‘Birds are everywhere!’ Women bird guides in Uganda set a global example

Birdwatching is a rapidly growing and lucrative part of the tourism sector worldwide, but women make up a very small minority of professional guides. Uganda Women Birders, a bird guide club, is revolutionizing the industry by encouraging and supporting women who want to get into the business. Anita Elash reports from the town of Entebbe, Uganda.

On a recent Sunday morning, a group of eight women birders met in the historic botanical garden in Entebbe, a town nestled along the shore of Lake Victoria.

More than 400 bird species can be found in the garden. The women oohed and aahed as they spotted some of their favorites, including a broad-billed roller perched high in a cluster of trees and the rare sight of a female great blue turaco feeding one of her chicks. 

Most of the women in the group are training to become professional bird guides with Uganda Women Birders.

Kabarungi joined the group last year and has already learned to identify more than 200 species. She also enjoys leading safaris, but said she really loves turning people on to the beauty of birds, especially people who aren’t that interested at first. 

“By the time you finished talking to this person, this person will have got that love for birds, because of the colors, the calls,” she said. 

Machline Komujuni said birds bring back memories of her childhood in rural Uganda. Her mother taught her that birds use their calls to communicate with each other, sending messages when there’s danger or the seasons are about to change. She said her mother was illiterate, but used Indigenous knowledge to understand the birds’ messages.