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Uganda: Destination for bird watching

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When we talk about birds, it is without a doubt that the majority of Ugandans only know about less than 10 families of birds that are common in their areas of residence. These may include pied crows that are locally known as namungoona, red eye doves, pigeon doves, fire finches (akasanke), grey headed sparrows (nkazalujja), and marabou storks, among others.

 If you have been at a garbage collection site or lake shores, then you have sighted a marabou stork. It belongs to the marabou family but also part of the stork species.

As Ugandans, we have gone ahead to create superstitions and myths about some of these birds. For example, the nkazalujja (loosely meaning cleaner of a compound) is called so because the Baganda have a belief that when this bird comes to your compound, it leaves the it swept clean and that rubbish mysteriously disappears.

However, aside from the few birds known to many, Uganda is home to over 1,080 bird species. Out of these, 11% are global species and about 60% are species found only in Africa. Judith Mirembe, a senior bird researcher at Nature Uganda, says Uganda has about 34 bird watching destinations. She says these are mainly in national parks, game reserves and forest reserves.

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They include Murchison Falls National Park, Budongo Forest, Lake Mburo National Park and Kibaale forest, among others. Mirembe says birding is not appreciated, because they lack enough information about birds, like their different types and where they stay. However, foreign tourists are interested in Uganda’s birds.

“When a birder comes to Uganda for the first time, they areassured of spending about 14 to 15 days birding, that is if they are to visitall the 34 birding destinations,” Mirembe sys.

“This birding expedition costs between $2,000 (about sh7.4m)and $3,000 (about sh11.2m). The money is spent on hotel accommodation, tour andtravel fees and transportation.” She says when bird tourists come, the majorityof them are usually excited about the shoebill.

This is a very rare bird that is found in very few countries, and Uganda is blessed to be one of them.

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Africa Birding Expo

The Uganda Tourism Board, in partnership with Uganda Wildlife Conservation Education Centre and the private sector, will this week hold a two day annual Africa Birding Expo. It is aimed at promoting birding as a tourist activity in the country.

The Uganda Tourism Board Chief Executive Officer, Stephen Asiimwe, says the African Birding Expo will be attended by a spectrum of people from the bird watching community within and outside Africa. “The Africa Birding Expo will start tomorrow, at the Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe.

 The pre-expo activities kicked off with a birding familiarization trip for nine hosted buyers, which started on November 26 and will end today,” Asiimwe says. He says the expo will have stands selling products related to bird watching and nature conservation. “Birding activities will be crowned off with the birding festival and awarding certificates to the participants of the birding competitions.”