Birding in Rwanda

Rwanda; A delightful birding Paradise

Rwanda’s location in the Albertine Rift and its dense forests and mountains create a unique and remarkable environment for the eco tourist to enjoy. Though small (about 250km east-west by 150km north-south) it has a bird list of over 700 species and supports the second highest number of Albertine Rift endemics than any other country. Rwanda has seven Important Birding Areas (IBAs) including the three National Parks” Volcanoes, Akagera and Nyungwe, Rugezi Swamp, Akanyaru, Nyabarongo and Cyamudongo.

Rwanda is a delightful birding destination with over 1450 bird species of which 27 of these are Albertine Rift endemics. The most common species that can be seen on a Rwanda safari; the red faced Barbets, Shoebill Stork, Miombo Wren-Warblers, Papyrus Gonolek and the Bennett’s Woodpecker. The country has also got 7 birding Areas and these include; Rugezi swamp, Akanyaru Nyabarongo as well as Cyamudongo. The Location of Rwanda with in the Albertine Rift also makes itso ideal as a stunning birding paradise. Birding watching in Rwanda is so calm to each and every visitor and birding is experienced throughout the year with the bird migrant bird season from December to February.

Rwanda has got many birding destinations and some of them include; Akagera National Park, both the wetland and the lakes of this park are home to the common shoebill stork and is one of the easiest sites in the region where it can be seen.  the other bird species that can be seen here include; Papyrus Gonolek, Black and familiar Chats, Miombo Wren-Warblers, White-headed, Red-faced Barbet, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Tabora Cisticolas, Hite-winged and Broad-tailed Warblers and many more.

Nyungwe national park is also a virgin forest and it’s one of the largest forest reserve remaining in Africa and is home to over 300 species of birds and 27 of them ate endemics. Much of the forest is not explored with it being hard to access, this is because it’s steepy high and has got deep valleys. The bird species that are found here also include; Rwenzori Hill Babbler,Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori double-collared, Stripe-breasted Tit, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Strange Weaver, Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Batis and many more.

There are also birds near Gisakura Forest Guest House and the Rwanda Development as well as conservation campsite at Uwinka were you will see some species that include;dusky crimsonwing, the shelley’s, the Kivu ground Thrush, as well as the collared Apalis. There is also the Rugezi swamp that is located in a flooded valley that is just near Gicumbi and the Ugandan border. The main species found here also include; the great endangered Grauer’s swamp warbler, papyrus Gonolex, papyrus yellow warbler and many more. Much of the swamp is covered with vegetation and the area is filled with open water at the southern end of the marshes and this attracts many egrets, herons, pelicans as well as the cranes.

The Akanyaru wetland is also a birding spot in Rwanda and it covers over 300 sq km over a small long band that is 80km along the Akanyaru River. The most common bird species also include; papyrus Gonolex,Malagasy pond hero, the papyrus yellow warbler, and the great snipe, and then the pallid harrier. There are over 54 bird species.

Kigali city is also a birding spot and just at Nyarutarama Lake around the golf course with in Kigali. You can view the great sedge warbler, the African Reed warbler, grey backed fiscal, the common waxbill, the red rumped, great sedge warbler, and the yellow white pelican, the tropical boubou, as well as the African spoonbill.

The wetlands and lakes of Akagera National Park are home to the elusive Shoebill stork, and is one of the easiest sites in the region where it can be seen. In addition, Akagera supports a mixture of acacia and papyrus species, including Red-faced Barbet, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Papyrus Gonolek, White-headed, Black and familiar Chats, Carruther’s and Tabora Cisticola, White-winged and Broad-tailed Warblers and Miombo Wren-Warblers. The existing lodge at Akagera is being renovated, but there are plenty of camp sites to stay at while exploring the park. It is a rewarding trip for visiting birders, who will find a supporting cast of large mammals, including hippo, elephant and giraffe.

In the southwest Nyungwe National Park is a vast tract of virgin forest, one of the largest uncut natural forest reserves remaining in Africa and home to more than 300 species of birds, 27 of which are regional endemics. Much of the forest is unexplored, with access being extremely difficult, because of the steep high hills and deep valleys. However, an excellent winding tarmac road bisects the forest, following the crest of the mountains. This road is one of the few places in the world that allows the visitor to look directly into and even down on the rainforest canopy. Along this road you can find most of the Albertine Rift endemics, including Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Archer’s Robin-chat, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Grauer’s Rush, Neumann’s and Grauer’s Warbles, Masked Mountain Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit and Strange Weaver, and a full range of Rwenzori double-collared, purple-throated, blue-headed and regal Sunbirds. A specialty is the Red-collared Mountain Babbler, which has its only easily accessible site here, as does Kungwe Apalis. Recent possible sightings of Rockefeller’s Sunbird show that much is left to be discovered, and perhaps even such gems as the Congo Peacock (found only 70km distant in the DR Congo) could exist in the remote dense forest!

There are also good forest tracks for birding based around the Gisakura Guesthouse and the RDB Tourism & Conservation Campsite at Uwinka, where some of the more skulking species can be seen such as the Red-throated Alethe, Archer’s Robin-chat, Kivu Ground Thrush, Collared Apalis, and Shelley’s and Dusky Crimson wing. Other special birds here include White-bellied robin-chat, Doherty’s and Lagden’s bush-shrikes, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Great Blue Turaco, Barred long-tailed cuckoo and White-bellied crested flycatcher. At night, Rwenzori Nightjar is not uncommon, Albertine Owlet may be found, and there might be a possibility to see the Congo Bay-owl.

At the Nyarutarama Lake near the Golf Course in Kigali one can spot the African Reed Warbler and Great Sedge Warbler, the Winding Cisticola as well as the Common Waxbill, Grey-backed Fiscal, Tropical Boubou, Red-rumped and Mosque Swallows, African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Great White Pelican, Common Moorhens, Grosbeak Weaver, Grey Heron, Yellow-backed (Black-headed) Weavers, and the Pied Kingfisher. When it comes to birding in Rwanda there are so many more birds to discover over the country’s one thousand hills. Ranging from the common to the rare they are a delight to the eye.