birding in rwanda
Albertine Rift endemics

by Gaël R. Vande weghe

13 october 2022

The Albertine Rift is the western branch of the East African Rift and is ranging from western Uganda, through Rwanda, Burundi to western Tanzania and eastern DRC. It is one of Africa’s richest biodiversity zone, with high levels of endemism in the mountain forests above 1,700m. In Rwanda, these forests are protected in Nyungwe National Park, in Gishwati-Mukura National park with two distinct forest remnant and in the Volcanoes National Park. A last forest patch, currently with a lesser level of protection, Busaga forest, is a small hill culminating at 2,200m and is covered by a sacred forest still harbouring an important biodiversity.

Birds are emblematic of this richness and a number of species, called Albertine Rift Endemics can only be found in parts of this mountain range. The richest section is believed to be in eastern DRC in the Itombwe mountains, but Nyungwe forest comes very close, probably second.

In Rwanda, between 28 and 31 ARE species exists, the number varying according to preferred taxonomy and on the confirmation of one last species, the Congo Bay Owl. They are the country’s most sought after species for any birdwatchers. 

Here are some of the most frequently encountered.

Handsome Francolin | Pternistis nobilis

Here on the side of the main road in Nyungwe National Park

Common

Rwenzori Turaco | Gallirex johnstoni kivuensis

Here on the side of the main road in Nyungwe National Park

Common

Grauer’s Owl | Asio graueri

Here on the side of the main road in Nyungwe National Park

Only 4 records in Rwanda

Albertine Boubou | Laniarius holomelas

At the base of Bisoke Volcano. Volcanoes National Park.

Common, often hidden

Willard’s Boubou | Laniarius willardi

On Ndambarare trail, Nyungwe National Park

Fairly common, often hidden

Rwenzori Batis | Batis diops

In Uwinka, Nyungwe National Park | Common

Stripe-breasted Tit | Melaniparus fasciiventris

In Karisoke, Volcanoes National Park | Common

Grauer’s Warbler | Graueria vittata

On the Banda road, in Nyungwe National Park | Fairly common

Neumann’s Warbler | Urosphena neumanni

On Kamiranzovu trail in Nyungwe National Park

Common, hard to see

Grauer’s Rush-warbler | Bradypterus graueri

In Uwasenkoko, Nyungwe National Park | Common

Red-faced Woodland Warbler | Phylloscopus laetus

Uwinka, Nyungwe National Park | Common

Mountain Masked Apalis | Apalis personata

Uwinka, Nyungwe National Park | Very common

Rwenzori Apalis | Oreolais ruwenzorii

Here on the side of the main road in Nyungwe National Park |

Common

Kungwe Apalis | Apalis argentea

Gisakura, Nyungwe Nationa Park| Fairly common

Photo by Kyle Kittleberger

Yellow-eyed Black-flycatcher | Melaenornis ardesiacus

In Kamiranzovu, Nyungwe National Park | Common

Archer’s Robin-chat | Dessonornis archeri

Understory in Mukura forest | Common

Red-throated Alethe | Chamaethylas poliophrys

On Ndambarare trail, Nyungwe National Park. | Common

Kivu Ground-Thrush | Geokichla tanganjicae

Around the Kamiranzovu forests in Nyungwe National Park

Uncommon

Red-collared Babbler | Turdoides rufocinctus

On Bigugu trail, Nyungwe National Park | Fairly common

Blue-headed Sunbird | Cyanomitra alinae

On the Banda road, Nyungwe National Park | Common

Stuhlmann’s Sunbird | Cinnyris stuhlmanni graueri

Bisoke Volcanoe in Volcanoes National Park | Very common

Stuhlmann’s Sunbird | Cinnyris stuhlmanni schubotzi

Uwinka, Nyungwe National Park | Common

Regal Sunbird | Cinnyris regius

Uwinka, Nyungwe National Park | Very common

Purple-breasted Sunbird | Nectarinia purpureiventris

On Igishigishigi trail, Nyungwe National Park | Common

Strange Weaver | Pternistis nobilis

Here on the side of the main road in Nyungwe National Park

Common

Dusky Crimsonwing | Cryptospiza jacksoni

Common in most of Nyungwe National Park