Bird Watching

Travel to Rwanda for the best birding tours in Rwanda in Nyungwe Forest National Park which is home to over 310 species of birds and these include the 25 species of the Albertine Rift mountains endemic bird Area which occur in Rwanda, the Rockefellers’ sun bird, Chapin’s flycatcher, 11 of the 23 species of the Guinea Congo Forest biome and also 71 of the 74 species of this biome of the afro-tropical highlands that occur in Rwanda and have been recorded at this site.

The bird species found in Nyungwe forest include, Chestnut Owlet, Olive and Elliot’s Woodpeckers, Great Blue and Ruwenzori Turaco, White-headed Wood-hoopoe, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, , Stripe-breasted Tit, the remarkable Red-collared Babbler, Archer’s Robin Chat, White-bellied Robin Chat, Doherty’s Bush-Shrike, Handsome Francolin Mountain Masked, Black-faced, Chapin’s Flycatcher, Purple-breasted and Regal Sun-birds, Chestnut – throated, Collared Apalis, Rwenzori Batis, Neumann’s Short-tailed Warbler, White-tailed Blue-flycatcher, etc.

A visit to Nyungwe National Park provides excellent opportunities to see a variety of fascinating birds along the forest path including quite a few of the regional endemic species, every hikers with only a passing interest in bird life  will be amazed by the sightings of the colourful variety of species.

Many birds are difficult to see in the high forest canopy or in thickets and yet still enhance the pleasure of a hike in Nyungwe with their remarkable songs. Conspidious songs include the rapid twittering of many sun bird species, the low-pitched chuk-cherook of the Rwenzori Turaco, the ringing telephone song of the chest-nut throated Apalis or the more localized melodious song of the Grey-chested Kakamega.

For more serious birders, the Nyungwe trails are especially all tractive because they are home to over two dozen species that endemic to the Albertine Rift (the western side of the Great Rift Valley) in central Africa. Several sunbirds, Rwenzori turaco and many other species are unique to the African montane forest habitat. In total, 310 species have been recorded in the park. A full checklist should be available by request at RDB headquarters. While all the trails are good for birding, several in particular are often selected because they are more open or have access to forest margins, including Karamba and Bigugu trails, Rangira road, Bweye road and even the road through the park are also good locations because they are open.

Unless you are a world-class expert on African avi-fauna, you will have rely on a park guide to help spot and identify the forest birds. Some of the guides have very impressive expertise on bird life in the park and can identify birds by ear and know the scientific names. More guides are being trained. Bird walks can be booed in advance at RDB.

The northern hemisphere winter is an especially good time for birding when native species are in their breeding season. The entire forest including its fringe is good for birding but the following locations are recommended for their complementarity.

Around Uwinka and the Rangiro road, the main endemic species will usually be easy to see, the Regal Sunbird is plentiful, and usually one of the first species to be seen. The Blue-headed Sunbird is also very common, but shyer. The Rochfeller’s Sunbird has probably only be seen less than a dozen times in Nyungwe, but all the latest observations where made around Uwinka and the Rangiro road. It is resemblance with the Regal Sunbird is striking and one should always pay attention as to which species they are facing.

Early morning, the network of trails and the main road is also ideal for the Handsome Francolin and the Red-throated Alethe. While the Kivu Ground Trush, also present there, will require a lot of patience and a lot more luck. This under storey bright bird is extremely shy, and none has ever been able to predict its appearance, although it seems to be somewhat more frequently seen at the head of soldier’s ant columns.

The Kamiranzovu Swamp hosts a great population of Grauer’s Rush Warbler, but the size of the swamp and the thickness of its vegetation don’t make its observation very easy. The Red-chested Fluff tail is also very common in this swamp but as all fluff tails will remain one of the biggest challenges for birders. The surrounding marsh forest is a good place to see the Short-tailed Warbler although much forest is a good place to see the Short-tailed Warbler although much more often heard than seen.

Its observation requires patience, sitting down and calling the bird with a recorder or a pre-recorded track of its voice. Even then the bird might come very close and remains invisible. In the same areas, but in darker forests, the Grey-chested Kakamega is common and reacts strongly to voice playing. On the slopes of Kamiranzovu, the Kungwe Apalis seems to be common, but hard to see.

The southern part of the forest, accessible on the Bweyeye road gives extensive views on the canopy of the lower parts of the Nyungwe forests. Many birds are commonly seen there among see there, among which we can cite the Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, common also in the Karamba area and many low areas of the forests. The good open views on the canopy and the higher branches of the forests gives good chances of seeing the Violet-backed Hyliota, the many coloured Bushrike and various wood peckers. Around Bweyeye and Busoro, the Shelley’s Greenbul is common, while the Shelley’s Crimson wing has been seen on few occasions.

The Karamba trail offers birding possibilities that are quite similar to the one of the Bweyeye road, with plenty of Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher. It is also one of the aread where the area Oriole-Finch can be seen.

The Bigugu trail, and the high altitudes summits, offers excellent chances of seeing the Red-collared Babbler, usually seen in noisy flocks, going from tree to tree. The Shelley’s Crimson wing has also more observations here than elsewhere, although still very rare.

On the eastern side of the Forest, the Uwasenkoko swamps and its low surrounding heath and Hagenia vegetation is usually very good for the Brown Woodland Warbler and the Rwenzori Nightjar. The swamp itself hosts a good population of the Grauer’s Rush Warbler, usually easy to see there. In the peak of flowering season of the large and beautiful Kniphoffia flowers, the marsh is visited by the Malachite Sunbird, a rare bird in Rwanda. The legendary Congo Bay Owl, known from about 2 live observations and a collected specimen in eastern Congo has possible been seen at dusk flying above a campsite just above the swamp, in the late seventies. Various owl songs have been recorded in Nyungwe and in Kibira most probably belong to this mysterious species whose presence in Rwanda still remains to be fully confirmed.

In case you are on any birding safari, your guide will also help you in identifying many different birds that you will see during the walk in the forest and also along the many different spots that they might know where the birds are normally seen. Some of the areas where to see the birds include the Bigugu Mountain, having the canopy walks where you have a clear view of the canopy and a chance to view many birds at the top of the trees. There are also many other sites like Karamba area that is near Gisakura, the Kamiranzovu swamp as well as the Gisakura tea estate and many more.