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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

Virunga BirdlifeBirding 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.