled in for a wonderful evening following another successful day out!
Day 14, 14th August. Birding Bigodi, and transfer to Masindi
Faced with a long transfer to Masindi, we gave ourselves the morning to bird in and around Kibale, and focused our efforts at the locally run Bigodi Swamp, with Roger, a local guide joining us. Although we accumulated quite a high birdlist, nearing 100 species for the morning, the new species were rather few and far between, and it was a fairly slow morning. A very responsive White-spotted Flufftail kicked things off, and we barely had to wait 5 seconds, before the male appeared and crossed the track in front us! As if in direct comparison, a Brown-eared Woodpecker proved to be extremely elusive, and took a while to obtain good views of. A displaying African Goshawk showed well, as did the mighty Superb Sunbird. We put in a lot of time trying to track down several local specialties such as Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Compact Weaver, Speckle-breasted Woodpecker and Joyful Greenbul, amongst others, but were unsuccessful. A large group of Magpie Mannikins was also eventually tracked down and showed well.
Following lunch, we loaded up, and set off on the long drive to Masinid, which has become much quicker in recent years with the newly paved road all the way. Several stops were made along the way where we enjoyed Alpine and Mottled Swifts and hordes of Village Indigobirds. Easily the highlight of the day came when a Red-headed Bluebill crossed the road right in front us and we screeched to a halt and piled out of the car. Fortunately, the birds stuck around and we enjoyed the most spectacular views of this normally shy species as two males chased one another, almost in slow motion, while a female sat perched close by. After having had our fill, we shifted our focus to some nearby Afep Pigeons which showed well, while groups of Narrow-tailed Starlings passed by overhead. We eventually arrived at our comfortable hotel in the early evening, where we settled in and prepared for the exciting day ahead.
Day 15, 15th August. Birding the Royal Mile, and transfer to Murchison Falls
This was another much-anticipated day, as we visit the famous ‘Royal Mile’. This section of the Budongo Forest is so named because it refers to the old 1-mile portion of track where the kings of the Bunyoro Kingdom used to hunt wildlife. Fortunately, though, in today’s era this is a formally protected patch of mature forest that houses some excellent birds, and is a must-visit site for any birder. After an early breakfast, we loaded up, and set off, and were soon birding in the agricultural lands surrounding the forest. As usual, this was extremely birdy, and we eventually had to tear ourselves away after a brief period of time. Small groups of Grey-headed Olivebacks flitted about, while the also skulking Brown Twinspot eventually showed well to all. A Marsh Tchagra crept about in the grass, in between bouts of various waxbills, mannikins and widowbirds, while a vocal Whistling Cisticola called from the treetops. Male Yellow-mantled Widowbird and Black Bishop were both noted displaying in the area, and several groupings of Compact Weaver were also enjoyed.
Proceeding into the forest, we made slow progress along the exactly 1-mile piece of dead-straight track, with regular interludes for various birds. Lively groups of Rufous-crowned Eremomelas and Chestnut-capped Flycatchers kept to the canopies, while Little Grey Greenbul crept about in the thickets. Noisy and fast-flying Spotted Greenbuls gave us good, albeit brief views, before we lucked into a beautiful African Dwarf Kingfisher that showed remarkably well! A vocal Ituri Batis eventually showed to all, while a few different Lemon-bellied Crombecs also obliged. A fast-moving Uganda Woodland Warbler kept to the upper canopy as well. Paying attention to the lower strata eventually rewarded us with excellent views of the shy Forest Robin. Hulking White-thighed Hornbills showed, with the similar Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills nearby for comparison, and we also found a lovely Narina Trogon that gave us excellent views. Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher was eventually found, and we were also very fortunate to run into an ant swarm that was attended by both Fire-crested and Brown-chested Alethes – both of which showed very well, feeding in the open road right in front of us. Try as we might though, we just couldn’t locate Chocolate-backed Kingfisher – despite hearing birds virtually throughout the morning during our time in the forest. We also had to pull ourselves out of the forest, following a mightily successful morning, and continue on our way to Murchison Falls National Park. A stop off at the Butiaba Escarpment along the way was incredibly productive despite the searing temperatures. A large party of Green-backed Eremomelas obliged soon after we left the van, while the new birds came in thick and fast. A trio of Black-billed Barbets called from the treetops, whilst flowers held a few Beautiful Sunbirds. Delightful Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters hawked insects from the treetops, whilst both Foxy and Short-winged Cisticolas were also seen well. Several Black-winged Red Bishops were never far away, and we also eventually managed to see one of the many calling Vinaceous Doves. A Lesser Blue-eared Starling was picked up, and we also enjoyed prolonged views of a pair of the scarce Yellow-bellied Hyliotas. Many other birds were present in the area, and as became a trend during the day, we had to pull ourselves away and proceed onwards. Short stops on the way produced dainty Namaqua Doves and a pair of the rare Cut-throat Finches, while a few bright Northern Red Bishops showed well. In the late afternoon, following a most successful day out with a day list nearly reaching 150 species, we arrived at our comfortable lodge, where we would spend the next 3 nights!
The tiny African Dwarf Kingfisher is one of many sought-after specials that we found in the Royal Mile section of the Budongo Forest.
Day 16, 16th August. Birding Murchison Falls National Park
Another majorly exciting day lay ahead as we explored the northern reaches of Murchison Falls National Park, from Paraa to the Albert Nile. Some vehicle issues delayed us for a short while, but we made lemonade from the situation and found ourselves our first Spotted Palm Thrushes and Silverbirds in the process. Once we got going, early highlights went to the prehistoric-looking Abyssinian Ground Hornbill and a surprise Yellow-billed Shrike, and once we got north of the Nile River and into the plains, the new trip birds flowed. Patches of acacia scrub held Shelley’s Sparrow, and the surrounding open plains were littered with the likes of Piapiacs, Croaking and Zitting Cisticolas and Rufous-naped and Flappet Larks, along with a very vocal Brown-rumped Bunting. An old carcass still held masses of vultures, and here we enjoyed several of the rather attractive Ruppell’s Vulture, along with a Tawny Eagle. We were never far from birds, and as we slowly worked various tracks we added the likes of Black-billed Wood Dove, Jacobin Cuckoo, Speckle-fronted Weaver, White-browed and Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weavers, groups of the delightful Black-rumped Waxbills, amongst others. Indeed this strip was very birdy, and we also thoroughly enjoyed repeat views of numerous Swallow-tailed Bee-eaters, noisy Black-billed Barbets, along with slightly less impressive species such as Buff-bellied Warbler, Familiar Chat and Little Weaver. Bright Northern Red Bishops perched conspicuously atop the bushes, and a stop for lunch along the Nile River added further species including Black-headed Lapwing and Senegal Thick-knee. Further exploration along the Nile River and the delta with Lake Albert gave us our first Saddle-billed Storks, along with many other waterbirds. Northern Carmine Bee-eater had only given us brief views earlier in the day, and we were rewarded with excellent views of an entire tree filled with them on our way back out of the northern section. Indeed, our drive out was as excellent as the drive in, and we also found further specialties like Denham’s Bustard, Heuglin’s Francolin and the scarce Red-necked Falcon. Of course, this is just a small sampling of the species seen during our time in the northern part of the park, and with our tally reaching nearly 150 species, once again, just for this portion, it is always difficult to list all the species. Raptors were well represented with many species, and a wide range of various passerines were seen including many weavers, sunbirds, flycatchers, robins, starlings, cisticolas and so many more. Of course, mammals were part and parcel, and we had a healthy stream of various large herbivores such as Kob, Hartebeest, Oribi, Waterbuck and African Buffalo, whilst also enjoying other large mammals like Giraffe and African Elephant, and many Hippos near the Nile River. Several groups of Patas’s Monkeys were seen on the plains and we also did well adding Side-striped Jackal and Slender Mongoose. A massive thunderstorm brought our afternoon to a close. Things settled down later in the afternoon back at the lodge, and we did well, adding extraordinary views of White-crested Turaco, along with others such as White-shouldered Black Tit, Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike and Western Violet-backed Sunbird. We had a great evening following another immense day out in the field.
The prehistoric-looking Abyssinian Ground Hornbill was a major target for the group, and put on a good show for us, with several excellent sightings in Murchison Falls.
Day 17, 17th August. Birding Murchison Falls National Park
Our last full day in Murchison Falls saw us focusing on the south bank of the Nile River, where we’d explore the more broad-leafed dominant woodland – in stark contrast with other sections of the park. While it was quite a birdy morning, we were familiar with many of the species seen and only managed to add a handful of new species. A beautiful African Cuckoo Hawk glided in and gave us good views, while a party of the comical White-crested Helmetshrikes showed well also. A small group of Pale Flycatchers cooperated, as did a Grey-headed Bushshrike. We also enjoyed repeat views of several species we had only seen a few times before such as Brown Twinspot, Green-backed Eremomela, Lesser Blue-eared Starling, Red-throated Bee-eater, Nubian and African Grey Woodpeckers, Moustache Grass Warbler and Black-rumped Waxbill. We also enjoyed a close-up sighting of a rare cream-backed Bateleur. We also devoted some time this morning to tracking down Red-winged Grey Warbler, which had frustrated us yesterday, along with Dusky Babbler, and while we saw a few birds that may have been the babblers, we unfortunately didn’t come close to either of these two targets.
Red-throated Bee-eater is one spectacular-looking bird, and occur along the Nile River and surrounding woodlands.
Before we knew it, late morning had arrived and we boarded our boat as we headed up to the base of the Murchison Falls. As always, boat trips are a great way of getting close to waterbirds and we had a productive boat trip. The river level wasn’t high this year, as it has been in some years, and as such meant the sought-after Rock Pratincoles were present in good numbers. An open sandbar also held a flock of African Skimmers. The riverside vegetation held a number of more widespread waterbirds, including various ducks and geese, herons, egrets, storks and shorebirds. A brilliant Saddle-billed Stork showed well, and we also enjoyed several raptors such as Western Banded Snake Eagle and Grey Kestrel. We also finally tracked down Giant Kingfisher. Following a late lunch and a bit of a snooze, we resumed our birding in the late afternoon with a visit to the top of the Murchison Falls. It was a rather slow afternoon, with a Black-headed Oriole and many Rock Pratincoles about the only birds of interest about. We consoled ourselves with the splendid environment, and the somewhat relaxing nature of watching the Nile River plunge through this tiny gap that forms the falls. A night drive on the return journey to the lodge was sadly unsuccessful, and a few brief mammal sightings and some owls that all got away before we could get good looks were all that we could muster.
Day 18, 18th August. Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, and transfer to Entebbe
This was our last full day of the tour and saw us exiting Murchison Falls National Park in the morning, before we transited to Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary. Here we would participate in the rhino tracking, along with doing some birding in the process, of course. We arrived in good time, were soon off and in no time had wonderfully up-close views of these gentle giants that sadly face an unnecessary fight for survival. As the time went along, we found no less than thirteen of the White Rhinos that inhabit Ziwa. This is indeed the only place in Uganda where one can see these animals in the wild, though there are plans to reintroduce these White Rhinos back into Murchison Falls National Park in the coming years. Of course, birds were part and parcel of our time in Ziwa as well, and we started off with a bang, finding a lovely male Pennant-winged Nightjar on the ground, which gave views to all. We also did well to find several of the difficult Marsh Widowbirds, and enjoyed repeat views of many species such as Western Banded Snake Eagle, Bateleur, Dark Chanting Goshawk, African Marsh Harrier, White-headed Barbet and Yellow-throated Longclaw, amongst others. After lunch, we settled in for the long drive to Entebbe, where we arrived in the late afternoon and settled in for the evening, reminiscing about all the many good times and birds we had on the trip.
Day 19, 19th August. Departure from Entebbe
With the group only leaving later in the day, we opted to spend a bit of time this morning exploring the Entebbe Botanical Gardens. It was a birdy morning, and we enjoyed seeing many of our favorite birds from the trip like Ross’s and Great Blue Turacos, Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills, to other attractive birds like Grey-capped Warbler and Klaass’s Cuckoo. Raptors were well represented throughout the morning, and in between the throngs of Yellow-billed Kites and Palm-nut Vultures, we also found African Goshawk, Shikra, African Cuckoo Hawk and African Hobby. One of our missing targets, Orange Weaver, required a concerted effort to track down, but we were eventually rewarded with good views of this scarce species. We retired back to our comfortable lodge for lunch,and enjoyed our final meal together before afternoon and evening departures took us all home.
I would like to thank all the participants who joined this set departure tour for contributing to making this tour the success it was. Thanks must also go to our excellent ground operator for ensuring a smooth tour, with hitches few and far between.
Without further ado, here are the top birds on the trip, as voted for by the participants:
- Green-breasted Pitta
- White-crested Turaco
- Ross’s Turaco
- Grauer’s Broadbill
- Great Blue Turaco
- Red-headed Bluebill
- Regal Sunbird
Some honorable mentions go to:
- Lilac-breasted Roller
- Yellow-billed Barbet
- Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
- Grey Crowned Crane
- Papyrus Gonolek
- African Dwarf Kingfisher
The stunning Grey Crowned Crane is the National Bird of Uganda, and occurs widely throughout the country.
Bird List – Following IOC 12.2
Birds ‘heard only’ are marked with (H) after the common name, all other species were seen.
The following notation after species names is used to show conservation status following the IUCN Red List:
CR = Critically Endangered, EN = Endangered, VU = Vulnerable, NT = Near Threatened. Albertine rift endemics are bolded.
|Common name||Scientific name|
|Ducks, Geese, Swans (Anatidae)|
|White-faced Whistling Duck||Dendrocygna viduata|
|Spur-winged Goose||Plectropterus gambensis|
|Knob-billed Duck||Sarkidiornis melanotos|
|Egyptian Goose||Alopochen aegyptiaca|
|Yellow-billed Duck||Anas undulata|
|Helmeted Guineafowl||Numida meleagris|
|Pheasants & Allies (Phasianidae)|
|Crested Francolin||Ortygornis sephaena|
|Handsome Spurfowl||Pternistis nobilis|
|Heuglin’s Spurfowl||Pternistis icterorhynchus|
|Red-necked Spurfowl||Pternistis afer|
|Black-shouldered Nightjar||Caprimulgus nigriscapularis|
|Montane Nightjar||Caprimulgus poliocephalus|
|Freckled Nightjar||Caprimulgus tristigma|
|Square-tailed Nightjar||Caprimulgus fossii|
|Pennant-winged Nightjar||Caprimulgus vexillarius|
|Scarce Swift||Schoutedenapus myoptilus|
|Mottled Spinetail||Telacanthura ussheri|
|Sabine’s Spinetail||Rhaphidura sabini|
|Cassin’s Spinetail||Neafrapus cassini|
|African Palm Swift||Cypsiurus parvus|
|Alpine Swift||Tachymarptis melba|
|Mottled Swift||Tachymarptis aequatorialis|
|Common Swift||Apus apus|
|Little Swift||Apus affinis|
|Horus Swift||Apus horus|
|White-rumped Swift||Apus caffer|
|Great Blue Turaco||Corythaeola cristata|
|Bare-faced Go-away-bird||Crinifer personatus|
|Eastern Plantain-eater||Crinifer zonurus|
|Rwenzori Turaco||Gallirex johnstoni|
|Ross’s Turaco||Tauraco rossae|
|White-crested Turaco||Tauraco leucolophus|
|Black-billed Turaco||Tauraco schuettii|
|Denham’s Bustard||Neotis denhami|
|Black-bellied Bustard||Lissotis melanogaster|
|Senegal Coucal||Centropus senegalensis|
|Blue-headed Coucal||Centropus monachus|
|White-browed Coucal||Centropus superciliosus|
|Blue Malkoha||Ceuthmochares aereus|
|Jacobin Cuckoo||Clamator jacobinus|
|Diederik Cuckoo||Chrysococcyx caprius|
|Klaas’s Cuckoo||Chrysococcyx klaas|
|African Emerald Cuckoo||Chrysococcyx cupreus|
|Dusky Long-tailed Cuckoo (H)||Cercococcyx mechowi|
|Red-chested Cuckoo||Cuculus solitarius|
|African Cuckoo||Cuculus gularis|
|Pigeons, Doves (Columbidae)|
|Rock Dove||Columba livia|
|Speckled Pigeon||Columba guinea|
|Afep Pigeon||Columba unicincta|
|African Olive Pigeon||Columba arquatrix|
|Western Bronze-naped Pigeon (H)||Columba iriditorques|
|Dusky Turtle Dove||Streptopelia lugens|
|Mourning Collared Dove||Streptopelia decipiens|
|Red-eyed Dove||Streptopelia semitorquata|
|Ring-necked Dove||Streptopelia capicola|
|Vinaceous Dove||Streptopelia vinacea|
|Laughing Dove||Spilopelia senegalensis|
|Emerald-spotted Wood Dove||Turtur chalcospilos|
|Black-billed Wood Dove||Turtur abyssinicus|
|Blue-spotted Wood Dove||Turtur afer|
|Tambourine Dove||Turtur tympanistria|
|Namaqua Dove||Oena capensis|
|African Green Pigeon||Treron calvus|
|African Finfoot||Podica senegalensis|
|White-spotted Flufftail||Sarothrura pulchra|
|Red-chested Flufftail (H)||Sarothrura rufa|
|Rails, Crakes & Coots (Rallidae)|
|African Rail||Rallus caerulescens|
|Common Moorhen||Gallinula chloropus|
|African Swamphen||Porphyrio madagascariensis|
|Black Crake||Zapornia flavirostra|
|Grey Crowned Crane – EN||Balearica regulorum|
|Lesser Flamingo||Phoeniconaias minor|
|Common Buttonquail||Turnix sylvaticus|
|Stone-curlews, Thick-knees (Burhinidae)|
|Senegal Thick-knee||Burhinus senegalensis|
|Water Thick-knee||Burhinus vermiculatus|
|Spotted Thick-knee||Burhinus capensis|
|Stilts, Avocets (Recurvirostridae)|
|Black-winged Stilt||Himantopus himantopus|
|Long-toed Lapwing||Vanellus crassirostris|
|Spur-winged Lapwing||Vanellus spinosus|
|Black-headed Lapwing||Vanellus tectus|
|Senegal Lapwing||Vanellus lugubris|
|Crowned Lapwing||Vanellus coronatus|
|African Wattled Lapwing||Vanellus senegallus|
|Brown-chested Lapwing||Vanellus superciliosus|
|Kittlitz’s Plover||Charadrius pecuarius|
|Three-banded Plover||Charadrius tricollaris|
|African Jacana||Actophilornis africanus|
|Sandpipers, Snipes (Scolopacidae)|
|Common Sandpiper||Actitis hypoleucos|
|Wood Sandpiper||Tringa glareola|
|Coursers, Pratincoles (Glareolidae)|
|Rock Pratincole||Glareola nuchalis|
|Gulls, Terns, Skimmers (Laridae)|
|African Skimmer||Rynchops flavirostris|
|Grey-headed Gull||Chroicocephalus cirrocephalus|
|White-winged Tern||Chlidonias leucopterus|
|Yellow-billed Stork||Mycteria ibis|
|African Openbill||Anastomus lamelligerus|
|Woolly-necked Stork||Ciconia episcopus|
|Saddle-billed Stork||Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis|
|Marabou Stork||Leptoptilos crumenifer|
|Anhingas, Darters (Anhingidae)|
|African Darter||Anhinga rufa|
|Cormorants, Shags (Phalacrocoracidae)|
|Reed Cormorant||Microcarbo africanus|
|White-breasted Cormorant||Phalacrocorax lucidus|
|Ibises, Spoonbills (Threskiornithidae)|
|African Sacred Ibis||Threskiornis aethiopicus|
|Hadada Ibis||Bostrychia hagedash|
|Glossy Ibis||Plegadis falcinellus|
|African Spoonbill||Platalea alba|
|Herons, Bitterns (Ardeidae)|
|White-backed Night Heron||Gorsachius leuconotus|
|Striated Heron||Butorides striata|
|Squacco Heron||Ardeola ralloides|
|Rufous-bellied Heron||Ardeola rufiventris|
|Western Cattle Egret||Bubulcus ibis|
|Grey Heron||Ardea cinerea|
|Black-headed Heron||Ardea melanocephala|
|Goliath Heron||Ardea goliath|
|Purple Heron||Ardea purpurea|
|Great Egret||Ardea alba|
|Intermediate Egret||Ardea intermedia|
|Little Egret||Egretta garzetta|
|Shoebill – VU||Balaeniceps rex|
|Great White Pelican||Pelecanus onocrotalus|
|Pink-backed Pelican||Pelecanus rufescens|
|Kites, Hawks, Eagles (Accipitridae)|
|Black-winged Kite||Elanus caeruleus|
|African Harrier-Hawk||Polyboroides typus|
|Palm-nut Vulture||Gypohierax angolensis|
|African Cuckoo-Hawk||Aviceda cuculoides|
|Hooded Vulture – CR||Necrosyrtes monachus|
|White-backed Vulture – CR||Gyps africanus|
|Rüppell’s Vulture – CR||Gyps rueppelli|
|White-headed Vulture – CR||Trigonoceps occipitalis|
|Lappet-faced Vulture – EN||Torgos tracheliotos|
|Black-chested Snake Eagle||Circaetus pectoralis|
|Brown Snake Eagle||Circaetus cinereus|
|Western Banded Snake Eagle||Circaetus cinerascens|
|Bateleur – EN||Terathopius ecaudatus|
|Bat Hawk||Macheiramphus alcinus|
|Crowned Eagle||Stephanoaetus coronatus|
|Martial Eagle – EN||Polemaetus bellicosus|
|Long-crested Eagle||Lophaetus occipitalis|
|Wahlberg’s Eagle||Hieraaetus wahlbergi|
|Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle||Hieraaetus ayresii|
|Tawny Eagle – VU||Aquila rapax|
|Cassin’s Hawk-Eagle||Aquila africana|
|Lizard Buzzard||Kaupifalco monogrammicus|
|Gabar Goshawk||Micronisus gabar|
|Dark Chanting Goshawk||Melierax metabates|
|African Goshawk||Accipiter tachiro|
|Little Sparrowhawk||Accipiter minullus|
|Black Sparrowhawk||Accipiter melanoleucus|
|African Marsh Harrier||Circus ranivorus|
|Black Kite||Milvus migrans|
|Yellow-billed Kite||Milvus aegyptius|
|African Fish Eagle||Haliaeetus vocifer|
|Mountain Buzzard||Buteo oreophilus|
|Augur Buzzard||Buteo augur|
|Barn Owls (Tytonidae)|
|Western Barn Owl (H)||Tyto alba|
|Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl (H)||Bubo lacteus|
|African Wood Owl||Strix woodfordii|
|Speckled Mousebird||Colius striatus|
|Blue-naped Mousebird||Urocolius macrourus|
|Narina Trogon||Apaloderma narina|
|Bar-tailed Trogon||Apaloderma vittatum|
|African Hoopoe||Upupa africana|
|Wood Hoopoes (Phoeniculidae)|
|White-headed Wood Hoopoe||Phoeniculus bollei|
|Green Wood Hoopoe||Phoeniculus purpureus|
|Common Scimitarbill||Rhinopomastus cyanomelas|
|Ground Hornbills (Bucorvidae)|
|Abyssinian Ground Hornbill – VU||Bucorvus abyssinicus|
|Crowned Hornbill||Lophoceros alboterminatus|
|African Pied Hornbill||Lophoceros fasciatus|
|African Grey Hornbill||Lophoceros nasutus|
|White-thighed Hornbill||Bycanistes albotibialis|
|Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill||Bycanistes subcylindricus|
|Lilac-breasted Roller||Coracias caudatus|
|Broad-billed Roller||Eurystomus glaucurus|
|Chocolate-backed Kingfisher (H)||Halcyon badia|
|Grey-headed Kingfisher||Halcyon leucocephala|
|Striped Kingfisher||Halcyon chelicuti|
|Blue-breasted Kingfisher||Halcyon malimbica|
|Woodland Kingfisher||Halcyon senegalensis|
|African Dwarf Kingfisher||Ispidina lecontei|
|African Pygmy Kingfisher||Ispidina picta|
|Malachite Kingfisher||Corythornis cristatus|
|Shining-blue Kingfisher (H)||Alcedo quadribrachys|
|Giant Kingfisher||Megaceryle maxima|
|Pied Kingfisher||Ceryle rudis|
|Black Bee-eater||Merops gularis|
|Swallow-tailed Bee-eater||Merops hirundineus|
|Little Bee-eater||Merops pusillus|
|Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater||Merops oreobates|
|Red-throated Bee-eater||Merops bulocki|
|White-throated Bee-eater||Merops albicollis|
|Olive Bee-eater||Merops superciliosus|
|Northern Carmine Bee-eater||Merops nubicus|
|African Barbets (Lybiidae)|
|Grey-throated Barbet||Gymnobucco bonapartei|
|Speckled Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus scolopaceus|
|Western Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus coryphaea|
|Yellow-throated Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus subsulphureus|
|Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus bilineatus|
|Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird||Pogoniulus chrysoconus|
|Yellow-spotted Barbet||Buccanodon duchaillui|
|Hairy-breasted Barbet||Tricholaema hirsuta|
|Spot-flanked Barbet||Tricholaema lacrymosa|
|White-headed Barbet||Lybius leucocephalus|
|Red-faced Barbet||Lybius rubrifacies|
|Black-billed Barbet||Lybius guifsobalito|
|Black-collared Barbet||Lybius torquatus|
|Double-toothed Barbet||Lybius bidentatus|
|Yellow-billed Barbet||Trachyphonus purpuratus|
|Crested Barbet||Trachyphonus vaillantii|
|Brown-backed Honeybird||Prodotiscus regulus|
|Dwarf Honeyguide||Indicator pumilio|
|Willcocks’s Honeyguide (H)||Indicator willcocksi|
|Least Honeyguide||Indicator exilis|
|Lesser Honeyguide||Indicator minor|
|Greater Honeyguide||Indicator indicator|
|Red-throated Wryneck||Jynx ruficollis|
|Buff-spotted Woodpecker||Pardipicus nivosus|
|Brown-eared Woodpecker||Pardipicus caroli|
|Nubian Woodpecker||Campethera nubica|
|Little Spotted Woodpecker||Campethera cailliautii|
|Fine-banded Woodpecker||Campethera taeniolaema|
|Yellow-crested Woodpecker||Chloropicus xantholophus|
|Cardinal Woodpecker||Dendropicos fuscescens|
|Elliot’s Woodpecker||Dendropicos elliotii|
|African Grey Woodpecker||Dendropicos goertae|
|Olive Woodpecker||Dendropicos griseocephalus|
|Caracaras, Falcons (Falconidae)|
|Common Kestrel||Falco tinnunculus|
|Grey Kestrel||Falco ardosiaceus|
|Red-necked Falcon||Falco chicquera|
|African Hobby||Falco cuvierii|
|African & New World Parrots (Psittacidae)|
|Grey Parrot – EN||Psittacus erithacus|
|Meyer’s Parrot||Poicephalus meyeri|
|Old World Parrots (Psittaculidae)|
|Red-headed Lovebird||Agapornis pullarius|
|Typical Broadbills (Eurylaimidae)|
|Grauer’s Broadbill – VU||Pseudocalyptomena graueri|
|African & Green Broadbills (Calyptomenidae)|
|African Broadbill||Smithornis capensis|
|Green-breasted Pitta||Pitta reichenowi|
|Wattle-eyes, Batises (Platysteiridae)|
|Rwenzori Batis||Batis diops|
|Chinspot Batis||Batis molitor|
|Western Black-headed Batis||Batis erlangeri|
|Ituri Batis||Batis ituriensis|
|Chestnut Wattle-eye||Platysteira castanea|
|Brown-throated Wattle-eye||Platysteira cyanea|
|Grey-headed Bushshrike||Malaconotus blanchoti|
|Lagden’s Bushshrike||Malaconotus lagdeni|
|Many-colored Bushshrike||Chlorophoneus multicolor|
|Bocage’s Bushshrike||Chlorophoneus bocagei|
|Orange-breasted Bushshrike||Chlorophoneus sulfureopectus|
|Doherty’s Bushshrike||Telophorus dohertyi|
|Marsh Tchagra||Bocagia minuta|
|Brown-crowned Tchagra||Tchagra australis|
|Black-crowned Tchagra||Tchagra senegalus|
|Pink-footed Puffback||Dryoscopus angolensis|
|Northern Puffback||Dryoscopus gambensis|
|Albertine Sooty Boubou||Laniarius holomelas|
|Willard’s Sooty Boubou||Laniarius willardi|
|Slate-colored Boubou||Laniarius funebris|
|Lühder’s Bushshrike||Laniarius luehderi|
|Tropical Boubou||Laniarius major|
|Papyrus Gonolek||Laniarius mufumbiri|
|Black-headed Gonolek||Laniarius erythrogaster|
|Vangas & Allies (Vangidae)|
|White-crested Helmetshrike||Prionops plumatus|
|African Shrike-flycatcher||Megabyas flammulatus|
|Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher||Bias musicus|
|Grey Cuckooshrike||Ceblepyris caesius|
|Black Cuckooshrike||Campephaga flava|
|Red-shouldered Cuckooshrike||Campephaga phoenicea|
|Petit’s Cuckooshrike||Campephaga petiti|
|Yellow-billed Shrike||Corvinella corvina|
|Mackinnon’s Shrike||Lanius mackinnoni|
|Grey-backed Fiscal||Lanius excubitoroides|
|Northern Fiscal||Lanius humeralis|
|Figbirds, Old World Orioles, Piopios (Oriolidae)|
|Western Oriole||Oriolus brachyrynchus|
|Black-headed Oriole||Oriolus larvatus|
|Mountain Oriole||Oriolus percivali|
|African Golden Oriole||Oriolus auratus|
|Velvet-mantled Drongo||Dicrurus modestus|
|Fork-tailed Drongo||Dicrurus adsimilis|
|Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher||Terpsiphone rufiventer|
|African Paradise Flycatcher||Terpsiphone viridis|
|Crows, Jays (Corvidae)|
|Pied Crow||Corvus albus|
|White-necked Raven||Corvus albicollis|
|Fairy Flycatchers (Stenostiridae)|
|African Blue Flycatcher||Elminia longicauda|
|White-tailed Blue Flycatcher||Elminia albicauda|
|White-bellied Crested Flycatcher||Elminia albiventris|
|Tits, Chickadees (Paridae)|
|White-shouldered Black Tit||Melaniparus guineensis|
|White-winged Black Tit||Melaniparus leucomelas|
|Dusky Tit||Melaniparus funereus|
|Stripe-breasted Tit||Melaniparus fasciiventer|
|Penduline Tits (Remizidae)|
|Grey Penduline Tit||Anthoscopus caroli|
|Western Nicator||Nicator chloris|
|Rufous-naped Lark||Mirafra africana|
|Flappet Lark||Mirafra rufocinnamomea|
|Red-capped Lark||Calandrella cinerea|
|Slender-billed Greenbul||Stelgidillas gracilirostris|
|Red-tailed Bristlebill||Bleda syndactylus|
|Yellow-throated Leaflove||Atimastillas flavicollis|
|Spotted Greenbul||Ixonotus guttatus|
|Honeyguide Greenbul||Baeopogon indicator|
|Kakamega Greenbul||Arizelocichla kakamegae|
|Olive-breasted Greenbul||Arizelocichla kikuyuensis|
|Red-tailed Greenbul||Criniger calurus|
|Little Greenbul||Eurillas virens|
|Yellow-whiskered Greenbul||Eurillas latirostris|
|Plain Greenbul||Eurillas curvirostris|
|Little Grey Greenbul||Eurillas gracilis|
|Ansorge’s Greenbul||Eurillas ansorgei|
|White-throated Greenbul||Phyllastrephus albigularis|
|Cabanis’s Greenbul||Phyllastrephus cabanisi|
|Yellow-streaked Greenbul||Phyllastrephus flavostriatus|
|Toro Olive Greenbul||Phyllastrephus hypochloris|
|Dark-capped Bulbul||Pycnonotus tricolor|
|Swallows, Martins (Hirundinidae)|
|Black Saw-wing||Psalidoprocne pristoptera|
|White-headed Saw-wing||Psalidoprocne albiceps|
|Banded Martin||Neophedina cincta|
|Brown-throated Martin||Riparia paludicola|
|Rock Martin||Ptyonoprogne fuligula|
|Wire-tailed Swallow||Hirundo smithii|
|Barn Swallow||Hirundo rustica|
|Angola Swallow||Hirundo angolensis|
|Red-breasted Swallow||Cecropis semirufa|
|Mosque Swallow||Cecropis senegalensis|
|Lesser Striped Swallow||Cecropis abyssinica|
|Red-rumped Swallow||Cecropis daurica|
|Crombecs, African Warblers (Macrosphenidae)|
|Moustached Grass Warbler||Melocichla mentalis|
|Northern Crombec||Sylvietta brachyura|
|Red-faced Crombec||Sylvietta whytii|
|Green Crombec||Sylvietta virens|
|Lemon-bellied Crombec||Sylvietta denti|
|White-browed Crombec||Sylvietta leucophrys|
|Cettia Bush Warblers & Allies (Cettiidae)|
|Neumann’s Warbler||Hemitesia neumanni|
|Yellow Flycatchers (Erythrocercidae)|
|Chestnut-capped Flycatcher||Erythrocercus mccallii|
|Green Hylia||Hylia prasina|
|Leaf Warblers (Phylloscopidae)|
|Red-faced Woodland Warbler||Phylloscopus laetus|
|Uganda Woodland Warbler||Phylloscopus budongoensis|
|Reed Warblers & Allies (Acrocephalidae)|
|Grauer’s Warbler||Graueria vittata|
|Greater Swamp Warbler||Acrocephalus rufescens|
|African Yellow Warbler||Iduna natalensis|
|Mountain Yellow Warbler||Iduna similis|
|Papyrus Yellow Warbler – VU||Calamonastides gracilirostris|
|Grassbirds & Allies (Locustellidae)|
|Evergreen Forest Warbler (H)||Bradypterus lopezi|
|Cinnamon Bracken Warbler||Bradypterus cinnamomeus|
|White-winged Swamp Warbler||Bradypterus carpalis|
|Grauer’s Swamp Warbler – VU||Bradypterus graueri|
|Highland Rush Warbler||Bradypterus centralis|
|Cisticolas & Allies (Cisticolidae)|
|Red-faced Cisticola||Cisticola erythrops|
|Singing Cisticola (H)||Cisticola cantans|
|Whistling Cisticola||Cisticola lateralis|
|Trilling Cisticola||Cisticola woosnami|
|Chubb’s Cisticola||Cisticola chubbi|
|Rattling Cisticola||Cisticola chiniana|
|Winding Cisticola||Cisticola marginatus|
|Carruthers’s Cisticola||Cisticola carruthersi|
|Stout Cisticola||Cisticola robustus|
|Croaking Cisticola||Cisticola natalensis|
|Short-winged Cisticola||Cisticola brachypterus|
|Foxy Cisticola||Cisticola troglodytes|
|Long-tailed Cisticola||Cisticola angusticauda|
|Zitting Cisticola||Cisticola juncidis|
|Tawny-flanked Prinia||Prinia subflava|
|Black-faced Prinia||Prinia melanops|
|White-chinned Prinia||Schistolais leucopogon|
|Rwenzori Apalis||Oreolais ruwenzorii|
|Red-winged Grey Warbler (H)||Drymocichla incana|
|Buff-bellied Warbler||Phyllolais pulchella|
|Yellow-breasted Apalis||Apalis flavida|
|Lowland Masked Apalis||Apalis binotata|
|Mountain Masked Apalis||Apalis personata|
|Black-throated Apalis||Apalis jacksoni|
|Chestnut-throated Apalis||Apalis porphyrolaema|
|Buff-throated Apalis||Apalis rufogularis|
|Grey Apalis||Apalis cinerea|
|Grey-capped Warbler||Eminia lepida|
|Grey-backed Camaroptera||Camaroptera brevicaudata|
|Olive-green Camaroptera||Camaroptera chloronota|
|Black-faced Rufous Warbler||Bathmocercus rufus|
|Green-backed Eremomela||Eremomela canescens|
|Rufous-crowned Eremomela||Eremomela badiceps|
|Sylviid Babblers (Sylviidae)|
|Rwenzori Hill Babbler||Sylvia atriceps|
|Green White-eye||Zosterops stuhlmanni|
|Northern Yellow White-eye||Zosterops senegalensis|
|Ground Babblers (Pellorneidae)|
|Brown Illadopsis (H)||Illadopsis fulvescens|
|Mountain Illadopsis||Illadopsis pyrrhoptera|
|Scaly-breasted Illadopsis||Illadopsis albipectus|
|Laughingthrushes & Allies (Leiothrichidae)|
|Brown Babbler||Turdoides plebejus|
|Arrow-marked Babbler||Turdoides jardineii|
|Black-lored Babbler||Turdoides sharpei|
|Dapple-throat & Allies (Modulatricidae)|
|Grey-chested Babbler||Kakamega poliothorax|
|Yellow-bellied Hyliota||Hyliota flavigaster|
|Starlings, Rhabdornises (Sturnidae)|
|Wattled Starling||Creatophora cinerea|
|Purple-headed Starling||Hylopsar purpureiceps|
|Lesser Blue-eared Starling||Lamprotornis chloropterus|
|Splendid Starling||Lamprotornis splendidus|
|Rüppell’s Starling||Lamprotornis purpuroptera|
|Violet-backed Starling||Cinnyricinclus leucogaster|
|Waller’s Starling||Onychognathus walleri|
|Stuhlmann’s Starling||Poeoptera stuhlmanni|
|Narrow-tailed Starling||Poeoptera lugubris|
|Sharpe’s Starling||Poeoptera sharpii|
|Yellow-billed Oxpecker||Buphagus africanus|
|Fraser’s Rufous Thrush||Stizorhina fraseri|
|White-tailed Ant Thrush||Neocossyphus poensis|
|Red-tailed Ant Thrush||Neocossyphus rufus|
|African Thrush||Turdus pelios|
|Abyssinian Thrush||Turdus abyssinicus|
|Chats, Old World Flycatchers (Muscicapidae)|
|Fire-crested Alethe||Alethe castanea|
|Brown-backed Scrub Robin||Cercotrichas hartlaubi|
|White-browed Scrub Robin||Cercotrichas leucophrys|
|Fraser’s Forest Flycatcher||Fraseria ocreata|
|Grey-throated Tit-Flycatcher||Myioparus griseigularis|
|Grey Tit-Flycatcher||Myioparus plumbeus|
|White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher||Melaenornis fischeri|
|Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher||Melaenornis ardesiacus|
|Northern Black Flycatcher||Melaenornis edolioides|
|Southern Black Flycatcher||Melaenornis pammelaina|
|Pale Flycatcher||Melaenornis pallidus|
|Ashy Flycatcher||Muscicapa caerulescens|
|Swamp Flycatcher||Muscicapa aquatica|
|Chapin’s Flycatcher – VU||Muscicapa lendu|
|African Dusky Flycatcher||Muscicapa adusta|
|Dusky-blue Flycatcher||Muscicapa comitata|
|Sooty Flycatcher||Muscicapa infuscata|
|Red-throated Alethe||Chamaetylas poliophrys|
|Brown-chested Alethe||Chamaetylas poliocephala|
|White-bellied Robin-Chat||Cossyphicula roberti|
|Archer’s Ground Robin||Cossypha archeri|
|Grey-winged Robin-Chat||Cossypha polioptera|
|Blue-shouldered Robin-Chat||Cossypha cyanocampter|
|White-browed Robin-Chat||Cossypha heuglini|
|Red-capped Robin-Chat||Cossypha natalensis|
|Snowy-crowned Robin-Chat||Cossypha niveicapilla|
|White-starred Robin||Pogonocichla stellata|
|Forest Robin||Stiphrornis erythrothorax|
|Equatorial Akalat||Sheppardia aequatorialis|
|Spotted Palm Thrush||Cichladusa guttata|
|African Stonechat||Saxicola torquatus|
|Sooty Chat||Myrmecocichla nigra|
|Ruaha Chat||Myrmecocichla collaris|
|Familiar Chat||Oenanthe familiaris|
|Grey-headed Sunbird||Deleornis axillaris|
|Western Violet-backed Sunbird||Anthreptes longuemarei|
|Little Green Sunbird||Anthreptes seimundi|
|Grey-chinned Sunbird||Anthreptes tephrolaemus|
|Collared Sunbird||Hedydipna collaris|
|Green-headed Sunbird||Cyanomitra verticalis|
|Blue-throated Brown Sunbird||Cyanomitra cyanolaema|
|Blue-headed Sunbird||Cyanomitra alinae|
|Olive Sunbird||Cyanomitra olivacea|
|Green-throated Sunbird||Chalcomitra rubescens|
|Scarlet-chested Sunbird||Chalcomitra senegalensis|
|Purple-breasted Sunbird||Nectarinia purpureiventris|
|Bronzy Sunbird||Nectarinia kilimensis|
|Olive-bellied Sunbird||Cinnyris chloropygius|
|Rwenzori Double-collared Sunbird||Cinnyris stuhlmanni|
|Northern Double-collared Sunbird||Cinnyris reichenowi|
|Regal Sunbird||Cinnyris regius|
|Beautiful Sunbird||Cinnyris pulchellus|
|Red-chested Sunbird||Cinnyris erythrocercus|
|Purple-banded Sunbird||Cinnyris bifasciatus|
|Superb Sunbird||Cinnyris superbus|
|Variable Sunbird||Cinnyris venustus|
|Copper Sunbird||Cinnyris cupreus|
|Old World Sparrows, Snowfinches (Passeridae)|
|Shelley’s Sparrow||Passer shelleyi|
|Northern Grey-headed Sparrow||Passer griseus|
|House Sparrow||Passer domesticus|
|Weavers, Widowbirds (Ploceidae)|
|White-browed Sparrow-Weaver||Plocepasser mahali|
|Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver||Plocepasser superciliosus|
|Speckle-fronted Weaver||Sporopipes frontalis|
|Thick-billed Weaver||Amblyospiza albifrons|
|Baglafecht Weaver||Ploceus baglafecht|
|Slender-billed Weaver||Ploceus pelzelni|
|Little Weaver||Ploceus luteolus|
|Spectacled Weaver||Ploceus ocularis|
|Black-necked Weaver||Ploceus nigricollis|
|Strange Weaver||Ploceus alienus|
|Black-billed Weaver||Ploceus melanogaster|
|Holub’s Golden Weaver||Ploceus xanthops|
|Orange Weaver||Ploceus aurantius|
|Northern Brown-throated Weaver||Ploceus castanops|
|Lesser Masked Weaver||Ploceus intermedius|
|Vitelline Masked Weaver||Ploceus vitellinus|
|Village Weaver||Ploceus cucullatus|
|Vieillot’s Black Weaver||Ploceus nigerrimus|
|Black-headed Weaver||Ploceus melanocephalus|
|Golden-backed Weaver||Ploceus jacksoni|
|Compact Weaver||Ploceus superciliosus|
|Brown-capped Weaver||Ploceus insignis|
|Red-headed Malimbe||Malimbus rubricollis|
|Red-headed Weaver||Anaplectes rubriceps|
|Red-billed Quelea||Quelea quelea|
|Black Bishop||Euplectes gierowii|
|Black-winged Red Bishop||Euplectes hordeaceus|
|Southern Red Bishop||Euplectes orix|
|Northern Red Bishop||Euplectes franciscanus|
|Yellow Bishop||Euplectes capensis|
|Fan-tailed Widowbird||Euplectes axillaris|
|Yellow-mantled Widowbird||Euplectes macroura|
|Marsh Widowbird||Euplectes hartlaubi|
|Red-collared Widowbird||Euplectes ardens|
|Waxbills, Munias & Allies (Estrildidae)|
|Bronze Mannikin||Spermestes cucullata|
|Magpie Mannikin||Spermestes fringilloides|
|Black-and-white Mannikin||Spermestes bicolor|
|White-collared Oliveback||Nesocharis ansorgei|
|Yellow-bellied Waxbill||Coccopygia quartinia|
|Green Twinspot||Mandingoa nitidula|
|Dusky Crimsonwing||Cryptospiza jacksoni|
|Jameson’s Antpecker (H)||Parmoptila jamesoni|
|White-breasted Nigrita||Nigrita fusconotus|
|Grey-headed Nigrita||Nigrita canicapillus|
|Grey-headed Oliveback||Delacourella capistrata|
|Black-crowned Waxbill||Estrilda nonnula|
|Kandt’s Waxbill||Estrilda kandti|
|Fawn-breasted Waxbill||Estrilda paludicola|
|Common Waxbill||Estrilda astrild|
|Black-rumped Waxbill||Estrilda troglodytes|
|Crimson-rumped Waxbill||Estrilda rhodopyga|
|Cut-throat Finch||Amadina fasciata|
|Orange-breasted Waxbill||Amandava subflava|
|Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu||Uraeginthus bengalus|
|Red-headed Bluebill||Spermophaga ruficapilla|
|Green-winged Pytilia||Pytilia melba|
|Dusky Twinspot||Euschistospiza cinereovinacea|
|Brown Twinspot||Clytospiza monteiri|
|Red-billed Firefinch||Lagonosticta senegala|
|African Firefinch||Lagonosticta rubricata|
|Indigobirds, Whydahs (Viduidae)|
|Village Indigobird||Vidua chalybeata|
|Pin-tailed Whydah||Vidua macroura|
|Wagtails, Pipits (Motacillidae)|
|Cape Wagtail||Motacilla capensis|
|Mountain Wagtail||Motacilla clara|
|African Pied Wagtail||Motacilla aguimp|
|Yellow-throated Longclaw||Macronyx croceus|
|African Pipit||Anthus cinnamomeus|
|Plain-backed Pipit||Anthus leucophrys|
|Striped Pipit||Anthus lineiventris|
|Finches, Euphonias (Fringillidae)|
|Western Citril||Crithagra frontalis|
|Papyrus Canary||Crithagra koliensis|
|Yellow-fronted Canary||Crithagra mozambica|
|Brimstone Canary||Crithagra sulphurata|
|Thick-billed Seedeater||Crithagra burtoni|
|Streaky Seedeater||Crithagra striolata|
|Yellow-crowned Canary||Serinus flavivertex|
|Cinnamon-breasted Bunting||Emberiza tahapisi|
|Golden-breasted Bunting||Emberiza flaviventris|
|Brown-rumped Bunting||Emberiza affinis|
DOWNLOAD TRIP REPORT
This is a sample trip report. Please email us ([email protected]) for more trip reports from this destination.
ULTIMATE UGANDA BIRDING TOUR – SHOEBILL, ALBERTINE RIFT ENDEMICS AND GREAT APES
Uganda, “the Pearl of Africa”, is about the same size as the state of Oregon yet boasts over 1,000 bird species and Africa’s greatest concentration of primate species! This spectacular faunal diversity is partly explained by the dramatic variety of habitats that change constantly (and sometimes rapidly) as one drives across the country. On this Ugandan birding tour, we target the most important birds and primates that Uganda has to offer. The huge and bizarre Shoebill is searched for in Mabamba Swamp and is near-guaranteed. Enough time is spent in the highlands of the country where we search for the 20 Albertine (Western) Rift endemics which includes one of Africa’s most fabulous turacos, Rwenzori Turaco, and of course the “must-see” Grauer’s Broadbill. We also then spend time in lowland forest (looking for Green-breasted Pitta) and savanna as well as time on boats on rivers and lakes which results in an impressive trip list (both birds and mammals).
DAILY ACTIVITIES, PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS, AND TOUR PACE
Most of the trip is not very strenuous. However, there are a couple of relatively difficult, but optional, walks that take at least half a day, sometimes the whole day. Those folks who are unfit (or who prefer just to have more of a vacation) can certainly feel free to opt out of any strenuous activities. The lodges are pleasant places to spend the occasional day relaxing, and we have found that photographers sometimes get quite good bird pictures by staying behind at the accommodations while the others embark on these long walks. Some folks also opt out of pre-breakfast birding or night owling if they want a less tiring trip. From our experience, a mix of hardcore birders and relaxed birding spouses have thoroughly enjoyed this trip to Uganda since it is, on most days (except when driving between sites), easy to opt out of activities and to enjoy “off” time around the hotels.
There are a few long, slow drives during the tour that can take half a day or more between sites. Road work has been ongoing for several years in Uganda, so do be prepared to travel along the unpaved side of the road for many miles at times – this gets dusty.
Most of the birding on this tour involves birding in forests (at Mgahinga, Bwindi, Kibale and Budongo Forests), although we do also spend quality time in savanna, wetland and river systems, and other open-country habitats. Forest birding is typically difficult and often involves looking for birds high up in the tree canopy or searching for cryptic and skulking species in the dense undergrowth. This means at times forest birding can be frustrating as often somebody in the group may miss species however it can also be incredibly rewarding if you are patient and determined and can result in some highly prized Albertine Rift endemics added to your life list.
BIRDING AND GREAT APE HIKES:
We undertake several birding hikes and walks on this trip, most of which take us through climax highland as well as lowland forest. The birding hike down to Mubwindi Swamp is one of the most exciting birding walks of the entire trip, as one often sees a constant stream of Albertine Rift endemics, the top one being Grauer’s Broadbill, which is unfortunately right at the bottom around the swamp. It is also the most strenuous walk of the trip as it involves hiking at altitude (roughly 6,400 feet /2,000 meters above sea), covers roughly 10 miles (16 kilometers), round trip, and may include some walking off cleared paths. One spends the whole morning slowly walking down (dropping roughly 1,500 feet/500 meters), enjoy our picnic lunch at the swamp and then some people struggle, as the entire afternoon is spent walking back up a long hill for several hours! Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (near the start of the trip) is also strenuous but usually involves walking uphill first, then downhill later. Other birding walks are far less strenuous and are over much easier terrain, such as at the Buhoma section of Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, Kibale Forest and Budongo Forest’s Royal Mile (although it can get hot in these forests). If you decide you’d prefer to skip any of our planned birding hikes, we will try our best to make other plans for more relaxed birding, probably along forest roads. To get the most out of this Uganda birding tour however a moderate level of fitness is ideal.
Gorilla trekking can take 2-14 hours, depending on where the gorilla family is on the day you do the trekking (it’s all about luck, or lack thereof!). The gorilla trekking is in a mountainous area, so expect to walk up and down a lot. Most of the time one has to leave the trail completely to get to where the gorillas are. This can involve some serious “bush-bashing” through the undergrowth; proper hiking boots with good grip are essential. So be prepared, with proper clothing. Snakes and forest elephants lurk in the area; this is wild Africa. For those folks who have problems walking, if you’re willing to pay at the very least double the price of the gorilla trekking, you can be carried on a stretcher to see these great apes! So, if money is less of an issue, even this day does not have to be strenuous as the porters will prepare a stretcher for you on the spot. Strictly one hour is spent with the gorillas after meeting up with them – this is to keep disturbance to a minimum.
Chimpanzee trekking in Kibale Forest is usually quite a lot easier, as it is over flatter terrain. Of course, it still can involve quite a walk through a hot and humid forest.
Those opting out of the gorilla and chimp trekking can catch up on rest and “regroup” at the lodge or will be taken birding if preferred.
There are a few boat trips on this tour. The trip to look for Shoebill at the Mabamba Swamp is in small dugout canoes (mokoros). Due to limited space in each canoe, the group splits up into different canoes, which, however, stick close together as they travel out onto the water to seek Shoebill. Other wildlife-viewing boat trips such as on Lake Mburo and on the Nile River at Murchison Falls are on larger boats where the whole group can be accommodated together.
PASSPORT AND VISA
Most visitors require a tourist visa to visit Uganda, and these must be applied for online (here) prior to your visit at a cost of around $50. We can provide you with a letter from a local sponsor, which may be required for your application process. We usually recommend starting the visa application process a couple of months before the start of the tour.
Please make sure that you bring a photocopy of your passport with you on the tour, to be kept in a different location to your original passport, in case of loss or damage. This can be kept with other important documents such as vaccine certificate, emergency contact details, and insurance documents. It may also be worthwhile to leave a copy with your tour leader. Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the time you enter Uganda.
If you are further unsure of entry requirements from your home country, we suggest checking your own governments’ advice and contact their nearest embassies/consulates for up-to-date regulations and requirements.
As per our standard Terms and Conditions, we strongly suggest (and essentially insist, as tour deposits and balance payments are unfortunately non-refundable if you cancel as we spend the money in advance to secure services) that you buy trip cancellation insurance to protect yourself against accidents, medical issues, illness, repatriation, loss of valuables or luggage, and travel interruptions or delays of any kind.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Please read the Centers for Disease Control website’s section on Uganda very carefully, noting that anti-malarial drugs are required and that a yellow fever vaccination certificate is needed to enter the country. Insect repellent and quick-drying long-sleeved shirts are a good idea, not only to help prevent mosquito bites but also to protect against other (simply pesky) insects such as biting flies.
Avoid travelers’ diarrhea by never drinking tap water or eating unpeeled fruit or salads. Unlimited bottled water is provided free of charge throughout the tour in the vehicles (we purchase this inexpensively at grocery stores; bottled water bought at restaurants is not covered and is for your account but you are welcome to take water from the vehicles to the rooms when needed although many hotels provide free bottled water too).
In Uganda, large animals such as elephants, hippos, lions, leopards, gorillas, chimpanzees, crocodiles and others pose a risk and need to be treated with extreme respect. Small animals such as spiders, snakes, etc. can also, of course, pose a safety risk.
You’ll find the people of Uganda to be extremely friendly and helpful, but (like in most parts of the world) crime is possible (especially in the big cities). Always watch your valuables (although we certainly have never had any problems on any of our tours to Uganda).
Steep trails (see for example the part on gorilla trekking above) can also be a hazard.
The Ugandan Shilling (see here for exchange rate, etc.) is the currency. You can draw this local currency using major credit cards (especially Visa and Mastercard) at ATMs (which can be found at the airport and in towns along the way – please do ask the guides a couple of days in advance when you need another ATM stop to replenish cash!). Major credit cards can be used for some purchases and to buy drinks and get laundry done at some hotels – but a supply of local cash is also essential, as some of the accommodations are remote and do not take cards (and neither do folks selling gifts and souvenirs along the route). If you prefer not to draw money from an ATM, then US dollar (or other major currency to a lesser extent) cash is easily exchanged for local currency in Entebbe and we recommend doing this before the start of the tour as it may be difficult in smaller towns. Traveler’s checks are no longer used much, are extremely difficult to cash, and are not advised.
The country of Uganda is full of water and has vast papyrus swamps, shares a large part of Africa’s largest lake (Victoria) with its neighbors, and has some verdant forest, thanks to the good amount of rain it receives. This also means that one must be prepared for the possibility of rain, drizzle, and mist, although often this does not pose a major problem as we run our set departure Uganda tours in the dry season, which covers the months from June to August. This is also when birds are in breeding plumage and singing and the intra-African migrants are present.
Uganda is well-known for its diversity of terrain and habitats, which in turn means that birders visiting Uganda need to be prepared for all kinds of different temperatures and weather patterns. At arrival in the hot and humid Entebbe airport one does not necessarily realize that a couple of days later one will likely be wearing fleeces high in the volcanic mountains straddling the border with Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo; despite being equatorial, it can get cold in both Bwindi Impenetrable National Park and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (not usually quite as low as freezing point, though). It’s best to bring many layers; while quite often conditions will be unpleasantly hot and humid, at other times people get surprised how cold it is. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park (especially its higher-altitude Ruhija section) and Mgahinga Gorilla National Park often leave people feeling markedly chilly. Accommodations are not always heated, so you may rely on layers while sleeping, and the provided blankets.
The “take-home” message is to bring layers, including waterproofs (which hopefully you won’t actually need, but which you certainly should carry, while gorilla trekking or on long birding walks). A relatively nominal fee can be paid to porters for carrying gear during the longer birding walks and gorilla/chimp trekking. A waterproof day backpack is advised (whether you carry it or the porter does, during the birding and primate walks) – for waterproof layers, your water bottle, etc. Waterproof bags for placing cameras, cell phones, etc. into, in case that it does rain, are recommended.
Electricity in Uganda is 220 V and with UK-type plug sockets – full details are shown here. Please bring adapters, and in some cases a currency converter in order not to damage cameras or other equipment, noting that voltage is twice that in North America.
Cell (mobile) phone signal is likely to be available at most locations we visit on the tour. Roaming charges might apply depending on your phone contract, it’s thus best to check with your supplier that your phone will work in Uganda. A considerably less expensive alternative to using an international SIM card would be to purchase a local SIM card on your arrival at the airport or phone shop (options are available in Entebbe, prior to the start of the tour). Wi-Fi is usually widely available at most of our accommodation establishments however it is not always available in your rooms and is rather only available in common areas such as reception or the dining area.
TRANSPORTATION AND SEAT ROTATION
Travel in Uganda is typically very slow (with many speed bumps and potholes) which means even though we might not have far to travel between destinations, it may take a very long time. However, we use modern, comfortable vehicles during our Uganda birding tours, such as a Toyota Landcruiser, or a minibus, for larger groups, which ensures the drives are as comfortable as possible.
We have a seat rotation policy for our set departure tours, this ensures ensure everybody has equal opportunities within the vehicle throughout the tour. As we need to keep things fair for all our paying clients, motion sickness will unfortunately not excuse you from our seat rotation policy and if you are prone to motion sickness you should ensure you bring the necessary medication. It is necessary that you are fit and flexible enough to maneuver yourself to the back of the vehicle when it is your turn to sit in that position. Tour participants should be mindful of the extra equipment they bring into the general seating area of the vehicle (rather than the luggage section) and should ensure they do not clog up general thoroughfare or extra seats with camera equipment, tripods, etc. from both a comfort and a health and safety perspective.
Due to restricted space in the vehicles, please try to pack on the lighter side for this tour. We find a medium-sized, soft-sided duffle bag (not the hard-sided cases) usually works best for packing in the vehicles. A small daypack should be used to keep items that you wish to use daily when in the vehicle or in the field.
Accommodation is by no means luxurious but is clean, reasonably comfortable and well situated, often with large gardens or grounds which offer good birding opportunities right on the doorstep. Most accommodation establishments have air-conditioning and/or a fan while all have private bathrooms. “Load-shedding” is common – this is when the electricity supply is interrupted because of Uganda’s limited capacity for power generation. At other times, electricity at some hotels will be from generators that are switched off at certain times (e.g. between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.). The guides will advise on the exact details/generator times during the tour. Rooms are not always heated and can actually get slightly chilly at night up in the mountains. At other times heat and humidity will of course be more of a problem however most establishments we use have air-conditioning and/or a fan.
WHAT TO BRING: CLOTHING
We recommend packing loose, lightweight field clothing with green and brown colors as these colors work best for our birding activities and help blend into the forest environments that we will spend most of our time birding in. Bright colors are to be avoided for birding attire, please (e.g. no pale colors, white, red, orange etc.). Due to the potential insect issues (and fierce tropical sun) mentioned above, we recommend long pants/trousers and long-sleeved shirts (these can be rolled up should you get too hot). Shorts can be great for when you are relaxing around the accommodation but always be aware of biting insects and sun exposure.
As we will be birding in the mountains for some sections of this tour, you will also need to bring some warmer clothing, certainly a minimum of a warm fleece/jacket for early morning/evening when temperatures can be low. It is also advisable to pack something warm to sleep in for the nights when at higher elevation. Rain is always a possibility in Uganda, so (light-weight) rain gear is always useful to have on hand.
Casual and informal dress is fine in the hotels/accommodation (and for dinners). Swimwear can be useful as there may be opportunities to swim at some of the accommodations during the rest periods in the middle of the day. Sunglasses, sunhat, and sunscreen (rated SPF 30 or higher) are useful.
We undertake a number of birding/wildlife hikes on this Uganda birding tour and thus we recommend lightweight walking boots for when out on foot to give extra ankle support and added protection against animal stings/bites. A change of shoes is always good in case your boots get soaked from rain or walking through damp areas – a pair of lighter walking shoes is good to have along on the trip as a backup and for shorter walks. Sandals/trainers (tennis shoes) are useful for in the vehicles and for walking between your room and restaurant in the hotels and lodges.
WHAT TO BRING: OTHER ITEMS
Do not forget: binoculars, East African/Ugandan field guides (see “Books” section below), flashlight (torch), prescription drugs (please bring the generic names for these drugs with you), toiletries, prescription glasses (and a spare pair), insect repellent, sunscreen, sunglasses, camera, batteries (for electronic equipment and chargers for the re-chargeable batteries, if required), converter plugs and plug adaptors if needed, money pouch, suggested medical kit, and daypacks.
Our tour leader or local guide will have a telescope for use during the tour. Most of the birding will be carried out in forest environments and therefore we are unlikely to rely heavily on a scope during this tour, therefore it is probably not worth bringing your own scope, unless you like to “digiscope/phone-scope”. The communal scope will be for everyone to look at the birds but not for taking photos through.
Other important items to remember to bring include: key travel documents, cash (or ATM/credit cards to draw money), passport, proof of vaccinations (yellow fever vaccination is mandatory) and your travel or health insurance cards – photocopies of all can be carried by the tour leader in case of emergency, US Dollars (US$) or British Pound Sterling (GBP/£) can be changed to Ugandan Shillings if you prefer not to simply draw from ATM’s, cash for anything of a personal nature that is not included within the tour cost.
To help with the evening checklist session, we recommend bringing two different colored pens and a 12-inch (30-centimeter) plastic ruler. Using different colors on alternate days makes the listing activity much easier!
If you would like some advice on what to pack for a birding tour, you can read more in this blog post here.
In terms of books, “The Birds of East Africa” field guide and the associated app (detailed in our blog here) are highly recommended for Uganda. Another good option is the Merlin bird app (with the Uganda country package downloaded) which gives you access to a large range of photos and calls of almost all of Uganda’s bird species.
‘This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The birding was intense but fun. There was a relaxed atmosphere despite the intense birding. My partner, a birding novice, loved the trip. We did the optional gorilla and chimp trekking – both well worth doing.’
‘An excellent tour with a great range of activity from easy roadside birding to a couple of good long day walks. I
enjoyed the whole thing and particularly like it when the accommodation lends itself to birding in the gardens.’
‘This was my first trip to Africa and my longest birding trip ever. The itinerary was excellent, the accommodations were
pleasant, and the guides were outstanding. Compared to other birding tours I’ve been on, this was orders of
magnitude better. Kudos to Dylan and William for the support they gave to a visually- and hearing-impaired birder!’