Shoebill stork is a unique and prehistoric-looking bird that is a tall wading bird and a native to the swampy regions of Eastern Tropical African countries. These countries include Uganda, Sudan, Zambia, Botswana, Kenya, Central African Republic, Congo, Tanzania, and Rwanda. The Shoebill stork derives its name from its extended shoe-shaped beak/bill.
The Shoebill stork can be found in two places such as Mabamba bay wetland and Murchison fall national park. Mabamba bay wetland is located northwest part of Entebbe across Lake Victoria and is at a surface elevation of 1130meter above the sea level. This wetland is a wonderful place to see the shoebill stork or else bird watching safari in Uganda and is commonly known as a home to this rare bird species. Other birds in this place include the Blue swallow, papyrus yellow warbler and many others. The wet land is under the management of Ramsar convention an intergovernmental treaty that was signed in 1971 in Iran for the protection of wetlands. To birders, Mabamba can be your easiest route for you because it is close to the capital city – Kampala which is approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes. To reach Lake Victoria, get a boat to sail you to Mabamba. Bird watching takes 7 hours with a great chance of spotting the number of bird species along the swamp.
The birding tour at Mabamba wetland is oftenly done on the canoes through small channels of marsh-filled and lagoons. You will be accompanied by local guides who are being trained as tour guides and now work to preserve the wet land.
The Shoebill was discovered a long time ago with both ancient Egyptians and Arabs but it was not categorized till the 19th century. Later it was described in 1850 by John Gould and naming it “Balaeniceps rex” the name which came from a Latin word.
Shoebill can be easily identified because of its unique features about its feathers are characterized in medium blue-grey color and when it comes to fly its tail can be in the same color as its wings. Shoebill is a long legged, long-necked wading bird and with a long shut. The female shoebill stork weighs between 4.9 kilograms and the male shoebill weighs on average of about 5.6kilograms. The shoebill has the neck which is relatively shorter and thicker than other long-legged wading birds like herons and cranes. They have sharp edges in the mandibles that help the shoebill to behead their prey in the swamp. Their tails can range between 100 to 140 centimeters long and raising 230 centimeters to 260 centimeters of its wings. The Shoebill has dark-colored legs that are fairly long composing the length of the born of about 21.7 to 25.5 centimeters. Their feet are extremely large and attached with the middle toe measuring 16.8 to 18.5 centimeters in length.
The Shoebill stork is noted to be slow in movements and they stay for a long period of life, resulting in the life style of the species as “sculpture-like”. They are quite sensitive to human distraction and keep on building their nests but far away from people. The Shoebill stork is a water bird and at the same time nocturnal bird which does not have webbed feet. They are graceful birds when it comes to flying and when attacking their prey they pull out their wings in a way of demonstrating their strength. Shoebill has a lifespan of about 50 years and more.
The best time for spotting the shoebill stork is in the morning hours or at any time of the day either at Mabamba swamp area or Murchison falls national park at the edge of Lake Albert.
Other birds that can be spotted at mabamba swampy areas include Common Bulbul, African pigeon, African Hoopoe, Cattle Egrets, Blue swallow, Brown parrots, Great blue turaco, Gull-billed tern, Marsh harrier, Cuckoo African jacana and many others.
Shoebills can be sought in many places but when it comes to Uganda birding safaris they can be spotted in such areas, at the edge of Lake Albert in Murchison, Ishasha sector of Queen Elizabeth national park, Lake mburo national park, Semiliki wildlife reserve, Ziwa Rhino reserve, and the Mabamba bay wet land in Entebbe.
Besides the shoebill Stork, Uganda hosts over 1100 bird species that constitute 50% of the African Bird Species and 11% of the world’s bird count, making it a great destination for birders. And Uganda birding safaris have become popular due to the increased number of bird species that can be spotted in any single day and also throughout the year.