The Virunga National Park is one of the most interesting birding destinations in Africa, and obviously a must visit place for tourists interesting in seeing a variety of exceptional bird species. This National Park is located in the eastern side of the Democratic Republic of Congo and extends from the Rwenzori Mountains (in the North) to the volcanoes within the Virunga Massif (in the Southern side). It was gazzeted in 1925 with an aim of conserving the critically endangered mountain gorillas, and currently over 200 mountain gorillas call the Jungles of this National Park home. The Landscape of the National Park is characterized by deep Valleys, Tropical rainforests, vast savannah plains, marshlands and swamps, active and extinct Volcanoes with lava and glaciated peaks that all offer shelter to over 780 bird species which is a rare case in other National Parks where the Mountain gorillas are found.
The common bird species to look out for in Virunga National Park include the sparkling Grey-throated barbet, the Double-toothed barbet within the thick tropical rainforests, the Yellow-billed, the Rwenzori batis, the incredible Madagascar bee-eater (migrant specie), the dazzling Narrow-tailed starling, the Doublecollared sunbirds, the Rwenzori Turacco, Handsome Francolins, the indigenous Golden-naped Weaver, the Mountain masked Apalis, the Kivu-ground thrush, the Regal Sunbird, rare Gulls, the Bronze Sunbird, the Forest ground thrush, the native Yellow-legged Weaver, the Rockefeller’s sunbird, the strange weaver, the stripe-breasted Tit, the Papyrus Yellow warbler, the elusive Shoebill storks, the Brown-crowned Tchagra, the Bitterns, the Congo Bay-owl, the Prigogine’s Greenbul , the Itombwe Nightjar, the Chapin’s Mountain Babbler, the Collared Apalis, the Nathan’s Francolins, Bitterns, Skimmers, the Darters, the Dusky crimson-wing, the Herons, the Rockefeller’s Sunbird, the Schouteden’s Swift, the Shelley’s Crimsonwing, the Bedford’s Paradise-flycatcher, the Blue-headed Sunbird, the Rudder’s Forest Robin, Kivu-ground Thrush, the Grauer’s Swamp warbler, the Ibises, the Black-headed Waxbill, Dusky turtle Dove, the Egrets, Rwenzori Batis, Cape Robin-chat, the Black-colored Waxbill, the Olive Thrush, the Yellow-crested Helmet-shrike , several pelicans, Streaky Seedeater, Geese, the Open Bills, Cormorants and Weavers among others.
Requirements for bird watching in Virunga National Park
For a wonderful birding experience, you should have the following; a pair of Binoculars, a camera, wear hiking boots, long sleeved shirts and long trousers, a rain jacket/poncho, enough drinking water and packed lunch or snack and a backpack among others.
Best Time for Birding in Virunga National Park
Birding in Virunga National park is an all year experience, but ultimate experiences are achieved if it is conducted during the rainy season (late February to April, and October to November) when the migratory species such as the Madagascar bee-eater are present within the Park.
How to Access the Virunga National Park
Virunga National Park in eastern Republic of Congo is accessible by both Air and Road transport, and by going direct to DRC or through Rwanda and Uganda. You can travel directly to Goma and drive westwards towards the National Park through murram roads that require 4WD vehicles. If in Uganda, you can reach DRC via Bunagana border, thereafter connect to the National Park and the Park is just 3-4 hours’ drive from Kigali City.
In conclusion, the Virunga National Park is most known for gorilla trekking safari, the park is a great place to enjoy birding! You can tailor make your gorilla safari with bird watching so that you can see some of the 780 bird species that live in the park.