Working for birds in Africa

Introduction

Fri, 25/01/2013 - 11:06 -- abc_admin
Kigali_sunrise_Rwanda

Sunrise over Kigali

Image Credit: 
John Caddick
Scarlet-chested Sunbird

Scarlet-chested Sunbird Chalcomitra senegalensis in Kigali hotel gardens

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

What comes to mind when you think of Rwanda? Gorillas, troubles in the mid 90s? Or maybe you think about 703 species of birds and the highest concentration of Albertine Rift Endemics species outside the DRC. 

Sadly, most people still associate Rwanda with Genocide against the Tutsi of 1994. However, a lot has changed in the 24 years since then and Rwanda has made leaps and bounds in its development. Rwanda is now a very safe countries to travel (in the top 10) according to a 2017 World Economic Forum report. It is now also one of the easiest to access, with 30 day Tourism Visas now available on entry into the country at the international airport or one of the many border crossings. Access to the majority of birding sites is via tarmac roads and the compact nature of the country means that several sites can be accessed during a trip, though for the more remote sites and Akagera National Park you can expect some off-road driving on tracks of mixed quality. 

Tourists now regularly visit the country, the majority to see Mountain Gorillas and Rwanda is undoubtedly one of the best and easiest places to see these amazing animals. The Gorillas were first made famous by Diane Fossey, who championed their conservation. She was at the time resistant to habituating gorillas for tourism, but it is tourism that has arguably helped preserve gorillas and their habitat see:- In the Kingdom of Gorillas, Bill Weber and Amy Veder, (2003). Gorilla tourism now constitutes a major foreign exchange earner and provides the backbone of a growing eco-tourism sector. Traditional Safaris are becoming more popular at Akagera. Birding tourism is thankfully receiving more attention and this has stimulated several local birdwatching clubs. 

For birders, the chief attractions are likely to be Nyungwe Forest and Akagera National Parks. Though there are numerous other easily accessible birding sites elsewhere in the country, further details of which can be found in the Hotspot section.

Nyungwe should be on any birders to do list. A total of 322 bird species have been recorded, including 29 Albertine Rift Endemics (if you accept various splits), more than at any site in Uganda and currently second only to the Itombwe Mountains in the DRC and it is the only safe site to observe the attractive Red-collared Babbler Kupeornis rufocinctus. The good roads provide far easier access to high altitude habitats than to the more popular sites in Uganda. Add to this, 13 species of primates; including Chimpanzee, Angola Colobus, L’Hoests Monkey, numerous endemic plant species and utterly spectacular scenery, you have one of the most rewarding eco-tourism sites in Africa. 

The purpose of this document is to provide a summary of Rwanda and its birds for birders interested in the country and potentially planning a visit. The information has been put together from a number of sources and it is intended to add new information as it becomes available. As such, readers are welcome to submit contributions by e-mail to info@africanbirdclub.org

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