Amazing Birds of Uganda

Uganda is a top birding destination. Many birds are native to Uganda; it boasts 1061 bird species, making it a popular destination for birders. Here are the 8 Top Birding Sites and 17 Birds ranging from the tiny black bee-eater to the large and weirdly cute shoebill stork.

Top 8 Birding Sites in Uganda

No matter where you visit in Uganda, you will never be far from a reserve or national park where you can go bird watching. Some of the most popular birding places in Uganda include:

 

  1. Mgahinga Gorilla National Park
  2. Nyamuriro Swamp
  3. Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
  4. Rwenzori Mountains National Park
  5. Kibale Forest National Park
  6. Queen Elizabeth National Park
  7. Kyambura Wildlife Reserve
  8. Semliki Reserves

 

Notable birds of Uganda

Uganda is a bird lover’s paradise, boasting more than 1,000 different bird species. The country’s diverse landscapes and ecosystems provide ideal habitats for various species that range from exotic forest birds to tall water cranes and majestic birds of prey.

 

  1. Crested Crane
  2. Shoebill Stork
  3. Shelley’s Crimsonwing
  4. Great Blue Turaco
  5. Marabou Stork
  6. African Green Broadbill
  7. Doherty’s Bushshrike
  8. Saddle-billed Stork
  9. Green-Breasted Pitta

Crested Crane: Uganda’s National Bird

This bird is a subspecies of the Grey Crowned Crane (Balearica regulorum) and it’s the national bird of Uganda.

As such, it appears on the country’s flag; it is also on the Ugandan coat of arms opposite a Ugandan Kob. Both represent the abundant wildlife in Uganda. The Crested Crane’s crest sports the same colors as the Ugandan flag. Not surprisingly, it is very high on the typical visitor’s Uganda animal list. If you want to see what the crested crane looks like, take a look at the Ugandan flag, which features this national bird. Standing over 3 feet (1 meter) tall with a 6-foot wingspan, the crested crane only weighs approximately 7 pounds and can live up to 22 years. While many cranes make a gobbling call similar to a turkey, the crested crane honks more like a goose.

The crested crane loves living among the grassy wetlands of Uganda and rarely migrates. This bird is smart and has learned to protect itself from predators by hiding among cattle herds. Many birds of Uganda have a mating dance, but the crested crane loves dancing so much that it dances all year-round, in and out of mating season.

Shoebill Stork: Most Sought-After Bird

The Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), sometimes called the Shoebill Stork, is one of the most elusive birds in Uganda. Consequently, it is one of the most sought by birders. At around five feet tall, its massive bill gives it a prehistoric look.

 

Named for its large bill that is shaped like a shoe, the shoebill is one of the most coveted birds among birders. Featuring a prehistoric appearance, the shoebill looks like it survived the dinosaur age. Without doubt, this is one of the weirdest birds on the planet.

The Shoebill lives in swamps, where it feeds chiefly on lungfish. It will also eat frogs, other fish, snakes and even baby crocodiles. Shoebills can live for over 50 years.

Shelley’s crimsonwing: Rare Bird

There is no mistaking the marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus). With cloak-like wings, skinny legs and weird-looking air sacs hanging down from the base of its neck, this tall wading bird is often regarded as one of the ugliest birds of Uganda.

The marabou’s appearance isn’t the only strange thing about this bird. It has many odd behaviors as well.

For example, instead of flying away from grass fires like other birds, the marabou uses the blazes to its advantage to swoop in and feed on small fleeing animals. If the marabou gets too hot, it cools off by excreting its feces on its legs.

Marabou Stork

There is no mistaking the marabou stork (Leptoptilos crumeniferus). With cloak-like wings, skinny legs and weird-looking air sacs hanging down from the base of its neck, this tall wading bird is often regarded as one of the ugliest birds of Uganda.

The marabou’s appearance isn’t the only strange thing about this bird. It has many odd behaviors as well.

For example, instead of flying away from grass fires like other birds, the marabou uses the blazes to its advantage to swoop in and feed on small fleeing animals. If the marabou gets too hot, it cools off by excreting its feces on its legs.

African Green Broadbill

The African green broadbill (Pseudocalyptomena graueri) is a tiny bird featuring a body of mostly green feathers, with light blue on the throat, breast, and tail as well as a tan forehead with black streaks. While conservationists are putting forth serious efforts to protect this little rare bird, climate change and deforestation continue to threaten its numbers.

The small, elusive bird can only be found in Bwindi National Park.

African Green Broadbill

The African green broadbill (Pseudocalyptomena graueri) is a tiny bird featuring a body of mostly green feathers, with light blue on the throat, breast, and tail as well as a tan forehead with black streaks. While conservationists are putting forth serious efforts to protect this little rare bird, climate change and deforestation continue to threaten its numbers.

The small, elusive bird can only be found in Bwindi National Park.

Saddle-billed Stork: Bird of the Pharaohs

The saddle-billed stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis) owes its name to the yellow shield on its black and red bill. At five feet tall, this stork is the tallest stork in the world, one of the biggest storks, sports black and white plumage. This wading bird is among the tallest in the world, growing to a height of nearly five feet. Unlike most birds, the saddle-billed stork does not have a vocal organ and only makes sound by clacking its bill. They Are Shy, Solitary Birds: If this stork is not alone, it will be part of a pair, but on rare occasions, they will be in groups of 10 to 12 birds. A pair will stay together because they form permanent bonds and are monogamous. They breed in the same nest every breeding period. That is why this species doesn’t have very showy, extravagant courtship displays. The breeding season starts in the dry season after the rainy season has ended. This stork nests alone in the treetops near water, close to their food sources. The trees they choose are tall so they are away from threats or disturbances. The storks will reuse the same nest, so they will make repairs by adding new materials to the structure. The nest is built by adult storks using sticks. The interior walls of the nest have a plaster of mud, and the lining is a composition of soft materials like reeds and grasses. The female saddle-billed stork will lay two to three eggs, at every breeding time. The egg weighs approximately 146 grams, and the incubation period can last from 30 to 35 days.

Both parents will sit on the nest to incubate the eggs. When the chicks hatch, they have white, downy feathers, covering their entire body. As they grow older, their white downy feathers give way to a dull grey color before their feathers can become the black and white plumage of the adult storks.

Both parents feed the baby storks for 70 to 100 days after they have hatched. This stork species does not breed every year. The juvenile storks will live in close proximity to their parents for one or two years, until the next breeding period.

Your best chances for spotting this interesting bird is in Semuliki National Park and along the Kazinga Channel.

Green-Breasted Pitta

The green-breasted pitta (Pitta reichenowi) is one of the most difficult birds of Uganda to spot, making it one of the most sought-after birds and seeing one is a top highlight in any lifetime of birding. It is one of only two pitta species found on the continent. This pitta lives well-camouflaged in the forests of the Kibale National Park.

The best time to catch a glimpse of this bird is in the early mornings between June and August when it flitters about on the forest floor searching for food.

These photographs are all far from perfect, but they do show a Green-Breasted Pitta in natural light feeding on the forest floor, as another hops around nearby. If you ever see one, it is likely to be in conditions just like these.

Standard-Winged Nightjar

The black-breasted barbet (Lybius rolleti) may be difficult to find because it is a solitary bird that likes to nest in dense vegetation and dead trees. However, you can easily distinguish the black-breasted barbet from other black and white birds by its large, white bill.

Chances of seeing this barbet by going where fruit trees grow because this bird loves to eat fruits such as mangoes, figs and guavas. Sadly, there is some concern that the population of this species may be in decline due to deforestation.

Standard-Winged Nightjar

Both male and females feature yellow bills and feet with long, wide tails. The male bar-tailed trogon features a shimmery blue-green or violet breast and iridescent blue-black head with yellow patches above and below the eyes. The female bar-tailed trogon is less brilliant with a brown head and reddish-brown breast and throat.

The bar-tailed trogon averages about 28 cm (11 inches) long. The bill and feet are yellow, and the tail, long and broad as usual for trogons, has the underside narrowly barred with black and white. The male’s head is blue-black with bronze iridescence. Below the eye are two yellow or orange patches of bare skin; above the eye is a yellow or grey patch. The upper breast is iridescent from violet to blue-green; the rest of the underparts are red. The back is green and the upper surface of the tail is blue-black or purple-black. The female’s head is brown with less ornamental bare skin and its throat and breast are light cinnamon; otherwise it resembles the male. The immature is similar to the female, but has a white belly and pale spots on the wings formed by the tips of the wing coverts and inner secondaries.

The vocalisations are described as a yelping crescendo, “yaow, yow, yow, yow… or wuk-wuk-wuk-wuk….” The female gives “a whining chee-uu.”

African Spoonbill

The African spoonbill (Platalea alba) is a member of the ibis family, and the end of its bill really is shaped like a spoon. It is a tall, white water bird that you will find using its long, spoon-like beak to catch fish and crustaceans in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers, and marshes. Like other members in its family, it lives in wetlands. The African spoonbill hunts for fish, amphibians, insects and other prey in shallow water. They have long, thin legs so that they are better able to walk through water. They are all white except for their face and legs, which, if they are of breeding age are red. When mature these birds have gray beaks. Growing as large as a human toddler, this spoonbill can live up to 15 years in the wild. A shy bird that likes to stay close to its own kind, this spoonbill is also monogamous and egalitarian with both male and female sharing in the responsibilities of caring for their young. Until they come of age, the younger birds have yellow beaks. They are not as flamboyant or showy as other members of their family, because unlike other members of their family, these guys have no crest to show off.

They are shy and prefer to associate with their own kind. If a human gets too close, they are likely to fly away or sound the alarm with their loud grunt-like warning. That means if you want to watch these amazing birds, you should probably get a good pair of binoculars and observe them from a distance. They may socialize in small groups of three to five others. But, that group may be nestled in a larger gathering of up to 1000 birds including not only spoonbills, but heron, ibis and flamingos.

Yellow-billed Oxpecker (Buphagus africanus)

These small birds hitch a ride along the backs of large mammals like cattle, elephants, hippopotamuses, and zebras. Their entire diet consists of ticks, botfly larvae, and other parasites found in the hide and hair of large mammals. They also feed on the host’s earwax, dandruff and blood from open wounds.

While oxpeckers make nests in the holes of trees and walls, they perform their mating routines on the backs of their hosts.

While they appear to peck at these animals, they are really eating the ticks and other parasites on their skin. They do not live in rainforests or deserts.

Long-crested Eagle

An African bird of prey, the long-crested eagle is aptly named for its long, feathery crest. This small eagle features mostly brown to black plumage, a barred tail, and white feathered legs.

This eagle is predominantly sedentary, preferring to sit and wait for its prey to come along before swooping down upon it. Although it feeds mostly on small rodents, the long-crested eagle will also eat fish, lizards, frogs, and even small birds.

Both male and female long-crested eagles build their nests together. While the female incubates the eggs, the male most often hunts for and feeds the young.

Black Bee-Eater

Black bee-eater (Merops gularis) is one of the more popular birds of Uganda.  It features a distinctive scarlet throat and shimmering turquoise streaks across the breast. These birds are high in the forest canopies of places like Kibale National Park and Bwindi National Park. You can listen for their high-pitched sounds of “p’sit p’sit seet,” If you do not see them at first.

Chocolate-Backed Kingfisher (Halcyon badia)

It is likely to spot it perched in a high tree in the lowland rainforest, scanning the area for prey that includes ants, grasshoppers, beetles, and small lizards.

The adult chocolate-backed kingfisher sports a brownish black mantle, white underbelly, iridescent blue rump, and reddish-brown bill. A juvenile is similar to the adult except for a scalloped breast and black bill with an orange tip. You will know the chocolate-backed kingfisher when you hear it because its sound is a high-pitched screech followed by a mournful song.

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