Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda

Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda : Rwanda Safari Tours don’t only comprise gorilla trekking safaris or chimpanzee trekking tours, but also bird watching tours  which can be conducted in different places in the country like Kigali, Volcanoes  National Park, Akagera National Park, Nyungwe Forest National Park, Gishwati-Mukura National Park  and Lake Kivu to mention but a few.

Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda

Rwanda is a birder’s paradise, with 703 species, 29 Albertine Rift Endemics, diversified habitats, and some of Africa’s greatest mountain birding. Rwanda has some of the greatest African montane birding in the world. Combine that with an excellent road network, safety and security and a diverse range of ecosystems, and you have one of Africa’s top eco-tourism locations. Because of the country’s small character, multiple birding locations may be visited in a very short journey, providing access to some of Africa’s most sought species.

Rwanda has a total of 703 bird species (as of November 2018), and new species have been added to the official list since 2010. There are 29 Albertine Rift Endemics and many Lake Victoria Basin Endemics among the resident species, which should be on any birder’s bucket list.

Most birding enthusiasts would prefer to visit Nyungwe National Park in the west of Rwanda and Akagera National Park in the east. However, wonderful birding can be found across the nation, even close to Kigali, so no matter how long you stay; there will be great birding to be had.

Bird Watching Destinations in Rwanda

Bird Watching Safaris in Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe National Park is a tropical highland rainforest with 322 bird species, 13 primate species, and several indigenous plant species. So far, 29 bird species have been discovered here. The Red-collared Babbler is unquestionably the major attraction, and Rwanda is the only safe spot to observe this magnificent bird. Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Nightjar, Grauer’s Warbler, Regal, Blue-headed, and Purple Breasted Sunbirds, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, and Neumann’s Warbler are among the other specialties. All of this and more may be viewed easily from the park’s well-maintained network of trails, with the assistance of skilled bird guides.

With much more time and patience, you may also see Kungwe Apalis, Kivu Ground Thrush, and Willard’s Sooty Boubou. The Congo Bay Owl, Albertine Owlet, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, and Rockefeller’s Sunbird are possibly the rarest of Nyungwe’s species, having been documented but seldom observed. Night-walks will be offered shortly, with the possibility of tracking down the park’s elusive nocturnal animals.

Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda
Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda

Bird Watching in Akagera National Park Rwanda

Akagera National Park is the only savannah national park in Rwanda and it is well known for its undulating hills, lakes, wetlands, and woods. It provides a more conventional African Big 5 safari experience, but because of the diversity of ecosystems, it also boasts outstanding birding. To present, 490 bird species have been recorded in Akagera National Park. The park provides a comparable experience to others in the region, but its compact size allows you to quickly reach the various ecosystems and compile a decent bird list.

The range was limited. The most sought-after bird is the red-faced barbet, which should be easy to spot near Akagera Game Lodge and Muyumbu campground. Northern Brown-throated Weaver, Papyrus Gonolek, White-Winged Swamp Warbler, Carruthers’ Cisticola, White-collared Oliveback, and Grey-crowned Cranes are among the other range-restricted species and highlights. Another desired species that may be seen in the area on a regular basis is the Shoebill. The park also has healthy raptor populations and a huge number of water birds.

A boat ride on Lake Ihema should provide excellent views of numerous waterbird species, including African Finfoot, which may also be viewed from the deck of the Ruzizi Tented Lodge. A night-drive provides the opportunity to see various nocturnal bird species, including Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and several Nightjar species.

Bird Watching Safaris in Volcanoes National Park

The Volcanoes National Park preserves Rwanda’s Virunga mountain range, which comprises five volcanoes: Muhavura, Gahinga, Sabinyo, Bisoke, and Karisimbi. The Volcanoes National Park is well-known for its Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys, and it is usually frequented for treks to see these endangered and unique primates, as well as excursions to the volcanoes. However, the park is home to over 200 bird species, 17 of which are indigenous to the Albertine Rift Valley Region. It is a must-see for birders looking for uncommon species as well as those interested in the spectacular Virunga scenery and the possibility to see Mountain gorillas.

The birds here are similar to Nyungwe Forest National Park, but the Scarlet-Tufted Sunbird can only be seen in Rwanda, and a walk to the peak of Mount Bisoke is your best hope for seeing it. There are also a number of lakes in the vicinity of the national park that are worth a little detour. Buhanga Eco-Park is also close, and African Pitta has been spotted here during their migration.

Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda
Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda

During your Rwanda Safari Tours, you can combine your birding safaris in Rwanda with gorilla trekking in Volcanoes national park or golden monkey trekking, a guided nature walk, hike to Dian Fossey Gravesite or climb Mount Bisoke or Mount Karisimbi. You can also combine your bird watching safari in Volcanoes national park with a cultural tour to Iby’iwacu Village that is situated just outside the park.

Birding Safaris within and around Lake Kivu in Rwanda

Lake Kivu is a peaceful stopover on a birding journey that is not without its delights. During its migration, White-breasted Cormorants, Pied Kingfishers, and Osprey may be observed fishing in the lake. Some of Rwanda’s more common terrestrial species may be seen along the lake’s banks, while hotel gardens in Karongi, Rubavu, and Rusizi can provide good birding opportunities. This area is frequently visited by the Double-toothed Barbet, as well as the Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Familiar Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, and Spot-flanked Barbet. The region near Kinunu is very suitable for birding, especially for the more common species.

Bird Watching in Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Gishwati-Mukura National Park is located in western region of Rwanda, above Lake Kivu, in the highlands. This is Rwanda’s newest national park, and it is now undergoing substantial repair. Gishwati has 232 species of birds, while Mukura has 163 species, including numerous Albertine Rift Endemics and forest specialists. Tourism alternatives will be available shortly; stay tuned for further information.

Bird Watching Safaris in Kigali City

A day or two should be given to birding in Kigali before heading out to the IBAs for birders planning a long birding itinerary in Rwanda, first as an introduction to the local species, but also because there are specialties you will notice in Kigali that you may not see again on the trip. While birders and enthusiasts on business in Kigali who have a day or half to spare and would want to do some beautiful birding in Rwanda before flying out should know that Kigali is plenty to cross off a number of local species and maybe obtain a decent number of slackers.

Birding in Umusambi Village in Kigali

Umusambi Village, a new birding hotspot and possibly the best in the city, is Kigali’s first permanent wildlife reserve, developed specifically to rehabilitate and provide a home for rescued Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda. It is situated on the outskirts of Kigali City, on the road to the east of the country. The reserve, which was established on restored marsh and includes a variety of habitats such as swamp, grassland, shrub, and forest, is home to over 100 bird species. What makes Umusambi Wetland even more appealing for birding is a well-maintained path network that connects various portions of the reserve and provides access to various habitats.

One of the specialties to keep an eye out for is the White-collared Oliveback, which the reserve may have the finest sightings of in Rwanda. Trilling Cisticola, Purple-crested Turaco, Lesser Honey guide, Black-shouldered Nightjar, Green-winged Ptyalin, African Fire finch, Olive Woodpecker, and Yellow-breasted Apalis are among the other species to look forward to.

Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda’s Wetlands

Other than that, Rwanda’s wetlands and marshes cover around 10% of the nation. Birdlife International has designated Rugezi, Akanyaru Wetlands, and Nyabarongo Wetlands as Important Bird Areas.

Rugezi Marsh, located in north-western Rwanda near Gicumbi, is Rwanda’s sole RAMSAR Site and is home to healthy populations of Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, as well as Grey-crowned Cranes, Papyrus Canary, and Papyrus Yellow Warbler. At the southern end of the marsh, there is an area of open water known as Lake Nyagafunzo; a boat trip here is ideal for watching some of the country’s most frequent water birds, as well as the prospect of seeing White-backed Duck and Lesser Jacana.

The marshes and lakes of Bugesera District, south-east of Kigali, provide great birding opportunities and are likely among of Rwanda’s most easily accessible birding locations. There is a wide range of habitats in this area, and 415 bird species have been identified. Observe Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, White-winged Swamp Warbler, White-collared Oliveback, Lesser Jacana, and White-backed Duck in several locations. After a lengthy period of no verified sightings, the latter two species were found in Rwanda in 2014. This advertisement also has a Red-chested Sunbird, a Palm Nut Vulture, a Blue-naped Mousebird, an African Fish Eagle, and several water bird and savannah species.

Best Time for Bird Watching Safaris in Rwanda

Throughout the year! However, the migratory bird season, which lasts from December to February, attracts a large number of wintering and Palearctic migrants to Rwanda.

Birding infrastructure, such as paths, lodging, and roads leading to birding locations, has been constructed. Professional bird guides have been trained and are already leading birding trips in Rwanda. In reality, many of Rwanda’s popular birding areas employ expert site guides.

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