For centuries, Lutembe Bay has been hosting both native and millions of Palearctic migrant birds. They come mainly from the arctic region that includes mainland Europe, Scandinavia countries and as far away as Russia.
The come to Lutenbe for nine months every year here and only go back to Europe to breed. Some fly nonstop to and from the Caspian Sea.
Lutembe sometimes hosts over 70% of the global population of White-winged Black Terns (Chlidonias leucopterus), large numbers of Grey-headed Gulls (Larus cirrocepharus), Black-headed Gulls (Larus ridibundus) and Gull-billed Terns (Sterna nilotica).
According to nature Uganda, in 2000, Lutembe hosted almost the entire population of the white-winged black terns – over 3.5 million birds.
The birds come from September to October every and go back in February to March.
Every year after breeding in Europe, the birds come with their young. The young ones are left behind to grow. During this period when the young are left on their own at Lutembe learning how be adults, their all –white- colour changes to black. Others only have their heads change to black. This change of colour is called breeding plumage. When it’s time to go back and breed, the young ones fly as black birds, breed and come back to Lutembe when they are white. The circle has been going on for centuries.
Uganda receives the biggest share of all Palearctic birds in Africa due to the country’s big water masses. Other areas in the country that attract migratory birds include but are not limited to Kazinga channel and Musambwa Island.
The biggest congregations of the European birds at Lutembe are Gulls and terns which roost on muddy islets when the water level is low, especially between September to March.
The terns have stopover areas in Sudan and Egypt along the River Nile and other water bodies while the gulls can fly from the Caspian Sea to Lutembe nonstop.
Lutembe is both a Ramsar site and one of over 30 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Uganda. It is a globally, regionally, nationally and locally an important biodiversity area. Lutembe is home to 280 of both water and non water bird species.
Apart from Palearctic migrant birds, Lutembe is also home to seven globally threatened species like; Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Papyrus Gonolek, Shoebill, African Skimmer, Great Snipe, and Madagascar Squacco among others.
Lutembe lies on the northern shores of Lake Victoria at the mouth of Murchison Bay between Entebbe and Kampala, at an altitude of 1,130 metres, covering an area of about 800 hectares. It is shallow, papyrus-fringed, and almost completely cut off from the main body of Lake Victoria by two papyrus islands. It is one of Uganda’s hottest birding tourism site.
Uganda is a birder’s paradise. The country supports more than 1000 bird species representing about 50% of the bird species in Africa and 11% of the birds’ global population.
Article by Matthias Mugisha