Migrant Birds in Rwanda (Special report)
8-9 May is World Migratory Bird Day and Rwanda hosts quite a few of these migrants either on passage or as ’summer’ visitors. Summer is a relative term in Rwanda as seasons mainly consist of the dry seasons and 2 rainy seasons - granted changes in the weather are blurring these lines as well. On the Rwanda Bird Atlas we have c.55 migrant species including the intra-African migrants.
Given that the Atlas is still ’young’, patterns have already started emerging for some species showing the Palearctic visitors’ seasons from September to April. As the number of records and the time frame covered increases, movement patterns of migrants will become clearer. In some cases there are records from June and or July either indicating 1st year birds remaining till the next season and/or in some we think, are/have become resident birds.
Looking at some examples from the Rwanda Bird Atlas, the European Bee-eaters and Common Sandpipers have the most records and show clear seasons from September to
April. There are isolated records for Common Sandpiper during July.
European Bee-eater: The latter part of September appears to be when the 1st birds start arriving or passing through with 50% recording percentage per visit. This peaks to 75% at the start of October and oddly no records for the latter part of the month. November to December shows an average of 37% recording precentage with a peak to 75% early January and dropping off to the last sightings end of April.
Common Sandpiper: The early part of September shows sightings at 75% of visits to existing sites on the database followed by a slight drop and then peaking to 75% again in the latter part of October and beginning of November. Early January again shows the same peak again with the last records in the latter part of April.
Spotted Flycatcher appears to arrive later but also leave later with the first records in November and the last at the end of May. In the case of Barn Swallows we have quite a few records from July although all are from Akagera NP – are these birds resident? But the general September to April pattern is clear.
Willow Warbler also arrives only in October, according to Atlas records to date, but last records are also April. Early November shows a small peak in sightings. Sedge Warbler sightings are at 50% of visits during November and December peaking to 75% early January. March & April only have isolated records.
A notable intra-African migrant is the African Pitta arriving from the south and thought to be the longipennis race. 1st sghting commence mid-May from central Rwanda and culminate in the last week of May in Buhanga Forest in the north-west. There may of course be other individuals around the country during this time but we have no records of that to date.
In Akagera NP the resident Violet-backed Starling numbers are boosted substantially by the intra-Africa migrants from Southern Africa during June and July when literally hundreds of these birds can be seen and outnumber their cousins, the Greater Blue-eared and Rueppell’s Starlings by far.