Birdwatching in Rwanda – where to go birding in Rwanda and tours
Birdwatching in Rwanda is very rewarding with a massive a bird list of over 750 species! Being a small country with an area cover of just 26,338 square kilometers, Rwanda contains the highest concentration of birds per square kilometer in Africa. Birding in Rwanda will reward you with a lot of bird species by covering a small area or spending a short time out on the birding trail. There is also easy access and views to the rare and hard-to-spot bird species.
The habitats are remarkably diverse and include, majorly, the Albertine Rift montane forests in the western region, and the grassland plains and swamps along the eastern border. There are also numerous swamps, rivers, wetlands, and lakes scattered through the grassy hills of the central region and across Rwanda.
Though there are no birds endemic exclusively to Rwanda, it accounts for most of the Albertine Rift Endemic bird species (44), 27 of which are found in Nyungwe Forest alone.
The breathtaking landscape of grassy hills and misty volcanoes inhabited by such rare and amazing wildlife such as the endangered Mountain Gorillas and several primates make Rwanda ideal for the birding enthusiasts.
When to go birding in Rwanda?
All year round! However the period from December to February is the migrant bird season during which Rwanda hosts lots of Wintering and Pelearactic migrants.
Birding infrastructure such as trails, accommodation and roads leading to the birding spots have been developed. Professional bird guides have been trained and are available to lead birding tours in Rwanda. In fact many of the prominent birding spots in Rwanda have knowledgeable site guides.
Where to go birding in Rwanda
Birding around Kigali City
Kigali is the entry point into Rwanda via the Kigali International Airport and therefore offers your first birding activity in Rwanda. There are a number of renowned birding spots within the city that for the visiting new birders provides a good introduction to some local birds of Rwanda. More about birding in Kigali, spots and birds
The Albertine Eco-region – the Albertine rift endemics
The Albertine region comprises of a chain of mountains that were formed through the upliftment and volcanic activity. It stretches across the western half of Rwanda, and also covers five other countries. The Albertine is regarded as the center of the Afromontane habitat and is a belt of exceptional faunal and floral endemism including over 40 bird species, 34 mammals, 117 butterflies, 34 amphibians, and 16 reptiles. Rwanda has at least 27 Albertine Rift endemics.. Here is the list of the Albertine Rift endemics in Rwanda and the places you to look find them
Volcanoes National Park
The Volcanoes National Park protects Rwanda’s part of the Virunga mountain range, and includes five volcanoes namely Mountains Muhavura, Gahinga, Sabinyo, Bisoke, and Karisimbi. The Volcanoes National Park is famous for the Mountain Gorillas and Golden Monkeys and is mostly visited for treks to observe these endangered and endemic primates and hikes to the volcanoes. But the park boasts of about 165 bird species, 17 endemic to the area. It is must visit for birding to catch the rare species and also enjoy the breathtaking Virunga scenery and a chance to encounter the Gorillas.
Nyungwe National Park
Nyungwe National Park is a tropical mountain rainforest and lies on the south-western slopes of the highland region that forms the great divide between the Congo and Nile drainage systems. The park protects the region’s largest montane rainforest and is home to 310 species of bird.
Nyungwe is by far the most popular birding destination in Rwanda, especially being sought out for the numerous Albertine rift endemics; 27 to be found here.
Some of Nyungwe’s specials are: Regal Sunbird, Red-collared Babbler, Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Spurfowl, Rwenzori Batis, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler, Blue-headed Sunbird, Albertine Owlet.
Akagera National Park
The Akagera National Park lies in the north east of the Rwanda, outside the high rising Albertine belt. It covers a chunk of savannah. A mix of rolling grassland interspersed with broad-leafed and acacia woodland, these lower-lying lands are dissected by the Akagera River.
Out of over 525 species, some of the most sought after birds of Akagera are: Red-faced Barbet, Sousa’s Shrike, White-collared Oliveback, Ruaha Chat.
The park has a mosaic of wetlands and lakes, along the course of the Akagera River and the eastern boundary. Some of the sought after species in the wetland areas are: Carruther’s Cisticola, Papyrus Canary, Papyrus Gonolek and the Shoebill.
Wetlands and Marshes
Rwanda’s wetlands and marshes cover 10% of the country. The main protected ones include Rugezi, Akanyaru and Nyabarongo Wetlands where many waders and water species can be observed.