By Evelyn Masaba
From the savannahs of the Kidepo to the deep forests of the Mabira right through the impenetrable Bwindi forest and to the top of Wagagai, the variety of bird species in Uganda is undeniable. Located within the tropics, Uganda has one of the most conducive weather for bird habitation, making it easy for several species to thrive throughout the country’s green, including in the capital Kampala.
There are over 1,000 bird species in Uganda, including those that have not be documented for tourism, but among those are some that are most sought after by birdwatchers and also well-known to the local population.
Grey Crowned Crane
Commonly known as the Crested Crane, this bird is a national treasure and can be spotted on the Ugandan flag and coat of arms. The Crested Crane is a subspecies of the Crane family. They ooze elegance in their movements and can be found around swampy areas, lake shores or other wetlands in the country. Due to constant poaching and ritualistic purposes, the population of Crested Cranes in Uganda has dwindled over the years. They are a sight to behold when ascending to flight as their widespread feathers shimmer with colour.
Shoe Billed Stork
This bird might confuse several scientists as to which family it belongs: Ciconiiformes or Pelecaniformes? The shoebill is one of the most sought after birds in Uganda. The bird’s unique feature is its large shoe-shaped bill that it uses to forage for food.
Its bill also helps it stand out uniquely from its other stork relatives. Only found on the African continent, in Uganda, shoebills can be found around the marshy-swampy areas of the country. They mainly feed on tilapia and lungfish even though they are considered to be piscivorous.
Though not much is known about these birds, they are part of the Cisticolidae/Warbler family and were first spotted in Karamoja in 1919, which explains their English name.
You have probably heard them sing the first and last song of the day out in the shrubs when you visit the village. They tend to nest in low thorny thick shrubs and can be easily spotted around the savannah in the national parks of Uganda, although they are more common in the northeastern part of the country. The Karamoja Apalis is usually grey in colour and almost the size of a small fist.
African Green Broadbill
Bright green with a blue throat, this bird has a small bill, unlike other broadbills. The African green broadbill is also known as Grauer’s Broadbill and can be identified by their leafy green colour with a light blue breast/rump and short but protruding tail. They can be found in the Albertine region of Uganda, especially in the Bwindi Impenetrable forest. This bird is classified as vulnerable due to continuous degrading of most of its habitats.
Great Blue Turaco
The great blue turaco is one of the largest species of the Turaco bird group that is found in Uganda; they are common in dense tropical forests such the Mabira Forest. Their physical characteristics make them look like a cross between the great eagle and the peacock. They have very beautiful bright coloured feathers; blue body with a yellow breast and red-yellow beaks. The great blue turacos are reducing in number as they are hunted for meat and their feathers.
Doherty’s Bush Shrike
The Bush Shrike is a bird from the Malaconotidae family and is found in the shrublands of Uganda and forests around the slopes of mountains. They have bright colours; black, yellow, red and a little grey that almost make them look like they are wearing the Ugandan flag on their feathers. They are among the most common birds one can find in the country when birding and their population is mostly stable.
Black Breasted Barbet
Lybius Rolleti is a bird indigenous to Africa but usually rare to find. They nest in thick vegetation and are known to be very solitary birds.
They are plump-looking with large heads and their heavy bill is fringed with bristles. Black Breasted Barbets feed on fruits such as guavas and mangoes plus small insects and vertebrates. Fruit is eaten whole and indigestible material such as seed pits are regurgitated later. African barbets are quite similar to the American barbets, which also belong to Piciformes.