Uganda

Birds and mammals of Uganda

Uganda is commonly known as ‘The Pearl of Africa’, and quite rightly so!

This small and unassuming central African country is located right on the equator and in the fertile Great Rift Valley, and aside from the increase in general biodiversity associated with this area, the country sports a very wide range of habitats, from very dry, open savanna to lush montane forest. Uganda has very fortunately written itself a new name and history, and one very far removed and significantly improved from its unfortunate past.

Uganda’s vast birdlist far exceeds 1000 species, and while it features only one true endemic (Fox’s Weaver), the country plays host to a number of localized Albertine Rift Endemics shared with neighboring Rwanda and DRC, and it is a reliable, safe and easily accessible site for many more. Some of the most well-known Albertine Rift Endemics include the likes of Grauer’s Broadbill, Rwenzori Turaco, Neumann’s Warbler, Red-throated Alethe, Regal Sunbird and the rare and very poorly known Shelley’s Crimsonwing. Uganda is also the best and easiest place to find the massive Shoebill, and is virtually the only country where the rare Green-breasted Pitta can be reliably found.

On top of the fantastic birding that awaits you in this country, Uganda is also blessed with an impressive suite of mammals. Known as the primate capital of the world, various monkeys and baboons are a regular sight, and the country is also widely known for its Great Apes, with large portions of the entire populations of Chimpanzees and Eastern (Mountain) Gorillas formally protected, and the high success rate of tracking these majestic animals. The open savanna regions support the full suite of big game, from Giraffes to Elephants and to Warthogs, and everything inbetween, including various carnivores such as Lion and Leopard.

I was fortunate enough to travel to this fantastic country in mid 2018, on a trip for Birding Ecotours with some of my long-time clients (turned good friends). More trips are on the cards, and our Uganda tour is a popular departure and runs annually. Why not join me on some of these upcoming tours?

Please enjoy some of the photos from the trip below:

Birds of Angola
Braun’s Bushshrike – One of the most sought-after endemics, this bird has an isolated range in the north of the country, and is best sought in the northern scarp forest around the small village of Quitexe.

Birds of Angola
Black-necked Eremomela – This snazzy bird is a denizen of the rich miombo woodlands in the country. The patches occurring occurring on the base of Mount Moco (the country’s highest peak) is an excellent area to search.

Birds of Angola
Black Bee-eater – Simplicity at its best! Nothing quite matches the awe-inspiring colors of this spectacular bird! Although more widespread into central Africa, this bird remains one of the most sought after out there, and a firm favorite all around!

Birds of Angola
Angolan Lark – One of the less flashy specials, this lark is a regular feature in the montane grasslands found in the central parts of the country, such as those around Mount Moco. While it appears like a Rufous-naped Lark look-alike, its song is surprisingly world’s apart!

Birds of Angola
Red-crested Turaco – As the national bird of Angola, and one of the true endemics of the country, this is a highly sought-after bird, occurring in the northern half of Angola. Although difficult to find it its preferred forested habitats, their raucous calls herald their arrival from a long way off.

Birds of Angola
White-collared Oliveback – Since this small pocket of Olivebacks were found in the far north of Angola a few years ago, there has been some speculation regarding these birds, as their closest-known range is roughly 1000km away. Most likely however, it that these birds occurring in the north of the country are just an isolated and newly discovered population of White-collared Oliveback, and not a ‘new’ species. We were fortunate enough to run into a small group of these birds around Quitexe.

Birds of Angola
Yellow-bellied Wattle-eye – This is a somewhat underrated central African bird – their ridiculous colours and bright yellow/orange belly almost makes this tiny bird unbelievable! This is a common resident in some of the premier forests in the country, such as the Kumbira Forest.

Birds of Angola
Black-collared Bulbul – World’s apart from any other African bulbul, these strange birds are a major target in the broad south-central-western African region, occurring sporadically from Zambia to Gabon. These birds can be sought in a variety of open, rank areas on the edges of forests.

Birds of Angola
White-headed Robin-Chat – One of the most sought-after birds in Angola, this species was only recently re-described to science a decade or two ago, and is now only known from a handful of isolated locations in remote parts of Angola and the DRC. This large forest robin is best found near the spectacular Kalandula Falls, where they frequent the dark and dense swampy forests.

Birds of Angola
Anchieta’s Barbet – This is one of the most difficult-to-find miombo specials, and Angola is arguably the easiest country in which to find it. The miombo around Mount Moco and near the Kalandula Falls are both excellent sites, and host good populations of these prized barbets.

Birds of Angola
Tit Hylia – This is one of the smallest birds African birds, and as such, one of the most difficult to find. Their tiny size, nearly inaudible call, and preference for forests make these birds a tough customer anywhere in their wide central African range. Best searched for in the forests around Quitexe, although it is a bit like finding a needle in a haystack.

Birds of Angola
Gabela Akalat – This is a dainty and shy forest robin, occurring in the Kumbira Forest, and is one of the true Angolan endemic birds. Although not difficult to locate, the challenge lies in getting good views of these birds as they flit and hop about restlessly in the dark undergrowth. This is one of three birds named after the ‘town’ of Gabela, where they were first described.

Birds of Angola
Angolan Waxbill – These cute endemics are best found in the mountains of southern Angola, where the spectacular Tundavala Gap remains a reliable area to track them down.

Birds of Angola
Gabela Helmetshrike – Another of Angola’s endemic birds, this species is getting more and more difficult to locate, and is best sought in the dry woodlands of the Kissama National Park, not far outside the capital city, Luanda.

Kalandula Falls – The stunning Kalandula Falls are one of the hallmark attractions to the country, and speak for themselves!

Birds of Angola
Angolan Batis – Despite the name, this is not an endemic bird, and occurs quite widely throughout the forests along the western escarpment.

Birds of Angola
Rüppell’s Parrot – This is often considered one of the traditional Namibian specials, but almost all of these Namibian specials also occur well into southern Angola, and can readily be found here, arguably in a smaller area than in Namibia. These parrots occur in the dry woodlands near Lubango.

Birds of Angola
Rufous-tailed Palm Thrush – These birds are incredible songsters, and occur widely throughout western Angola. This bird is singing away, proclaiming its territory, just outside the capital of Luanda.

Birds of Angola
Red-fronted Parrot – There is always something special about seeing parrots in the wild. These are an uncommon central-west African species, that occur only in the north of the country. This bird was part of a small flock seen near N’dalatando.

Birds of Angola
Red-backed Mousebird – Another special bird of south-central Africa, these swallows are a regular sight at some of the river bridges in the northern half of the country.

Birds of Angola
White-fronted Wattle-eye – Another of the true Angolan endemic birds, this small flycatcher-like bird has a fairly small range in the northern half of the country, and is best found in the Kissama National Park, near the capital, Luanda.

Birds of Angola
Red-backed Mousebird – Mousebirds are an entire family endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. These are gregarious and highly charismatic birds that always put a smile on your face! Despite being one of the prized specials of Angola, these are fortunately common birds that you should come across in a few places.