Bird Watching in Rwanda : Rwanda is a birder’s haven and arguably the best African Montane Birding on the African Continent with over 703 species including 29 Albertine Rift Endemics hosted in the diverse habitats. Rwanda is the Best African Montane Birding area and this is attributed to the great road network, safety and security and diversity of habitats.
Rwanda’s resident species are Albertine Rift Endemic and several Lake Victoria Basin Endemics which are on the top list, bird watching in Rwanda and most birders focus more of their attention on Nyungwe national park and Akagera national park which are listed among the best birding sites in Rwanda. However, good birding sites in Rwanda are found across the country and even close to Kigali and they include
NYUNGWE NATIONAL PARK
Nyungwe national park is one of the most famous national parks in Rwanda and an excellent spot for bird watching (Rwanda birding safaris), the park is a tropical montane rainforests and one of the oldest in Africa, probably the best preserved montane rainforest in Central Africa.
Nyungwe national park also known as Nyungwe Forest national park is located in southwestern Rwanda on the border of Rwanda with Burundi, where it is contiguous with the Kibira national park to the south and Lake Kivi and the Democratic Republic of Congo the West. Nyungwe Forest is located in the watershed between the basin of the River Congo to the west and the basin of the River Nile to the East, the forest also has one of the branches of the Nile sources.
Nyungwe national park covering an area of approximately 970 square kilometers is a home to approximately 322 bird species as well as 13 species of primate and numerous endemic plant species, the park is star attraction is the Red-collared Babbler and is the only safe place in Rwanda to see this stunning bird. Other bird specialties in Nyungwe national park include Rwenzori Turaco, Handsome Francolin, Rwenzori Nightjar, Grauer’s Warbler, Regal, Blue-headed and Purple Breasted Sunbirds, Grauer’s Swamp Warbler and Neumann’s Warbler which can easily be seen from a well-maintained network of trails with a help of an expert bird guides, Bird Watching in Rwanda .
Other birds you will get to see in Nyungwe national park include Congo Bay Owl, Albertine Owlet and Shelley’s Crimson wing, Rockefeller’s Sunbird most especially during the Night walks on which you will also see the park’s elusive nocturnal species.
AKAGERA NATIONAL PARK
Akagera national park is central Africa’s largest protected wetland and the last remaining refuge for savannah-adapted species in Rwanda, the park is also the only savannah park in Rwanda with its rolling hills, lakes, wetland and woodlands. Akagera national park covering an area of 1,122 square kilometers is located along the international border of Rwanda and Tanzania, the park is a home to traditional African Big 5 and diversity of birds recorded to be over 490 bird species this offering a comparable experience to others in the religion.
In Akagera national park there is a range of restricted Red-faced barbet which is the most-after bird and is easy to find especially around Akagera game lodge and Muyumbu campsite. The park is also a home to a range of restricted species and highlights including Northern Brown-throated Weaver; Papyrus Gonolek; White-Winged Swamp Warbler; Carruthers’s Cisticola, White-collared Oliveback, and Grey-crowned Cranes. Other species include the shoe bill, good populations of raptors and large number of raptors.
While on a Rwanda birding trip in Akagera national park, a boat trip on Lake Ihema offers great views of many water bird species and a good chance to see the African Finfoot which can also be seen from the deck at the Ruzizi Tented Lodge. A night game drive in Akagera national park is an opportunity to observe several nocturnal bird species such as Verreaux’s Eagle Owl and several Nightjar species.
VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
Volcanoes national park is the most famous national park in Rwanda known for mountain gorillas, the park is also offers good birding potential with over 200bird species known to be in the area. Volcanoes national park is located the far northwest corner of Rwanda protecting the forested slopes of the magnificent Virunga mountain range. Viringa national park is named after the chain of dormant volcanoes making up the Virunga Massif.
Volcanoes national park is an excellent birding paradise protecting over 200 bird species and among these are 17 Albertine Rift Endemics, these species are similar to Nyungwe, however the Scarlet-Tufted Sunbird is only found in Volcanoes national park in Rwanda and trekking to the summit of Mount Bisoke offers the best option to see these birds.
Other birds in Volcanoes national park include francolin, Rwenzori turaco and Rwenzori batis, Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, strange weaver and Archer’s robin-chat, White-collared Oliveback, African Swamphen, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon, Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Olive-bellied, Red-chested Sunbird and Bronzy Sunbirds, African Goshawk, Palm Nut Vulture, Crested Barbet, Grey-backed Fiscal, African Green Broadbill, Lagden’s Bush-shrike, and Kivu Ground Thrush among others.
GISHWATI – MUKURA NATIONAL PARK
Gishwati-Mukura national park is a fourth national park in Rwanda made up of 2 separate rates, the large Gishwati and small Mukura which form a total of 34 square kilometers plus a buffer zone. The forests are located in west Rwanda in the mountains above Lake Kivu and sits on the ridge which divides the Congo and Nile water catchment areas along the incredibly diverse Albertine Rift in the west region of the country.
Gishwati Forest hold a good birdlife recorded to be approximately 232 species and Mukura forest holds approximately 163 species including several Albertine Rift Endemic and forest specialists. These birds include Regal Sunbird, Grauer’s swamp warbler, Ruwenzori Batis, Woodhoopoe, Purple-breasted Sunbird, Martial Eagle, Strange weave, Grey Crowned Crane, Dusky Crimsonwing, Ruwenzori Turaco, Mountain Yellow Warblers, Red-throated Alethe among others.
Lake Kivu is one of the African Great Lake lieing on the border between Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda and in the Albertine Rift, the western branch of the East Africa Rift. Lake Kivu is one stop site for bird watching safaris in Rwanda supporting a huge population of bird life including White-breasted Cormorants, Pied Kingfishers and Osprey hosted in the lake, the lake shore hosts Rwanda’s more common terrestrial special and hotel gardens in Karongo, Ribavu and Rusizi offering interesting birding experience. Regular birds in this region include Double-tooth Barbet, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Familiar Chat, Brown-throated Wattle-eye and Spot-flanked Barbet.
Rwanda’s 10% is covered by the wetlands including Rugezi, Akanyaru Wetlands and Nyabarongo Wetlands which have been declared Important Bird Areas by Birdlife International.
Rugezi Marsh – is the only RAMSAR Site in Rwanda located in northwest Rwanda near Gicumbi, the wetland is a home to a good population of Grauer’s Swamp. The swamp also protects and supports Grey-crowned cranes, Papyrus Canary and Papyrus Yellow Warbler among others. At the sound of end of the marsh, there is an area of open water called Kaje Nyagafunzo , a boat ride on the lake is a great experience for seeing some of the common waterbirds in Rwanda including White-backed Duck and Lesser Jacana.
The wetlands and Lakes of Bugesera District – These wetlands and lakes are found to the south-east of Kigali City the capital of Rwanda, these are probably some of the most easily accessible birding areas in Rwanda and a habitat for adversity of birds recorded to be over 415 species including Papyrus Gonolek, Papyrus Canary, White-winged Swamp Warbler, White-collared Oliveback, Lesser Jacana, and White-backed Duck Red-chested Sunbird, Palm Nut Vulture, Blue-naped Mousebird, African Fish Eagle, among others. There are also numerous water birds and savannah species.
Kigali city the capital city of Rwanda is a great Urban Birding site with a number of hotel gardens holding interesting bird species and Nyarutarama Lake or Lover’s Lake situated at the edge of the Kigali gof course. Birds species found in Kigali city include White-collared Oliveback, African Swamphen, Grey-headed Bushshrike, Bat Hawk, Narina Trogon, Lesser Honeyguide, Brown-backed Honeybird, Black Cuckoo-Shrike, Olive-bellied, Red-chested Sunbird and Bronzy Sunbirds, African Goshawk, Palm Nut Vulture, Crested Barbet, Grey-backed Fiscal, Rüppell’s Starling and Black-headed Weaver among others.
In Umusambi village, birders get close up views of the resecued Grey-crowned cranes. In this village over 100 species of birds are hosted.
The Rwanda Environment Management Authority is developing a park at the edge of Kigali city which will become a good place for urban birding once completed. At the edge of the city, there are wetlands which are good sites for urban birding in Kigali city.