Uganda is emphatically the best birding destination in Africa with 50% and 10% of Africa’s and world total bird’s species, respectively. The country is an overlap zone of the western Guinea-Congo basin forest that supports unique species, awarding it with the unsurpassed Birders Haven title, in Africa.
Bwindi impenetrable national park, our subject, lies in the rugged kigezi highlands of south western Uganda, protecting a unique forest that ranges from Montane to lowland areas. It is this attitudinal variation ,combined with it’s location within the Albertine rift that results the forest being the richest in East Africa in terms of trees , butterflies and birds. Birding in Bwindi is done in this ecological Island within the virunga massif is within a sea of human cultivation and is therefore of immense conservation importance hence being named a UNESCO world heritage site.
This forest is home to a number of birding ecosystems that should make every birders itinerary. It offers numerous possibilities of seeing 23 endemic species out of the 26 species in the region which is 90% of the region’s total endemics. Among them are the spectacular, globally threatened species such as the African Green Broadbill and shelley’s Crimsonwing which are celebrated nowhere else in Africa. There are an estimated 350 bird species, with 14 not recorded anywhere else in Uganda. Other endemics include Neumann’s warbler, blue-headed and regal sunbirds, striped breasted tit, Rwenzori Batis, Dwarf honey-guide among others. Similarly the Palearctic migrants are present from October to April.
A typical birding in Bwindi day entails an early morning rise. And by the time the sun is up, all birding equipment to include binoculars, telescopes, field guide books must be prearranged and ready for a busy day. Birds are known to be exceptionally active at 7:00am as they wake up, fly around and live life. Active birding goes up to around 12 noon, when birds become less active. From this time inactivity is considered for an average birder to have lunch, catch their breath and rest a little until birding resumes. In the last observation time – the afternoon, birds are active as they look for their final day’s food before they go to shut-eye. For a Twitcher however, a brief lunch break is sufficient then proceed with birding hence a full day activity. A standard Bird-Watching day ends at sunset.
For African safaris, be it wildlife or birding, evenings are scheduled to go through checklists. This is when ticking seen-birds for the day against recorded-birds is done. Easy to see along different forest trails are the African Emerald Cuckoo, African and White-tailed Blue Flycatchers, cinnamon chested Bee- eater, yellow streaked Greenbul, Black Bee-eater, African Black Duck and Red-headed Bluebill.
Birding Trails include, among others- the Buhoma Waterfall Trail, the bamboo zone, Mubwindi Swamp trail in Ruhija and Ruhija neck. Bwindi forest is one block surrounded by local communities, who are primary owners of the resource. They have therefore made numerous foot paths within the forests to connect to their villages. While birding on these trails, chances of meeting natives are high.
Seasonal activities like birding require adequate preparation especially on the basis of time. If one travels in October, a mixture of African and Eurasian (palearctic) birds like willow warbler, European honey Buzzard, Eurasian Hobby among others will be seen. While in May – September, typically African birds make the list. However it is important to note, birds are more active during rainy season that is to say March -May and then September –November.
From the above, you can see that Bwindi Forest is an excellent birding destination to be visited all year round. Ready for your birding adventure in Uganda? Contact us today to learn more.