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17 Birds of Uganda: Birding in the Pearl of Africa (8 Top Birding Sites)

Posted in: Uganda Animals, Uganda Travel Planning

Heading to Uganda? Here are 17 birds of Uganda, ranging from the tiny black bee-eater to the large and weirdly-cute shoebill stork. Uganda is a top birding destination – and for good reason.

Birds of Uganda

17 Birds of Uganda: Birding in the Pearl of Africa

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.

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 birdwatching. 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
Going birding? Before you head out, you might want to check our binocular guide – everything you need to purchase the right pair for your trip.

Ready to learn more about the amazing birds in Uganda? In this post, we'll cover these 17 bird species:

  1. Crested Crane (jump to this bird)
  2. Shoebill Stork (jump to this bird)
  3. Shelley's Crimsonwing (jump to this bird)
  4. Great Blue Turaco (jump to this bird)
  5. Marabou Stork (jump to this bird)
  6. African Green Broadbill (jump to this bird)
  7. Doherty's Bushshrike (jump to this bird)
  8. Saddle-billed Stork (jump to this bird)
  9. Green-Breasted Pitta (jump to this bird)
  10. Standard-Winged Nightjar (jump to this bird)
  11. Black Breasted Barbet (jump to this bird)
  12. Bar-tailed Trogon (jump to this bird)
  13. African Spoonbill (jump to this bird)
  14. Yellow-billed Oxpecker (jump to this bird)
  15. Long Crested Eagle (jump to this bird)
  16. Black Bee-Eater (jump to this bird)
  17. Chocolate Backed Kingfisher (jump to this bird)

17 Birds of Uganda: Facts, Photos, and More

Here are the details on each of these 17 birds that you can find in Uganda.

1. Crested Crane

Latin: Balearica regulorum gibbericeps

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.

Crested Crane Uganda

Learn more about Uganda's crested crane

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.

More reading: 25 amazing animals of Uganda

2. Shoebill Stork

Latin: Balaeniceps rex

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.

Shoebill stork sound

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While it can be tricky to spot this elusive bird, you will most likely find it around swampy areas such as those found within Murchison Falls National Park, Semliki Wildlife Reserve, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and along the shores of Lake Victoria.

Learn more about the Shoebill Stork.

3. Shelley’s Crimsonwing

Latin: Cryptospiza shelleyi

Your chances of spotting this colorful finch are pretty slim as it is an incredibly shy bird. It flies only short distances and takes cover (most of the time) in bamboo thickets and dense forest growth within the Albertine Rift that borders the Congo, Rwanda and Uganda.

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As of 2008, there are only two known photographs in the world of this Crimsonwing. If you are a serious birder intent on glimpsing this rare bird, one of the best places to start in Uganda is Bwindi Impenetrable Forest. Read more about Shelley's Crimsonwing.

4. Great Blue Turaco

Latin: Corythaeola cristata

Native Africans have traditionally believed that this brilliant bird brings good luck. It is one of the most common birds, but the great blue turaco is also one of the most beautiful birds of Uganda.

Great blue turaco

More reading: How to Choose the Best Camera for Safari [Buyers Guide]

With a turquoise blue body, yellow breast and reddish-yellow beak, the great blue turaco’s brightly-colored feathers have been used among native African tribes for many generations as a symbol to distinguish tribal leaders.

5. Marabou Stork

Latin: Leptoptilos crumeniferus

There is no mistaking the marabou stork. 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.

Marabou stork facts

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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.

Learn more about the Marabou stork here and here.

6. African Green Broadbill

Latin: Pseudocalyptomena graueri

If you want to see the African green broadbill when visiting Uganda, you will need to go to the Bwindi National Park because this is the only place in the country where this small, elusive bird lives.

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This tiny bird features 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.

7. Doherty’s Bushshrike

Latin: Telophorus dohertyi

If you are trekking through the tropical forests or shrublands, you may hear the loud, territorial whistle of the Doherty’s bushshrike before you ever see it.

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One of the more common birds of Uganda, the Doherty’s bushshrike even sports the vivid black, red and yellow colors of the Ugandan flag. This little solitary bird loves to feed on grasshoppers and beetles.

8. Saddle-billed Stork

Latin: Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis

Owing its name to the patch of yellow on its red bill and white back, the saddle-billed stork is noted for several unique facts. For one, this wading bird is among the tallest in the world, growing to a height of nearly five feet.

Saddle-billed stork in flight

More reading: 15 facts about Africa's saddle-billed stork

Unlike most birds, the saddle-billed stork doesn’t have a vocal organ and only makes sound by clacking its bill. Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs dating back more than 5,000 years depict this bird to symbolize part of the pharaoh Khaba’s name.

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

9. Green-Breasted Pitta

Latin: Pitta reichenowi

The green-breasted pitta is one of the most difficult birds of Uganda to spot, making it one of the most sought-after birds. This pitta lives well-camouflaged in the forests of the Kibale National Park.

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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.

10. Standard-Winged Nightjar

Latin: Caprimulgus longipennis

The standard-winged nightjar is an impressive bird that sleeps by day and flies out at dusk to feed on various insects.

Standard winged nightjar male

Pictured is a male Standard winged nightjar – with ornamental wings

What really sets this nightjar apart from others is the male’s special wing shaft that extends further out behind the body with plumed feathers on the end during mating season. To attract females, the male can display his ornamental wings vertically during flight. After mating season ends, these decorative wings fall off.

11. Black-Breasted Barbet

Latin: Lybius rolleti

The black-breasted barbet 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.

You will also improve your 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.

12. Bar-tailed Trogon

Latin: Apaloderma vittatum

Another of the rare birds of Uganda, the bar-tailed trogan is seldom seen. A medium-sized bird measuring about 11 inches (28 cm) long, this bird makes its home in high-altitude forests.

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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.

13. African Spoonbill

Latin: Platalea alba

A member of the ibis family, the African spoonbill is a tall, white waterbird that you will find using its long, spoon-like beak to catch fish and crustaceans in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers, and marshes.

African spoonbill facts

Learn more about the African Spoonbill with these 12 facts.

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.

14. Yellow-billed Oxpecker

Latin: Buphagus africanus

You have probably watched nature shows on TV about African wildlife and seen those small birds that hitch a ride along the backs of large mammals like cattle, elephants, hippopotamuses, and zebras.

Yellow billed oxpeckers Uganda

These birds are called oxpeckers whose entire diet consists of ticks, botfly larvae, and other parasites found in the hide and hair of large mammals. The oxpeckers also feed on the host’s ear wax, 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.

15. Long-crested Eagle

Latin: Lophaetus occipitalis

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.

Long crested eagle in Uganda

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.

16. Black Bee-Eater

Latin: Merops gularis

One of the more popular birds of Uganda is the black bee-eater. This blue-black bird features a distinctive scarlet throat and shimmering turquoise streaks across the breast.

Watch on YouTube

You will find these birds high in the forest canopies of places like Kibale National Park and Bwindi National Park. If you don't see them at first, you can listen for their high pitched sounds of “p'sit p'sit seet.”

17. Chocolate-Backed Kingfisher

Latin: Halcyon badia

You are most likely to spot a chocolate-backed kingfisher perched in a high tree in the lowland rainforest, scanning the area for prey that includes ants, grasshoppers, beetles, and small lizards.

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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.

Uganda birds


Your Turn

Have you seen any of these Uganda birds? Which ones are on your list?

Whether you are an experienced birder or just beginning the birdwatching hobby, the beautiful and diverse landscapes of Uganda offer you a premier setting to see some of the world’s most unique and fascinating birds.

Meet the Author

Bryan Haines

Bryan Haines is co-editor of Uganda365 - and is working to make it the best source of information about Uganda travel. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Media (content marketing for travel brands). Work with Bryan and Dena.

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