Are you looking for information about Birding in Rwanda?, worry less Safari Vacations and Travel Services brings this itenaliry to give you light about birding in Rwanda, When one thinks of Rwanda, the first thing that comes to mind are the mountain gorillas, the rolling hills, or the countries remarkable recovery after the horrors of the 1994 genocide. Birding in Rwanda has been overshadowed by gorilla tourism. There is still little publicity for bird watching and other activities like sport fishing in Rwanda. The popularity of mountain gorillas has overshadowed most of the other tourist attractions in Rwanda and the same to the Congo Nile Trail which is arguably the best biking trail in East Africa. Rwanda has now tried to market these less-known activities, destinations, and attractions.
Back to the birds. Rwanda stands out as a great destination for birders because of the sheer variety of bird habitats. These range from mountains, montane forests, grasslands, plains, vast swamps, rivers, lakes, and of course the rolling hills. Rwanda has good road networks with safe and clean towns. Birdwatching in Uganda may be considered more popular but the infrastructure (roads and bird trails) in Rwanda are more advanced. Because of her small size, it is easy to cover the country in a short time compared to say Kenya or Tanzania. Rwanda has few endemic bird species but has about 44 that can only be found in the Albertine Rift.
Bird watching in Rwanda can be done throughout the year but some months present favorable conditions for birders. It is important to note that Rwanda has two major rainy and dry seasons. The period between December and January is considered perfect for birding in Rwanda. These months fall in the dry season and are special because thousands of migratory birds come into the country to escape the harsh winter conditions in Europe and the Arctic.
Nyungwe National Park is the largest and oldest montane forest in Africa. There are over 300 species of birds found in the forest. The Bigugu Mountain in the forest is one of the best spots for observing the birds as they feed on the tree canopies. One can also move out of the forest and go to the Gisakura tea estate which is a favorite of the birds. The Red-collared Babbler is arguably a birding area in the most popular and attractive species in Nyungwe National Park.
Nyungwe forest also hosts the Albertine owlet, Blue-headed sunbird, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Grauer’s Warbler, Handsome Francolin, Handsome spur fowls, Neumann’s Warbler, Purple Breasted Sunbirds, Regal sunbird, Rwenzori Batis, Rwenzori Nightjar, Rwenzori Turaco and the Red-collared babblers among others. The best way to explore this forest is by walking or biking through part of the Congo Nile trail which cuts through the forest or using one of the well-developed forest trails that lead to the different sections of the forest. Another way of exploring the forest and spotting the birds is by going for a canopy walk.
Birding Tours in Rwanda While birding in the Nyungwe forest, you need to hire a birding Guide to move with you and help identify the birds and forest trails. A professional birding guide will help you identify species like the Archer’s Robin-Chat, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, Black-headed Waxbill, Doherty’s Bush-shrike, Eastern Mountain Greenbul, Great Blue Turaco, Grey Cuckooshrike, Montane Oriole, Mountain Illadopsis, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Pink-footed Puff back, Red-chested Owlet, Regal Sunbird, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Blue-headed Sunbird, Sharpe’s Starling, Slender-billed Starling, Striped-breasted Tit, Stuhlmann’s Double-collared Sunbird, Stuhlmann’s Starling, Thick-billed Seedeater, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, White-starred Robin, and the Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher.
Nyungwe forest is very dense and viewing the birds can be difficult because most of them prefer to stay on the trees. Your experienced birder should be able to take you to the best spots in the forest where you can have clear views of the birds. Birdwatching in the forest will also expose you to other forest creatures, particularly the primates like Angola Colobus, Golden monkeys, and the chimpanzees of Rwanda.
Akagera National Park has a combination of lakes, wetlands, rolling hills, and savannahs which combine to attract 310 species of birds. The park lies on the northeastern side of the country close to the border with Tanzania. The best birding spots are around Lake Ihema, its islands, marshes, and wetlands. A boat ride on Lake Ihema is an effective way to spot the birds in the Park but Birding safaris in Rwandabirding trips on the savannah are organized early in the morning and evening. The morning sessions are arguably the most fun as there is a lot of bird activity.
The most common species in the park is the Red-faced barbet but Akagera is also home to the endangered papyrus Ganolex. It is also important to note that Akagera National Park is arguably the best place to spot the elusive Ring-necked Francolin in Africa. During your safari in Akagera National Park, expect to spot other interesting species like the Carruthers’s Cisticola, Grey-crowned Cranes, Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Papyrus Gonolek, White-collared Oliveback, and White-Winged Swamp Warbler. The African Starling is arguably the most beautiful bird in Akagera. They have amazing feathers which change color and glitter in the mid-day sun. Spotting this bird is one of the highlights of a birding safari in Akagera.
Where to go birding in Rwanda Volcanoes National Park: This Park is famous for gorilla trekking, golden monkeys, and hiking one of the volcanoes like Karisimbi. However, this does not change the fact that it is one of the best places for birding in Rwanda. About 200 species can be found in the park. 27 of them can only be seen here while in Rwanda while 16 are endemic to the volcanoes in the Virunga ranges of mountains. Among the species to look out for are the Archer’s ground robin, Cinnamon bracken warbler, Grauer’s rush warbler, Rwenzori batis, White-tailed blue-flycatcher, Black and white manikin. The Volcanoes National Park is bordered by Mgahinga National Park in Uganda and the Virunga National Park in Congo ensuring that some of the species found in these two countries can be seen in Rwanda.
This is Rwanda’s newest national park and is found in the Northwestern part of Rwanda. Even before it became a national park, Gishwati was known as Rwanda’s Birding destination in Rwanda prime spot for birding with 395 species on offer. Some of them include the Martial Eagle, Purple-breasted Sunbirds, Red-throated Alethe, Regal Sunbirds, Ruwenzori Batis, Ruwenzori Turaco, Strange Weaver, Stripe-breasted Tit and the Grey Crowned Crane. Most of the species are forest dwellers or those endemic to the Albertine Rift. Some migrate from Congo for most parts of the year. While looking out for the birds, expect to encounter baboons, chimpanzees, blue and golden monkeys. For the best birding experience in Gishwati-Mukura National Park, you should go during the dry season. The wet/rainy season presents a lot of difficulties including mud-filled trails which can be very slippery.
Lake Kivu is more known for its beautiful beaches, and islands and as one of the best places for sport fishing sport in Rwanda. It is easy to forget that the Lake is a top birding destination in its own right. The natural beauty of the lake and its islands attract White-breasted Cormorants and Pied Kingfishers. Thousands of migratory birds can be sighted feeding around the lake during certain months of the year together with the residents. For a complete birding experience in Lake Kivu, you must visit Nkora Island. Nkora Island is a small fishing village with an amazing collection of water birds and even cave bats. You will also get to mingle with the local fishermen and learn about how they make ends meet.
10 percent of Rwanda is made up of wetlands, swamps, and marshes. The major wetlands and marches include Rugezi, Akanyaru, and Rugezi. These wetlands provide natural feeding and nesting grounds for the birds because they keep away most predators while also providing insects and frogs for food. The Rugezi Marsh is a top birding destination and the only RAMSAR site in Rwanda. The marsh covers an area of about 6,734 hectares and is host to about 43 bird species including the Grauners Swap Warbler, Papyrus Genolek, Papyrus Yellow Walber, and Thick Billed Seedeater. As you go southwards from the marsh, you will find open waters in what is Lake Nyagafunzo. This lake is a bird’s paradise in its own right. It offers opportunities to spot the Lesser Jacana and White-backed Duck.
Bird-watching tours in Rwanda The wetlands in Nyabarongo River are not well known but offer wonderful birding opportunities. The Nyabarongo River is a tributary of the great river Nile and empties its waters on river Akagera which then flows to Lake Victoria. The Wetlands are home to Garuer’s swamp warblers and papyrus gonoleks. You can also encounter swamp elephants and the elusive Sitatunga while on a birding mission here. Other wetlands and marshes that host birding sanctuaries are those in Bugesera District and Akanyaru. Akanyaru wetlands are found along the border with Burundi. They stand out for their floating vegetation and papyrus swamps. Here you can spot about 54 species of birds including the lesser kestrel, Madagascar squacco Heron, pallid harrier, and the endangered papyrus Gonolex.
For the best birding experience in Rwanda, we recommend that you bring high-quality binoculars, a pointer, drinking water, snacks, hiking shoes, and a birder’s book. You can get a birder’s book from tourism shops or park offices. You should always be in the company of an experienced local guide and this local guide will take you to the best birding spots and help identify the species. Let’s discuss the packing list in more detail:
Are you ready for an adventure of a lifetime? If you’re a birder planning to tour Rwanda, then you must have binoculars in your arsenal. These are not just any ordinary binoculars, but the high-quality ones that will enable you to spot the most elusive birds in Africa. As you explore the African wilderness, you’ll soon discover that these birds are quite shy and will fly off at the slightest hint of danger. With your trusted binoculars, you’ll be able to observe them up close without disturbing them. And who knows, you may even spot some primates along the way! But be warned, these creatures are known to be wary of humans, so make sure to have your binoculars ready for a clear view. Get ready to embark on a journey of discovery and witness the beauty of African wildlife like never before!
Sometimes birding expeditions go on for long hours leaving you thirsty and exhausted. What better way to relieve yourself than by taking your snacks and drinking water? Most of the birding spots are in remote areas with no restaurants or shops. It is wise to go out prepared so that you don’t get thirsty and hungry while out in the jungle.
What is the use of binoculars if you can’t take good photos of the birds to show off to your friends or the wider birding community? A good camera is essential for a great birding experience. We recommend that you buy the best camera you can afford so that you take amazing photos of Rwanda and its beautiful birds. The photos will also help you compare notes with those in the books and see how successful your expedition turned out to be.
A Portable voice recorder
Birds make different call signs/sounds which can be very intriguing. The best way to record these sounds is with a good portable voice recorder. This will also help you identify the different birds when back in your room comparing notes.
Bird identification books are important to help you identify the species you spotted. The books can be acquired/bought from the national park offices and other major birding spots. The book should contain a comprehensive collection of bird species, including pictures of each, in the area you plan to visit. This will help you identify the species you encounter.
Birds thrive in areas where insects are in plenty. After all, insects are their main food apart from fruits and grain. Some of these insects have painful stings (wasps, bees, mosquitoes, and TsesTse flies). To keep them off come with a good insect repellent.
Birders often use hides, which are specialized types of camouflage clothing designed to help them blend in with their surroundings. These garments allow birders to surreptitiously approach birds without drawing attention to themselves, making it easier to observe and study the birds in their natural habitats. These special clothes are especially important if you are trying to spot elusive species that are quick to fly away at the slightest hint of human presence. A good set of hides can help you get closer to the birds without disturbing them. Apart from the hides, you also need comfortable clothes that are suitable for the jungle or wetlands. Good trousers and a long-sleeved and light shirt will help protect you from insects and the African sun.
While in the national parks or birding sanctuaries, you need to follow certain Dos and Don’ts. You need to respect the birds and the environment in which they live.
Do not act in a way that will endanger the well-being of the birds or disturb them in any way. A good birder should never chase birds or try to flush them out from where they are hiding. Let them come out of their own free will.
Avoid the use of flash cameras if possible, especially in areas with many birds and during the breeding season. Keep a safe distance from nesting colonies to avoid disturbing birds and endangering chicks. Unless you are a researcher, do not touch eggs. Many species abandon their eggs if touched by humans.
Respect the environment in which you find yourself. Do not litter bird sanctuaries. Avoid trampling and leave bird habitats as you found them. Do not trespass on private property while birding before asking for permission. You don’t want to spoil the image of the wider birding community.
Check for specific rules at birding locations as they can vary. How about considering moving to a smaller and more manageable group? This way, not only can you avoid disturbing the environment but also stay under the radar of the watchful birds. Sounds like a good plan, right?
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