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Makanaga Bay; A Hidden Shoebill stork View Point in Uganda

Makanaga Bay is one of the swampland extensions of the shore of Lake Victoria-Africa’s largest continental lake, situated in Mpigi district. Makanaga swamp is a rewarding birding excursion spot and one of the closest points from Kampala-Uganda’s capital for spotting the shoebill stork. From Kampala, you drive along Kampala-Masaka road for about 1 ½ hours to Kamengo then on about a 20 minutes’ drive on a dirt road to Namugobo landing site. From Kamengo landing site, you take a 10 minutes boat ride to the swampland. Makanaga Bay is one of the highly recommendable Uganda birding safari spot for avid birders searching for the shoebill stork. It provides a perfect environment to see the elusive shoebill stork in a less spoilt environment. Makanaga bay on the shores of lake Victoria offers a perfect point to view not only the shoebill stork but also rewards with bird species like; the Yellow-billed Duck, Spur-winged Goose, White-faced Whistling Duck, Little Stilt, Black-winged Stilt, Wood and Common Sandpiper, Long-tailed Cormorants, Great Cormorants, Spur-winged Lapwing, , Common Squacco Heron, Black-winged Terns, Little egret, Great Egret, Gull-billed Terns, African Jacana, Malachite Kingfisher, Pied Kingfishers and many more.

About the Shoebill Stork

The shoebill (Balaeniceps rex) is a very large stork-like bird that has previously been classified with the storks in the order Ciconiiformes based on its morphology though with genetic evidence it is placed with the Pelecaniformes. This huge greywater bird, also known as a whale-headed stork, derives its name Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex), from its gigantic bill (beak), which resembles a traditional Dutch clog with a sharp nail-like hook on the end. This shoebill stork was once classified with storks in the order Ciconiiformes however, the most recent DNA studies have suggested that it belongs to the pelicans in the order Pelecaniformes. Whatever its taxonomic similarities, this elusive swamp dweller has remained one of Africa’s most sought-after ticks for birders on Uganda birding tours. The shoebill is a rare bird species found in the marshes of East Africa surviving in few numbers. The adult shoebill is mainly grey while the juveniles are browner in plumage.Where in Uganda would you spot this prehistoric bird on a Uganda birding tour? Definitely, it will be the swamps of Uganda where you will have the chance of a sighting during your birding watching safari in Uganda. Even though they can weigh up to 6kg, they can stand quite easily on floating vegetation while hunting for fish.

The Shoebill is a tall bird with a typical height ranging from 110 to 140 cm (43 to 55in) and length ranging from 100-140cm (39 to 55 in). Its wing span is 230 to 260cm. It’s flapping rate of approximately 150 flaps per minute rating it among the slowest birds. Many tourists on Uganda birding safaris have always gone for the search of these bird species in the wetland Marshes.

The big bird can actually fly when they have to though they cannot fly very far. Shoebills feed on lung fish (staple food), other bird species, baby crocodiles, frogs, terrapins., water snakes and even small mammals. Seeing a shoebill catch its early morning prey is one of the best moments for many birders birding in Uganda.

The large bill of the shoebill is used to carry large ‘gulps’ of fresh water back to the nest in order to douse eggs or chicks when the sweltering heat of the swamps drives temperatures beyond normality. The other fascinating techniques to cool down involve defecating on their legs just as storks do too. The shoebill always hatches two chicks though only one that proves to be the strongest survives and grows to an adult.

What do these birds feed on?

Shoebills are specialist predators of lungfish hence their distribution through tropical East Africa seems to correspond with the availability of these fish. A shoebill often benefits from living alongside hippos. These huge amphibious mammals bulldoze channels through papyrus swamps, allowing shoebills access to otherwise inaccessible feeding areas. They also force fish to the surface, making them easier for the bird to capture.

They feed on other things like frogs, snails, water snakes, turtles, water birds and baby crocodiles.

Reproduction of a shoebill

The papyrus and reed beds are their preferred nesting habitat. A shoebill may hatch two or more chicks but seldom raise more than one. Stronger chicks will bully their weaker siblings, depriving them of food and sometimes killing them outright. This brutal practice also occurs among eagles. The younger chicks are a form of insurance: back-ups in case the eldest fails to survive.

Best birding time for Makanaga shoebill excursion

The swamp is open all year round and can be visited during the times of your Uganda birding tour especially during the months of May to September. However, if you are visiting Makanaga swamp as part of a tailored trip to south western Uganda’s Mgahinga Gorilla National Park and Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in search of the Albertine rift endemics, May to June is the nesting season. Though, from mid-April to mid-May the rains might still be too heavy. Uganda is a never disappointing birding destination therefore, opt to tailor in all of the best birding spots in your itinerary.

Shoebill watching Spots in Uganda

Uganda is one of the leading destinations with numerous bird species in Africa that count up to about 1061 making it a one-stop destination for travellers interested in a birding watching safari Uganda. There are several Uganda birding safari tour spots in Uganda where shoebill storks can be sighted. While organizing your Africa birding safari itinerary, take note of these popular spots where you can sight a shoebill stork. These include Murchison Falls National Park along the banks of the Nile River, especially in the delta area. You may choose to take an early morning and late evening private boat ride to the delta offering you high chances of spotting the bird. It is not easy to spot however; it is very hard to complete your Uganda birding tour without sighting this bird.

Besides Murchison Falls National Park Uganda, Mabamba swamp is another hot spot and quite close to Kampala, Uganda’s capital. This spot is famous for 1 Day birding safaris in Uganda since it’s a spot where you can tick off a good number of birds on your list. Are you short of time and you would want to see this bird, book a birding safari to Uganda to Mabamba swamp with our professional Uganda birding safaris guide for about 7-hours? This 7 hours Mabamba 1 Day birding excursion Uganda gives you a chance to spot over 26o bird species with the possibility of spotting this legendary bird species; the shoebill storks.

During your Uganda wildlife safari in Queen Elizabeth National Park, the shoebill stork is known to thrive in the southern end of Lake Edward. Lake Edward is found in Queen Elizabeth National Park Uganda, the second biggest and second famous Uganda wildlife tour park after Murchison Falls National Park Uganda. While here, you can sight over 600 bird species during your Uganda birding safaris tour. Besides your bird watching safari Uganda, you can also enjoy Uganda wildlife safaris by enjoying game drive around the park giving you the chance to sport the big four wild game including its famous tree-climbing lions.

Other spots in Uganda include the Rugogo swamp in Ziwa Rhino Sanctuary, Lake Mburo National Park, and Semuliki National Park close to Lake Albert. Besides the shoebill stork, Uganda is home to approximately 1061 bird species that constitute 50% of Africa’s bird species and 11% of the world’s bird species count, making it a great destination for birders and the epitome of birding tours in Africa.

In all those destinations you may visit in search of the shoebill stork you have chances of seeing other rare species like the papyrus Gonolek for the case of mabamba bay. Therefore shoebill hunt is so rewarding is worth taking on while birding watching tour Uganda.

It is also wise you supplement your birding safari tour in Uganda on your Africa tour with a Uganda wildlife tour, a Uganda gorilla tour or short Uganda gorilla safari, a Uganda chimpanzee trekking safari, Uganda wildlife safaris, Uganda gorilla safaris, Uganda chimpanzee safaris, mountain hiking safaris Uganda, Uganda Rwanda cycling safaris, a Jinja city tour or 1 Day Jinja city tour, a Kampala city tour or Kampala day excursions, a Uganda cycling safari depending on your choice of safari in Uganda.

It is also possible to modify your Birding safari in Uganda or Birding tour in Uganda to feature other Africa safari destinations like Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya among the many. Congo safaris or a Congo safari offers you chance enjoy a Congo gorilla safari in Kahuzi Biega National Park to trek lowland gorillas or a Congo gorilla safaris tours in Virunga National Park to trek the famous Mountain gorillas.

Rwanda has lots of Rwanda safari activities to offer travellers interested in Rwanda tours like Rwanda birding safaris, Rwanda gorilla safaris in Volcanoes National Park Rwanda,a Rwanda Chimpanzee safari in Nyungwe Forest National Park, a canopy walk in Nyungwe, a Kigali city tour or a Rwanda wildlife safari in Akagera National Park.

Tanzania safaris offer one of the best Africa wildlife safaris including Tanzania birding safaris. A Tanzania wildlife safari offers you the chance to visit Africas’ most famous Serengeti National Park while Kenya safaris offer Kenya birding safaris and Kenya wildlife safaris that bid you the chance to visit Masaai Mara National Park.

Book your Uganda birding safaris tour, birding tour in Uganda or Bird watching safaris Uganda with us for the best ultimate Africa safari tour memories.

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