Destination Kivu Belt

Birding in Nyungwe Forest

Explore some of the most elusive bird species in Africa in Nyungwe Forest National Park. The Park is one of the last and largest remaining montane forest in Eastern Africa and home to hundreds of bird species, some unique orchids and 13 large primates. Nyungwe Forest has good infrastructure, including great hiking trails, an information center, a forest camp site and several upscale hotels. The Nyungwe Canopy Walkway which gives you a unique perspective on the forest was recently voted as the best canopy walkway in the world.  

Rwanda is famous for its numerous bird species. The Albertine Rift Valley passes through western Rwanda. This rift gives way to a deep valley surrounded by high mountains, some of which are amongst the highest in Africa. The unique landscape and climate of the Albertine Rift in Rwanda is the cause of the 29 Albertine Rift Endemic bird species which only live here. The diverse habitats of the region is what is behind Rwanda as the best montane birding in Africa.

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Bronze Mannikin

Birds of Nyungwe Forest National Park

Nyungwe Forest serves as a very important habitat for numerous birds. In 2008 a workshop was held in Kitabi in Nyungwe with participants from ORTPN Research & Monitoring team, ORTPN Nyungwe Bird guides, WCS‐PCFN Bird & Mammal team and WCS‐PCFN Research & Monitoring team in order to update the Nyungwe National Park bird list. The previous list was from 1990 and contained 275 birds.  Information was added to the list from the long term monitoring of birds in Nyungwe as well as observations from other park personnel, especially the ORTPN bird guide. Any new species not already recorded on the list was added following consensus from participants in the workshop. Each species was rated in two ways following the method used by Dowsett et al. on the 1990 list. Firstly in terms of ease of observation and behavior and secondly in terms of habitat:

1 = Not easily seen or rare

2 = Scarce, seasonal or local

3 = Easily seen or common

F = Forest species

NF = Non‐forest species

FE = Forest edge species.

The final list produced from the workshop included a total of 299 bird species (appendix 1). However, this list includes 27 species from the original list created by Dowsett et al. that have never been seen by the Park personnel. It also includes some rare visitor species to Nyungwe as well as migratory birds, forest edge and non‐forest bird species. A total of 183 species have been classified as easily seen or common with 173 of those species being true forest species. There are at least 26 Albertine Rift endemics. All the birds were also assigned conservation risk status as assessed by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2008) which showed 13 species in Nyungwe to be classified as either endangered, vulnerable or near threatened.

Download the Complete Nyungwe Forest Bird List Here

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Albertine Rift Endemic Bird Species of Nyungwe Forest National

Located in the Albertine Rift of the African Rift valley, Nyungwe is home many special bird species which can only be found here. Some of these species are endemic to the montane forests of the Congo-Nile divide and can therefore only be found in either Gishwati Forest, Mukura Forest or Nyungwe Forest.

Strange Weaver

The strange weaver is an Albertine-Rift commonly found in Gishwati Mukura Forests. It is yellow with a slightly olive-yellow toned back. The wings are less distinctly black than other weaver species which have a more olive-brown tone. The head is black and flows down to a chestnut throat in males. The strange weavers are endemic to these montane forests where they can be found in groups throughout the undergrowth and bush. 

Purple-breasted Sunbird

This sunbird has a long tail and perhaps the most beautiful colorations of any sunbird. During the mating season the male turns into a lush bronze, violet, copper, purple, red, blue and green. The head turns into a copper purple and the lower body a deep blue. The Purple-Breasted sunbird can be found in the middle and upper canopy where it normally feeds of flowering trees.

Biding in Nyungwe
Purple breasted Sunbird

Abyssinian Ground-Thrush

This large bird has an olive belly and a distinct orange breast. The wings are brown with two distinct white bars. The eyes are black with a white ring. The top of the bird is dark brown which extends down the tail. This bird is shy and can be seen hopping on the ground in the undergrowth I search of insects or singing from a perch in a tree. 

Albertine Owlet

Small owlet with a large head with white spots and no ear tufts. The tail is long with large white spots. Nyungwe Forest is the only place where it is found outside Democratic Republic of Congo.

Archer’s robin-chat

Also known as Archer’s ground-chat. This is a typical robin with orange chest. The tail is entirely orange. A small white streak above the eye fades to the back of the head.  Top of the head is brown. Found in protected high elevation forests in Rwanda, Burundi, DRC and Western Uganda. 

Black-faced Apalis

This small, shy bird is olive green and light brown with a black head and a white patch on the side of the neck. It is easily distinguished from other Apalis species by the black head. This bird can only be found in thick forests at high elevation of more than 1500m where it is mostly found in the middle growth and canopy. 

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Mountain Masked Apalis

Blue-headed sunbird

Very unique looking sunbird. Back is dark olive grey, underside lighter grey. The face and sometimes neck is dark shiny blue. Found throughout the Albertine Rift with most sightings in Nyungwe Forest. 

Chapin’s flycatcher       

Small brownish grey flycatcher. Not entirely an Albertine Rift Endemic as it is also found in the highlands around Kisumu in Western Kenya. 

Collared apalis

Found in mountain forests throughout the Albertine Rift, this small cisticola is sometimes mistaken for the black-banded apalis which is not an Albertine endemic. It is small with an orange belly divided by a white diffuse band in the middle and a grey ring on the chest. The back, tail and top of head is brownish grey.

Dusky crimsonwing

Small brown bird with red patches on sides, back and face. Common in forest edges.  

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Dusky Crimsonwing

Dwarf Honeyguide

This honey is only found on both sides of the Albertine Rift in DRC, Uganda and Rwanda. Its normal habitat is montane forest between 1500 and2400 m. The abdomen is greyish brown with greenish to orange back. Side tailfeathers are whitish or lighter than rest of tail. 

Grauer’s Swamp Warbler

Dark-olive bird with lighter and slightly banded belly. This is endemic to high elevated forests of the Albertine rift where it can be found above 1600m. This elusive bird can usually be found in thick undergrowth where it is hard to spot and well camouflaged. 

Grauer’s warbler

Not to be confused with Grauer’s swamp warbler. Even though similar Grauser’s warbler does not have a white chest with speckles and is greener in color. It is found in thick forest thickets rather than reeds throughout montane forests of the Albertine Rift. 

Handsome Francolin

Large ground-dwelling francolin which is easily distinguished by the red skin around the eyes. This bird can be found on the ground of Gishwati and Mukura Forests where it normally patrols in pairs or larger family groups. 

Kivu Ground Thrush

Also known as the Abyssinian ground Thrush, this thrush can be found mostly on the eastern side of the Albertine Rift in Rwanda and Uganda. It is a typical thrush with bright orange head and breast, white circles around the large eyes and brown wings with a white streak and a short tail. Normally found feeding on ground and residing on branches of larger trees when singing.

Mountain masked apalis

This small stocky bird is also known as the black faced apalis due to its black head. The head is balck with white flecks on the neck and an olive green body and short tail. Found throughout the Albertine Rift in montane forests above 2000 m. 

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Mountain Masked Apalis

Neumann’s warbler     

Also known as the short-tailed warbler. This species is native to DRC, Rwanda and Uganda. The head is distinctly large, and the tail is almost entirely missing. Body is olive green and the head black with a distinct white stripe.

Red-faced woodland warbler   

Small light brown-grey warbler with a greenish back and light orange face. There is a western and eastern sub species recognized. The eastern variation can be found in Nyungwe Forest. 

 Red-throated alethe

This bird can be found throughout montane forests from Burundi, Rwanda DRC and Uganda. It is robin like bird with orange back and wings, bluish black head and a light grey abdomen. It can easily be distinguished by its red throat. 

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Red throated alethe

Regal sunbird

Wonderfully colored sunbird with an emerald green head, bright yellow and red underside, purple and red chest and purple tail. One of the most common birds on visitor’s to Nyungwe’s wish list. 

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Regal Sunbird

Rockafeller’s Sunbird

This colorful sunbird has its largest range in Democratic Republic of Congo and little research has been carried out on it. Only isolated sights have been made in Nyungwe Forest and Burundi. Its range is montane forests above 2000 m and African alpine moorland. The sunbird is Iridescent green with a blue head. The tail and back are blue. Wings dark grey. 

Rwenzori Batis

Typical black and white batis. Easily distinguished by the black band around the chest. Found in thick shrubs and dense mid vegetation above 2000 m in Rwanda, DRC, Burundi and Uganda. 

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Rwenzori Batis

Rwenzori Turaco

This is one of the most iconic of the Albertine Rift endemics. It can be found throughout the remaining montane forests of the Congo-Nile divide along Lake Kivu. It is a rather large bird with super colours of green, red and blue. Can be found in large groups who swoop through the forest canopy. 

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Rwenzori Turaco

Shelley’s crimsonwing 

Very unique finch and one of the rarest in Africa.  Yellow to olive green chest, red back and head. Wings and tail black. Only a few recorder observations. 

Stripe-breasted tit

Dark grey with a darker, black head. Black and white bands on wings. Found in montane forests mostly on the eastern Albertine rift but also in some places in DRC. 

Yellow-eyed black flycatcher

Large, totally black flycatcher with yellow eyes and rather long tail. This species is often found in clearings and forest edges where it has sufficient room to catch flying insects. Quite abundant from Burundi, Rwanda, DRC to Western Uganda.

Birding in Nyungwe Forest
Yellow Eyed Black Flycatcher

Contact Information and Booking

Nyungwe National Park is managed by African Parks in cooperation with the Rwandan Government and Rwanda Development Board.

  • Pre booking is not always necessary but is strongly advised
  • All park activities can be booked through the park office +250 788 625 359
  • African Parks, Park headquarters +250 788317027/8/9
  • Official Website: African Parks

Good to know:

  • Raincoats, boots and walking sticks are available from the reception
  • All Nyungwe hikes are classified as hiking in protected area/National Park.
  • Animals live in their natural habitat
  • Guide and permit are needed

Most of the websites and contacts about Nyungwe Forest online are not official park websites and the information is sometimes wrong and not reliable.  

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