Nature Uganda

Raptor Counts

NatureUganda has conducted research and monitoring on a variety of birds for over 20 years.

This data has been used for guiding policy formation, advocacy work, action to conserve and preserve birds and their habitats among others. Additionally, species action plans for example the Grey Crowned Crane and Lesser flamingo Species Action Plans have been developed as a result of information generated from such studies.

NatureUganda has many monitoring programmes including the biannual waterfowl counts, common birds monitoring and Raptors Surveys and Vulture Counts among others. The organization’s effort on Raptors has before been supported by Peregrine Fund and the Royal Society for the protection of Birds for the previous surveys. We hope to maintain our annual Raptor surveys when funding is available.


Environmental degradation of this kind may have profound consequences for the lives of people by reducing natural resources and the ecosystem services upon which they depend. Importantly, birds, and particularly those species that are common and widespread, have a real connection with people and their lives.

Common bird indicators are especially useful in showing change in the overall condition of ecosystems, which is difficult and expensive to measure directly. More so, we may be facing declines of common bird populations without our knowledge, yet such declines would indicate a fundamental flaw in the way we treat our environment and thus influence the way we behave.


An established protocol is available and the survey teams for particular routes are known. The counts involve a moving vehicle with 3 to 5 observers probably sitting on the roof in rural roads but not on public roads. The first consideration is made such that counts are done not to include raptors departing from and returning to their roosts and therefore the survey are done from 0900 to 1600. This is to reduce time of day effects. The survey routes are usually 100 to 300 kilometers long. If the survey route involves more than one road, each road number and the time and place name where the route changes roads is recorded. The speed limits during counts are 30-50 kilometers per hour. Start and end time during the counts are recorded in hours and minutes. As a means to trace speed, the total distance traveled on the hour and on the half hour during the survey is recorded. All the raptors seen are counted and appropriately recorded in banded distances. Where need be the vehicle shall stop to count the numbers of individuals in large flocks. Only those birds spotted on stopping are recorded and any new birds sighted after stopping is not be recorded. Horizontal distance perpendicular to the road to individuals or the centers of groups as, <100, <200, <500, or >500 meters. Perched birds are recorded as “Perched” and flying birds as “Flying”.

Area of coverage

Our Raptors surveys cover three savannah National Parks (Queen Elizabeth, Murchison Falls and Lake Mburo) and connecting Public routes To and From these Protected Areas and to Entebbe airport. In doing this, we cover Protected Areas, agricultural land and pastoral lands in Uganda and cover the Western, Central, Northern and North Eastern parts of the country. The counts are done between January and March.

Suggested Reading

  • BirdLife International 2000. Threatened birds of the world. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona, Spain, and BirdLife International Cambridge, UK.
  • Biodiversity Report 2008. The State of Uganda’s biodiversity, 2008. Eds D. Pomeroy and H. Tushabe, National Biodiversity Data Bank, Makerere University Institute of Environment and Natural Resources, Kampala, Uganda.
  • Green, R, Newton, I, Shutts, S, Cunningham, A, Gilbert, M, Pain, D and Prakash, V. 2004. Diclofenac poisoning as a cause of vulture population declines across the Indian subcontinent. Journal of Applied Ecology, 41, 793-800.
  • Loh, J, Green RE, Ricketts, T, Lamoreux, J, Jenkins, M, Kapos, V and Randers, J. 2005. The Living Planet Index : using species population time series to track trends in biodiversity. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 360, 289-295.
  • Pomeroy, D and Asasira, J. (In press). Monitoring bird populations in Uganda: the first 25 years. Proc. PAOC XII.
  • Thiollay, J-H. 2007a. Raptor declines in West Africa: comparisons between protected, buffer and cultivated areas. Oryc 41, 322-328.
  • Thiollay, J-H. 2007b. Raptor population decline in West Africa. Ostrich, 78, 405-413.