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BIRD WATCHING IN RWANDA, Rwanda, the land of a thousand hills is not only a gorilla trekking destination (as many tourists perceive it) but also a birder’s Paradise. This country interestingly offers one of Africa’s best African montane birding experience and with diverse habitats ranging from the savannah, grasslands, woodlands, wetlands, rivers, Lakes to forests, more than 750 species of birds are sheltered.

Of the 750 species of birds in Rwanda, 29 species are Albertine Rift endemics while some are Congo Biome endemics and others Lake Victoria Basin endemics that you should definitely look-out for during your birding trip. While most birders to Rwanda will focus attention on the four National Parks-Volcanoes, Gishwati-Mukura, Akagera and Nyungwe Forest National Parks, there are other wonderful birding spots that include wetlands and marshlands as well as some areas around the lush City of Kigali.

Akagera National Park

Diversity (in terms of habitats and species) is what Akagera National Park offers with tourists having options of seeing wetland, aquatic, woodland, forest and grassland species of birds. Besides the traditional big five animal experience you are likely to enjoy in Akagera National Park, you are guaranteed of unforgettable birding experience.

There are currently 525 species of birds in this Park (presenting over three quarters of the country’s total bird species) occupying the woodlands, rolling hills, wetlands and savannah plains. The red-faced barbets, papyrus gonolek, shoebill storks, northern brown-throated weavers, white-collared olive backs, white-winged swamp warblers, grey-crowned cranes and many other aquatic bird species are found within and around the wetland areas of the National Park.

The African fin foot, Verreaux’s eagle owls and other water birds can be spotted during boat trips on Lake Ihema.

Gishwati-Mukura National Park

Situated within the western side of Rwanda, Gishwati-Mukura National Park is so far the newest and most recently created Park in the country with a total of over 232 species of birds living in the Gishwati forest while about 163 species are in Mukura forest. The common bird species in these forests are Dusky Crimsonwing, white-headed wood hoopoes, red-throated alethe, Rwenzori batis, strange weavers, Purple-breasted sunbirds, grey-crowned cranes and mountain yellow warblers among others.

Nyungwe Forest National Park

Gazetted in 2004 and extending for over 1000 square kilometers, Nyungwe Forest National Park is found in the south-west of Rwanda and a home to over 320 species of birds including 29 species that are endemic to the Albertine Rift Valley area. The red-collared babbler, one of the species is considered the star attraction in this Park. With the well-maintained network of trails in Nyungwe Forest National Park, the Park guides will help in identifying other unique bird species such as the Grauer’s swamp warblers, Rwenzori nightjar, Congo Bay Owls, Rwenzori batis, Willard’s Sooty Boubou, handsome francolin, Shelley’s Crimsonwing, Neumann’s warblers, Purple-breasted sunbirds, Albertine owlet, Regal sunbirds, Rockefeller’s sunbirds, blue-headed sunbirds and many others. BIRD WATCHING IN RWANDA

Volcanoes National Park

In north-western side of Rwanda lies the verdant and heavily vegetated Volcanoes National Park, the home to the endangered Mountain Gorillas as well as the country’s highest point (Mount Karisimbi). This National Park is also a wonderful home to over 178 species of birds including those endemic to the Rwenzori Mountains range and the Albertine Rift region. There are handsome francolins, Purple-breasted sunbirds, Rwenzori batis, Scarlet-tufted sunbirds, strange weavers, Rwenzori nightjars and African Pitta among others.

Lake Kivu

Lake Kivu is not only a place of relaxing, swimming and water sports but also an excellent birding Paradise. This Lake and its surrounding areas are a home to the Brown-throated wattle-eye, Double-tooth barbets, yellow-bellied waxbill, Spot-flanked barbets, pied kingfishers, white-breasted cormorants, Malachite kingfishers and spot-flanked barbets among others. The best birding spots around Lake Kivu are Kinunu, Rubavu, Rusizi and Karongi.

Kigali City

Birding doesn’t only have to be done in National Parks, Forest Reserves or Lakes but can actually be conducted within urban centers and Kigali City is one of the best places for urban birding. This City surprisingly has rivers, Lakes and forests that act as habitats for numerous species of birds. For instance, the Lover’s Lake (Lake Nyarutarama) bordering Kigali Golf Course is where species such as Black cuckoo shrike, white-collared olive backs, Grey crowned cranes, Palmnut vultures, Grey-headed Bush shrike, Narina trogon, Ruppell’s starlings, black-headed weavers, crested barbets and Bat hawks can be spotted.

Marshlands and wetlands

Wetlands and marshlands cover up to 10% of Rwanda’s landscape and are some of the Top Birding Areas in the country. The best wetlands and marshlands for birding are the Akanyaru, Nyabarongo and Rugezi wetlands with species such as Papyrus gonolek, Grauer’s swamp warblers, lesser jacana, grey-crowned cranes, white-backed ducks, Papyrus canary, papyrus yellow warblers, red-chested sunbirds, white-winged swamp warblers, blue-naped mousebirds, white-collared olive backs, African fish eagles, white-backed ducks and many others. BIRD WATCHING IN RWANDA

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