Birding in Rwanda never goes without a mention of Volcanoes National Park which is also one of Africa’s best mountain gorilla trekking safari destination. The 160sq.kms Rwanda safari park lies in the Northern side of the country, about 2-3 hours’ drive from Kigali. It shelters an estimate of 200 species of birds largely consisting of forest avifaunal species making it an extra-ordinary bird watching spot in East Africa.
Volcanoes National Park occupies a small surface area thus offering birders a great opportunity to spot out about half of its birds. Birding tours in this protected area is amazing because there is possibility for tourists on Rwanda safari tour to incorporate gorilla trekking
Birds to expect to identify in Volcanoes National Park
Birding safaris in Volcanoes National Park never leave birders bored! Birdlife is prolific in Volcanoes National Par! Over 290 species have already been observed, of which about 20are endemic to the high altitude forests of the Albertine Rift. There are varied avifaunal species to keep an eye on all through while in the jungles and these include the Kivu ground thrush, Rwenzori batis, Grauer’s warblers, dusky crimson wing, Rwenzori double collared sunbird, Archer’s ground robin, strange weavers, red faced woodland warblers, collared apalis, Rwenzori turaco, Lagden’s bush shrike, African green broadbill.
While on bird sighting, there is also possibility for tourists to spot out other wildlife species that the park protects. Other wildlife species the park protects include the bush bucks, the rare mountain gorillas, the playful olive baboons, black and white colobus monkeys, the endangered golden monkeys, giant forest hogs, duikers, buffaloes, forest elephants, bush pigs, red tailed monkeys, spotted hyenas.
Large conspicuous, spectacular or heavy birds are more the exception than the rule. Many birds of the Virunga forest are secretive creatures that will make their best to remain out of sight from observers. Watching birds in volcanoes national park requires therefore some patience and/or practice to become really productive. Very often , birds will reveal their presence more by their calls or songs. Most birds are not evenly active at any time of the day. Early morning hours and late afternoon are the best moments of the day to go and watch birds in the Virunga.
The dense vegetation of the forest gives birds ample opportunities for hiding. Observers need to remain quiet , in order to spot the slightest movement in the vegetation to locate birds. Some species tend to spend most of their life high up in the canopy of trees , while others prefer to stay more or less permanently in the undergrowth, near the forest floor. The best places for watching birds are these where forest patches and clearings mix with each other to create a mosaic , as the more open environment gives better opportunities for watching from a distance and the diversity of species is higher.
As was said, the Virunga forest is home to an impressive number of species and/or subspecies that are endemic to the high altitude forests of the Albertine Rift ( of which the virunga forest is part ) this means that these birds cannot be found anywhere else in the world than in these few forests , which are true hotspots of biodiversity . The Ruwenzori Turaco , the Ruwenzori double-collard Sunbird , the Ruwenzori Batis, the strange weaver , the Dusky Crimson wing, the collared Apalis and the Archer’s Ground Robin are amongst these endemic species.
Turacos are probably the most spectacular birds to be observed in the Virunga forest. These typical forest dwelling birds are usually brightly coloured and the size of pigeons or even larger . The Ruwenzori Turaco is the specialty of the park. It is the largest Turaco species present , a beautiful dark blue and bright green bird. It is much more often heard than seen.
Raptors are quite common but the diversity of species is rather limited . The most typical raptors present in volcanoes national park are the mountain Buzzard , common Buzzard , Augur Buzzard , the marital eagle, an endangered species, is also present.
Only a few species are really specialists of the very high altitudes and can only be potentially observed by these hikers who dare to venture on the highest volcano , Mt. Karisimbi. Amongst these birds of the Afro-alpine zone is the brown woodland Warbler.
Sunbirds are the true little flying gems of the Virunga , they dash through the forest or hover from flower to flower to feed on the rich nectar. Sipping it was their long and often curved beak, often serving so as important pollinate for the flowers . 15 species are known in the virunga Forest , of which 4 are endemic subspecies.