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. What’s more, Uganda is one of the best destinations for seeing a shoebill in its natural habitat.

Features of the shoebill

Standing at between 110cm and 140cm tall, the blue-grey bird features long legs and a broad wing span. 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 is thought to be between 3,300 and 5,300 mature birds and the global population is decreasing.

Where can I see a shoebill in Uganda?

The shoebill has found its home in swamps and wetlands of central and eastern Africa, and therefore there are several locations in Uganda where it can be found.

Still, because of Uganda’s rich biodiversity, a birding safari isn’t only an opportunity to see a shoebill but to try and find the other beautiful and sought-after birds who make their home here, too:

  • 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.

Ask us birdwatching activities on the water using a choice of luxury boats or local fishing boats and remember that we can easily adapt one of our existing birding safaris if there is a particular bird you wish to see.

To speak to us about one of our birding safaris or to ask us about adapting an existing itinerary to see a shoebill or other sought-after bird, complete an enquiry form or email us on