A complete guide to birding in Rwanda, the species, field reports, destination guide, top bird guides, tour operators, when to go and where to stay.
Birdwatching in Rwanda
Birding is an act of watching birds, their characters in their natural habitats mostly in the wilderness. Rwanda is a land locked country and is located in the Albertine part of the rift valley and is bordered by Uganda, Burundi and Congo. There are over 750 different bird species and it has several birding spots all found in the different areas in Rwanda.
There are several bird habitats in the Rwanda and some of these include the grasslands, swamps and plains that are found in the Eastern part of the country, the grass hills scattered around the central region and the montane Albertine forests that they cover mostly the western part of the country. There are also several wetlands, rivers and wetlands that act as natural habitats for the birds.
The different birding locations in Rwanda include Nyabarongo, Rugezi, Cyamudongo and others. The most famous bird species that one can see when they visit Rwanda is the Shoebill and the best birding spot in Rwanda is the Akagera. It should also be noted that Rwanda has no endemic birds but has the highest number of Albertine birds most of which are found in Nyungwe forest.
Birding in Rwanda has been improved from the trails, roads and accommodation in the country. There are also professional guides to lead you on this wonderful journey as you go birding and they explain the different bird species to you.
When should one go for birding in Rwanda
Birding in Rwanda can be done all year round although the most favorable time is between December and February because this is the time when birds migrate from other countries that are experiencing winter and you can easily view them within this period of time.
Birding destinations in Rwanda
There are several birding destinations in Rwanda and some of these include the following:
Birding in Volcanoes National park
The park has a dense population of vegetation with bamboo trees and grasslands which act as bird habitants in the park. It is located at the border of Congo and Uganda in the North West part of Rwanda and it is known to be the first park to be created Africa.
The park has over 187 bird species and some of these include the Rwenzori Batis, Dusty crimson wing, Red faced woodland warbler, Archer’s ground Robin, francolin, strange weaver, and the collared Apalis.
Akanyaru Wetland Birding
Akanyaru wetlands are located in the southern part of Rwanda and it has over 54 different bird species. It is near the border of Burundi and some of the bird species found in the area include the Madagascar squacco Heron, Guinea Congo forest Biome, Pallid harrier, lesser kestrel, lesser swamp, Papyrus Gonolek and others.
All these birds live in the different habitants around Akanyaru which include the shrub vegetation, swamps and Rwihinda Lake.
Located in the Northern part of Rwanda, Rugezi has wetlands, papyrus and swamps as the different habitats for the birds. Rugezi Marsh has only three bird species that have been registered and these include the Graurer’s Rush Warbler, lesser swamp warbler and the papyrus Gonolek.
Kigali might look like it has no place where one can go for a birding experience bet there are different birding spots that are found in the capital city of Rwanda and these are listed below:
Mountain Kigali forest, Known as the largest hill in Kigali this is one of the best birding spots in Rwanda since it is located in the city center and some of the bird species found here include the yellow-fronted canary, thick-billed seedeater, white-eyed slaty flycatcher, Green-backed camaroptera, Red Chested cuckoo, common Bulbul and the African paradise flycatcher.
Nyarutarama Lake, some of the bird species found in Nyarutarama include the black Egret, Grey capped warbler, paradise flycatcher, pygmy kingfisher, African fish Eagle, Black kite, swifts, Tawny flanked prinia, swallow and the winding Cisticola.
The Nyabarongo River Wetland Birding Trips
Nyabarongo River wetland is located in the south East part of the country and its capital city Kigali. The different habitats include the wetlands, swamps and grasslands where one can easily view the different bird species that are located in the area.
The wetland has different species which include the papyrus Gonolek, white collared olive bark, Madagascar squacco heron, white winged scrub warbler, papyrus yellow warbler, Northern brown throated weaver, African jacana, yellow wagtail, Black headed Heron, African Marsh Harrier, common snipe, little Egret, spur-winged geese, long-toed lapwing, African open bill and Caruthers’s Cisticola.
Cyamudongo Forest Birding
Cyamudongo is located in Nyakabuye south west of Rwanda at the border of Congo. The different habitants where the birds live include the wetlands, grasslands and the forests. The Cyamudongo forest has the following bird species that is the Congo forests Biome, Kungwe Apalis and Ross’s Turaco.
Akagera National park, A Birders Paradise
Akagera National park lies in the North East part of Rwanda has a recorded population of 525 bird species both the indigenous ones and migrant birds and is bordered by Tanzania and Uganda. The swamps, grassland vegetation and plain plains act as the habitants of the birds found in the area. Some of the bird species found in the area include the Great snipe, Suaza’s shrike, Arnot’s chat, shoebill stork, Palearctic migrants, lesser kestrel, long tailed Cisticola, papyrus Gonolek and black winged kestrel.
Nyungwe Forest Birding
The Nyungwe forest has over 275 bird species and it is conservation for montane birds in Rwanda. It is located at the border of Lake Kivu and Rwanda in the south western part of the country. It is a good spot when it comes to birding in Rwanda and some of the bird species found in the Nyungwe include the Chapin’s flycatcher, Rockefeller’s sunbird, strange weaver, Red collared mountain Babbler, Handsome Francolin, Mountain sooty Boubou, Archer robin’s chat, yellow eyed black flycatcher, Graurer’s warbler and the stripe-breasted tit.
What one needs before they can go birding
Birding does not require a lot of things but one needs to be highly equipped when it comes to this activity. Therefore below is a list of things that are highly recommended when one is going for birding in Rwanda.
binoculars for birders
Binoculars are much needed when one is going for birding. It should be one of the first things that you should pack before you set off for your journey because you should note that birds are relatively shy species and once they notice that they are being approached or observed they fly away. So the best thing that one does is to carry binoculars since they can easily be adjusted so that you get the feel of seeing the birds’ up close.
identification books & Specie books of birds of Rwanda
These are sold in the different birding shops and they greatly help in identification of the different bird species that are found in the different birding spots. These identification books have the bird pictures and their different names and it helps birders to easily identify the birds that they see in the forests.
food and water
Birding is mostly done in very rural and remote areas and in most cases there are no food stalls and restaurants where birding is done. Therefore it is advisable that one packs enough food and water to cover the journey. It is not a nice experience if one gets hungry or thirsty while birding.
The different bird species are found in forests and grasslands which are breeding habitats for many insects especially mosquitoes. So in order for you to enjoy birding with less hustle from the insects carry insects repellant to enjoy birding without interruptions.
A camera is not all that necessary but for those who want to keep memories of how the adventure was and for those who want to compare the birds that are being seen with those that are in the books, a camera is very much needed when you go birding.
The hides refer to camouflage clothing that is used by the birders to fit into the surrounding area and they help you to approach the shy birds without being easily spotted. There are several birds that fly away once they realize they are being watched or if one is approaching them and this is where a hide comes into the picture.
This might sound like an easy exercise but when you look at the birding process you need to be well clothed so that you do not feel uncomfortable while birding. Trousers are highly recommended and some light shirts to avoid insect bites and the heat from the sun.
Portable voice recorders
A portable voice recorder helps you to record the different sounds being made by the different bird species since some birds are easily identified due to the sounds and call signs that they make. A portable recording device helps to identify the different birds easily.
Rwanda offers a variety of bird species that you can view throughout the year, so to all birders, grab your bag pack with all the necessary requirements and head into Rwanda for birding.