Tweeting in East Africa

Uganda and Rwanda safaris are not often thought of in an ornithological context, however, a new website – Birding Uganda – has just been launched in Uganda, which spells good news for twitchers and will hopefully uncover a whole new world of discovery for anyone with an ounce of enthusiasm for birds.

Uganda or Rwanda safaris should always include a spot of bird watching. Uganda for example, has over 1,000 species, making it one of the richest birding destinations in Africa. Rwanda is not far behind and Nyungwe Forest – one of the largest protected high altitude forests on the continent – is a birder’s paradise, with avian highlights such as the rare and stunning Sunbirds and the black and white casqued Hornbill, not to mention all its Albertine Rift endemics.

Just about anywhere in either country is bound to abound with birds, even within the hustle and bustle of Kampala and Kigali; in fact, in Kampala alone, you can expect to see close to 300 different species.

Uganda’s’Big 5 Bird Species’ include:

• Shoebill – a prehistoric, rarely seen bird, which looks rather like a cross between a pelican and a stork. Preferred habitat: swamps

• African Green Broadbill – this beautiful bird is endemic to the Albertine Rift, and has occasionally been spotted in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Its call is a high-pitched hissing rhythmical series that sound like sii-sii-sii-siiiiiii…

• Green-breasted Pitta – most likely to be spotted at dawn or dusk, this is a shiny bird that prefers to inhabit forests.

• African Finfoot – These birds are water birds, although they spend much of their time on riverbanks. African Finfoots have distinctive red bills.

• Great Blue Turaco – Turacos can be seen in urban and rural settings and are distinctive for their ‘lipstick’ beaks and vivid blue bodies.

So, if you are planning some Uganda or Rwanda safaris, make sure to include some birding… and here are a few tips if you do!

• Try to remember as many bird calls as possible and listen out for birdsong

• Keep a record of field notes

• Stay well away from nesting sites and roosts and keep habitat disturbance in general to a minimum

• Never approach too closely and keep sight times to a minimum with rare and endangered birds

• Take notes and sketches and buy a good field guide

• And of course, ALL budding birdwatchers should invest in a good pair of binoculars!

Don’t forget of course that on any trip to Uganda or Rwanda, it’s not only about the birds… You will also find a large supporting cast of mammals, including the big cats, elephants, giraffes, hippos and warthogs, as well as an abundance of primates. In fact Uganda and Rwanda safaris are best known for their jungle excursions to the mountain gorillas’ habitats or a trek through entwined vines, bush and bamboo to the forested refuges of the Chimpanzees. But either way, don’t forget to save some space on your itinerary for our two-winged friends; you won’t be disappointed…