Umusambi Village Nature Reserve – Grey Crowned Crane conservation center & birding hotspot in Kigali

grey crowned cranes at umusambi village

Umusambi Village is a new spot in Kigali City that has been established as Kigali’s first wildlife sanctuary and nature reserve originally to rehabilitate and host the Grey Crowned Cranes that have been rescued from captivity. It is a wonderful spot to visit for a nature walk where you observe and learn about these elegant Grey Crowned Cranes and experience nature in Kigali. The Umusambi Village is many hectares (about 21 hectares) of recently restored wetland that had been destroyed for settlement and agriculture. But even within a short time of being restored the wetland has seen an incredible recovery of its habitats with; ponds filling up and almost making permanent swamps, growing lush marshes and grasslands, dense thickets and fast developing woodlands that in a couple of years will be nice forest cover. The reserve has an excellent neat trail network accessing the different areas and habitats of the Umusambi village. It offers a perfect spot to retreat and enjoy nature in Kigali

umusambi village nature reserve

Umusambi Village is also well situated along the road to Akagera National Park and can therefore serve as a nice spot to stop over for a couple of hours in the morning to enjoy nature before proceeding to the east of the country for your safari trip to Akagera National Park.

Conserving the Grey Crowned Cranes in Rwanda

The Grey Crowned Cranes were on the verge of extinction in Rwanda as they would be captured by locals and kept in homes as pets or traded. To prevent them from flying away the captors would either have their wings broken or flight feathers plucked out, causing immense injuries. The number of Grey Crowned Cranes is about 500 down from more than 2500 birds in the 1980s. It is not until local conservationists pushed government of Rwanda to create a law against keeping or capturing the Grey Crowned Cranes that there has been a turnaround with numbers are recovering steadily. The conservationists in Rwanda under Rwanda Wildlife Conservation Association (RWCA) further have established Umusambi Village to bring in the Grey Crowned Cranes that were set free by the new government law but would not have survived in the wild due to injuries, so they can have a home in Umusambi where they are rehabilitated and would be released back in the wild for those that would have healed from injuries. Many rehabilitated cranes are thriving in the reserve and are breeding. Many other flocks of cranes have discovered the reserve and often fly in to share on the supplemented feeds, interact with the residents and fly out after the meetup. Some of the visitors have found soulmates among the injured residents and now live at the sanctuary and are breeding. Many of the rehabilitated cranes that have healed from injuries shall be released back in the wild, however those with permanent injuries shall live in the reserve as their home.

Birding in Umusambi Village

Hosting more than 100 species of birds, by far Umusambi Village nature reserve is the best spot for birdwatching in Kigali, and offers an excellent place to begin your birding trip in Rwanda. With the excellent trail network the birder can access the grasslands, swamps, bush, and woodlands areas of the reserve spotting an array of birds. With a full day on the birding trail, you can leave with more than 30 species on your list.

White-collared Oliveback

Birds in Umusambi Village

Some of the specials you can look forward to include:

  • Trilling Cisticola
  • White-collard Oliveback
  • African Firefinch
  • Purple-crested Turaco
  • Olive Woodpecker
  • Cardinal Woodpecker
  • Black-shouldered Nightjar
  • Lesser Honeyguide
  • Yellow-breasted Apalis
  • Green-winged Pytilia
  • Brown Parrot
  • Black Kite (Palearctic migrant blacked-billed migrans)
  • Tambourine Dove
  • Black-headed Weaver
  • Village Weaver
  • Lesser Stripped Swallow
  • Barn Swallow
  • White-headed Sawing
  • Spot-flanked Barbet
  • Bare-faced Go-away-bird
  • etc…
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