How to spot the Shoebill and why Uganda is the best destination to do it

Shoebill Mabamba swamp Uganda

How to spot the Shoebill and why Uganda is the best destination to do it

The shoebill is certainly a distinctive looking bird. With its large bill and almost prehistoric features, it’s a sight to behold.

Standing at between 110cm and 140cm tall, the blue-grey bird features long legs and a broad wing span. And, of course, it’s bill does resemble the top of a shoe!

Otherwise known as the shoe-billed stork or whale-headed stork, it mainly eats fish – but has even been known to enjoy the taste of young crocodile, on occasion.

Just like herons, the shoebill flies with its head pressed back against its body.

A shoebill’s nest can be up to three metres wide, containing a clutch of up to three eggs. Typically, only one chick will survive into adulthood.

Sadly, there are thought to be only between 3,300 and 5,300 mature birds and the global population is decreasing.

Where can I see a shoebill in Uganda?

Go birding to spot the Shoebill in Uganda

Uganda is one of the best destinations for seeing a shoebill in its natural habitat – swamps and wetlands. There are several locations around the country where it can be found, from the Mabamba wetlands, off Entebbe, to the River Nile delta and Lake Albert near Murchison Falls national park.


Uganda birding safaris

The elusive Shoebill Mabamba swamp Uganda

Uganda has over 1,000 bird species so a birding safari isn’t only an opportunity to see a Shoebill but to search for other beautiful and sought-after birds who make their home here, like

  • Papyrus Gonolek
  • Green-breasted Pitta
  • African Finfoot

All of our birding safaris are accompanied by expert bird guides and site guides who ensure our guests get the very most out of their trip.

Supporting the communities that protect the Shoebill

Kisoros new boat Mabamba

Venture Uganda recently donated a new boat to community member, Kisoro. He takes our clients to look for Shoebill at Mabamba wetlands often with guide, Maria, and we really couldn’t ask for more. They always go the extra mile to ensure clients see the Shoebill and the many other interesting birds found in the wetlands. Read the blog here. It is this community, who live and work locally, that help to protect the birds and the wetlands.

Find our other birding blogs here.


If you need any advice about a birding safari to Uganda, just get in touch. We’ll be happy to help. Enquiry form or email us on

Venture Uganda is a corporate sponsor of the African Bird Club. There is lots of fabulous information about birding in Uganda on their website. New members are always welcome!

And check-out this lovely Shoebill video sent to us by Mark from Their website is well worth a look too, for some great birding information.

Also see the wonderful BBC Earth short film, The Dark Side of Shoebills