Tourism is now the biggest foreign exchange earner for Uganda. It is important to note that our basis for tourism is nature particularly biodiversity making it our duty to protect and promote sustainable utilisation of this resource. Uganda is regarded as Africa's best birding destination for birders and other nature enthusiasts. It has more bird species per square kilometer than any other country in Africa. Roughly the same size as the UK, Uganda can boast of a national list of over 1061 species (See the Uganda Bird Checklist 2012). This figure represents nearly half the bird species that can be found in the whole of Africa. With this number of bird species mainly in large well protected wilderness areas, a birding trip to Uganda is the most leisurely in the east and central tropical birding destinations. The key to Uganda's diversity is its variety of habitats, which include arid, semi-dessert, savannahs, lowland and montane rainforests, wetlands and Afro-alpine areas. These are all interesting habitats in terms of structure and content making it interesting to know how many species out of the total country list could be recorded in one day if there was birding in all these habitat types on one particular day. This led to the creation annual Big Birding Day idea was developed since 2009. BBD is a 24 hour bird watching contest throughout the country, in National Parks, Wildlife Reserves, Important Bird Areas, Ramsar sites, Forest reserves and many other sites from midnight to midnight the following day. The event will involve selecting groups each with at least 2 members who are experienced bird watchers/guides to confirm the species identification. All birds seen and heard calling within the sites are recorded by the group at that site. The activity is aimed at: updating the species list for birds in Uganda and promoting avian tourism in Uganda.
BBD 2009 marked the start of this great annual event. It was organised by NatureUganda and recorded 386 bird species. In October 2010, NatureUganda in collaboration with Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA), Sustainable Tourism in the Albertine Rift (STAR-Uganda), Uganda Tourism Board (UTB), Uganda Bird Guides Club (UBGC), and Uganda Community Tourism Association (UCOTA) came together to organize a three-day Big Birding Festival to coincide with the 2010 World Bird Festival. Launch of the Big Birding day was on 14th October at the Uganda Museum where a presentation was made on birds and birding in Uganda.
The BBD on 15th October 2010 recorded a total of 622 species by the 40 teams covering 38 sites in all regions of Uganda. The highest record came from Kampala-Entebbe area with 175 species, followed by Murchison Falls National Park with 162, QENP with 160 and Kidepo National Park with 150 species. Among the teams were four community groups from Katwe, QENP, Ruboni in Rwenzori, Echuya Forest Reserve, Conserve Uganda in Katakwi, Mabamba bay, Kasohya Kitomi and Kyambura Reserve, Tourist teams, teams from NatureUganda, UWA including all national parks, UBGC members and other interested parties.
The BBD 2011 was similar to that in 2010 though more sites were covered. A total of 569 species were recorded in the 53 sites done by 36 bird racing teams. QENP recorded the highest with 207 species, followed by the Entebbe Peninsula (189) and then the Kidepo Valley NP team with (149). Generally, the total numbers of species recorded in the sites was higher than in previous counts unlike the overall total number of species because a few key sites like Mt. Elgon were not involved due to unforeseen reasons. Lack of expert guides in important sites like; MFNP, Semliki NP, Moroto/Karamoja area was another reason for the low species total.
The theme for the Big Birding Day 2012 was, "connecting birds to people and nature". However the organizing committee also decided to develop a subtheme; birding @50 saving the Crane, Uganda's national symbol. This was to refocus attention on the plight of the crane in Uganda. The numbers of the crane have plummeted by nearly 60% in the last 30 years and the species is now categorized as globally endangered, that is to say, it could get extinct in the next 20 years if good conservation measures are not undertaken to save the species. Over 290 birders in 58 teams were involved in the 2012 BBD. These teams covered 35 general areas and recorded 657 species. This accounts for 63% of the total species of Uganda recorded and an increase of 82 species from the 2011 record. QENP recorded the highest number with 246 species, the highest for any site since the BBD started. It was followed by MFNP (205) and then Mabamba bay (Ramsar site) with 187 species. Generally this was the most popular BBD with better media coverage and more corporate interest to participate.
In 2013, the over 489 participants who participated in the birding race, covered 73 sites in the 32 general conservation areas and recorded 708 bird species. This makes this birding race the best ever for the life of the activity. The number of species recorded represents 67.4% and an increase of 51 species from that of 2012. Mt. Elgon National Park recorded the highest number of species with 275 (88.1% of the total species of the park) the highest for any site since the BBD started. It was followed by Murchison Falls National park with 267 species (55.7% of total species for the park) and then QENP with 250 species (44.1% of total known for the site). Generally, protected area (PA) sites recorded more species than non-protected sites.
The BBD 2014 was organized by Uganda Tourism Board with technical support from NatureUganda, Uganda Wildlife Authority and Uganda Bird Guides Club. This BBD was organized under the sub theme: "Birds and People, Friends for Life". It was launched on the 27th November at Kasenge Forest Resort, 28th November-travelling to the sites, 29th Nov-BBD. A total of 38 teams birding across the whole country recorded a total of 731 bird species (the highest record for the BBD ever!). This particular BBD had International birders of great profiles; Tim Appleton (Organiser American Birding Expo), Bill Thompson (Editor, Co-publisher of Bird Watcher Digest) and Dominic Mitchell. These further raised the profile of Uganda. QENP recorded the highest species number with 308 followed by 242 from Budongo Central Forest Reserve and MFNP, Lake Mburo followed with 221 species and Fort Portal area with 209 species. The sites that participated included 21 sites in protected areas (National parks and forest reserves) and 16 non- protected areas. These results were announced during the birding Festival, which took place on 6th December at the Uganda Museum.
The Big Birding Day was organized as a three day event on the 12th, 14th and 18th November, the Launch, the BBD and the Big Birding Festival respectively.
The launch was held at the Uganda Museum in form of a public talk with a guest speaker talking about birds or birding and conservation in Uganda. Thereafter, participants registered in their respective teams. A total of 698 species was recorded from 23 sites by 425 participants from all over the country. QENP recorded the highest species number of 357 followed by MFNP 292, Kidepo 239 and others. This particular BBD was graced by the BirdLife International Global Council members who attended the BBD Festival and launched the State of Birds Report, one of NatureUganda's milestones.
BBD 2016 was organized with support from our partners; UWA, UTB, UBGC among others. The event was organized as a three day event on the 7th November-Launch, 12th as BBD and 18th day of November was the Birding Festival to announce the results. The year's BBD theme was "Promoting Uganda as an Ultimate Birding Destination in the world". UTB in conjunction with UBGC and the rest of the tourism fraternity invited international birders of great importance who toured the different parts of the country and took part in the Big birding Race and the aim was to promote Uganda as a birding destination. The Big birding day included guided nature walks throughout the country led by the bird guides and experts from among NatureUganda membership and UBGC in both protected and non-protected areas. A total of 768 species was recorded from 28 sites by 311 participants from all over the country. QENP recorded the highest species number of 372 followed by Mt .Elgon 285, Murchison Falls NP 233, Kidepo Valley NP 221 and Bwindi Impenetrable-Buhoma 200 and others.
The Big Birding Day 2017 will be organized as a three day event on the 9th, 11th and 18th of November. It will kick off with a lauch followed by the Birding exercises all over the country and will climax with the Birding festival. The launch will be held at the Uganda Museum in form of a public talk with a guest speaker talking about Birding and conservation in Uganda. Thereafter, participants will be registered in their respective teams and Birding will be conducted all over the country.
|All National Parks||All National Parks||All National Parks|
|Bwindi Impenetrable National park||Budongo FR||Gulu University|
|Mgahinga Gorilla National park||Kasohya Kitomi FR Bushenyi||Mbale/ Kibimba|
|Kibale National park||Echuya FR- Kabale||Entebbe Peninsula|
|Rwenzori Mountains National park||Mabamba/ Makanaga Bays||Kawanda-Namulonge- (Gayaza RD)|
|Tooro Semliki WR||Mabira FR||MUST- Mbarara|
|Semiliki National park||Lutembe Bay||Park Alexander|
|Katonga Wildlife Reserve||Nabajjuzi Masaka||Makerere University|
|Kidepo Valley National park||Musambwa Islands||Bahai Temple|
|Lake Mburo National park||Opeta- Katakwi||Rwenzori Bottling Co. Namanve|
|Mt. Elgon NP||All Central Forest Reserves||PRIVATE HOMES/COMPOUNDS|
|Murchison Falls National park||Queen Elizabeth National park
||Kyambura Wildlife Reserve- QENP|