Uganda Hosting First Ever Birding Expo

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African Birding Expo

Do an online search for “birding in Uganda” and you’ll get a blizzard of options. Topping the list of search results is the Uganda tourism board’s website, Birding Uganda, with a photo of a stork at sunset and this quote: “Uganda’s birds have ornithologists doing cartwheels.”

Moving down the list, you’ll be bombarded with birding safaris, and we’re not talking a few days. There are 14-day birding safaris and 22-day safaris.

If you think birding — formerly known as bird watching — is an obscure activity, think again.

In the U.S. alone, about 85 million Americans enjoy photographing, feeding or observing wild birds, according to USAToday. Birding ranks 15 on a list of most popular outdoor activities, just below bicycling and going to the beach, according to the National Survey on Recreation and the Environment by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Uganda has 10% of the world’s total bird species, 50% of Africa’s bird species, and the tourism board says the country has 34 important bird watching areas.

Uganda may be one of the best bird watching destinations in the world, according to the Rweteera Safari Park website, which draws bird lovers in with a simple introductory photo of a footpath disappearing into a forest. The message is that there are birds here. Come with us. We’ll show you.

That’s the general message that Uganda is trying to give, and to that end the country will host from 27-29 November its first ever “avitourism” event, the African Birding Expo.

This event is the brainchild of Herbert Byaruhanga, a pioneer in Ugandan birding tourism, as well as the president of the Uganda Tourist Association and Chairman of the Uganda Safari Guides Association.

The bird watching community in and outside Africa is being invited to attend the three-day event, including people who sell birding gear and guide books, along with international travel writers, celebrities, the media, the public and other exhibitors.

The event is being held at the Entebbe Botanical Gardens, where scenes were filmed for the 1940s Tarzan films starring Johnny Weissmuller. The gardens are close to accommodation and area attractions.

The Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Tourist Association is sponsoring the event, which was inspired by the annual British Bird Watching Expo, fondly described as the “Birders Glastonbury,” that Uganda has participated in since 1997.

Ugandan clubs and organizations will be there including Wildlife Clubs of Uganda, Nature Uganda, Uganda Society, Uganda Young Birders’ Club, and Uganda Women Birders’ Club.

The birding expo will also include activities such as face painting of favourite birds, a bird quiz, imitating common bird calls, traditional dances, tours to experience Kampala’s night life, visits to cultural sites, and a taste of local cuisine.

Some of Uganda’s birds that attract birders from around the world live only in the country’s tropical forests, and sightings are so rare that they’re described as mythical. It is believed that some of the birds living in the remote forests may not even be classified yet.

Grey crowned cranes, ground hornbills, shoebills and Heuglin’s robins are some of the birds that birders hope to catch a glimpse of when they come to Uganda.

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