Whale Headed stork is unusual ,impressive  and captivating  and main concern  number one for any birding  safaris  in Uganda .

With a world population estimated of  12000- 15000   individuals , the bird belongs to Appendix ii of cities   and is classified as a globally near –  threatened species .

Shoebills are initiate   only in nine African countries  and their range extends from south Sudan ,through Uganda  and western Tanzania to  south  east Democratic Republic  of congo and north west Zambia  .In Uganda the shoebill  has  turned  out  to be the chief  tourist attraction which leads to uganda birding tours . It has been recorded in  the following areas.

  • Queen Elizabeth National park and Lake  Frequent in the swamps north  of lake George  and the shoe bill swamp  west of the Hamukungu fishing village  as well as swamps  on lake Edward.
  • Kyambura Wildlife Reserve. Commonly on the shores of Lake Goerge and occasionally recorded  on a fresh water crater marsh  ,kinera
  • Semliki Wild life Reserve.It has recored on the edge of reed beds near to the mouth of Semliki Riiver close to Ntoroko fishing village and on lake Albert.
  • Lake Mburo National   Quite a lot of  pares recognized  to crop up  in the papyrus  swamp elongated  in  the river Ruizi. Unusual    bird  within  the park, but encountered  in the flooded seasonal grass swamps as  well as clearings  in stable swamp.
  • Nabugabo Wet Land, Masaka District. recorded in marshes nearby  to Lake Nabugabo and expected  to be normal.
  • Mabamba Bay, On the sea shore  of Lake Victoria, is the Mabamba Bay wetland casing  about 17,000 hectares of an breadth  of miscanthus—a type of grass inhabitant  to tropical and subtropical region—but more regularly  known as papyrus. The open water in a shape  of a canal, is worn  to trail birds and away in  Busi island that is a dwelling  to over 40,000 people.
  • Murchison Falls National Park. It is one of the most excellent places to see  shoebills  leading to birding tours.In 1997 a total of 15 birds were  counted in one day.
  • Ajaiwildlife Reserve ,Nebbi district –reported by local people from swamps near to the Nile River.
  • Lake Nakuwa,soroti,Kamuli district –common in the swamps but highly mistreated  by the local people for food  and for sale.
  • Lake Bisina, Kumi district –  the far reaching  swamp has not been surveyed  .The most recorded were four pairs with young at the edge of the lake.
  • Lake Opeta,Katakwi,Mbale ,Kumi and sorotiMajorswamps along Lake Victoria shores

The  predictable shoebill population in Uganda is between 350 – 400 breeding pairs however the  population of sparse available information shows that shoebills have very specific   habitat requirements in terms of vegetation cover. They mainly roost inside papyrus swamps but feed in fairly open places with thick but  short floating vegetation. In addition to that  about 3.2squarekms of appropriate  habitant  to breed. A mixture  of these factors hinders  the allocation of  shoebills to curbed   areas within apparently fit   habitant .even here, the population size can only remain small .Like all long-lived birds shoebills have low recruitment rates requiring many years before becoming and will easily abandon their nests with eggs or young at the slightest provocation.

A key   threat to the continued existence  of the species is a lack of information a bout the birds .In addition to this ,habitant loss is a particular problem .This results mainly from conversion of wet lands to agriculture .Also swamps are burnt  for cultural reasons in search for grazing ,hurting and fishing  among other reasons .These fires are mainly set during the dry season , but is not  un common to find a wetland burning in every month of the year. These fires decimate any eggs or chicks that may be on the nest.

Up till now ,another problem the birds face is direct harvesting for  food  and trade –shoebills are  trapped and / or shot in some areas of Uganda .This is especially true in the areas a round Lake Bisina and Opeta  and the northern fringes of Lake  Kyoga.Shoebill hunting for food is more widespread than hunting for trade.

There is also some persecution of the birds due to a belief in the fishing communities on Lake Kyoga that sighting a shoebill casts a bad omen on fishing endeavors. Therefore , in order to minimize the chances of sighting shoebill ,they are usually hunted and killed.

Travel Hemispheres arranges birding safaris for anybody that may be interested.

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