Most of Uganda’s national parks and reserves with their tropical and riverine forests, Savannah and woodland are a wealth of birdlife and therefore unlikely to disappoint. Endemic birds of prey, fruit eaters, ant-eaters, bee- eaters, necter-eaters and wood peckers among others are found. Some of these are the Pigmy Falcon, Scarlet-chested sunbird ,Red-throated bee-eater, Double-toothed Barbet,, Black-breasted barbet, Shining Blue Kingfisher, white-crested Hornbill, Black wattled Hornbill, Grants Bluebill, Orange-cheeked waxbill, Red-tailed ant thrush, Blue-breasted kingfisher, fiery-breasted bush shrike, Red-throated rail, chestnut-caped Flycatcher,red-rumped Tinker bird,Ituri Batis,African Piculet,Chocolate -backed kingfisher, Blue-throated Roller,White-thoated Blue swall,olivacious flycatcher, Black –billed barbet,GreatBlue turaco,bateleue and Newman’s coucal.
With an incredible 1008 bird species, many visitors to Uganda will understandably be overwhelmed by her avian wealth and these will not only be first timers but seasoned birders as well. How about beginning with some of these interesting endemic and distinctive birds?
Scarlet-chested Sunbird (chalcomitra Senegalensis) is represented by more than 30 species in Uganda alone. Sunbirds are small, colourful and often iridescent nectar-eaters with long curved bills.
This is one of the more common species in Uganda. It’s jet-black with a bold scarlet Patch on the chest and green head markings.
Red-throated bee-eater (Merops bullocks), is a stunning green, red and turquoise bee-eater essentially West African but whose range extended into North West Uganda, and breeds in the tall sandbanks of lake Albert and the Nile below Murchison falls.
Double-toothed Barbet (Lybius bidentatus) is a colorful thrush-sized bird with a black and bold red Brest, chest and face, a yellow eye-patch and heavy bill. It’s found in any wooded habitat especially near fruiting trees although they are also more likely to be seen. In the North of Murchison falls is a more localized Black-breasted barbet.
Black and white casqued hornbill (Bycanistes brevis) is a characteristic Uganda forest resident. It’s a large black and white bird with a gross ivory bill and is often detected by its raucous braying and heavy wing flaps.
Great blue Turaco (Corythaeola Cristata) is like a psychedelic turkey. This blue-green forest dweller measures 75cm from the tip of its red and yellow bill to the end of it’s blue-black barred tail. Move in small flocks and are wide spread in forested habitats.
However, Uganda’s other varied natural settings like fresh water lakes, rivers and wetlands are habitats to numerous other birds. Some of the common and distinctive of these birds which will Pique the interest of birders and visitors to Uganda’s species are;
Crested crane /Grey crowned crane (Balearica regulorum). It’s Uganda’s national bird. It’s 1.1 metres tall, grey with white feathering and a unique golden crest. It’s a graceful quiet bird common in swamp and associated moist land. North of the Nile, the northern black crowned crane has also been spotted.
Saddle-billed stork (Ephippppiorhynchus Senegalensis) is the largest and most handsome of several storks common in Uganda. It’s up to 1.4m high with black andwhite feathering andgandy red, yellow and black bill. It moves usually in pairs and is regular on game drivers in the north of Murchison.
African Jacana (Actophilornis Africanus) is also known as a lilly trotter because of it’s habit of walking across floating vegetation on its splayed feet. It’s a deep reddish brown, white and black wader common in most wetlands in Uganda.
Coucals (Centropus Spp) are larger clumsy looking relatives of the cuckoos. They prefer rank grasslands and swamp. There are four species in Uganda of which the swamp-dwelling black and Blue-headed coucal are the most impressive.
Pied kingfisher (Ceryle rudis) is boldly marked black and white and is fond of hovering still above water for long periods. It can be found in practically any wetland habitat.
Pelicans (Pelecanus Spp) are large charismatic water birds often seen swimming in tight flotillas on opens lakes and Kazinga Channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park. Two species are present in Uganda.
African darter (Anhinga rufa) also referred to as the snake bird after its habit of swimming low with elongated rufous neck extended in serpentine fashion, is fairly common in most fresh water habitats with fringing vegetation. It perches openly often with wings spread open to dry.
Goliath heron (Ardrea goliath) as its name suggests is an immense heron standing at 1.5 metres tall with lovely cryptic purple –grey and orange markings. It’s commonly seen from trips in Queen Elizabeth National Park and Murchison Falls.
Flamingos (Phoenicopterus Spp) are stunning and gregarious Pink-white algae-eaters with a preference for soda lakes from whose waters they sift algae. Large concentrations can be seen in Katwe and Queen Elizabeth National Park’ crater lakes and adjacent to Kyambura wildlife reserve. These are two species found in Uganda.
Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is an unmistakable large grey swamp-dweller distantly related to the pelicans. It may be seen on the Nile below Murchison falls and Lake Albert, in Semiliki and the swamps surrounding Lake Opeta in Soroti.
Malachite Kingfisher (Alcedo Cristata) is an exquisite African counterpart to the European kingfisher with blue back and wings, orange chest. It perches still on low reeds and twigs by rivers and lakes.
It’s similar to the pink-cheeked Pigmy Kingfisher.
Uganda is home to several rarities which make birding especially exciting. Some especially rare birds of Uganda’s bird species are the Black Dwarf Hornbill, White- thighed Hornbill, Blue-billed Malimbe, Crested Malimbe, Nkulenga Rail (heard at night), Yellow-throated Nicater and Green- Twinspot.