Uganda is a birdwatcher’s paradise, with a rich variety of habitats and a diverse array of bird species. From the colorful Regal Sunbird to the majestic Shoebill, Uganda’s birds are a sight to behold. In this post, we’ll introduce you to some of the most beautiful birds that you can find in Uganda. With their vibrant plumage and unique songs, these birds are sure to delight nature enthusiasts and birdwatchers alike.
So come along and discover the beauty of Uganda’s avian inhabitants!
1. Grey-crowned Crane
Scientific name: Balearica regulorum
Length: 1 meter (3.3 feet)
Body mass: 3-3.5 kilograms
Wingspan: 2 meters (6.5 feet)
Lifespan: 20-30 years
Also referred to as the Golden-crested Cranes, the Grey-crowned Cranes are an endangered crane species found in the wet habitats of southern and eastern Africa. These birds are declared the national bird of Uganda and are indeed the most elegant-looking birds you could find in the country.
Grey-crowned Cranes’ face is most striking, with a crown of stiff golden feathers resting atop their head, which lends them their name. They have a black forehead, greyish irises, short, grey bills, white cheeks, red false ear patches, and an inflatable red throat pouch.
Their throat, neck, and upper back are covered in fluffy grey feathers, with a white lower back and black tail. Both sexes of this species sport the same plumage; only the males are slightly larger in size than the females.
Did you know? Grey-crowned Cranes possess a long hind toe which enables them to grasp on branches. This special characteristic makes them the only crane species that can roost on trees.
2. Shelley’s Crimsonwing
Scientific name: Criptospiza shelleyi
Length: 13 centimeters (5.1 inches)
Body mass: 15-19 grams
Shelley’s Crimsonwings are an endangered species of the Estrildid Finch family. These African finches primarily inhabit the montane forests and valley bottoms of Rwanda, eastern Congo, and western Uganda, with uncontrolled deforestation posing a threat to their population.
The adult Shelley’s Crimsonwings display sexual dimorphism in their plumage; you can tell them apart by the color of their heads. The males have a crimson-colored head, while that of the females is olive-yellow.
The rest of their bodies are identical, with an olive-yellow underbody, crimson mantle, black wings, and tail. Their eyes are dark, and their bills are bone-colored with a pale reddish wash.
3. Great Blue Turaco
Scientific name: Corythaeloa cristata
Length: 70-76 centimeters (28-30 inches)
Body mass: 800 grams – 1.2 kilograms
Lifespan: 25-30 years
The largest members of the entire Turaco family (Musophagidae), the Great Blue Turacos are large passerine birds that are commonly found across the African tropical rainforest. Within Uganda, you can spot them in the northernmost region, in the Imatong Mountain range.
True to their name, these turacos have a predominantly greyish-blue plumage, with a dense blue-black crest sitting atop their head. Their bright yellow bills, with an orange tip, stand in stark contrast with their otherwise dark body.
The eyes are dark, and so is the edge of their long tail. Both sexes of this species are monomorphic and appear identical.
Scientific name: Balaeniceps rex
Length: 1.1-1.4 meters (3.5-4.5 feet)
Body mass: 4-7 kilograms
Wingspan: 2.3-2.6 meters (3.2-4.5 feet)
Lifespan: 35-36 years
Commonly referred to as Whalehead, the Shoebills are a large, vulnerable bird species that has a stork-like body structure but isn’t one. These wading birds are endemic to tropical Africa, where they inhabit the freshwater swamps of Uganda, Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda, eastern Congo, and northern Zambia.
True to their name, Shoebills possess a large, bulbous beak that has a straw-like color with greyish markings drawn all over it. Their upper mandible is keeled and has a sharp, nail-like edge.
Their overall plumage is bluish-grey in color, with a darker, almost slate-grey shade on their wings. The feet are dark and quite large in proportion to the rest of their body. Both sexes of these birds appear identical in plumage, with the males being the larger sex.
5. Bar-tailed Trogon
Scientific name: Apaloderma vittatum
Length: 28 centimeters (11 inches)
Body mass: 55 grams
Belonging to the family of Trogons and Quetzals, the Bar-tailed Trogons are insectivorous birds that are endemic to central Africa. You can find them in the high-altitude forests of Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, Rwanda, Angola, Kenya, and Cameroon.
Much like other trogon species, Bar-tailed Trogons have a long and broad tail; true to their name, their white tail is covered with black bars. The adults of this species display dimorphism in their plumage.
The males have a bluish-black head with a bronze sheen and two bare yellow patches, one below each eye. On their chest, you’ll notice a bluish-green iridescence, below which their belly and rump are colored bright red. Their mantle and upper back are greenish, while the wings are bluish-black.
The females have similar plumage, except for their head, which is dull brown in color. They also have a smaller, less significant patch on their face.
6. Green-breasted Pitta
Scientific name: Pitta reichenowi
Length: 17-19 centimeters (6-7 inches)
Body mass: 42-60 grams
Lifespan: 3-4 years
The Green-breasted Pittas are one of the two pitta species found in Africa and the only one that inhabits Uganda. Like other pittas, these ground-foraging birds also reside within deep forests and are, therefore, rarely encountered by people.
Green-breasted Pittas have a black head, with two yellow stripes running across their forehead and a yellow chin. True to their name, they have a green breast and a darker back, with bluish touches to their wings. Their belly and rump are colored bright red.
They have dark eyes and bills, with bone-colored legs. Both sexes of this species appear identical, displaying sexual monomorphism.
7. Doherty’s Bushshrike
Scientific name: Telophorus dohertyi
Length: 19 centimeters (7.4 inches)
Body mass: 36-40 grams
Lifespan: 11-15 years
Endemic to north-central Africa, Doherty’s Bushshrikes are a bushshrike species that stand out among other bushshrikes due to their shorter bills and elusive nature. These birds have been named to commemorate William Doherty, an American collector.
Doherty’s Bushshrikes also happen to be one of the most colorful members of the bushshrike family, with their bright red face, dark eyes, grey bills, black eye mask, and throat. The rest of their body, including their head, mantle, chest, belly, and rump, are greenish-yellow in color.
Their wings and tail are darker, almost olive-green in color. The adults are sexually monomorphic, with both males and females having identical plumages.
8. Chocolate-backed Kingfisher
Scientific name: Halcyon badia
Length: 21 centimeters (8.2 inches)
Body mass: 47-65 grams
Known for their harsh, screeching calls, the Chocolate-backed Kingfishers are a kingfisher species that occur abundantly throughout the tropical rainforests of Africa. These kingfishers have two subspecies, out of which the nominate subspecies are found in western Uganda.
True to their name, these birds have a dark, chocolate-brown head and back, while their underparts are stark white in contrast. Their eyes are dark, with orange eye-rings surrounding them, and their bills are reddish-brown.
Their wings are black, except for a brilliant azure blue stripe on them; the tail is also pale blue. Although both sexes of these kingfishers have identical plumages, the males are known to be heavier than their female counterparts.
9. Standard-winged Nightjar
Scientific name: Caprimulgus longipennis
Length: 20-23 centimeters (7.9-9.1 inches)
Body mass: 32-65 grams
Lifespan: 3-4 years
Named after the unusually long wing ornament of the males, the Standard-winged Nightjars are a nightjar species that inhabit the scrublands and dry savannah habitats of Africa. In Uganda, their range is limited to the northwestern region.
Like other nightjar species, Standard-winged Nightjars have an overall greyish-brown, mottled plumage that provides them camouflage.
Both sexes of the adults look identical and are differed only by the 15-inches long ornamental wings extending from the middle of the males’ flight feathers. These wings are absent in females.
10. Saddle-billed Stork
Scientific name: Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis
Length: 1.4 meters (4.6 feet)
Body mass: 5.1-7.5 kilograms in males; 5-6.8 kilograms in females
Wingspan: 2.4-2.7 meters (7.6-8.8 feet)
Lifespan: 12-19 years
Also referred to as Saddlebills, the Saddle-billed Storks are a widespread stork species found across sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda. These birds are closely related to the Black-necked Storks and stand out among other stork species for displaying sexual dimorphism in their plumage.
Saddle-billed Storks have a black face and neck, and white mantle and underbody. While their primary wings are black, the secondary feathers are white and are clearly visible in flight. Their bills are primarily orange, with a bold black patch in the middle. On the top of the upper mandible, they have a bare yellow, saddle-like patch which lends them their name.
The male Saddlebills have brown irises and a yellow wattle hanging from their bills, which is absent in the females. The eyes of the females are golden, which is another way to tell the sexes apart.
11. Long-crested Eagle
Scientific name: Lophaetus occipitalis
Length: 53-58 centimeters (21-23 inches)
Body mass: 912 grams – 1.3 kilograms in males; 1.3-1.5 kilograms in females
Wingspan: 112-129 centimeters (44-50 inches)
Lifespan: 12-14 years
Named after the feathered crest resting upon their heads, the Long-crested Eagles are an African eagle species that primarily inhabit forest edges with a water source nearby. In Uganda, they’re called Kamusungu-sungu.
Long-crested Eagles are distinguished from other eagle species due to the long, shaggy crest on their head that points straight back when they’re perched. Their overall plumage, including the wings, is dark brown, with white underwing coverts. The tail is black, with pale-grey bars drawn over them.
Both sexes of the adult Long-crested Eagles are identical in appearance but display dimorphism in size, with the females being heavier than their male counterparts.
12. Black Bee-eater
Scientific name: Merops gularis
Length: 20 centimeters (8 inches)
Body mass: 25-32 grams
Lifespan: 2-5 years
The Black Bee-eaters are small birds that are endemic to the tropical rainforests of sub-Saharan Africa. These bee-eaters primarily inhabit the secondary woodlands and forest edges and have two subspecies, both of which are found in Uganda.
True to their name, Black Bee-eaters have predominantly black plumage, with a bright scarlet patch covering their chin and throat. A horizontal, azure blue streak runs across their eyes, with the same shade on their belly, rump, and undertail coverts.
Their eyes, bills, and legs are all black. Both sexes of the adult have identical plumages, displaying sexual monomorphism.
13. Goliath Heron
Scientific name: Ardea goliath
Length: 1.2-1.5 meters (3.9-4.9 feet)
Body mass: 4-5 kilograms
Wingspan: 1.8-2.3 meters (5.9-7.5 feet)
Lifespan: 15-22 years
The largest living heron species in the world, Goliath Herons are also referred to as Giant Herons. They’re found both in South Asia and Africa, although their numbers in the former are dwindling. Being highly aquatic, even more so than other herons, these birds inhabit lakes, swamps, river deltas, reefs, and mangrove wetlands of sub-Saharan Africa, including Uganda.
Goliath Herons have a chestnut-brown head and neck, with a cluster of white and grey feathers extending from their throat. Their lower back and wings are slate grey in color, while the belly and rump are chestnut. The eyes are golden, while the feet and legs are black.
Both sexes of these herons are sexually monomorphic, having identical plumages.
14. Black-headed Gonolek
Scientific name: Laniarius erythrogaster
Length: 20-21 centimeters (8 inches)
Body mass: 42-55 grams
Belonging to the family of Bushshrikes, the Black-headed Gonoleks are small passerine birds that primarily inhabit the shrublands and dry savannahs of Africa. You can find them in Uganda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Chad, Rwanda, and Tanzania.
Although these birds have a typically shy personality, those that dwell near human settlements are much bolder. True to their name, they possess a black head, back, wings, and tail.
Their flanks are also black, while the rest of the underbody, including their chin, throat, breast, and belly, are all bright orange; the rump is stark white. They have golden irises, while their bills, legs, and feet are all black. Both sexes of this species are identical in appearance.
15. Grey Parrot
Scientific name: Psittacus erithacus
Length: 33 centimeters (13 inches)
Body mass: 400 grams
Wingspan: 46-52 centimeters (18-20 inches)
Lifespan: 21-23 years
Also referred to as Congo Grey Parrots, the Grey Parrots are an endangered member of the Old World Parrot family endemic to equatorial Africa. You can find them in the dense forest and forest edges of Uganda, Gabon, Ghana, Angola, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and the Congo.
As their name indicates, Grey Parrots have predominantly grey plumage, with their head, back, and wings being darker than their underbody; only their tail feathers are bright scarlet in color.
They have golden irises, black bills, grey legs, and white patches around both eyes. Both sexes have identical plumages and are sexually monomorphic.
16. Yellow-billed Oxpecker
Scientific name: Buphagus africanus
Length: 20 centimeters (8 inches)
Body mass: 57-71 grams
Lifespan: 15 years
Initially placed in the same family as the Mynas and Starlings, the Yellow-billed Oxpeckers now belong to a separate family of Oxpeckers, together with the Red-billed Oxpeckers. These birds are endemic to the savannahs of sub-Saharan Africa and are commonly seen in Uganda, Senegal, and Sudan.
Yellow-billed Oxpeckers have a dark head that ranges from dark brown to olive in color, with similarly colored wings and tail. Their underbody is much paler in shade, almost pale grey. They have red irises and bright yellow bills with an orangish tip. The adults are sexually monomorphic, displaying no differences in their size or plumage.
17. Black-breasted Barbet
Scientific name: Lybius rolleti
Length: 27 centimeters (10.6 inches)
Body mass: 96-105 grams
Lifespan: 7-10 years
The Black-breasted Barbets are an African barbet species that are found in the high-altitude woodlands of the Sahel and northern Uganda.
These barbets have predominantly black plumage with bulbous bone-colored bills. Their head, throat, chest, mantle, back, wings, and tail are all black, save for a white patch on their upper back, white flanks, and a red patch on their belly.
Both sexes of the species are identical, displaying no dimorphism in their plumage or size.
18. Handsome Spurfowl
Scientific name: Pternistis nobilis
Length: 35 centimeters (13.7 inches)
Body mass: 860-890 grams in males; 600-670 grams in females
Lifespan: 4-7 years
Belonging to the family of Partridge-francolins, the Handsome Spurfowls are a nearly flightless, ground-dwelling species that are endemic to the dense forests of Africa. You can find them in southwestern Uganda, the mountains of the Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda.
Handsome Spurfowls have predominantly brown plumage, with touches of slate blue on their head and neck. The feathers on their lower back are darker, almost blackish-brown, with a short, bluish tail. Their irises are brown, with bare orange skin patches surrounding them. Their bills, feet, and legs are all orange.
Both sexes of this species appear identical; only the males are slightly larger than their female counterparts.
19. Black-and-white-casqued Hornbill
Scientific name: Bycanistes subcylindricus
Length: 60-70 centimeters (23-27 inches)
Body mass: 1-1.5 kilograms in males; 1-1.25 kilograms in females
Wingspan: 70-96 centimeters (27-37 inches)
Also referred to as Grey-cheeked Hornbill, the Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills are a sub-Saharan hornbill species found in western and central Africa. You can find these birds in the dense, wooded habitats of Uganda, western Kenya, Gabon, northern Angola, Cameroon, and Tanzania.
Black-and-white-casqued Hornbills are moderately large birds by hornbill standards. True to their name, the upper half of their body (including head, throat, neck, chest, mantle, and primary feathers) is black, while the lower half (belly, rump, lower back, secondary feathers) is white.
The same is true for their tail; the basal half is black, and the lower half is white. Their eyes, legs, feet, and bills are all dark, save for white patches scattered on the upper mandible. Both sexes of this species have identical plumage. However, the males are larger in size and have a larger casque atop their bills as well.
20. African Emerald Cuckoo
Scientific name: Chrysococcyx cupreus
Length: 20 centimeters (8 inches)
Body mass: 32-38 grams
Lifespan: 5-10 years
The African Emerald Cuckoos are a striking cuckoo species with an abundant population throughout the forests of sub-Saharan Africa. These birds have four subspecies, out of which the nominate one is widespread throughout Uganda.
African Emerald Cuckoos are strongly sexually dimorphic. The males have an iridescent green head, throat, mantle, back, wings, and tail. Their chest, belly, and rump are bright yellow, with black and white bars marking their undertail.
On the other hand, their female counterparts have a much duller, olive-green head, throat, and back with brown markings on them. Their underbody is white but contains olive-green markings all over, including their undertail.
However, both sexes possess dark eyes, green eye rings, grey bills, legs, and feet.
21. Malachite Kingfisher
Scientific name: Corythornis cristatus
Length: 13 centimeters (5.1 inches)
Body mass: 12-19 grams
Lifespan: 6-7 years
Belonging to the subfamily of the Pygmy Kingfishers, the Malachite Kingfishers are a small kingfisher species endemic to Africa. They primarily inhabit areas with slow-moving water bodies and a commonly found throughout all of sub-Saharan Africa. They have five subspecies, out of which the nominate one has an abundant population in Uganda.
Malachite Kingfishers might be small in size, but their strikingly colored plumage makes them stand out among other birds. They have a bright blue crown with a crest of blue-black barred feathers resting atop it. The rest of their face is rufous-colored, except for two white cheek patches and a white chin.
Their underbody is covered in a paler shade or rufous, with a blue back, wings, and tail. The eyes are dark, while the bills, legs, and feet are all orange. Being sexually monomorphic, all adults of this species appear identical regardless of their sex.
22. Marabou Stork
Scientific name: Leptoptilos crumenifer
Length: 1.5 meters (4.9 feet)
Body mass: 8-9 kilograms
Wingspan: 3.7 meters (12 feet)
Lifespan: 25-40 years
While the Grey-crowned Storks are the official national bird of Uganda, Marabou Storks are the country’s unofficial national bird. They’re often found dwelling in the arid and moist habitats of Uganda, most commonly around landfill sites.
This massive stork species might not conform to the standard definitions of beauty, but they’re certainly a sight to behold.
They have a bare, pale-pink head, huge, greyish-pink bills, and a pink gular sac attached below. Their back, wings, and legs are black, while the underbody is white in contrast. Both sexes of this species are identical in appearance, displaying no dimorphism.
23. Abyssinian Ground Hornbill
Scientific name: Bucorvus abyssinicus
Length: 90-100 centimeters (35-39 inches)
Body mass: 4 kilograms
Wingspan: 49-59 centimeters (19-23 inches)
Lifespan: 40 years
Also referred to as Northern Ground Hornbill, the Abyssinian Ground Hornbills are one of the only two ground hornbill species in the world, both of which are endemic to Africa. These vulnerable hornbills prefer to inhabit areas with short vegetation and are common in north-western Uganda.
Abyssinian Ground Hornbills are quite large (the second-largest of all African Hornbills) and possess an iridescent black plumage. Their primary feathers are white but are only visible in flight. Their eyes, bills, legs, and feet are all black, with bare blue patches around their eyes and a black casque upon their upper mandible.
The sexes can be distinguished by their throat pouch, which is red and more prominent in the males and blue in their female counterparts.
24. Regal Sunbird
Scientific name: Cinnyris regius
Length: 10-11 centimeters (3-4 inches)
Body mass: 5-9 grams
Belonging to the family of Sunbirds and Spiderhunters, the Regal Sunbirds are a tiny sunbird species endemic to the Albertine Rift montane forests of Africa, which range from Uganda to Tanzania.
Much like other sunbirds, Regal Sunbirds are sexually dimorphic, with the males being the more attractive sex. They have an iridescent golden-green head, throat, and mantle, with dark wings and tail that have a bluish touch to them. Their underparts are bright yellow, with a long, vertical orange patch running in the middle; the rump is orange as well.
The female Regal Sunbirds are much paler in contrast, with a dull, olive-green head and upper parts and a lighter shade covering their underbody. Both sexes have dark eyes, legs, feet, and a dark curving beak.
25. Kori Bustard
Scientific name: Ardeotis kori
Length: 1-1.3 meters (3.2-4.2 feet)
Body mass: 4.8-6.1 kilograms
Wingspan: 2.1-2.7 meters (7-9 feet)
Lifespan: 22-28 years
Belonging to the family of Bustards, Korhaans, and Floricans, the Kori Bustards are a near-threatened species endemic to densely wooded areas of Africa.
These birds are the largest of all flying birds in Africa and have two subspecies: the nominate subspecies and Somali Kori (A. k. struthiunculus). The latter has a widespread distribution throughout Uganda.
Kori Bustards have a pale greyish head and neck covered in fine feathers patterned with black and white. Upon their head, you’ll also notice a crest of black-and-white feathers which fall backward. Their underbody is buff-colored, while the upper parts, including wings and tail, are brown.
They have dark eyes, pale greyish bills, and bone-colored legs and feet. While both sexes have identical plumage, they differ significantly in size. The females are considerably smaller than their male counterparts and weigh at least 2-3 times less than them.