Rwanda’s location in the Albertine Rift and its dense forests and mountains create a unique and remarkable environment for the ecotourist to enjoy. Though small, it has a bird list of over 700 species and supports the second highest number of Albertine Rift endemics than any other country. Rwanda has seven Important Birding Areas (IBAs) including the three National Parks—Volcanoes, Akagera and Nyungwe, Rugezi Swamp, Akanyaru, Nyabarongo and Cyamudongo.
The wetlands and lakes of Akagera National Park are home to the elusive Shoebill stork, and is one of the easiest sites in the region where it can be seen. In addition, Akagera 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-Warblers. The existing lodge at Akagera is being renovated, but there are plenty of camp sites to stay at while exploring the park. It is a rewarding trip for visiting birders, who will find a supporting cast of large mammals, including hippo, elephant and giraffe.
In the southwest Nyungwe National Park is a vast tract of virgin forest, one of the largest uncut natural forest reserves remaining in Africa and home to more than 300 species of birds, 27 of which are regional endemics. Much of the forest is unexplored, with access being extremely difficult, because of the steep high hills and deep valleys. However, an excellent winding tarmac road bisects the forest, following the crest of themountains.
This road is one of the few places in the world that allows the visitor to look directly into and even down on the rainforest canopy. Along this road you 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, Grauer’s Rush, Neumann’s and Grauer’s Warbles, Masked Mountain Apalis, Stripe-breasted Tit and Strange Weaver, and a full range of Rwenzori double-collared, purple-throated, blue-headed and regal Sunbirds. A speciality is the 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 the Congo Peacock (found only 70km distant in the DR Congo) could exist in the remote dense forest!
There are also good forest tracks for birding based around the Gisakura Guesthouse and the RDB Tourism & Conservation Campsite at Uwinka, where some of the more skulking species can be seen such as the Red-throated Alethe, Archer’s Robin-chat, Kivu Ground Thrush, Collared Apalis, and Shelley’s and Dusky Crimsonwing.
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 there might be a possibility to see the Congo Bay-owl.
At the Nyarutarama Lake near the Golf Course in Kigali one can spot the African Reed Warbler and Great Sedge Warbler, the Winding Cisticola as well as the Common Waxbill, Grey-backed Fiscal, Tropical Boubou, Red-rumped and Mosque Swallows, African Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Great White Pelican, Common Moorhens, Grosbeak Weaver, Grey Heron, Yellow-backed (Black-headed) Weavers, and the Pied Kingfisher. When it comes to birding in Rwanda there are so many more birds to discover over the country’s one thousand hills. Ranging from the common to the rare they are a delight to the eye.