Waterbirds of the Murchison Falls–Albert Delta Wetland System, an important Ramsar site
The Murchison Falls–Albert Delta Wetland System Ramsar Site, declared in 2006, consists of the River Nile from the Murchison Falls up to and including a small part of Lake Albert. Before entering the lake, the river splits into three main channels passing through an extensive delta supporting a papyrus swamp; the Ramsar site also includes the land within a kilometre of the river banks, north and south. Most is within Murchison Falls National Park. The river, including the channels through the papyrus, supports large numbers of waterbirds of many species. For a year, we undertook monthly waterbird counts along the channels through the delta swamps, and on the section of Lake Albert within the Ramsar site. Overall, we recorded 78 waterbird species and the site regularly supports three globally and another seven nationally threatened species, including Shoebill Balaeniceps rex, Grey Crowned Crane Balearica regulorum and Papyrus Gonolek Laniarius mufumbiri. The site is also important for large numbers of White-winged Black Terns Chlidonias leucopterus on passage. Most of the larger species, such as White-faced Whistling Duck Dendrocygna viduata and Long-tailed Cormorant Microcarbo africanus rarely, if ever breed in this area, instead their numbers drop at the times when they are expected to breed, apparently elsewhere. A number of pairs of Fish Eagles Haliaeetus vocifer breed, and there is a small colony of African Darters Anhinga rufa. The large numbers of easily-seen birds attract increasing numbers of visitors, adding to the site’s value. Various industrial activities are planned within the watershed of this Ramsar Site, mainly associated with oil and gas, and our data are expected to provide baseline data for future monitoring of the site.
Keywords: Murchison, Ramsar, waterbirds, Uganda