First saw them in July and they seem to have no plan to leave soon, as told by Simon Musasizi.
It felt like a soft drizzle, popping onto the roof tops. The chirping birds and whooping ducks woke me up. It was 6:30am on a Friday morning. The sun had risen, the rays penetrating through the curtains. The urge to get up and peep outside was strong. Africa’s largest lake and the world’s third largest fresh water body, Victoria, was playing host to an array of birds.
From the balcony of my Victoria Forest Resort room, I could see several birds by the shoreline of Lutoboka landing site, one of the spots on Ssese Islands with the highest concentration of birds. According to the 2006 Nature Uganda report, Surveillance of Migratory Birds in Uganda, of the 28 sites, four of them were in Ssese Island. These include: Kitobo Island (6,667 birds), Lutoboka landing site (566 birds), Banda Island (521 birds), and Nsherewe (467 birds).
A total of 92,457 individual birds, belonging to 104 species, were recorded in all the sites spread across the country. Musambwa Islands (in Rakai) recorded the highest number of birds with 36,167 followed by Lutembe Bay (in Entebbe) with 16,979.
The sites chosen were those believed to attract migratory birds. Migratory birds in Uganda are linked to the Mediterranean flyway mainly using the Nile Basin for the movements and winter in Asia, Eastern Europe and Siberia regions. According to Sekabira Edrine Simon, a guide and wildlife keeper with Ssese Islands Wildlife Centre, 2019 saw the Island attract a number of bird species never seen before. Among them the Angola Bee Eaters, Sinamoni Bee Eaters and the Little Bee Eaters.
“I started seeing them in July and August and they are still here. This wasn’t the case before,” Sekabira says. In September 2019, Sekabira also sighted three Greater Flamingos. These had never been sighted on the Island before. “I think they might have lost their way because they were young and just three, yet Greater Flamingos usually fly in groups,” Sekabira said.
Apart from that, the Great Blue Turacco were also sighted on Bugala Island during the months of September, October and November. “It was a great surprise to everyone because we had never seen them on the Island,” Sekabira said. The saddle-billed storks, which usually come around, were also sighted in August and September. The common birds of the Island include: Ross’s Turaco, African Grey Parrots, Hamerkop, Black-And-White-Casqued Hornbill, Crowned Hornbill, Eastern Plantain-Eater, White-Browed Robin-Chat, African Fish Eagle and so on.
Bird watching is one of the key tourist activities in Uganda, because of her diverse bird species. With 1,068 species of birds, Uganda is home to now 50% of Africa’s bird species and 11% of the world. Over 20% of these species are known to be migrants, Palearctic or intra -African migrant species. Migrants are comprised of both water birds and non-water birds such as Forest or Grassland species (Wilson 1995). It is reported that from the month of September, Uganda receives over 1,000,000 birds, especially the White-Winged Black Terns, which migrate from chilly winter in Europe and other North American regions. These birds return in March and April, the best time to see them in Uganda.
For the past five years, Ugandan ornithologists and scientists have discovered 11 new bird species, some of which are endemic to Uganda. Among them are: Crested Barbet (Trachyphonus Vaillantii); first sighted in Lake Mburo National Park in 2016. The Red Fronted Parrot (Poicephalus Guglielmi tiny cisticola); was sighted in Murchison falls National park, while the Purple Grenadier (Uragaethus Ianthinogaster) and Capped Cordon bleu (Uragaethus Cynocepharus); were sited in Karamoja region in north-Eastern Uganda in 2016. The others are: Blue Cuckoo Shrike (Coracina Azurea), the Blue-Headed Bee Eater (Merops Muelleri), and Eurasian Sparrow Hawk (Accipiter), all of which were sighted in Kabwoya wildlife reserve in Hoima in 2017. The Black Collared Barbet (Lybius torquatus) was discovered in 2018 in the swampy areas of Lake Mburo National Park.
This year, birders confirmed seeing another new bird–the Golden-Naped-Weaver. It was originally known to be endemic to neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo. This bird has been on and off. It was first sighted by Malcom Wilson in 2006, and five years later, it was again sighted by renowned Ugandan bird guide, Herbert Byaruhanga.
“We must continue training more bird guides,” Byaruhanga says. “We have added more birds on our national list in the last five years.”
One of the most popular and rare birds that brings birders to Uganda is the Shoebill, which is endemic to Africa alone. It attracts flocks of Tourists to Uganda and got its name due to its large bill that looks like a shape of a shoe. cap: The African Fish Eagle belongs to the Haliaeetus genus of sea eagles family.