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Republic of Rwanda

Shoebill Balaeniceps rex ©Photo supplied by tourist authority

Birding Rwanda

Rwanda is a small, landlocked country in the centre of the African continent. Despite its size (which is about 250km east-west by 150km north-south); it has a bird list of over 650 species, and supports a higher number of Albertine Rift endemics than any other country outside the DR Congo.

After the horrors of the mid-90's, Rwanda is rebuilding, has excellent roads, clean and good-value accommodation, and is peaceful and calm. The aftermath of the 90s has meant that several birding sites have reduced in size, due to resettlement of refugees (Akagera National Park is now a third of its former size, and there is doubt over whether any significant amount of Gishwati Forest remains); but that which remains still has good birds, and despite the ease of access to sites, one can still feel a pioneer spirit.

The Akagera National Park is still home to Shoebill, and it may still be one of the easiest sites at which to find it. In addition, it supports a mixture of acacia and papyrus species, including Red-faced Barbet, Bennett's Woodpecker, Papyrus Gonolek, White-headed Black and Familiar Chats, Carruther's and Tabora Cisticolas, White-winged and Broad-tailed Warblers and Miombo Wren-warbler. Whilst lack of accommodation (except for camping) makes it difficult to explore the park extensively, it is certainly rewarding for visiting birders, who will find a supporting cast of large mammals, including Hippo, Elephant and Giraffe.

Nyungwe Forest is a vast tract of forest in the southwest. Much of the forest is unexplored, with access to large parts being extremely difficult, due to being in an area of very steep hills. However, an excellent winding tarmac road bisects the forest, and along this roadside one can find most of the Albertine Rift endemics, including Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Turaco, Mountain Sooty Boubou, Rwenzori Batis, Yellow-eyed Black Flycatcher, Archer's Robin-chat, Rwenzori Hill Babbler, Red-faced Woodland, Grauer's Rush, Neumann's and Grauer's Warblers, Masked Mountain Apalis, Rwenzori Double-collared, Purple-throated, Blue-headed and Regal Sunbirds, Stripe-breasted Tit and Strange Weaver. A speciality is Red-collared Mountain Babbler, which has its only easily accessible site here, as does Kungwe Apalis. Recent possible sightings of Rockefeller's Sunbird show that much is left to be discovered, and perhaps even such gems as Congo Peacock (which has sites only 70km distant in the DR Congo) could exist in the remote dense forest!

There are also good (and steep) forest tracks for birding based around the ORTPN Guesthouse at Gisakura, and the ORTPN Campsite at Uwinka, which can produce some of the more skulking species, such as Red-throated Alethe, Archer's Robin-chat, Kivu Ground Thrush and Collared Apalis, and Shelley's and Dusky Crimsonwing occur. Other special birds here include White-bellied Robin-chat, Doherty's and Lagden's Bush-shrikes, White-tailed Blue Flycatcher, Great Blue Turaco, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo and White-bellied Crested Flycatcher. At night, Rwenzori Nightjar is not uncommon, Albertine Owlet may be found, and rumours persist about the possibility of Congo Bay-owl. Add to this the presence of 13 primates, including Chimpanzee, and this should be a site on anyone's to-visit list.

The Volcans National Park must also be excellent for birding, but it is currently only open for Gorilla trekking (an unforgettable experience); so has a very low site list compared to Mgahinga in Uganda, with which it is contiguous. Other sites such as Gishwati, Cyamudongo and Mukura Forests may still have some excellent forest birding, and the country is worthy of further exploration.

Contributor

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 729

(As at September 2018)

Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Birds of East Africa

(Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi) | By Terry Stevenson, John Fanshawe, Brian E Small & John Gale | Christopher Helm | 2004 | Paperback | 640 pages, colour plates, colour distribution maps, colour & b/w maps |

ISBN: 0713673478

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Wild Rwanda

(Where to Watch Birds, Primates, and Other Wildlife) | By Ken Behrens, Christian Boix & Keith Barnes | Lynx Edicions | 2015 | Paperback | 256 pages, 160+ colour photos, colour maps |

ISBN: 9788496553965

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

African Bird Club

Website

Since the days of Diane Fossey, Rwanda has been recognised as one of the best places to view gorillas, but few people know any more about the country than just this. Those that visit tend to hop across the north-western border with Uganda, to track gorillas in the Volcans National Park near Ruhengeri. This is one of the best sites to see Ladgen’s Bush-Shrike Malacanotus lagdeni, but tourism activities are heavily focused on gorillas, and hiking and bird watching are so poorly promoted as to appear to be discouraged. Although 17 Albertine Rift Endemics have been recorded, most are more readily seen elsewhere. Fortunately Rwanda has much more to offer, especially to birders…

Association pour la Conservation de la Nature au Rwanda

Website

ACNR, a National Non-Governmental Organization founded in August 1992. Its mission is to promote biodiversity conservation through participatory and sustainable management of natural resources in Rwanda. Our Vision is that All Rwandans understand and are involved in the conservation of natural ecosystems for the benefits of current and future generations.

Rwanda Birding Club

Facebook Page

This group is for posting pictures of Rwandan birds and discussing aspects of birding in Rwanda. The group is run by the Rwanda Birding Club - a group of birders in Rwanda. We will post details of trips i.e. where we are planning on going and sighting reports. We are happy to provide info for birders interested in visiting Rwanda. However, please respect this by not using the group to promote commercial operations.

West African Ornithological Society

Website

The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

NP Akagera

Website

Satellite View

Akagera National Park is a little piece of heaven found in North Eastern Rwanda, at the country’s border with Tanzania. It is dominated by swamps and small lakes with flow in the wake of River Kagera. All the water sources work together to create a piece of spectacular scenery. It is quite a remarkable eco-system. The Park was obviously named after River Kagera.

NP Gishwati-Mukura

Website

Satellite View

Here visitors can experience not only chimpanzee and primate tracking, pristine montane forests and some of Rwanda’s most exciting birding, but can also engage with friendly, rural people and know that their visit will make a difference!

NP Nyungwe

Information

Satellite View

The forest has 300 species of birds with 27 Albertine rift endemics and 121 forest species. The flora is particularly rich with 200 species of trees and more than 100 species of orchids! The park has an extensive network of walking trails that leads you through various waterfalls and viewing points. Nyungwe offers scenic views over the forest, lake Kivu and sometimes also the Virunga…

NP Parc National Des Volcans

Website

Satellite View

Travellers are once again making their way to the beautiful bamboo and rainforest-covered slopes of this volcano-crowded national park in Rwanda's northwest…

Forums & Mailing Lists

Rwanda-Burundi Birds

Mailing List Discussion Group

A group dedicated to all the news and information about the bird species in Rwanda & Burundi, and their distribution and ecology. We encourage members to share their sightings and information on locations, all which will contribute to our knowledge of the birds in these two countries.

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Mission Africa Safaris

Tour Operator

Mission Africa Safaris is a leading tour company registered in Uganda. We help put together exciting safaris in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and DR Congo. Our expereinced and knowledgeable guides/office personnel will ensure you have a memorable time while on your tour. Our packages include bird watching, game drives, nature walks, mountain hiking, gorilla tracking. cultural visits among many other. We give affordable rates to our clients and incorporate a personal touch and quality while dealing with our clients - You can be one of them.

Rainbow Tours

Tour Operator

…Some 650 species of bird have been recorded from Rwanda. These include many of the sought-after Albertine Rift Endemics…

Speedway Safaris

Tour Operator

Speedway Safaris is a tour and travel company based in Uganda specialising in organising trips to National Parks, gorilla tracking, hotel bookings, chimpanzee trekking, mountaineering excursions, birding trips, adventure travels, sightseeing expeditions, car hire, community tours, guided nature walks plus vacation and customized tours in Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania…

Volcanoes Safaris

Tour Operator

Nyungwe Forest This massive montane forest, in southern Rwanda, the largest in Central Africa, has thirteen species of primate including chimpanzee, Rwenzori colobus and l`Hoest`s monkey. The colobus live in large groups, including a four hundred-strong semi-habituated group thought to be the largest troop of arboreal primates in Africa. Around 300 bird species, 24 of which are regional endemics and over 100 varieties of orchids and butterflies are other attractions…

Wildlife Tours Rwanda

Tour Operator

Rwanda has approximately 735 bird species including 44 Albertine rift endemics plus 4 pure endemics; the avitourism potential has been over shadowed by the gorilla tourism dominance and lack of publicity, awareness about birding products and good birding guides...

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

CloudBirders

Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2008 [08 August] - Christian Boix

Report

…But the star-bird of the morning was to be a very complying Lesser Jacana that strutted confidently across floating vegetation, almost ignoring our presence. Black Crakes were as ubiquitous as ever and African Rails were heard across the shore…

2010 [04 April] - Chuck Bell

Report

…we hit some serious turbulence in our small Dash-8 aircraft shortly after we crossed the south shore of Lake Victoria. However, we landed on schedule in Kigali and were met by two drivers, Gaston and Arthur…

2010 [04 April] - Keith Barnes

PDF Report

…The main aims of the Uganda and Rwanda leg was to see a Shoebill stalking in deep Papyrus swamps, score a gamut of rainforest birds in both the lowlands of Budongo…

2010 [08 August] - Keith Barnes

PDF Report

…The main aims of the Uganda and Rwanda leg was to see a Shoebill stalking in deep Papyrus swamps, attempt to see the most unlikely scarce Central African denizen, Green-breasted Pitta…

2012 [02 February] - Oscar Campbell

PDF Report

…Access to the trails is by permit only and you have to be accompanied by a park guide at all times. This is also true if you want to stop and bird along the main road through the park. The main road through the forest is currently being upgraded and hence whilst we were there it was somewhat disturbed; even so we found it very productive. Towards the western end of the park is the Kamiranzovu Marsh at which holds Red-chested Fluff tail and Grauer’s Swamp-Warbler…

2012 [08 August] - Michael Mills

PDF Report

…This year’s journey through southern Uganda and Rwanda was a resounding success in all respects, with great views obtained of the four main target birds, namely Shoebill, Green- breasted Pitta, Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill and Red-collared (Mountain) Babbler….

2013 [07 July] - Michael Mills

PDF Report

…Our journey through Uganda and Rwanda was once again a resounding success, with great views obtained of the four main target birds: Shoebill at Mabamba Swamp, Green-breasted Pitta at Kibale, Grauer’s Broadbill at Mabwindi Swamp in Bwindi and Red-collared Mountain Babbler at Nyungwe, Rwanda….

2014 [08 August] - Michael Mills

PDF Report

Our “highlights” tour of Uganda and Rwanda was once again a resounding success, with great views obtained of the four main target birds: Shoebill at Mabamba Swamp, Green-breasted Pitta at Kibale, Grauer’s (African Green) Broadbill at Mabwindi Swamp in Bwindi and Red-collared...

2014 [09 September] - Pritam Baruah

PDF Report

Nyungwe National Park in south-western Rwanda protects one of the oldest and largest remaining stretches of Albertine Rift forest. Sized about 1020 sq km, it ranges from 1600 masl to 2950 masl (Mt Bigugu) and covers a wide range of habitats – excellent primary & secondary cloud forests, isolated highland swamps, grassland and bamboo. It is contiguous with the Kibira National Park in Burundi (400 sq km)....

2015 [03 March] - Hilary MacBean

PDF Report

We started in Kigali and travelled to a variety of habitats throughout the country. The key components were Akagera National Park, a dry area of savannah and swamps in the East, close to the border with Tanzania; the Nyabarongo swamps and Bugasera farmlands in the South; Nyungwe National Park in the South West; the Volcanoes National Park in the North and Gisenyi on Lake Kivu in the North West.

2016 [05 May] - David Karr

PDF Report

A business trip to Rwanda offered opportunities for a short, one-day birding trip to Akagera National Park. A protected area since 1934, Akagera is mostly open savanna land, dotted with several lakes and extensive marshland....

2016 [05 May] - David Karr - Kigali – One Day Birding around the Rwandan Capital

PDF Report

A business trip to Rwanda offered opportunities for a short, one-day birding trip to the marshes around the capital, Kigali...

2016 [08 August] - Henk Hendriks - Uganda & Rwanda

PDF Report

It surely is one of the most unspoilt, beautiful forests I ever saw. An advantage is also that an excellent tarmac road traverses the park, giving easy access to the excellent trail system of the park. 26 Albertine Rift endemics have been recorded at Nyungwe including all the endemics of Bwindi with the exception of the Grauer’s Broadbill.

2017 [01 January] - Mathias D'haen - Nyungwe National Park

PDF Report

...I think it’s useless to say that Nyungwe is an extremely good place for birdwatching. Being located in the Albertine Rift, it contains many of its endemics. That does not mean that birdwatching is easy, especially in this period of the year. January/February is called the short-dry period and is not a breeding period for most birds. This means that most birds are gathered in flocks and walking around in the forest is 90% of the time bird-less, until you stumble upon a flock of 20-30 bird species and get about 5 seconds per bird to identify it. Birds were mostly very skulky and observations were often flushing birds between the canopies...

2017 [05 May] - Heinz Ortmann

PDF Report

This short extension to the small, vibrant and land-locked East African country of Rwanda was a special experience. From an emotion-filled visit to the Kigali Genocide Memorial to the once-in-alifetime interaction with Mountain Gorillas, and finally the vast bird-rich forest of Nyungwe National Park, we were treated to an amazing time. The variety of activities and substantial time walking the trails of some beautiful forest provided the guests with an incredible experience of this prospering nation.

Blogs

Jared Cole - Rwanda on the Wing

BLOG

A blog about my experience with birds, ecology, and sustainability in Rwanda… Last updated July 2013

Marcell Claassen - Birding Rwanda

BLOG

BLOG from Marcell Claassen - Living in Rwanda almost 4 years now. 10 years guiding experience in East and Southern Africa. **Birding excursions of varying length can also be combined with and/or built into existing itineraries…