Uganda, with 11% of the global bird diversity, is regarded as Africa's best birding destination for ‘birders’ and other nature enthusiasts. With many bird species concentrated in large protected wilderness areas, a bird-watching trip to Uganda is the most leisurely in the east and central tropical bird-watching destinations. Uganda has more bird species per square kilometre than any other country in Africa. Uganda, the size of the UK, boasts of over 1050 species. This is about 50% of the bird species that can be found in the whole of Africa. This diversity is attributed to its variety of habitats, which include arid, semi-dessert, savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, wetlands, volcanoes and an Afro-alpine zone..
Birds are a important part of our ecosystems. They are universal, penetrating the remotest deserts, oceans and mountains on earth. They are numerous, widely distributed, easily observed and form a vital part of our natural heritage.
Bird watching is a booming international business opportunity that attracts low volume, low impact and high return visitors that can boost rural tourism economies and support jobs in rural areas. Bird watching and birding remains one of the world’s leading recreational activities.
With more accessible birding and bird watching destinations available, there has been a massive increase in the number of bird watchers travelling the world over in search of birds to tick off the "life" list.
But despite the large number of birds in Uganda, very few Ugandans are aware of this rich diversity present in this country and this immense potential. The sector is more patronized by foreign visitors who come to watch special bird species, such as the shoe bill stock, etc.
For this reason, the conservation and tourism marketing partners: Nature Uganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Bird Guides Association, Star Uganda, National Forest Authority, Uganda Community Based Association and Association of Tour Operators have come together once again to rekindle the interest in birding and create awareness through the “Uganda Big Birding Day” .
Birdwatchers are generally more independent, focused and committed than other travelers. The average age for birders is estimated at 25-55 with an equal distribution of men and women. Income levels are generally high among birders. Birds take priority over comfort and many birders will stay in basic local lodging establishments in order to see the species of interest to them.
The high expectations of many birdwatchers, combined with their high average incomes example, in 2008 less than 2000 birders spent about US$6M more than $3.3m spent on gorilla tracking in Uganda. Birding has a potential to generate over US$20-45million annually if 10,000 birders visited Uganda.
Also bird watching can generate the following benefits:
- has the highest potential to create incentives for local community economic livelihoods that can easily motivate them to learn about the values of biodiversity and protect natural areas outside protected areas
- has the highest potential to generate income at local levels and contribute to poverty alleviation while protecting natural areas,
- Can result in large financial contributions to UWA and neighboring localities visited.
- Given their education and high expectations, bird-watchers are more likely to make efforts to reduce their environmental impacts, to appreciate the distinctness and significance of different ecosystems and to pay the required protected-area fees while travelling.
For example avi-tourism is proving to be one of South Africa’s most powerful conservation tools. Tourism has outperformed all other sectors in South Africa’s economy, with two popular ‘Birding-routes’ generating an estimated US$6.4 million annually for local people. Although avi-tourism is developing in Uganda, it is mainly by tourists and very few locals
29th September 2011
Flagging off the big birding groups will take place at midnight on 29th September 2011, after which each group will begin recording the different birds they identify in their chosen sites until midnight the following day. The groups will then submit their records to the tally centre at Nature Uganda offices, which will proceed to compile the results followed by an official announcement of the winners during the Big
30th September 2011
The day will be celebrated nation-wide through a series of activities including a big birding race that involves bird-watching groups competing in the race on who identifies the biggest number of bird species in their respective sites. Because it is a race, each group aims to record as many bird species that they have identified in their respective birding area that day.
The overall aim of this exercise is to see how many bird species can be recorded in a single day in our rich country Uganda. The event will also use bird watching to help bridge the information gap between bird conservation and tourism in Uganda. It will also link up all bird watchers, tourism promoters, conservationists and policy makers in the country and the rest of the world.
Free entry for all participants bird watching in National Parks, Wildlife Reserves and Forest Reserves on this day has been granted by UWA and NFA.
Birding Festival on Saturday 1st October 2011.
As part of this year’s Big Birding Day celebrations, a Birding Uganda website will be launched. The website will be the main avenue for promoting bird watching activities in Uganda, and will also provide as much information as possible to the international community about Uganda’s bird species.
The results of the Bird Counts will be announced and the winners recognized.
We will also show a documentary about Birds and listen to some speeches from prominent and inspiring Ugandans about Birds, their economic and Conservation Value.
There will be a lot of entertainment
The theme for the Event
The theme for the event is : Connecting Birds to People and Nature.
This theme is very relevant to this year because, if harnessed properly, people could substantially improve their welfare and the country could benefit from the value chain of the birding cycle in Uganda. However, we need to conserve the natural environments and habitat for these birds in order to realize these tangible benefits.
Initiatives to develop Birding in Uganda
- Birding is slowly but surely being recognized on the tourism events calendar and is taking center stage with involvement of more and more stakeholders every year
- Birding website www.birding-uganda.com has been developed with the technical and financial assistance of Star Uganda and partners
- Training and up skilling of bird guides by USAGA and a lot guides trained. The Guides Certification process is ongoing
- Birding trails have been cut in some of the protected areas and procurement of birding equipment such as binoculars, recorders and bird hides in the parks has commenced
- A birding survey was implemented and findings of the study is now being used to improve the birding development
- Checklists and Books on birding in Uganda are now available
- Assorted promotional books on birding are also available
How the birding will be organised
The birding event will include guided nature walks throughout the country. We shall have expert ornithologists and bird guides from Uganda Wildlife Authority, Nature Uganda and Uganda Bird Guides Club (UBGC) who will lead participants at various locations to a competition on Bird watching throughout the country.
The event will be a 24 hour bird watching contest throughout the country, from midnight to midnight the following day. The event will involve selecting groups each with at least 2 members who are experienced bird watchers to confirm the species identification.
Special sites have been selected where efforts must be made to send teams for birding. These sites were chosen to represent all the different vegetation types in Uganda to try and record all birds that can be seen in Uganda. All birds seen and heard calling within these sites will be recorded.
A tally centre will be set up at Nature Uganda to receive all records from participating teams and summarise them. These will then be announced at the Big Birding Festival, which will be the climax of the events.
The proposed sites for birding on the BBD include;
Bwindi Impenetrable NP, Mgahinga Gorilla NP, Kibale NP, Rwenzori Mountains NP, Tooro Semliki WR, Semiliki NP, Katonga WR, Kidepo Valley NP, Lake Mburo NP, Mt. Elgon NP, Murchison Falls NP, Queen Elizabeth NP, Kyambura WR- QENP, Ishasha- QENP, Budongo FR, Kasohya Kitomi FR, Echuya FR, Mabamba/ Makanaga Bays, Mabira FR, Lutembe Bay, Kumbu Forest -Nabajjuzi Masaka, Musambwa Islands, Lakes Bisina & Opeta, Mt. Otzi CFR, Mt. Kei CFR, Mt. Moroto CFR, Gulu University, Mbale/ Kibimba, Entebbe Peninsula, Kawanda-Namulonge-(Gayaza RD), MUST- Mbarara, Park Alexander, Makerere University, Bahai Temple, Rwenzori Bottling Co. Namanve
How you can participate
Everybody is invited and called upon to participate in this National event.
To participate, please register with Nature Uganda at their office on Plot 83 Tufnell drive Kamwokya or at their website www.natureuganda.org, or at their branches at the Universities in Gulu, Mbarara and Mbale and at all National Parks and Wildlife Reserves.
Please note that those intending to travel to National parks or other sites need to make their private arrangements for travel and accommodation.