Rwanda has one of the highest bird counts on the continent despite being one of the smallest countries in Africa. The prime birdwatching destinations are Nyungwe and Akagera National Parks, although enchanting sightings are common across the country.
Of the 700 resident and visiting birds species, at least 27 are known as Albertine Rift Endemics (ARE). The Albertine Rift is the western branch of the Great Rift Valley, and takes in Nyungwe and Volcanoes National Parks.
One of Africa’s primary geological features, the Great Rift Valley has formed over the past 50 million years and shaped the diverse topography of Rwanda as we know it today – with an impressive array of volcanoes, lakes, mountain ranges and forests.
Nyungwe National Park, a tropical mountain rainforest, is home to 310 species of birds of which 27 are ARE. Amongst them are regal sunbird, red-collared babbler, Rwenzori turaco, handsome spurfowl, Rwenzori batis, Grauer’s swamp-warbler and the blue-headed sunbird. Possibly the rarest of all endemic birds would be the Albertine owlet, known from only five records in the area.
Volcanoes National Park forms a complex of mostly dormant volcanoes and includes Rwanda’s highest point, Mount Karisimbi. The park is home to 165 bird species, with 17 endemic to the area.
Akagera National Park covers a sizeable chunk of savannah in the northeast of the country, on the Tanzanian border. A mix of rolling grassland interspersed with broad-leafed and acacia woodland, these lower-lying lands are dissected by the Akagera River.
The sought-after species here are the red-faced barbet, Sousa’s shrike and the white-collared oliveback.
The park has a mosaic of wetlands and lakes, along the course of the Akagera River and the eastern boundary. Amidst the papyrus and reed beds some of the most prized species to be found are Carruther’s cisticola and papyrus canary.
Elsewhere, Rwanda’s wetlands and marshes cover just of 10% of the country. Rugezi, Akanyuru Wetlands and Nyagarongo Welands have been declared Important Birding Areas by Birdlife International, which opened an office in Rwanda in 2017.
Around Kigali, Nyarutarama Lake – or Lover’s Lake – bordering the Kigali golf course is surrounded by a track, which offers excellent nature walks and bird watching opportunities.