Management of free-ranging birds rescued and admitted to Uganda Wildlife Education Centre: 2000–2004




Raptors are often in direct conflict with man as they are at the top of the food chain. Human activities are increasingly affecting the environment of Eastern Africa as indeed they are throughout the world. Whilst many of the consequent changes have been detrimental to bird populations, there is a minority of species which has benefited; the scavengers (Pomeroy, 1973). The major scavengers in the human environment in Uganda are Hooded vultures (Necrosyrtes monachus), marabou storks (Leptoptilos crumeniferus), pied crows (Corvus albus) and black kites (Milvus migrans) (Pomeroy, 1975). Considerable interest has been shown in the rehabilitation of injured wild raptors. The veterinarian is also often presented with other groups of sick and injured wild birds (Coles, 1997). This report describes free-ranging birds admitted to Uganda Wildlife Education Center (UWEC), reasons for submission, their management and disposition.


The medical records of free-ranging birds admitted to UWEC from July 2000 to June 2004 were examined. The information were transferred to a sheet with the following categories: species, admission number, date of arrival, age, location where found, presenting complaint, person who rescued the bird, health assessment and disposition. Age of birds was recorded as young or adult based on morphological characteristics. The subsequent management and disposition of the birds were based on the criteria established in a flowchart (Fig. 1)

Figure 1.

 Flow Chart for assessment of wildlife brought to Uganda Wildlife Education Center


One hundred and three birds representing 32 species were rescued from the wild and admitted to the Veterinary Unit at UWEC (Table 1). Sixty-eight were young, 32 were adults and the age of 3 was not recorded. The sex of these birds was not determined. Fifty of these birds were found in Entebbe where UWEC is located, 47 came from Kampala, which is the capital and about 40 km from UWEC while six came from farther than Kampala. The public rescued 68 birds, UWEC staff rescued 23 and Uganda Wildlife Authority rescued twelve.

Table 1.   Admission and disposition of free-ranging birds presented to Uganda Wildlife Education Center (July 2000–June 2004)
Common nameScientific nameN%DRCENR
  1. D, died; R, released; C, retained as a captive specimen; E, escaped; NR, no record of disposition.

Marabou storkLeptoptilos crumeniferus2019.4810002
Wood owlCiccaba woodfordi109.725012
Barn owlTyto alba87.834001
Great blue turacoCorythaeda cristata76.840201
Black kiteMilvus migrans65.833000
Crowned craneBalaerica regulorum54.930011
Helmeted guinea fowlNumida meleagridis54.950000
Lizard buzzardKaupifalco monogrammicus43.903001
Pink backed pelicanPelecanus rufescens43.921100
White browed coucalCentropus superciliosus43.913000
Black and white casqued hornbillBycanistes subcylindricus32.921000
Black headed heronArdea melanocephala21.911000
Eastern chanting goshawkMelierax canorus poliopterus21.911000
Eastern grey plantain eaterCrinifer zonurus21.920000
Fish eagleHalietus vocifer21.910100
Shoe billed storkBalaeniceps rex21.910100
White faced scoops owlOtus leucotis21.920000
African harrier hawkPolyboroides typus11.010000
African hobby falconFalco cuvieri11.001000
African pygmy kingfisherIspidina picta11.001000
Barn swallowHirundo rustica11.010000
Broad billed rollerEurystomus glaucurus11.010000
Goliath heronArdea goliath11.010000
Grey headed gullLarus cirrocephalus11.010000
Hadada IbisBostrychia hagedash11.001000
Hammer kopScopus umbretta11.010000
Hooded vulture(Necrosyrtes monachus)11.010000
Little weaverPloceus luteolus11.010000
Pied kingfisherCeryle rudis11.010000
Red headed lovebirdAgapornis pullarius11.010000
Ross turacoMusophaga rossae11.000100
Yellow white eyeZosterops senegalensis11.010000
Total 1031005235628

Birds were placed into five categories: orphaned young or abandoned by parents (48), traumatic injuries (40), poor nutritional state (3), electrocution (2) and others (10). These birds were disposed of within a period of 6 months from the time of admission as follows: 52 (50.5%) either died or were killed, 35 (34%) were released back to the wild, six (5.8%) kept in captivity at UWEC, two (1.9%) escaped or disappeared and the records were inadequate to determine the disposition of 7.8%.


Most of the birds admitted were young. However in a study of raptors in Florida, most of the admissions were adult birds (Deem, Terrell & Forrester, 1998). Marabou storks and black kites were among the five most common species admitted and are considered to be facultative scavengers. The mutual tolerance between birds and people, characteristic of most of Uganda, has perhaps allowed marabou storks to become numerous in urban areas, for they are rarely molested unless they become a nuisance. Marabous were easy to hand raise and to release back to the wild. They also stand a better chance of surviving in the wild because of abundant food supply in the urban areas and there are extremely few records of predation (Pomeroy, 1973). African wood owl and barn owl were also among the five most common species admitted. The nest of four African wood owl and two barn owl nestlings was destroyed during reconstruction of a building. Owls are viewed as birds of ill omen (Wensley, 2004) and naturally people would not want them to nest on their buildings.

Trauma was the second most important reason for submission of these birds. The actual cause of trauma could not be determined from the information submitted. It is suspected that injuries were sustained during collision with buildings, vehicles and other objects. There was one case of trauma due to predation and one case of injuries inflicted by siblings. Injuries are also inflicted during electrocution but this was put in a different category.

In the category of others, there was one case of suspected organophosphate poisoning in a black kite that responded well to treatment. This category also included suspected infectious conditions that could not be confirmed.

Most of the birds admitted either died or were killed and this corresponds well with disposition, of raptors in Florida. Mercy killing is considered a valid alternative to placing animals in captivity or returning them to the wild (IUCN, 2000). Mercy killing is the most humane alternative and least costly especially for a country like Uganda where resources can be scarce. Release back to the wild was considered as an option to the disposition of birds. Factors considered before release were the physical and mental fitness and the suitability of the release site. All birds were released at UWEC in Entebbe. There was no postrelease monitoring.


We wish to thank S. R. Hollamby for helpful comments.