Where to see Shoebill in Uganda

Where to see Shoebill in Uganda

The Shoebill, also known as the Whale-head or shoe-billed Stork, is a striking large wading bird found in the marshes of tropical East Africa, particularly in South Sudan and Uganda. It gracefully prowls the swampy shores of the Nile River and Lake Victoria, utilizing its distinctive and instantly recognizable bill to capture prey.

Interesting Facts About Shoebill

Shoebill storks have an unusual habit of defecating on their legs, a behavior believed to aid in regulating their body temperature. This peculiar trait initially led taxonomists to classify them within the stork family, as other stork species also employ this method for cooling off. Despite its unappealing aspect, this adaptation serves a vital purpose in the bird’s survival.

These majestic birds have the remarkable ability to remain motionless for extended periods, often standing with their bills pressed against their necks. Enhanced by their striking golden eyes, this posture gives them an intense, almost intimidating appearance, making them a tempting subject for selfies. However, approaching them recklessly can result in a powerful bite, underscoring the importance of maintaining a safe distance.

Breeding shoebill storks in captivity is a rare feat, with only a handful of successful hatchings recorded outside their natural habitat in the last century. Several zoos worldwide, such as the Prague Zoo, Pairi Daiza, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Dallas World Aquarium, and UWEC Zoo in Entebbe, house these captivating birds, either through captive breeding programs or legal acquisition from the wild.

The shoebill’s diet primarily consists of lungfish, a type of air-breathing fish, along with eels, catfish, amphibians, reptiles, and even young crocodiles. Renowned for their prowess as fishers, shoebills patiently wait in swampy waters for unsuspecting prey, swiftly striking with their sharp bills to seize and devour their catch whole.

Throughout history, the shoebill stork has drawn comparisons to the sacred ibis in ancient Egyptian culture, owing to its striking appearance and behavior. Revered for its solitary nature and the characteristic clattering of its bill, the shoebill symbolizes patience and vigilance, much like the revered ibis of antiquity.

When it comes to feeding, the shoebill demonstrates remarkable hunting prowess, primarily targeting fish within its freshwater swamp habitats. Employing stealth and lightning-fast strikes, it adeptly captures aquatic prey, including elusive water snakes, showcasing its adaptability and resourcefulness in securing sustenance.

During the rainy season, shoebills undertake migratory journeys to regions abundant in food resources. This seasonal movement presents a captivating opportunity to observe these majestic birds in their natural habitats, further enhancing their mystique and allure as icons of the wetlands.

Where can i find Shoebill in Africa?

Shoebills are frequently spotted in floodplain areas adorned with undisturbed papyrus and reedbeds. They primarily inhabit freshwater swamps, marshes, and wetlands across central tropical Africa, ranging from southern Sudan to parts of eastern Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, western Tanzania, and northern Zambia.

These magnificent birds are most commonly found in the West Nile sub-region and South Sudan, particularly in the Sud, which serves as a key stronghold for the species. They also thrive in the marshes around Lake Victoria in Uganda and western Tanzania. While more isolated sightings have been reported in Kenya, the Central African Republic, northern Cameroon, and southwestern Ethiopia, as well as in Malawi. Occasional vagrant individuals have been observed in the Okavango Basin in Botswana and along the upper Congo River.

The distribution of shoebills appears to closely align with the presence of papyrus and lungfish, highlighting the importance of these habitats in supporting the survival and ecological niche of these remarkable birds.

Shoebill in Uganda


Uganda shines as a top-tier destination for experiencing the wonder of shoebill storks. Its rich array of wetland habitats offers an optimal environment for these captivating birds, establishing the country as a sanctuary for both resident and migrating populations.

For unparalleled opportunities to observe shoebill storks in their natural habitat, look no further than the Mabamba Bay marshes along the shores of Lake Victoria and the Albert Delta nestled along the Victoria Nile within Murchison Falls National Park. These locations provide prime viewing spots, allowing visitors to witness these majestic creatures up close and in their element.

Mabamba Wetland Bay


Nestled along the serene shores of Lake Victoria, Mabamba Bay Wetland beckons bird enthusiasts with its vibrant avian population, notably the iconic shoebills. This sprawling wetland, adorned with floating vegetation and tranquil waters, provides an idyllic setting for observing these majestic birds in their natural habitat.

Mabamba Bay is a birdwatcher’s paradise, boasting a staggering 260 recorded bird species within its marshy expanse. Notably, it serves as a sanctuary for globally threatened species like the Blue Swallow, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, white-winged tern, and papyrus gonolek, constituting a significant portion of their global populations.

Birders will delight in the diverse array of avian residents, from spur-winged geese and goliath herons to pygmy geese, African jacanas, and pallid harriers. Moreover, Mabamba Bay hosts migratory species such as Gull-billed Terns, Whiskered Terns, White-winged Black Terns, and Grey-headed Gulls, adding to the site’s allure throughout the year.

Beyond its ornithological treasures, Mabamba Bay plays a crucial role in supporting local communities through its lucrative fisheries activity. Additionally, it serves as a vital source of raw materials, water for domestic and livestock use, and non-wood products, contributing to the livelihoods and sustenance of surrounding inhabitants.

To embark on a shoebill safari at Mabamba, visitors can opt for a scenic one-hour boat cruise across Lake Victoria from Entebbe’s Nakiwogo site. Upon reaching the Mabamba landing site, a smaller boat awaits to navigate the papyrus swamps and lead adventurers to the elusive shoebills. Typically lasting 1-2 hours, this immersive tour costs between $90 to $150 per person for two individuals sharing a boat, inclusive of a knowledgeable tour guide. Conveniently located near Entebbe International Airport, Mabamba Bay offers a perfect complement to an all-inclusive Uganda safari, ensuring an unforgettable wildlife experience.

Murchison Falls Albert Delta


The Murchison Falls-Albert Delta Wetland, stretching from the majestic Murchison Falls along the Victoria Nile to its union with Lake Albert, serves as a remarkable habitat for a diverse range of bird species, including the endangered shoebill, pelicans, darters, and herons. Nestled within the Nile Delta, a section of the Victoria Nile adorned with numerous tributaries winding through dense papyrus swamps, this area offers an enchanting setting for tourists eager to track the elusive shoebill.

Embarking on a three-hour boat cruise from Paraa jetty presents visitors with the opportunity to encounter an abundance of wildlife along the Nile’s shores, including elephants, hippos, crocodiles, buffalo, waterbuck, and giraffes. Designated as a Ramsar-listed site, the delta is a paradise for birdwatchers, showcasing species such as the Black-winged Pratincole, Lappet-faced Vulture, Lesser Kestrel, and Denham’s Bustard.

To catch a glimpse of the shoebill in the Nile Delta, tourists have the option to join daily boat launches or indulge in private boat tours, catering to a range of preferences and budgets. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) offers three-hour daily boat tours departing at 08:00 and 14:00, priced at approximately $15 per person, with a minimum requirement of ten passengers. Alternatively, private operators like G&C and Marasa operate smaller private fleets from Paraa’s south jetty, offering greater flexibility at prices ranging from $20 to $150 per person.



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