Uganda is a diverse wildlife-viewing destination, and bird watching is no exception. There are 1075 bird species within Uganda, and 150 can only be found here. Uganda’s special location between the savannah, rainforest, and semi-desert makes it a friendly home to various birds.
This guide will help you discover the most iconic birds of Uganda, and fill you in on the very best destinations for bird watching.
What are the most iconic bird species of Uganda?
We have listed three bird species that you'll want to look out for while travelling through Uganda. Their unique size, beaks, and plumage will make your Uganda roadtrip even more unforgettable.
1. Ugandan Crane (Grey-crowned Crane)
Once you see the crane, you’ll immediately understand why it has such a majestic name. It stands one metre and weighs about 3.5 kilos. The grey-crowned crane has an elaborate mating ritual involving dancing, bowing, and jumping. Its bright red sac and crown of stiff feathers make this bird a memorable sight. The crested crane is the national symbol of Uganda, depicted on the flag of Uganda.
2. Shoebill Stork
Laying your eyes on the shoebill will feel like you’ve stepped into Jurassic Park. With its massive beak and tall stature, this impressive bird looks like a small dinosaur. Shoebills can grow over one meter tall, and their large beaks resemble a shoe (which explains the name). Although they're called a stork, scientists say the shoebills are more closely related to pelicans. They have beautiful slate-grey feathers and tend to stay still for long periods; which helps them to catch fish.
3. Great Blue Turaco
The great blue turaco is a beautiful bird, maybe to their detriment. Unfortunately, the bird is currently actively hunted for its colourful feathers and meat. You might spot their bills first – they’re bright yellow with a red tip. The turaco is not the best in flying, due to their short and round wings. You rather see them gliding and leaping from one tree to the next.
What are the best bird-watching destinations in Uganda?
There are many great destinations for bird watching in Uganda. For those looking for extra knowledge or help with bird spotting, there are plenty of birding safaris to book inside Uganda's national parks. Make sure to mark your birding interest upfront, as knowledge may vary among Uganda Wildlife Authority Rangers. Lodges in the destinations listed below are also great starting points for birding. Their teams often include trained guides, who know a lot about the local birdlife. Some of Roadtrip Africa's driver-guides also have lots of birding knowledge. If you have a particular interest in birding, let us know in advance, and we'll try to match you with the right driver-guide.
- Kibale Rainforest is probably Uganda’s best birding destination. There's a diverse range of bird species to see, and the guides at the park entrance are very knowledgeable. Particularly rewarding is the Bigodi Swamp Walk. The sanctuary is home to the Great Blue Turaco, Papyrus Gonolek, White-winged Warbler, White-collared Oliveback and Papyrus Canary. Bird-watching tours start at 7 am at Kanyanchu; you are advised to book in advance. Ask your lodge for the latest updates about bird-watching tours.
- Bwindi Forest & Lake Mutanda are great starting points for a bird-watching trek. Nkuringo Walking Safaris and Mutanda Lake Resort offer excellent guided nature walks and canoe excursions on Mutanda Lake, of which the proceeds benefit the local community. There’s a very big chance you’ll spot Uganda’s crested crane in this area.
- Because Entebbe is close to Lake Victoria, you’ll be able to spot lots of water- and forest birds. The ancient shoebill stork can be spotted in Mabamba Swamp, best on a canoe excursion. Contact Mabamba Shoebill Tours or Nkima Forest Lodge for the possibilities.
- Lake Mburo is home to many water and acacia-tree birds. Lake Mburo's swampy valleys, salt lakes, and forests provide a variety of habitats for birdlife. You'll have possibilities of spotting the Rufous-bellied Heron, Bateleur, Black-bellied Bustard, Coqui Francolin, Grey Crowned Crane, and Brown-chested Lapwing.
- Queen Elizabeth is home to over 600 bird species, as well as a great number of large savannah animals. A must-visit if you're around!
- Kidepo Valley National Park is located in the far north of Uganda, bordering South Sudan. The destination will appeal to those looking for a remote and off-the-beaten-track experience. Its diverse landscape makes it home to almost 500 bird species and 77 different mammals. The birdlife in Kidepo is good year-round, but at its best from March to April to spot migrated and special birds.
Special & rare bird watching in Uganda
If you’re a die-hard bird watcher, you'll most likely be interested in the below destinations, where you can spot some very elusive and rare birds - only to be found in Uganda.
Semliki is East Africa's only true lowland tropical forest, making it the home of some very special species. Some bird life here is highly localized, so expect to see birds you can’t find anywhere else. Semliki is home to the African openbill, great white pelicans, malachite kingfishers, and a range of other birds. Migratory birds also pass through from November to April, while the breeding season for most birds here is in March. Semliki Safari Lodge can provide more information on birding safaris and guided tours.
Budongo Rainforest is a prime destination for forest birding in Uganda, with over 360 bird species currently known. The forest is home to the “Royal Mile”, a popular birding trail. Here, you’re likely to spot the Yellow-footed Flycatcher, Nahan’s Francolin, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Black-eared Groundthrush, Pygmy Crake, Black-winged Pratincole, Brown Twinspot, White-thighed Hornbill, Cassin’s Hawk Eagle, Dwarf and Kingfisher among many others. Visit or contact Budongo Eco Lodge for more information about bird-watching treks in Budongo.
We hope we inspired you to pack your bird field guide and binoculars! Looking for great itineraries to combine your bird safaris with? Check out our self-drive tours in Uganda and start planning your birding safari now!