Birding in Akagera, Birdwatching Safari Tours in Rwanda

Bird species in Akagera National Park

This national park is so good for birding and has over 480 species that are attracted by its diverse habitant. The savannah birds as well as the raptors are so predominant and many endemic species like the red faced barbet that are often seen. The short boat tours are also available on the akagera’s lakes and these will give you an opportunity of getting close to the many water birds that include; the marabou stork, the African fish eagle, the open billed stork, herons, cormorants, as well as the egrets. In case you are lucky, you can view the shoebill stork. This park is also a good spot for bird watching herds with over 525 species plus large number of the migrant birds. There is also the elusive shoebill stork that can be spotted. This park is also a great spot for the endangered and the exquisite papyrus Ganolex.

In case you are into birding, this is a birding paradise and the birding safaris are so popular amongst are the visitors to this park. You will also be amazed by the huge variety and abundance of species. Just from the huge concentrstion of waterfowl to the myiad of the savannah species, there is also never a dull moment with over 500 bird species that are recorded with in Akagera. If you are a bird lover, this is a lovely spot for you to check out many endemic species as well as the rare gems like the near threatened papyrus Gonolex that are restricted to the papyrus swamps. The other species also include; the black headed ganolex, the lilac breasted roller, the heuglin’s roin chat, the ross’s turaco , the created barbet, swamp flycatcher, as well as the red faced barbet.

Akagera is also one of the best birding areas of the world with the highest number of species per unit area. You should also not miss visiting akagera national park. I also recommend it to many birders.the southern area has got variety of birds and butterflies, and its more rewarding for birding that the northern side which is good for the larger animals.

After Nyungwe, Akagera National Park is the most significant ornithological site within Rwanda. They offer bird watching safaris in the Morning and evening along the game tracks within Akagera National Park offering birdwatchers a chance to see a variety of savanna related bird species. This park is renowned for its great profusion of water birds across the East African region as well as among the unique places to see papyrus endemics. Among the common species you will see on your safari are; the beautiful lilac-breasted roller, crested barbet, black headed gonalek, ross’s turaco, heuglin’s robin-chat as well as the grey hornbill among others.

More than 525 species are recorded here, revealing the extremely great diversity of birds including: 44 raptor species, Balaeniceps rex and several Palearctic migrants including Glareola nordmanni, Falco naumanni plus Gallinago media.

This park symbolizes the northern maximum value of distribution of several of Zambezian biome species, like the Lanius souzae, Cisticola angusticauda plus Myrmecocichla arnotti. Additionally, one of the Guinea Congo Forests biome species and 7 of the Afrotropical Highlands biome can all be seen here.

nonetheless, all this information has to be reviewed especially after the recent decrease in size of this park, which implies that a number of species may nolonger be found here including a number of forest species like Camaroptera chloronota and Cossypha cyanocampter plus montane forests (like Cisticola chubbi and Illadopsis pyrrhoptera).

Akagera National Park is found off the beaten track, near Rwanda’s border with Tanzania and coveres a total expanse of 1085 square kilometers of low altitude grasslands plus woodlands. It is scattered with various swamps plus lakes which follow the twisting course of River Akagera and mountain ranges found next to it. Having a great diversity of habitats, Akagera National Park is a really beautiful park and supports over 12 antelope species including the very small oribi, the good-looking chestnut-coated impala, topi (also referred to as tsessebe in Southern Africa) and the Cape eland the world’s largest antelope.

TOP BIRDS OF RWANDA

Rich in biodiversity with jaw-dropping landscapes, Akagera National Park is one of Africa’s best kept secrets. With lions reintroduced in 2015 and plans for the return of highly endangered black rhino, the Rwandan government are working hard at bringing back the area’s big-five status.

Ornithologists and bird enthusiasts have long known about Rwanda’s abundance of birds. The country boasts 728 species, with at least 525 of those residing in and around the lakes, woodlands, and savannas of Akagera.

Of that astounding number, there are a wide-variety of birds that come in all different colours, shapes, and sizes.  In this article, I have highlighted some of the most common species you might see on a one-day safari in Akagera. There are certainly other species -not least the highly elusive and prehistoric looking shoebill – that are equally if not more impressive than those on this list. But I’ve attempted to compile a guide to the species that the average tourist safari-goer has a 50% or greater chance of spotting.

African Fish Eagle

With its contrasting white/brown plumage, the African Fish Eagle is similar in appearance to the American Bald Eagle. This spectacular and aggressive fishing bird is perhaps the most commonly spotted eagle in Africa . The chances of observing this beautiful raptor are very high and expect to find pairs nesting close to water sources. They also have a very distinct call.

Black-headed Weaver

Of all the birds on this list, the Black-headed Weaver is the one species you’re guaranteed to see. That’s because you’ll find many of these birds nesting in the trees in and around the visitor centre (where you will need to sign-in before entering the main park). Easily identified by their bright yellow colour, big red eyes, and black hood.

Lilac-breasted Roller

One of Akagera’s most vibrantly coloured birds, the Lilac-breasted Roller will not go unnoticed. Despite its name, the Lilac-breasted Roller is most identifiable for the electric blue plumage it possesses on its under parts. Bold and beautiful, they drop onto ground prey from prominent perches such as roadside poles. This species, like all rollers, is renowned for its rolling flight display.

African Jacana

Widespread and common residents of freshwaterponds and lakes, the African Jacana is a long-legged, long-toed waterbird which walks and feeds on floating vegetation, especially water-lilies. Also known as the “Jesus Bird” for its seeming ability to walk on water, the African Jacana has a striking chestnut and white plumage with a powder-blue bill and frontal shield.

White-browed Coucal

Bulky, with a dark crown and face separated by a long white eyebrow with pale streaking extending onto a brown-rufous back. Often found around water in a wide range of rank vegetation, thickets, bushed and wooded grassland. A conspicuous bird and a cuckoo relative (though non-parasitic), the White-browed Coucal also has a variety of harsh kak notes.

Fork-tailed Drongo

A small and inconspicuous glossy-black bird with bright orange eyes. Best distinguished for its forked tail, this species of drongo is common and widespread at forest edge, open-wooded country, and semi-arid bush. As featured in David Attenborough’s Africa series, the Fork-tailed Drongo has been made famous for its mischievous ability to mimic other animals including large birds of prey and meerkats.

Saddle-billed Stork

In contrast to the other stork on this list, one of the more aesthetically pleasing birds. The Saddle-billed Stork is a very large black and white wader with a long tri-coloured bill. The yellow part of the bill resembles a saddle, hence the name. Often solitary but sometimes found in pairs, this beautiful bird can be found mostly around Akagera’s wetlands.

African Grey Hornbill

The most commonly spotted of all the hornbill family in Akagera. Pairs and groups are widespread and common residents in woodland, bushed and wooded grassland. Like most hornbill species, they exhibit dramatic courtship displays in which they rock on perches, point their bills skywards, and flick open their wings. Females have a purplish-red tip to their long curved bill.

Long-crested Eagle

Possibly the second most commonly spotted eagle in Akagera (after the African Fish Eagle), this bird is easily identified for its bright yellow eyes and long crest of feathers, which often wave around in the wind. You’ll most likely spot the Long-crested Eagle perched at the top of roadside poles and trees, waiting to swoop on unsuspecting rodents.

White-faced Whistling Duck

A long-legged, long-necked duck that is well-named since they frequently attract attention with their loud far-carrying whistling. They appear largely dark in flight but it is easy to spot the chestnut coloured neck and distinct white face at a closer glance. The White-faced Whistling Duck is a gregarious species with small to large flocks gathering around Akagera’s great lakes.

Woodland Kingfisher

A beautiful little bird with dove-grey, black, and bright blue plumage and a striking red and black bill. Contrary to the latter part of its name, the Woodland Kingfisher is often found well away from water, frequenting wooded areas where it preys upon insects, lizards, and, on occasion, smaller birds. Singles and pairs are widespread and common.

Palm-nut Vulture

Along with the African Fish Eagle and Osprey, the Palm-nut Vulture is one of three fish-eating raptors that can be found in close proximity to Akagera’s lakes. Very different in shape to other vulture species with a bold black and white plumage, it will often perch on tree branches with a hunched appearance. They have long bills for fishing and a large area of bare-pinkish skin around the eyes.

Cattle Egret

Not everyone’s favourite but an interesting bird nonetheless. A short-legged heron with mostly white plumage with a buff-orange wash on the head, back and breast. The Cattle Egret is a classic game-hugging bird that is often seen hunting for small animals flushed out of the ground by larger mammals including elephant, hippopotamus, and buffalo. It is not uncommon to see one of these birds perched upon their symbiotic companions.

Little Bee-eater

Pretty little birds with mostly green plumage and a yellow throat. Little Bee-eaters have a short, narrow blue stripe just above the black eyemask and again over the throat patch. When perched, they sit in a fairly upright position with slowly wagging tail. They prey mostly on insects, snapping them up with an audible click. Pairs or family groups are common in bushed and wooded grassland.

Marabou Stork

Enormous stork and commonly thought of as the ugliest bird species not just in Rwanda, or Africa even, but the world! They’re easily identified for their naked pink-reddish head and neck with scabby black spots. The Marabou Stork is massive in flight with one of the largest wingspans of all birds.

Grey-crowned Crane

An attractive and very conspicuous bird, the Grey Crowned Crane is the national animal of Uganda. This species is mostly grey with dark-chestnut, black and white wings, but is most notable for the bristly golden crown on its head. While this large crane will range well away from wetter areas to feed, the best chances of observing this impressive bird are around lakes and inundated grasslands.

Helmeted Guineafowl

The Helmeted Guineafowl is a distinctive spotted gamebird easily identified by an upright bony casque on top of the head with electric blue face and red-tipped wattles. This comical species has been known to stop traffic, with its stubbornness over making way for vehicles. Commonly spotted on the ground and in large flocks, they frequent a wide range of grassland, bush country and woodland.

Bare-faced Go-away Bird

These charismatic birds are the open country relatives of the vibrant turacos. The Bare-faced Go-away-bird is so named for its loud onomatopoeic calls. Quite slender with black face, white neck and breast and a tall grey crest, they are commonly found in pairs and often confide in open woodland and bush country.

Goliath Heron

At 152cm (60″) high, this is the world’s largest heron and is a common resident of Akagera. Aside from its massive size, this leggy bird is easily recognizable for its spear like bill and warm chestnut head and hindneck. Singles and rarely small groups are widespread. Despite their size, they can remain relatively unnoticed to the inattentive eye.

Spur-winged Goose

Spur-winged Geese frequent mostly around freshwater sources and are easily distinguished by size and plumage. A large long-necked goose but not particularly attractive, with a bare warty red face. In their slow and laboured flight, they display a long white bar along the leading edge on the wing. Their flight call is a repeated variably rapid double wheezy note, almost like a hiccup.

 

Other commonly spotted species:

  • African Darter
  • African Wattled Lapwing
  • Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
  • Common Squacco Heron
  • Crowned Lapwing
  • Eastern Grey Plantain-eater
  • Great Egret
  • Grey-backed Fiscal
  • Hamerkop
  • Lappet-faced Vulture
  • Little Egret
  • Long-tailed Cormorant
  • Osprey
  • Pin-tailed Whydah
  • Red-billed Firefinch
  • White-backed Vulture

Top Birding Companies in Rwanda

  1. Intore Expeditions
  2. Rwanda Birding