Bird Watching in Rwanda – An Ultimate Experience

When it comes to birding, Rwanda is amongst Africa’s most exciting destinaitons – within this relatively small and compact country, there over 701 bird species of which 27 are Albertine Rift endemics.

Rwanda is among-st Africa’s most exciting destinations when it comes to birding and within this relatively small and compact country, there over 1450 bird species of which 27 are Albertine Rift endemics. Rwanda’s location in the Albertine Rift makes it an ideal and stunning landscape for bird enthusiasts. Bird-watching in Rwanda can appeal to every kind of visitor including nature lovers, researchers, serious birders etc. Bird watching tours in Rwanda are throughout the year with a migrant bird season starting December to February.

About seven Important Birding Areas (IBAs) are in Rwanda including the three National Parks i.e. Volcanoes national park, Akagera national park and Nyungwe forest national park. The other IBAs are at: Rugezi Swamp, Akanyaru, Nyabarongo and Cyamudongo. Highlights include the Red-Faced Barbet, Shoebill Stork, Bennett’s Woodpecker, Papyrus Gonolek and the Miombo Wren-Warblers.

Rwanda’s location in the Albertine Rift makes for an ideal and stunning landscape for bird enthusiasts. Bird-watching in Rwanda can appeal to every level visitor – from the absolute novice (who maybe only visited for the primates) all the way to the most serious of birders, due to the diversity and appeal of certain species. Birding is experienced throughout the year, with the migrant bird season being from December through to February.

bird watching in rwanda

Bird Watching Around Kigali City

Kigali, Rwanda’s major city and capital is the entry point into Rwanda via the Kigali International Airport and therefore offers your first birding opportunities in Rwanda. 

Despite it being the cleanest capital city and main entry point to Rwanda one of the renowned mountain gorilla destinations in the Africa, Kigali is remarkably one of the best bird watching areas that you should consider a must to visit while on safari in Africa. It features several birding sites most of which include the wetlands, woodlands, forest, open grassland.

Birding Spots in the Kigali City

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. Let’s explore them below;

Birding in Nyarutarama Lake

A convenient birding spot in Kigali, Nyarutarama Lake, located near the Kigali Golf Course, has paths around it which offer excellent birdwatching at the lake, providing a good count of water species. Some of the birds you will see here include: Yellow-billed Duck, Squacco Heron, White-faced Whistling Duck, Hottentot Teal, Red-billed Teal, African Spoonbill, Spur-winged Geese, Little Grebe, Common Moorhen, Hadada Ibis, Black Crake, Black Egret, Cater Egret, and Black-headed Heron among others. The vegetation on the fringes of the lake provides many birds such as Black Kite, African Fish Eagle, Pygmy Kingfisher, White-browed Coucal, Grey-capped Warbler, Winding Cisticola, Tawny-flanked Prinia, Paradise Flycatcher, African Hobby, Swamp Flycatcher, etc… A little further to the east of the lake is acacia woodlands that will add to your list with some raptors such as the Mountain Buzzard, and several smaller birds such as Swifts, Martin, Swallow, Sunbirds, etc…

Rwanda-Birding-Review
Bird watching in Rwanda

Bird Watching in Nyabarongo Wetlands

The Nyabarongo Weltands offer a good spot for bird watching in Rwanda. The Nyabarongo wetlands can be approached from many points and a walk along the edges will provide many water birds like Spur-winged Geese, Great White Egret, Cattle Egret, Little Egret, Squacco Heron, African Openbill, Yellow-billed Stork, Grey Heron, Black-headed Heron, Great Swamp Warbler, White-winged Warbler, Long-toed Lapwing, Yellow Wagtail, Common Snipe, African Marsh Harrier, African Jacana, Papyrus Gonolek, Black-headed Gonolek, Goliath Heron.

If you are bird lover, the birding sites around Kigali can be reached within few minutes for instance Nyabarongo wetlands which are 15 minutes’ drive away from Kigali. For the most rewarding birding adventure in Kigali, you will need a binocular and camera and you can contact us to organize an itinerary for you.

Bird watching in Nyungwe Forest

Nyungwe Forest National Park remains one of the largest mountain rain forests in the entire East African region. This thick forest harbors approximately 310 bird species among including the grauer’s swamp warbler, a very rare species that can only be sighted in Rwanda, Burundi, DRC, Uganda and not anywhere else in the world. Other species of birdlife include the great blue turaco, regal sunbird, endemic species like the cape wagtail, African saw-wing, White-necked raven, Rwenzori turaco, handsome francolin among others.

Nyungwe is by far the most popular birding destination in Rwanda, especially being sought out for the numerous Albertine rift endemics; 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.

Bird Watching in Rwanda
Akagera Bird Watching

Bird Watching in Akagera Park

Akagera National Park lies in the northeast province of the Rwanda just within the wetland and savanna with 9 lakes. Akagera is one of the seven prime birding areas of Rwanda harboring about 500 species of birdlife with four endemic species including the red faced barbet, red collared mountain babbler, purple breasted sun bird and the ancient shoebill.

Out of over 525 species, some of the most sought after birds of Akagera are: Red-faced Barbet, Sousa’s Shrike, White-collared Oliveback.

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.

Bird Watching in Volcanoes Park

Commonly known for its huge population of Mountain Gorillas, Volcanoes National Park has long been a prime spot for birders in Rwanda. Some of the bird species found in this park include the Rwenzori turaco, Grauer’s rush warbler – a vulnerable local bird species commonly sighted in the swamps, the handsome francolin, the Archer’s ground robin, the red-faced woodland warbler, the dusky crimson-wing, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, the collared apalis, the Rwenzori batis as well as the strange weaver plus a lot more other.

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.

bird watching in Volcanoes National Park
birding in rugezi swamp

Bird Watching in Rugezi Swamps

Tucked away in a flooded valley near Gicumbi and the Ugandan border, the 100 sqkm Rugezi Swamp is, despite being recognized as both a Ramsar Wetland and Important Bird Area, very rarely visited by tourists, and the reed-and-papyrus marshes here are home to some 43 different bird species, including several endemic to the Albertine rift mountains, such as the endangered Grauer’s Swamp-warbler.

Other threatened or vulnerable species resident here and endemic to the area include the Papyrus Gonolek and Papyrus Yellow Warbler. Most of the swamp is covered in vegetation, but there’s an unexpected and stunningly pretty area of open water at the south end of the marsh called Lake Nyagafunzo, which attracts a compelling variety of herons, pelicans, egrets, and cranes.

When to go for Bird Watching?

Rwanda is birding destination with over 700 species and it has the highest number of Albertine Rift endemics in Africa. The country has got seven birding Areas which include national parks like Akagera, Nyungwe as well as Volcanoes national park.

Do you dare to go for a bird watching tour in Rwanda? Dont worry, it’s all year round activity! Though the period from December to February is the season for the migrant birds and here Rwanda hosts variety of pelearactic and wintering migrants. The birding set up like the trails, accommodation and the roads lead to the birding spots that have been developed. There are also professional birding guides that have been trained and are available to lead the birding tours in Rwanda.

birdwatching-in-rwanda