How many birds are in Uganda? About 1075 species of birds have been recorded in Uganda; more than 58% of all species birds in Africa. Uganda is one of the best bird-watching destinations not just in Africa, but in the world.
The country’s incredible diversity of bird species is attributed to its location between the East African savannah, West African rainforests, and semi-desert of the north.
As you tour Uganda you will see common, rare, endangered, and vulnerable species in almost every type of setting; forest, lakes, rivers, wetlands, savannah grasslands, agricultural lands and much more!
Finding these small winged, feathered creatures amidst the vast and expansive landscapes of Uganda is a real treat for safari goers of all ages and experience levels!
About 150 bird species (more than 10%) in Uganda are found nowhere else in East Africa. Many of Uganda’s specials are West African and Congolese birds that cannot be easily seen anywhere else in Africa because other countries in which they occur are not well developed in terms of tourism.
African crowned crane (Balearica regulorum)
The elegant Grey-crowned crane is the Uganda national bird and has to be one of the most majestic birds in existence.
Also known as the African crowned crane, golden crested crane or golden-crowned crane, it appears on Uganda flag and can be found abundantly near the Uganda’s many lakes, rivers, and wetlands.
Standing up to 3.3 feet tall and weighing in at 3.5 kilograms plus with a wingspan of 6.5 feet, this is quite a specimen to behold. These crowned cranes have;
- Grey bodies
- White wings with brown and gold feathers
- White cheeks
- Bright red gular sacs underneath their chins
- Relatively short bill and the legs are black.
- Most strikingly, a spray of stiff golden feathers forms a crown around their head.
Unfortunately, their distinctions have also put gray crowned cranes at risk. Considered status symbols among the wealthy; these birds are being captured and illegally sold in large numbers.
That and other threats have prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the gray crowned crane as endangered species.
Shoebill (Balaenicepts rex)
Also known as whale-headed stork, the African shoebill is a shy and elusive prehistoric-looking bird.
Shoebills are among the most amazing African birds and they are critically endangered with about 5000 remaining on the Earth.
These huge grey creatures are among the largest birds in Africa standing over 1.2 meters tall, has a wingspan of up to 2.4 meters, and weigh up to 7 kilograms.
What make the shoebill storks very unique are their massive, foot-long shoe-shaped bills that resemble a Dutch clog. Tan with brown splotches, the bill is 13 centimeters (5 inches) wide and has sharp edges and a sharp hook at the end, giving the bird an almost cartoonlike appearance.
This specialized bill allows the shoebill to grab large prey including big fish like lungfish, catfish, eels, and also crazy stuff like Nile monitor lizards, snakes, and baby crocodiles.
Hunting like total bosses of the swamp, the Shoebill stork will stand there, motionless as a statue, and wait for some poor lungfish or baby crocodile to swim by.
Then the bird will strike forward, all 5 feet of it, with its massive bill wide open, engulfing its target along with water, mud, vegetation, and probably any other hapless fish minding its own business.
Clamping down on its prey, the bird will start to swing its huge head back and forth, tipping out whatever stuff it doesn’t want to eat. When there’s nothing but lungfish or crocodile left, the Shoebill will give it a quick decapitation with the sharp edges of the bill and swallow away.
It’s also impossible not to be impressed by these giants. You can see the shoebill stork in Mabamba bay Swamp in Entebbe in Central Uganda and Murchison Falls National Park in Northwestern Uganda.
Common ostrich (Struthio camelus)
The common ostrich is the heaviest and biggest bird in the world.
It is a flightless bird that belongs to the ratite family, along with its similarly flightless cousins such as emus, cassowaries, and kiwis.
This world’s biggest bird is also the holder of many other records for example:-
- Ostrich is the fastest bird on land and the fastest of any two-legged creatures
- With its powerful legs, the ostrich can sprint in short bursts up to 70 kilometers per hour and can maintain a steady speed of 50 kilometers per hour.
- An ostrich’s eggs are the largest of any bird weighing up to 1.4kg. Still, they are the smallest eggs of any bird – in relation to its body size.
- Ostriches have the largest eyes of any land animal, measuring up to 5cm across.
In Uganda, ostriches are found in Kidepo Valley National Park in the northeast of the country.
Saddle-billed Stork (Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis)
As its name suggests, the Saddle-billed stork’s massive bill is red with a black band and a yellow frontal shield (the “saddle”)
The back, head, neck, wings, and tail are iridescent black, with the rest of the body and the primary flight feathers being white.
It is also noted for many other unique facts, for example;
- This wading bird is one of the world’s tallest birds, with a standing height of nearly 5 feet.
- It is probably the tallest of the storks (though not the heaviest).
Abyssinian ground hornbill (Bucorvus abyssinicus)
The Abyssinian ground hornbill is an African bird that occurs only north of the Equator. It is similar to the Southern ground hornbill (Bucorvus leadbeateri) the more widespread species of ground hornbills.
- It is a predominantly black bird
- Adult male features a patch of bare blue skin around the eye and an inflatable patch of bare skin on the neck and throat which is red, apart from the upper throat which is blue.
- Female does not have red throat and any bare skin is wholly dark blue.
- The bill is long and black.
- On top of the bill, there is a short open-ended black casque.
- Females are smaller than males
As big and black as turkeys, wielding bills like hatchets, these charismatic birds cut an unmistakable dash as they strut around the bush in small family parties.
They call together before dawn in a chorus of repeated deep booming uh-uh, uh-uh-uh calls that sounds not unlike a distant lion.
To amplify their calls, male hornbills inflate their big, red, balloon-like wattle below their bills.
When a party of ground hornbills is out foraging, small animals need to lie low because these omnivores snap up anything – from insects and lizards to small birds, tortoises, rodents, and snakes as big as puff adders. They can be seen in Murchison Falls National Park in northwestern Uganda.
Goliath heron (Ardea goliath)
The Goliath heron is a very large wading bird.
It is the world’s largest living heron standing up to 5 feet tall and has a robust, dagger-like bill, measuring around 0.8 feet/10 inches from the gape. It has a wingspan of about 8 feet and weighs up 5 kilograms.
Females and males are similar, with an overall covering of slate grey and chestnut feathers. Their head, bushy crest face, back and sides of the neck are also chestnut in color.
The throat, chin, foreneck, and upper breast are white, with black streaks across the foreneck and upper breast.
The belly and lower are buff with black streaks. The upper wings and back are slate grey, with a chestnut shoulder patch at the bend of the wings when they are closed.
Goliath herons also have pale chestnut under-wings. The lore, orbital areas are yellow with a greenish tinge. The upper mandible is black.
Their distinct barking “kowoork” call can be heard from up from more than 1 mile away.
In Uganda, they can be seen along the shores of Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
African fish eagle (Haliaeetus vocifer)
African fish Eagle occurs where there are large bodies of open water and with plenty of fish.
It is fairly large and resembles the bald eagle in appearance, but each species occurs on different continents, with the bald eagle being resident in North America.
Females weigh almost 4kg and are larger than males which weigh about 3kg. Fish eagles have a wingspan of about 2.5m and a body length of up to 75cm.
Adult African fish eagle features mostly brown body with a white head like the bald eagle and large, powerful black wings.
The fish eagle’s head, breast and tail are snow with exception of the featherless face, which is yellow.
Its yellow beak is hook-shaped with a black tip. A fish eagle’s toes are coated in sharp barbs, called spicules, which consequently help it to grasp fish and other slippery prey.
Great Blue Turaco (Corythaeola cristata)
With a turquoise blue body, yellow breast and reddish-yellow beak, the great blue turaco’s brilliantly-coloured feathers have been used among native African tribes for many generations as a symbol to distinguish tribal leaders.
You can see these fruit-loving birds in Bigodi Wetland Sanctuary, Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Semuliki National Park and other sites in Uganda.
African Finfoot is an African aquatic bird from the family Heliornithidae. It is an underwater specialist with a long neck, a striking sharp beak, and bright red, lobed feet.
The plumage differs with race, usually pale underneath and darker on top. The males are usually darker than the females. In Uganda, you can see the African Finfoot in Lake Mburo National Park.
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.
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.
You can see the African spoonbill at Kazinga channel in Queen Elizabeth National Park.
Black-and-white casqued hornbill
Black-and-white casqued hornbill or grey-cheeked hornbill is a large bird of about 70 cm long. It also has a wingspan of about 38 cm.
Males weigh between 1 and 1.5 kg and females weigh between 1 and 2.25 kg.
It has an oversized yellow-brownish bill with a large flattened casque on top, which are enlarged in males. The purpose of the casque is unknown for males, although suggested to be for sexual characterization.
It is unmistakable for its black plumage at the higher body and wings alongside and white plumage on the lower body and wings with black feathers amongst the white feathers of the tail, especially the top tail feathers and the base of the tail feathers.
In Uganda, you can see the Black-and-white casqued hornbill in Kibale National Park, Budongo Forest Reserve, Mabira Forest Reserve, and other forest reserves.
An African bird of prey, the long-crested eagle is aptly named for its long, feathery crest. It is a small eagle with plumage which is mainly black, white-feathered legs, and a barrel tail.
This eagle is predominantly sedentary, preferring to sit and wait for its prey to come along before swooping down upon it.
It feeds mainly on small rodents. Also, fish, lizards, frogs, and even small birds constitute the diet of the long-crested eagle.
Both female and male long-crested eagles build their nests together. While the female incubates the eggs, the male most often hunts for and feeds the young.
The long crested eagle can be spotted in Uganda’s Murchison falls national park.
Secretary birds are large birds that mostly move on the ground. The origin of their name is much debated. It is said that the feathers jutting out behind the bird’s head reminded the reminded 19th -century Europeans of the quill pens that secretaries tucked behind their ears.
Secretary birds are creatures of open grassland and savannah.
Standing up to 137 centimeters tall and weigh up 5 kilograms, these birds have a wingspan of about 220 centimeters.
Quite unmistakable, this large bird has an eagle-like body on crane-like legs. The head is also like that of an eagle with a hooked bill.
Though the feature some white feathers, their plumage is mostly grey in colour. The legs of the secretary bird are the longest of any bird of prey.
With their long legs, these birds prefer walking to flying and on average about 20 to 30 km a day on foot.
They feed on insects, mammals ranging in size from mice to hares and mongoose, crabs, scorpions, lizards, snakes, young birds, bird eggs, and sometimes dead animals killed in grass or bush fires.
These birds are generally silent. When they do call, they typically give a deep, low croaking wail that can be heard for quite some distance. The secretary bird can be seen Murchison Falls National Park and Kidepo Valley National Park.
The beautiful African jacana is a wading bird in the family Jacanidae. It is a conspicuous and unmistakable bird of Uganda.
It has long toes and long claws that allow it to walk on floating vegetation in shallow lakes, their preferred habitat. They are about 12 inches long, but males are smaller than females.
The upperparts of the African jacana are chestnut. The wingtips, rear neck, and eyestripe are black. Adults also have chestnut underparts and juveniles’ underparts are white with a chestnut belly patch.
African jacanas have blue bills that extend up as a coot-like head shield, and the legs and long toes are grey.
They feed on insects and other invertebrates picked from the floating vegetation or the surface of the water.
Often regarded as one of the ugliest birds of Uganda, Marabou Storks are unmistakable due to their size, bare head and neck, black back, and white underparts.
They have huge bills, weird-looking pink gular sac at their hanging down from the base of their necks, a neck ruff, black wings, and skinny white legs.
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 Storks are massive birds. Large specimens are thought to reach a height of 5 feet and a weight of 9 kg. A wingspan of 3.7 m (12 ft) was accepted by Fisher and Peterson, who ranked the species as having the largest wing-spread of any living bird.
Doherty’s bushshrike or Telophorus dohertyi is a colourful but skulking species of bush-shrike of the family Malaconotidae.
This strikingly colored medium sized bird is predominantly green with red forehead, and throat. It has a broad black breast and a bright lemon-yellow belly. The tail is black. It is commonly seen in western Uganda.
The standard-winged Nightjar is one of the most picturesque birds in Uganda.
During breeding season, the adult male appears a bizarre and unusual wing ornament which comprises of a broad central flight feather on each wing elongated to 1. 2 feet, much longer than the bird’s body
While in normal flight, these feathers trail behind, but in display flight they are raised vertically like standards. Outside the breeding season, there are no plumage distinctions between the male and female.
When roosting on the ground during the day, this medium-sized nightjar is mainly variegated grey, with a browner collar. It is a shadowy form with easy, silent moth-like flight; this nightjar is relatively short-tailed, and lacks white in the wings or tail. The song is a churring trill.
African Green Broadbill
The African Green Broadbill is a small bird with mainly green feathers on its body. It also features light blue feathers on the throat, breast, and tail as well as a tan forehead with black streaks.
Although conservationists are making serious efforts to conserve this little rare bird, climate change and deforestation continue to endanger its numbers.
In Uganda, this tiny, enigmatic bird can only be found in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.
The Black bee-eater is one of the most popular Uganda birds. It is a predominantly black bird with a distinctive scarlet throat, shimmering turquoise streaks across the breast, a pale blue eyebrow, and a blue belly.
The have a high-pitched sounds of “p’sit p’sit seet,” which you can listen to if you do not see them at first.
Chocolate-backed kingfishers have typical stocky shape of kingfishers with dark upper parts and pure white underparts.
- The head and hind neck are very dark brown
- The mantle is brownish black
- The back is black
- The rump a brilliant iridescent blue
- The upper tail coverts are black, and the tail is pale blue.
- The wings are dark, apart from a brilliant azure speculum formed in the outer webs of the secondary feathers.
- The underparts from the throat to the vent are snowy white, apart from a small blackish flank patch, and are clearly demarcated from the dark upper parts.
- In flight the brilliant blue rump and speculum are distinctive.
- The bill is red or reddish brown.
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. It can be seen in Budongo forest.
You will know the chocolate-backed kingfisher when you hear it because its sound is a high-pitched screech followed by a mournful song.
Oxpeckers are small, birds that grow up 23cm tall. They are primarily brown with a lighter underbelly that can range from a murky gray to a beige or cream.
They have two big splashes of color on their bodies. One is located around the eyes, which have stark black pupils surrounded by yellow or orange rings. The other color is found on their beaks.
Red-billed oxpeckers have solid red beaks while yellow-billed oxpeckers have yellow beaks with red tips.
These little birds hitch a ride along the backs of big animals including elephants, rhino, buffaloes, giraffes, hippopotamus, and zebras.
Their entire diet consists of ticks, botfly larvae, and other parasites present in the skin and fur of large mammals. They also feed on the host’s earwax, dandruff and blood from open wounds.
Although oxpeckers building nests in the holes of trees and walls, they perform their mating routines on the backs of their hosts
They seem to peck at these animals, however they really eating the ticks and other parasites on their skin.
The bar-tailed trogon is a species of bird in the family Trogonidae.
- It is about 11 inches long.
- The bill and feet are yellow
- The tail is long and broad as usual for trogons
- It 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.
There calls are described as a yelping crescendo, “yaow, yow, yow, yow… or wuk-wuk-wuk-wuk….” The female gives “a whining chee-uu.”
These are one of the largest terrestrial forest birds. They grow up to 35cm long and have reddish-brown plumage. They have a redhead, red bills and red legs, brown iris, as well as red orbital skin that make them different.
Both genders look almost similar. The only difference is that the female is a bit smaller than the male. They are found in the Southwest of Uganda.
Pitta reichenowi or green-breasted pitta is one of the most difficult Uganda birds to spot, making it one of the most sought-after birds by travelers on birding tours in Uganda.
Seeing one is indeed a top highlight a bird watching safari in Uganda. Their plumage closely resembles that of the Africa pitta, but the breast is green and the throat is bordered by a black line.
Young ones have duller, darker plumage, and a brownish olive breast. Kibale National Park is the only reliable area in Uganda to see the Green-Breasted Pitta.