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3 Best Bird Watching Destinations in Rwanda

Bird watching in Rwanda’s fantastic destinations is a unique adventure for birding enthusiastic, offering a diverse range of habitats that support a rich avian biodiversity. The country’s varied landscapes, including dense rainforests, wetlands, and savannahs, provide habitat for numerous bird species, including some rare and endemic ones. Here are some key locations and bird watching tips for enthusiasts visiting Rwanda.

Rwanda is famous for its numerous bird species. The Albertine Rift Valley passes through western Rwanda. This rift gives way to a deep valley surrounded by high mountains, some of which are amongst the highest in Africa. The unique landscape and climate of the Albertine Rift in Rwanda is the cause of the 29 Albertine Rift Endemic bird species which only live here. The diverse habitats of the region is what is behind Rwanda as the best montane birding in Africa.

Bird watching destinations in Rwanda

Bird watching safaris in Rwanda
Bird watching safari in Nyungwe National park

 Bird watching in Nyungwe National Park

Habitat: Montane rainforest.

Nyungwe national Park is one of the last and largest remaining montane forest in Eastern Africa and home to over 300 bird species with 16 endemic species, 27 Albertine rift endemics and 121 forest species including;

Birds of Nyungwe National park

Great Blue Turaco

Ruwenzori Turaco

Malachite kingfisher

African pygmy kingfisher

Gray-headed kingfisher

Woodland kingfisher

Giant kingfisher

Pied kingfisher

Little bee-eater

Blue-breasted bee-eater

Cinnamon-chested bee-eater

White-throated bee-eater

European bee-eater

Broad-billed roller

Gray-throated barbet

Western tinkerbird

Yellow-rumped tinkerbird

Handsome Spurfowl

Scaly Spurfowl

Little Grebe

Speckled Pigeon

Afep Pigeon

Rameron Pigeon

Lemon Dove

Dusky Turtle-Dove

Red-eyed Dove

Ring-necked Dove

Laughing Dove

Emerald-spotted Wood-Dove

Blue-spotted Wood-Dove

Tambourine Dove

Birdwatchers can explore the park’s trails and canopy walkway for unique sightings.

Check full birding checklist of Nyungwe national park. (link to birds of Nyungwe national park)

Bird watching  in Akagera National Park

Habitat: Savannah, wetlands, and lakes.

Akagera National Park in Rwanda is a diverse and scenic location for bird watching, offering a variety of habitats that attract a wide range of bird species.

Akagera national park is a birding paradise with over 480 species of birds  that are attracted by its diverse habitant.

The park is known for its savannah landscapes, lakes, and wetlands, providing a home for both resident and migratory birds.

Consider taking a boat safari on Lake Ihema to get closer to water birds and observe their behavior along the shores.

Many bird species can be spotted during game drives. Pay attention to the trees, especially those near water sources, for perched birds.

Birds of Akagera National park

White-faced Whistling-Duck

Fulvous Whistling-Duck

White-backed Duck

Knob-billed Duck

Egyptian Goose

Spur-winged Goose

African Pygmy-Goose

Blue-billed Teal

Yellow-billed Duck

Red-billed Duck

Tambourine Dove

Namaqua Dove

African Green-Pigeon

Denham’s Bustard

Black-bellied Bustard

White-crested Turaco

Rare/Accidental

Purple-crested Turaco

Ross’s Turaco

Bare-faced Go-away-bird

Eastern Plantain-eater

Blue-headed Coucal

White-browed Coucal

Black Coucal

African Spoonbill

Secretarybird

Rare/Accidental

Osprey

Black-winged Kite

African Harrier-Hawk

Palm-nut Vulture

Rare/Accidental

European Honey-buzzard

African Cuckoo-Hawk

White-headed Vulture

Lappet-faced Vulture

Hooded Vulture

White-backed Vulture

Check full birding checklist of Akagera national park. (link to birds of Akagera national park)

Bird watching in Volcanoes National Park

Habitat: Bamboo and Afro-alpine zones.

While Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda is primarily renowned for its iconic mountain gorilla trekking experiences, the park also offers opportunities for bird watching. The lush and diverse vegetation, combined with the high-altitude habitats, make it an excellent location for spotting various bird species.

The park holds a rich avifauna which includes many of the Albertine Rift endemics. Three globally threatened species namely; Lagden’s Bush-shrike, African Green Broadbill, and Kivu Ground Thrush. Besides, 17 of the 25 species of the Albertine Rift Mountains Endemic Bird Area and 53 of the 74 species of the Afrotropical Highlands biome that occur in Rwanda have been recorded at the site.

Birds of Volcanoes national park Rwanda

Blue-headed Coucal

Klaas’s Cuckoo

African Emerald Cuckoo

Diederick Cuckoo

Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo

Red-chested Cuckoo

Black Crake

Red-knobbed Coot

Grey Crowned Crane

Ruwenzori Turaco

Black-billed Turaco

Marabou

Yellow-billed Stork

Gray-hooded Gull

White-winged Tern

Black-winged Kite

African Harrier Hawk

White-headed Vulture

Hooded Vulture

Crowned Eagle

Martial Eagle

Long-crested Eagle

Tawny Eagle

Little Sparrowhawk

vambo Sparrowhawk

Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk

Black Sparrowhawk

Black Kite

Peregrine Falcon

Brown-necked Parrot

Black Cuckooshrike

Ruwenzori Batis

Chinspot Batis

Lagden’s Bush-shrike

Northern Puffback

Brown-crowned Tchagra

Mountain Sooty Boubou

Albertine Sooty Boubou

Lühder’s Bush-shrike

Tropical Boubou

Doherty’s Bush-shrike

Mackinnon’s Shrike

Northern Fiscal

White-necked Raven

Pied Crow

African Paradise-flycatcher

Collared Sunbird

What to Pack for Bird Watching safaris in Rwanda

When packing for bird watching in Rwanda, you’ll want to make sure you have the essentials to fully enjoy your experience. Here’s a checklist to guide you:

  1. A pair of Binoculars: Invest in a good pair of binoculars. Opt for ones with a magnification of at least 8x to 10x and a wide field of view for better bird spotting.
  2. Field Guide: Bring a field guide specific to the birds of Rwanda or East Africa. This will help you identify the different species you encounter. We recommend a Birds of East Africa by Helm Field guides.
  3. Camera with Telephoto Lens: Capture the beauty of Rwanda’s avifauna with a camera equipped with a telephoto lens. This will allow you to photograph birds from a distance without disturbing them.
  4. Appropriate Clothing: Rwanda’s climate can vary, but generally, lightweight, breathable clothing in earthy tones is recommended. Long-sleeved shirts and pants can protect you from sunburn and insect bites. Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses for sun protection.
  5. Sturdy Footwear: Comfortable, waterproof hiking boots or walking shoes are essential, especially if you’ll be trekking through different habitats.
  6. Rain Gear: Rwanda can experience sudden rain showers, so pack a lightweight waterproof jacket or poncho to stay dry.
  7. Insect Repellent: Protect yourself from mosquitoes and other biting insects by packing insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin.
  8. Sunscreen: Even on overcast days, UV rays can still penetrate through the clouds. Pack a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF to protect your skin.
  9. Water and Snacks: Stay hydrated during your birding excursions by bringing along a refillable water bottle and energy-boosting snacks like trail mix or energy bars.
  10. First Aid Kit: Include basic first aid supplies like adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any personal medications you may need.
  11. Backpack: Carry all your essentials in a comfortable, lightweight backpack that’s easy to carry during hikes.
  12. Notebook and Pen: Keep track of the birds you observe by jotting down notes in a waterproof notebook.
  13. Flashlight or Headlamp: If you plan to go birding at dawn or dusk, a flashlight or headlamp will help you navigate in low light conditions.
  14. Bird Call App or Whistle: Some birders use bird call apps or whistles to attract birds for better viewing, though this should be done responsibly and sparingly to avoid disturbing the birds.