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Birdlife is prolific in the Volcanoes National Park, over 290 species have already been observed, of which about 20 are endemic to the high altitude forests of the Albertine Rift.

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 the Volcanoes National Park requires therefore some patience and/or practice to become 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 speciality 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 four are endemic subspecies.

BIRD  CHECKLIST for Virunga  Forest

The official list of the bird species in the Virunga Forest (Rwanda, Congo and Uganda) mentioned 258 species up to 2003 . The Virunga biodiversity Survey carried out by Karisoke Research Centre in 2004 added an additional 36 new species, which brought the official total up to 294 species recorded in the three contiguous protected areas. Not at all  species are actually present in  the Volcanoes  National  Park.


Podicipedidae :                                           Bateleur   Eagle

Little  Grebe                                                     African   Marsh  Harrier

Ardeidae                                                           Eurasian  Marsh  Harrier

Black-headed  Heron                                    African  Goshawk

Cattle  Egret                                                    Little  Sparrow hawk

Scopidae                                                          Rufous  sparrow hawk

Hamerkop                                                       Great  sparrow hawk

Ciconlidae                                                        Common  buzzard

Abdim’s  Stork                                                Mountain  buzzard

White  Stork                                                    Augur  buzzard

Threskornithidae                                           Tawny  Eagle

Hadada  ibis                                                    Wahlberg’s  Eagle

Anatidae                                                           Long-crested Eagle

White-beaked  Duck                                      Crowned  Eagle

Egyptian  Goose                                             Martial  Eagle

Spur-winged  Goose                                      Falconidae

Yellow-billed  Duck                                        Kestrel

African Black Duck                                         Grey  Kestrel

PintailAmur  Falcon

Red-billed  Tail                                                Eurasian  Hobby

Hottentot  Teal                                                African  Hobby

Southern  pochard                                           Lanner Falcon

Maccoa   Duck                                                  Peregrine

Accipitridae                                                   Phasianidae

Osprey                                                                Quail

Honey  buzzard                                                 Red-winged  Francolin

Bat  Hawk                                                           Handsome  Francolin

Black  Kite                                                           Scaly  Francolin

Hooded  Vulture                                                Red-necked  Spur fowl

White-headed Vulture                                      Gruidae

Harrier  Hawk                                                    Grey-crowned  Crane

Charadriidae:                                                 Didrick’s  Cuckoo

Caspian  plover

Yellow bill

Wattled  plover                                                  White-browed  coucal

Scolopacidae:                                                     Blue-headed  coucal

Common  snipe                                                  Strigidae:

African  snipe                                                      African Wood owl

Curlew                                                                   Spotted  Eagle  owl

Marsh  sandpiper                                                Long-eared  Ow

Greenshank                                                          Caprimulgidae:

Green  sandpiper                                                 Montane  Nightjar

Wood  sandpiper                                                  Rwenzori   Nightjar

Common  sandpiper                                            Pennant-winged  Nightjar

Ralidae:                                                                Apodidae:

Buff-spotted  pygmy  crake                                 Scarce  Swift

Black  crake                                                             Palm  Swift

Red-Knobbed   Coot                                              Black  Swift

Columbidae:                                                            Eurasian  Swift

Green pigeon                                                           White-rumped  Swift

Tambourine  Dove                                                  Little  Swift

Blue-spotted  Wood  Dove                                    Mottled  Swift

Lemon Dove                                                            Alpine  Swift

Olive  pigeonColiidae:

Afep  pigeonSpeckled  mousebird

Speckled pigeon                                                     Trogonidae:

Red-eyed  Dove                                                       Narina’s  Trogon

Dusky  Turtle  Dove                                               Meropidae:

Psittacidae:                                                          Little  Bee-eater

Grey  parrot                                                             Cinnamon-chested  Bee-eater

Brown-necked  parrot                                           Eurasian  Bee-eater

Musophagidae:                                                       Coraciidae:

Blacked-billed  Turaco                                           Lilac-breasted  Roller

Rwenzori   Turaco                                                   Broad-billed  roller

Ross’  Turaco                                                           Phoeniculidae:

Cuculidae:                                                             White-headed  Wood  Hopoe

Levaillant’s                                                                Bucerotidae:

Madagascar Lesser  Cuckoo                                    Crowned  hornbill

Red-chested  Cuckoo                                                White-tighed  hornbill

Black Cuckoo                                                              Black  and  white  casqued  hornbill

Eurasian Cuckoo                                                        Indicatoridae:

Olive-long  tailed  cuckoo                                         Thick-billed  Honeyguide

Barred  long-tailed  cuckoo                                      Dwarf  Honeyguide

Emerald  cuckoo                                                         Capitonidae:

Klaas’                                                                              Grey-throated  Barbet