Enjoy Bird watching in Rwanda
Rwanda is a small, landlocked country situated just south of the Equator in the centre of the Africa. Despite its size (which is about 200km east-west by 150km north-south); it has a bird list of 703 species, supports a higher number of Albertine Rift endemics than any other country outside the DR Congo and is undoubtedly the safest and easiest place to see Red-collared Babbler. Further, highlights include Red-Faced Barbet and a possibility of Shoebill.
The main attractions for birders are Akagera National Park in the East and Nyungwe Forest National Park in the West. A visit to these two locations should ensure a sizable list including many desirable species. Volcanoes National Park offers similar birds to Nyungwe, but the main focus of activities there is visiting habituated Mountain Gorillas.
Kigali itself is quite a green and vegetated city. It offers some good birding for the more common East African species close to the city centre. The small lake in Nyarutarama can be quite productive with fairly recent records of White-collared Oliveback and Purple Swamphen, Grey-headed Bushshrike and Bat Hawk. Additionally, there are also numerous less-famous locations outside the national parks that allow easy access to good birding and most of these are set up as eBird hotspots.
Most watched Bird Species of Rwanda
Shoebill Stork | White-collared Oliveback | African Swamphen | Grey-headed Bushshrike | Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon | Lesser Honeyguide | Brown-backed Honeybird | Black Cuckoo-Shrike | Olive-bellied | Red-chested Sunbird and Bronzy Sunbirds | African Goshawk | Palm Nut Vulture | Crested Barbet | Grey-backed Fiscal |Rüppell’s Starling | Black-headed Weaver | Papyrus Gonolek | Papyrus Canary | White-winged Swamp Warbler | White-collared Oliveback | Lesser Jacana | White-backed Duck | Northern Brown-throated Weaver | Papyrus Gonolek | White-Winged Swamp Warbler | Carruthers’s Cisticola | White-collared Oliveback | and Grey-crowned Cranes and many more
When to go Birding in Rwanda ?
Birding in Rwanda is done all year round! Though the period from December to February is the season for the migrant birds and here Rwanda hosts variety of pelearactic and wintering migrants.
More interesting, the birding set up like the trails, accommodation and the roads lead to the birding spots that have been developed. There are also professional birding guides that have been trained and are available to lead the birding tours in Rwanda.
Top Birding Spots in Rwanda
The Albertine Eco-region – the Albertine rift endemics
The Albertine region comprises of a chain of mountains that were formed through the upliftment and volcanic activity. It stretches across the western half of Rwanda, and also covers five other countries. The Albertine is regarded as the center of the Afromontane habitat and is a belt of exceptional faunal and floral endemism including over 40 bird species, 34 mammals, 117 butterflies, 34 amphibians, and 16 reptiles. Rwanda has at least 27 Albertine Rift endemics.. Here is the list of the Albertine Rift endemics in Rwanda and the places you to look find them.
Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is a tropical mountain rainforest and lies on the south-western slopes of the highland region that forms the great divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems. The park protects the region’s largest montane rainforest and is home to 310 species of bird. Nyungwe is by far the most popular birding destination in Rwanda.
Some of Nyungwe’s specials are: Regal Sunbird, Red-collared Babbler, Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Spurfowl, Rwenzori Batis, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Blue-headed Sunbird, Albertine Owlet.
Gishwati-Mukura National Park
The Park is located in west Rwanda, in the mountains above Lake Kivu. This is Rwanda’s newest national park and currently the focus of extensive rehabilitation efforts. The forests hold good birdlife Gishwati, 232 species and Mukura 163 species including several Albertine Rift Endemics and forest specialists. Tourism options will be available soon, check back for details.
Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park protects Rwanda’s part of the Virunga mountain range, and includes five volcanoes namely Mountains Muhavura, Gahinga, Sabinyo, Bisoke, and Karisimbi. The Volcanoes National Park is famous for the Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys and is mostly visited for treks to observe these endangered and endemic primates and hikes to the volcanoes. But the park boasts of about 165 bird species, 17 endemic to the area. It is must visit for birding to catch the rare species and also enjoy the breathtaking Virunga scenery and a chance to encounter the Gorillas.
Akagera National Park
The Akagera National Park lies in the north east of the Rwanda, outside the high rising Albertine belt. It covers a chunk of savannah. A mix of rolling grassland interspersed with broad-leafed and acacia woodland, these lower-lying lands are dissected by the Akagera River. Out of over 525 species, some of the most sought after birds of Akagera are: Red-faced Barbet, Sousa’s Shrike, White-collared Oliveback.
The park has a mosaic of wetlands and lakes, along the course of the Akagera River and the eastern boundary. Some of the sought after species in the wetland areas are: Carruther’s Cisticola, Papyrus Canary, Papyrus Gonolek and the Shoebill.
Wetlands and Marshes
Rwanda’s wetlands and marshes cover 10% of the country. The main protected ones include Rugezi, Akanyaru and Nyabarongo Wetlands where many waders and water species can be observed.
Kigali City Birding
Kigali has great Urban Birding, hotel gardens often hold interesting bird species and Nyarutarama Lake or “Lover’s Lake” at the edge of the Kigali golf course is always productive. Even those with a few spare hours will be rewarded by a visit.
Species include: White-collared Oliveback, African Swamphen, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon, Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Olive-bellied, Red-chested Sunbird and Bronzy Sunbirds, African Goshawk, Palm Nut Vulture, Crested Barbet, Grey-backed Fiscal, Rüppell’s Starling and Black-headed Weaver.
In addition, Umusambi Village (due to open mid-2019) will offer close up views of rescued Grey-crowned Cranes and to date around 100 species have been seen in the restored habitat. The Rwanda Environment Management Authority is also developing a park at the edge of Kigali, when completed this will be a good place for urban birding. Furthermore, there are further good sites at wetlands at the edge of the city.