The Shoebill: Uganda’s Most Sought-After Bird

Not only is the Shoebill an endangered specie in the world, it’s also hard to see. It’s a great adventure to track the shoebill at Mabamba swamp, one of the homes of the endangered bird.

The morning breeze lightly blows over the multicoloured water lilies that don the water-ways towards the Mabamba swamp. The warm sun rays always dissolve the mist and turn the seemingly lifeless grey sky into a balmy beautiful morning. Piercing the dying haze are the water bird’s songs that always retronovent the sky with hisky melodies. They reverberate across the three natural canals that criss-cross the sprawling wetland.

There are not so many Shoebills left in the world. The Shoebill is one of the most sought after birds in Africa. It can only easily be seen in Uganda and some parts of southern Sudan. Many birders take different Uganda Safaris to see the rare shoebill. Uganda has about 1,500 Shoebills and these can be found around Lake Kyoga, Semliki, Murchison and Queen Elizabeth National Parks plus Katonga valley.

Mabamba swamp is the nearest place from Kampala where one can easily see the Shoebill in its natural habitat. Mabamba is 23km off the Kampala-Masaka highway from Mpigi town. It takes only 10 minutes on water to reach the same swamp from Entebbe. The swamp, on the shores of Lake Victoria, is also home to other two endangered bird species: the Blue Swallow and the Papyrus Gonolek, apart from also hosting the ever shy Sitatunga. There are only nine Shoebills in Mabamba, which seem fascinating to see but need to be timed by reaching the swamp very early in the morning before they leave to their feeding places.

Surprisingly the locals around the swamp used to kill the bird on sight on superstitious grounds. According to some villagers, the Shoebill was considered an omen of bad luck.

“Whenever we met it while going for fishing, we would go back because that meant you would catch no fish,” says one old toothless aging man.

Their numbers also diminished further when the Shoebills and their eggs started selling like hot cakes abroad. The two Shoebills at Uganda Wildlife Education Centre in Entebbe were confiscated from poachers who had grabbed them from Mabamba.

But today, because of sensitization, residents have begun to see the importance of the bird as it transforms the sleepy fishing village into a major tourist destination. People with boats hire them out to tourists. Many tour companies organize birding safaris to Mabamba Swamp.

Source by Jean Ankunda

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