Mabira Forest (Mabira Central Forest Reserve) is situated along the Kampala – Jinja highway in Buikwe District covering up to 305 square kilometers. It is a thick forest with a tropical high forest ecosystem. It is the biggest in the central region of Uganda and one of the few surviving natural forests in the country.
Mabira Forest protects an incredible diversity including up to 312 trees including endangered species, 315 species of birds including rare ones, 218 butterfly species, 97 moths, and 23 small animals including squirrels, bushbabies and lots of monkeys.
Mabira Forest is managed by the National Forestry Authority (NFA) as Mabira Eco-tourism Site. It is open to visitors for nature adventures including Forest Walks, Birding Watching and Biking. Parts of the thick forest have been neatly set for the adventure activities. There is an excellent network of well maintained forest trails, offering easy navigation of the forest and great views of the canopy and wildlife in the forest. The NFA has well trained knowledgable guides based at the forest. These shall do well to take you through the forest trails and offer valuable knowledge on the wildlife in Mabira.
Mabira Forest offers a brilliant forest birding experience in Uganda and a great introduction to Uganda’s rich forest bird list. It is conveniently situated along the Jinja highway making it easily accessible from Kampala in just one hour of drive. It is very brilliant especially when one doesn’t have much time but would love some spectacular forest birds in a short time. An early start say by 7am and bird for only half a day could produce up to 70 species, even close to 100! On the whole however, many bird watchers like to have Mabira for a starting site for their birding adventures across Uganda and it is a great idea.
The main bird watching area of Mabira Forest is at Najjembe Village, which is also the location of the Visitor Information Center for Mabira Eco-tourism Site. Najjembe is situated approximately 56km from Kampala along the Jinja highway. From the highway and on your left hand coming from Kampala direction, it is about 300 meters to the Visitor Information Center of the forest. Along the highway at the turn-off is a big vendors’ market selling roasted meats and other foodstuffs to travellers, so it should be easy to identify Najjembe when one gets there. Then there is a sign post at the turn-off directing to the site.
At the visitor information center you can request for a bird guide and set off to bird in Mabira Forest.
The area around the Visitor Information Center is quite active with sights and sounds of birds in the nearing trees during the early morning hours. You’ll spend some time here and record a good deal. Thereafter take to the neat forest trails and walk under the thick forest canopy, feeling the cool air of the jungle and scanning through the canopy for lots of birds and monkeys. To differentiate the trails so as to avoid confusion, the fringe trees of each trail are marked with a different paint. This also helps to prevent one from getting lost in the forest.
After Najjembe, another interesting birding watching spot in Mabira Forest is a track at a place/village called Buwoola. To get there, drive for about five minutes along the highway from Najjembe and you’ll get to a feeder dirt road leading into the forest, still on your left. It is wide enough and easily identified. This serves both as a birding track and public road leading to a village. Lots of motorists and locals use it. Immediately after the turn-off disembark from the car and establish your trail right away and begin to bird. Buwoola is rich with lots of birds and compliments Najjembe well. It is advisable to bird along this track as early as possible before the motorcycle traffic increases and cause a lot of inconvenience.
Some of the birds to look out for in Mabira include: Yellow White-eye, White-shouldered Titi, African Dusky Flycatcher, Hairy-breasted Barbet, Barn Swallow (a migrant from the United Kingdom sighted during October, November), Speckled Tinkerbird, Collard Sunbird, Little Green Sunbird, Yellow-throated Tinkerbird, Yellow-billed Kite (sighted in flight over the forest), Bocage’s Bushshrike (Grey-green Bush-shrike), Hooded Vulture, Red-capped Robin Chat, Ashy Flycatcher, African Shrike Flycatcher, Grey-backed Camaroptera, Red-billed Paradise Flycatcher, African Harrier Hawk, Great Blue Turaco, Yellow-mantled Weaver, Black-and-white Mannkin, Slender-billed Greenbul, Wheyn’s Weaver, White-throated Greenbul, Grey-headed Nigrofinch, Viellots Black Weaver, Red-chested Cuckoo, Buff-throated Apalis, Common Bulbul, White-bellied Nigrofinch, Green Harrier, Pied Kingfisher, White-browed Cuckoo, Red-tailed Bristlebill, Red-headed Bluebill, Nahan’s Francolin, Black-crowned Waxbill, African Grey Parrot, Blue-breasted Kingfisher, Tambourine Dove, White-spotted Flufftail, Great Sparrowhawk, Palm Swift, Pygmy Kingfisher, Pied Hornbill, Broad-billed Roller, White-throated Bee-eater, Forest Wood Hoopoe, Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird, Speckle-breasted Woodpecker, Yellow-whiskered greenbul, Little greenbul, Forest Robin, Fire-crested Alethe, Blue-shouldered Robin-chat, African Thrush, Rufous Flycatcher-thrush, Olive-green Camaroptera, Black-throated Apalis, Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher, Brown-throated Wattle-eye, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Jameson’s Wattle-eye, Red-bellied Paradise Flycatcher, African Blue Flycatcher, Scaly-breasted Illadopsis, White-winged Tit, Olive Sunbird, Sooty Boubou, Velvet-mantled Drongo, Western Black-headed Oriole, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Grey-headed Sparrow.