Working for birds in Africa



Wed, 02/06/2013 - 15:03 -- abc_admin

These reports of recent sightings are taken from the Bulletin of the African Bird Club.

from ABC Bulletin 25.1

On 2–11 October 2017, brief bird surveys carried out in three forest reserves in southern Malaŵi produced the following noteworthy records (cf. Dowsett-Lemaire F. & Dowsett R. J. 2006. The Birds of Malawi). Although the evergreen forest on Mangochi Mountain remains intact, it has lost two Afromontane endemics since the last survey, in 1983: African Hill Babbler Sylvia abyssinica (at the southern limit of its range) and apparently also the restricted-range and Endangered Cholo Alethe Chamaetylas choloensis (at its northern limit). These changes seem to reflect drier and warmer conditions, in the absence of direct human degradation. A Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus with young was much in evidence and Eastern Green Tinkerbird Pogoniulus simplex (at its western range limit) was still common. In Liwonde Hills Forest Reserve a Pallid Honeyguide Indicator meliphilus was observed in miombo woodland, a new record for the area of this localised species. Cholo Alethe and Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus remain common in Chikala forest, but Crowned Eagle has disappeared, probably due to destruction of much of the woodland around the forest. In the southern Kirk Range, the small Tsamba Forest Reserve was explored for the first time; birds of interest included Silvery-cheeked Hornbill Bycanistes brevis (one heard in forest), several Miombo Grey Tits Melaniparus griseiventris (near the southern limit of its range) and Stripe-breasted Seedeaters Crithagra reichardi in upland miombo. The discovery of the seedeater represents a southward range extension (Dzonze Mountain being its previously known limit). In general, the scarcity of raptors was striking. Among others, Bateleur Terathopius ecaudatus and Yellow-billed Kite Milvus migrans parasitus have become very rare in the over-populated south of the country (FD-L).

from ABC Bulletin 21.1

A Franklin’s Gull Leucophaeus pipixcan was present along the Shire River at Mvuu Lodge, Liwonde, in August 2013; this is apparently the first for the country - it does not figure on the latest ABC checklist of the birds of Malaŵi.

from ABC Bulletin 18.2

Records from June 2010 - March 2011 include the following. A female Greater Frigatebird Fregata minor flew over c.6 km north of Mvuu Camp, on the Shire River, Liwonde National Park, on 4 August. A Black Kite Milvus migrans of the nominate subspecies was repeatedly seen near Chelinda camp, Nyika National Park, on 25 December; this taxon is usually seen on northbound passage in February - March and there is apparently only one previous record for December, on the Nyika. An African Finfoot Podica senegalensis observed at Bua River Lodge on 21 June, and again in January, is the first sighting for Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve, although the species has long been suspected to occur there. A Eurasian Curlew Numenius arquata was at Kauma Sewage Ponds, Lilongwe, on 15 August. A Grey Plover Pluvialis squatarola at Chinteche, Lake Malaŵi, on 9 December is the first for this atlas square; this species is generally a scarce visitor. A Black Coucal Centropus grillii was seen near the airstrip at Chelinda, Nyika National Park, on 29 December; there is only
one previous record for Nyika, in December.


A Pallid Honeyguide Indicator meliphilus was observed at Luwawa Forest Lodge on 2 December 2010, a presumed Jackson's Pipit Anthus latistriatus on the Nyika Plateau on 1 December and two Thyolo Alethes Alethe choloensis on Mount Mulanje on 25 November. At Dzalanyama, a male Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps was seen on 22 November, with a pair in a different location the following day.

Records from the period May to December 2002 include the following. A female Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris was seen with a begging juvenile near Zovo-Chipolo, Nyika Plateau on 25 November. A pair of Bronze-winged Coursers Rhinoptilus chalcopterus was found in montane grassland near the Zambian Resthouse, Nyika Plateau on 27 May. Two males and a female Fischer's Sparrow Lark Eremopterix leucopareia seen drinking at a pool between Salima and Senga Bay on 1 December, constitute a small southward range extension. A male White-headed Saw-wing Psalidoprocne albiceps, observed near Dzalanyama Forest Lodge on 2 June, constitutes the most southerly record in Malawi and an odd date, for the species should normally have left the country by then. Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis was sighted in the forest on top of Soche Mountain in November; it may now perhaps be easier to see this endangered species here than in the fast-disappearing forest on Cholo Mountain, although it may only be a question of time, as the forest is being cut down on Socho Mountain too. Three Whinchats Saxicola rubetra were near Manyenjere Forest, Nyika Plateau, on 25 November; a rare visitor. Two flocks of ten and six Yellow-billed Oxpeckers Buphagus africanus were on herds of Greater Kudu Tragelaphus strepsiceros, near Kazuni Camp, Vwaza Marsh Game Reserve, on 28 and 29 November. A flock of more than 100 Parasitic Weavers Anomalospiza imberbis was seen in a dry dambo, several kilometres north of the Bua River on 22 November.

A brief visit to a long-standing ringing site at Zomba produced some remarkable longevity records, the highlights being two Eastern Olive Sunbirds Cyanomitra olivacea aged (at least) 15 and 12 years old. Additionally a Green Twinspot Mandingoa nitidula netted in Liwonde Wildlife Reserve was an addition to the reserve’s list.

Fieldwork in the lower Shire valley in November 2001 to January 2002 and March and April 2002 produced a number of interesting records. Amur Falcons Falco amurensis were observed between 9 December and 30 March, with up to 150 in Lengwe National Park in December and January, whence 50 were seen to depart on 24 March. Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus is much scarcer this far east, and so a pair in Lengwe on 13 April and two males at Nchalo on 15 April are worth noting. Heavy passage of Jacobin Cuckoos Clamator jacobinus between late March and at least 24 April is suggestive of possible Palearctic origin. One or two Asian Lesser Cuckoos Cuculus poliocephalus, including one hepatic bird, were seen on 18 and 25 December and 20 March. Thick-billed Cuckoos Pachycoccyx audeberti were very common everywhere in the area throughout this period, being especially vocal from November to January; a large fledgling fed by Retz's Helmet-Shrikes Prionops retzii in Majete Wildlife Reserve on 2 December represents the first breeding record for Malawi. Disappointingly, African Pitta Pitta angolensis was noted only twice in Lengwe this year, including one displaying sporadically on 7 January. Low cloud and winter rain brought very large numbers of migrant swallows to the Nchalo area in mid April, including hundreds of Mascarene Martins Phedina borbonica. Among Palearctic warblers wintering in the area, River Warblers Locustella fluviatilis were locally common to 14 April, with up to six in a day and several in song in April. Basra Reed Warblers Acrocephalus griseldis were noted in small numbers between 27 December and 11 April, including one in song on 20 March. The first Malawi breeding records of Black-and-white Flycatcher Bias musicus were obtained in Lengwe, with one female incubating in early January and another occupied nest in March. With a third pair and a single 2nd-year male, this probably constitutes the whole local population. Gorgeous Bush-shrike Telophorus viridis, thought to have become extinct in Malawi, with no records for the past 18 years, was rediscovered between December and April in a single block of thicket in Lengwe, with a population of perhaps 20 to 30 pairs occupying 9 to 10 km2 of suitable habitat.

In June 2001, a Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idae, a Gull-billed Tern Sterna nilotica and a Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla were seen in Liwonde National Park on the 3rd. Two Spur-winged Lapwings Vanellus spinosus, seen the next day, confirm the southern range extension where breeding of this species was first noted in 1993.

Interesting records from October to December 2000 include the following. An occupied nesting colony of Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis, found between Ulongwe and Liwonde on 2 December, apparently constitutes the first firm evidence of breeding in Malawi. A Baillon's Crake Porzana pusilla on the northern edge of Lake Chilwa on 16 November is the first record since the 1950s. A Sanderling Calidris alba was along the Shire River in Liwonde NP on 25 October; uncommon this far inland. A Terek Sandpiper Xenus cinereus was observed along the Shire River in Liwonde National Park on 25 October. A Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo Cercococcyx montanus singing at Mwabvi on 22 November is the first record of a bird in song in the Shire Valley for 40 years. Several pairs of Scarce Swifts Schoutedenapus myoptilus were regular over the south-eastern slopes of Zomba Mt, November to early December; the species probably breeds there. An African Pitta Pitta angolensis, displaying at Lengwe on 20 November, constitutes the first record suggestive of breeding from the Shire Valley. Two Boulder Chats Pinarornis plumosus were seen on Kanjoli Mt, near Chongoni, on 6 November; a new locality for this scarce species. A River Warbler Locustella fluviatilis, observed at Mwabvi on 23 November, is rarely reported unless netted for ringing . A Basra Reed Warbler Acrocephalus griseldis was seen on the northern edge of Lake Chilwa on 15 November; the few previous Malawi records are of netted birds. A White-winged Apalis Apalis chariessa was nest-building at Zomba on 13 and 14 November; this is only the third known nest; the pair bred successfully in April 2004. Several Grey Sunbirds Cyanomitra veroxii were in Mwabvi on 22 and 23 November, as well as in Lengwe, the only previously known locality. At least four Olive-headed Weavers Ploceus olivaceiceps were singing in territorial dispute at Namizimu, on the Mozambique border on 1 December; Malawi is the stronghold of this species.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:55 -- abc_admin


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:54 -- abc_admin

COHEN, C., SPOTTISWOODE, C. & ROSSOUW, J. (2006) Southern African Birdfinder: where to find 1,400 birds in southern Africa and Madagascar. Struik Publishers. 

DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, F., DOWSETT, R.J. & DYER, M. Malawi chapter pp 539-555 in FISHPOOL, L.D.C. and EVANS M.I. editors (2001) Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands: Priority sites for conservation. Newbury and Cambridge, UK. Pisces Publications and BirdLife International (BirdLife Conservation Series No.11).

DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, F. and DOWSETT, R.J. (2006) The Birds of Malawi. Published by Tauraco Press and Aves, Belgium.

DOWSETT-LEMAIRE, F. (2006) A Contribution to the Ornithology of Malawi. Tauraco Research Report No. 8. Tauraco Press, Liège, Belgium. Published by R.J. Dowsett & F. Lemaire, 12 rue Louis Pasteur, Grivegnée, Liège B-4030, Belgium. ISBN 2-87225-003-4. CONTENTS: An annotated list and life history of the birds of Nyika National Park, Malawi-Zambia pp 1-64. Notes supplementary to The Birds of Malawi (2006) pp 65-121. Download this paper*. Note the file size is about 1mb.

MEDLAND, R. (1994) Checklists of the birds of Malawi’s National Parks and Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary. (6-part set) out of print, though still available locally.

MEDLAND, R. (1995) Birdwatching in Malawi ABC Bulletin 2(2) pp 109-115.

NEWMAN, K., JOHNSTON-STEWART, N., MEDLAND, R., Birds of Malawi. A guide to the birds of Malawi not found in Southern Africa.

PULLANIKKATIL, D. and CHILAMBO, M. (2011) Bird Activity Book for Wildlife Clubs of Malawi. Available as a free resource for download. *Download here (N.B. this is a 4 mb file).


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:53 -- abc_admin

African Bird Club representative

Tiwonge Gawa
PO Box 31277
Blantyre 3

[email protected]


Feb 2012 report from Tiwonge Mzumara

Feb 2011 report from Tiwonge Mzumara


Feb 2010 report from Tiwonge Mzumara

Bird recorder and checklist compiler


Lawrence Luhanga
Malaŵi Ornithological Society
c/o Department of Ornithology
Museum of Malaŵi
PO Box 30360
Blantyre 3

[email protected]

BirdLife partner

Wildlife Environmental Society of Malaŵi

e-mail: [email protected]


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:51 -- abc_admin

For a country with such a high population density and the concomitant demands on land for subsistence agriculture, Malawi has set aside a considerable area for the protection of its natural resources. National Parks, Wildlife Reserves and Forest Reserves incorporate 21% of Malawi's land area, one of the highest percentages on the continent, but the integrity of a number of protected areas is no longer respected. In terms of globally important natural resources Malawi is best known for its freshwater fish. Along with Lake Tanganyika, Lake Malawi contains a greater variety of indigenous fish than any other freshwater lake in the world, with high levels of endemism (probably more than 90% among 500 or so species, particularly cichlids).

Malawi and many other African countries face a similar array of conservation issues: these include habitat degradation, fire, illegal hunting and over-fishing, invasive alien plants, the degazetting of protected areas and the ineffective implementation and enforcement of conservation legislation. However, Malawi
boasts large tracts of pristine wilderness which are probably less exposed to environmental, population, industrial and political pressures than many neighbouring countries. Nevertheless, this could quickly change if appropriate conservation measures are not implemented and if the current conservation infrastructure is not properly maintained.

The African Bird Club made an award from its conservation fund in 2004 for a short study of Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea in Nyika National Park.

Books & Sounds

Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:50 -- abc_admin

The field guide which includes all the species found in Malaŵi is Birds of Africa south of the Sahara by Sinclair and Ryan.

The excellent SASOL Birds of Southern Africa and Birds of East Africa contain many, but not all of the species found in Malaŵi.

The Southern African Birdfinder: Where to find 1,400 bird species in southern Africa must rank as one of the best 'Where to' guides for a region. It contains detailed information on sites, clear maps and directions and great photos.


Book image: 
Book info: 
Birds of Africa South of the Sahara, Ian Sinclair & Peter Ryan, New Holland, Softback.
Book description: 

Second edition, including 500 new images and 400 updated distribution maps. Unrivalled coverage of African birds in a single volume. 2129+ species covered with an additional 101 vagrants briefly described. Revised to reflect the latest changes in taxonomy. Species descriptions give precise identification features highlighting differences between similar species as well as briefly reporting habitat, status and call. Annotated illustrations portray distinctive plumages as well as diagnostic flight patterns and major geographic variants where applicable.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Sasol Birds of Southern Africa (4th edition), Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton & Peter Ryan, Struik, Softback.
Book description: 

4th edition. The best field guide to the region with over 200 colour plates and numerous distribution maps. The Southern African region is Botwana, Lesotho, southern Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

This fourth edition has been greatly improved by the addition of group introductions, calendar bars showing species' occurrence and breeding periods, a section on 'how to use this book', as well as sonograms depicting the calls of tricky bird groups. The newly designed plates are meticulously illustrated, with labels pinpointing key differentiating features. Distribution maps show the relative abundance of a species in the region and also indicate resident or migrant status.

Written by top birders, this authoritative and comprehensive identification guide is invaluable to all birders. 464 pages.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Field Guide to Birds of East Africa, Terry Stevenson & John Fanshawe, Poyser, Softback.
Book description: 

Helm Field Guide covering Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The first complete guide to this region. 3400 images of 1388 species illustrated on 287 superb new colour plates by Brian Small, John Gale and Norman Arlott. The text plus distribution map and the illustrations for each species are on facing pages. 632 pages.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Southern African Birdfinder: Where to find 1400 bird species in southern Africa, C Cohen & C Spottiswoode, assisted by J Rossouw, New Holland, Softback.
Book description: 

2006. The ideal companion to all the local bird field guides. After an introduction to birding in the southern African region, the authors identify and describe more than 330 birding sites and associated birds across South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Madagascar and, the little-documented but increasingly popular, areas of Angola, Mozambique, Zambia and Malawi. All sites are ranked into one of three categories of priority: essential (the regions best); excellent (top sites but expendable to a time-limited visitor) and local interest (ideal for those looking for new areas to explore). All sites include practical details of access, best times to visit, habitat diversity and general natural history.

Includes a fold-out map of the entire region that features all routes. A quick guide to finding the region's top 100 birds and an annotated checklist conclude the book.

"Written by three of the most experienced birders in the region, they have poured their experience into its production and this really shows in the level of detail and coverage." - Martin Fowlie, BTO.

Book image: 
Book info: 
The Birds of Malawi: An Atlas & Handbook, F Dowsett-Lemaire & R J Dowsett, Tauraco Press & Aves (Liège, Belgium), Softback.
Book description: 

The rich bird life of Malaŵi has long been one of the better-documented avifaunas of Africa, since Belcher (1930) and then Benson and Benson (1977). This book brings the picture up-to-date, with detailed accounts of the 650 species known (including nearly 100 migrants from Eurasia). For each there are sections on distribution, ecology, status and movements, conservation, breeding seasons (where applicable) and taxonomy, the whole based on extensive fieldwork supported by some 700 published references. There are clear atlas maps for all but vagrants, as well as details of ringing recoveries and a gazetteer of 400 localities. In 80 pages, the introductory chapters review such topics as vegetation and major bird habitats, biogeography, conservation and a history of ornithological exploration in Malaŵi. 16 pages of colour photos illustrate the habitats of Malawi as well as a dozen of the more interesting bird species.

Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire and Robert Dowsett have an unequalled knowledge of the birds of Malaŵi. They have travelled and camped throughout the country, especially during 5 years' residence, and Robert had previously studied the wildlife of neighbouring Zambia over 17 years. They are also co-authors of the standard works on the mammals of Malaŵi (Ansell & Dowsett 1988) and the forest flora (White, Dowsett-Lemaire & Chapman 2001). 16 colour plates, 625 species distribution maps. 556 pages.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:45 -- abc_admin

Cape Batis Batis capensis dimorpha, Malaŵi

Image Credit: 
Claire Spottiswoode

Birding tours

Birding & BeyondBirding AfricaBirding Ecotours, Birdquest, Lawson's, Rockjumper and Safari Consultants organise tours to Malaŵi.


The following operators are based in Malaŵi and run general wildlife safaris. Both have excellent local birding expertise and can arrange specialist birding itineraries:

Wilderness Safaris who manage Mvuu Camp in Liwonde Wildlife Reserve and Chinteche Lodge on the lakeshore near Nkhata Bay.

Heart of Africa Safaris who manage Chelinda Lodge on the Nyika Plateau (website not known at present) - PO Box 8, Lilongwe - Tel: +265 740 848 - Fax: +265 740 848.


Malawi Tourism has useful information about sites, accommodation, travel companies and car hire for anyone planning a trip to Malaŵi.

Internet The internet and email have made private trips to Malaŵi a lot more feasible but please be aware that many Malaŵi addresses will be accessed through unreliable phone lines so don't expect immediate replies and don't send large attachments without asking first.

Maps and navigation Road atlases are available from Stanfords. Maps are also available from bookshops in Malaŵi; official maps are excellent and available from the Department of Surveys in Lilongwe and Blantyre (check for details on arrival in Malawi). A GPS (Global Positioning System) can be very useful.

Public Transport Malaŵi public transport services connect most of the main regional towns and taxis are often a reasonably cheap way of reaching areas nearby. Hitch-hiking is acceptable, though lifts are normally paid for. Buses, some express, are good: trains are very slow and limited.

Driving Reaching many of the sites listed will require you to use your own vehicle. Malaŵi’s road network is not well developed away from the main north-south highway which is metalled: most other roads are gravel or dirt and you will be on these much of the time: excessive speed leads to a high risk of skidding; use of high-clearance vehicles is important. Especially in the wet season, mud is a real problem and some roads become impassable even for four-wheel drive vehicles. Driving at night is not recommended. A common problem in the early dry season when the grass is tall is engine overheating due to the radiator filling up with grass seeds. In such situations, ensure you remove seeds at regular intervals. Although supplies are reasonably widespread, it is worth carrying some extra fuel and a selection of spares and tools (including a tyre mending kit and pump): particularly when visiting more remote areas, it is advisable to travel with two vehicles.

Car hire price guide Champagne prices, beer quality!! High inflation will render any numbers out of date within weeks.

Camping Outside National Parks, it is generally possible to camp anywhere and Malaŵi abounds in beautiful, wild and remote areas that are perfect for camping. As always, where appropriate, it is advisable and polite to seek the permission of the local landowner or village head before doing so. A courteous explanation of the reasons for your visit will invariably grant you a warm welcome. If you intend to leave a camp or vehicle whilst you explore on foot, it is wise to leave somebody to act as a guard. Employing a full-time guard and helper on a trip into the bush is highly recommended. Local villagers are often keen to act as guides or porters if you choose to travel any distance on foot. Suitable payment should be negotiated, but not issued, before departure.


See the following 2 websites for safety and travel information: US Travel and UK FCO.

Safety issues encountered in Malaŵi are no different from those met in any other African country. Guidebooks, travel companies and the above websites provide much of the advice one needs, but six key points warrant repetition here. (1) be aware of the risk of malaria, seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended. (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling). (3) do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun too long. Ensure you use sun-block and drink plenty of water, and wear a hat. (4) the southern part of Lake Malaŵi is now heavily infested with Bilharzia and, sadly, no longer safe for swimming. (5) Malaŵi has a very high incidence of Aids. (6) Ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:43 -- abc_admin

Likhubula Valley, Mount Mulanje Malaŵi

Image Credit: 
Stewart Lane

Nyika Wildlife Reserve with 3,134 km2 of Brachystegia woodland, montane grassland and rainforest patches in the far north is about eight hours drive from Lilongwe. The climate is cool and the scenery is spectacular. Commonly seen mammals include Leopard Panthera pardus, Roan Antelope Hippotragus equinus, Burchell's Zebra Equus [quagga] burchelli, Southern Reedbuck Redunca arundinum and Bush Pig Potamochoerus larvatus.

Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus may now be absent from Nyika due to human disturbance but Denham's Bustards Neotis denhami stanleyi are fairly common there and Secretary Birds Sagittarius serpentarius are occasional. Rufous-chested Sparrowhawk Accipiter rufiventris often hunts along dirt roads in front of vehicles, and in the rainy season, four harrier species may be found quartering the valleys. However the real specialities are the passerines. Of the sunbirds, Bronzy Nectarinia kilimensis, Yellow-tufted Malachite N. famosa and Montane Double-collared Cinnyris ludovicensis and are fairly common whilst Scarlet-tufted Malachite N. johnstoni is less so. The local race of Rufous-naped Lark Mirafra africana isolata is endemic to the Nyika and there are plenty of cisticolas to identify, including the nominate race of Wing-snapping Cisticola Cisticola ayresii. The Nyika plateau seems a safe stronghold for Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea.

The Nyika Plateau forests are the best for Olive-flanked Robin-chat Cossypha anomala, White-chested Alethe Alethe fuelleborni, African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica, and Fülleborn's Boubou Laniarius fuelleborni.

Liwonde Wildlife Reserve has 548 km2 of river, marsh and mopane woodland in the Shire Valley. Ignoring (if you can) the countless crocodiles, hippos, antelope and elephants, one of the most impressive day's birdwatching anywhere in the world must be from a boat trip on the Shire River.

Mopane woodland in Malaŵi is mostly restricted to Liwonde National Park. This deciduous woodland is less exciting ornithologically than others although it is the only location for Lilian's Lovebird Agapornis lilianae (common in flocks): Racket-tailed Roller Coracias spatulatus is not uncommon and Meves's Long-tailed Glossy Starling Lamprotornis mevesii is ever-present. It is also the only site in Malaŵi for Brown-breasted Barbet Lybius melanopterus.

It is also excellent for night-time trips to find Pel's Fishing-owl Scotopelia peli and White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus. In all, eighteen species of herons and egrets, eight storks, fifteen plovers and nine kingfishers have been recorded.


Lengwe Wildlife Reserve has 887 km2 of thicket and mixed open woodland in the far south. It is hot and dusty but has great birdwatching and is home to the rare Nyala Antelope Tragelaphus angasi. A dawn watch from the hide at the main waterhole is a magical experience and can be rewarded by anything from Cape Buffalo Syncerus caffer to the rare Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idae.

The best examples of acacia savanna are in the Monkey Bay area and Lengwe National Park. The most obvious birds, as a result of their abundant nest colonies, are White-browed Sparrow-Weavers Plocepasser mahali. Family parties of Green Wood-hoopoe Phoeniculus purpureus entertain, and loose flocks of Southern Carmine Bee-eaters Merops nubicoides often hawk overhead outside their breeding season. Competitors for food and nest-sites, Dickinson's Kestrels Falco dickinsoni and Lilac-breasted Rollers Coracias caudatus are common. In contrast, Southern Ground Hornbills Bucorvus leadbeateri mope around the grassland in search of anything edible.

The only extensive area of thicket in Malaŵi is restricted to Lengwe. It is excellent for a wide variety of species scarcely found elsewhere including Crested Guineafowl Guttera pucherani, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill Tockus leucomelas, Black-and-White Flycatcher Bias musicus, Woodward's Batis Batis fratrum, the elusive Gorgeous Bush-Shrike Telophorus viridis and the minute but elegant Livingstone's Flycatcher Erythrocercus livingstonei. A surprising number of rainforest species share a liking for this habitat, e.g. Square-tailed Drongo Dicrurus ludwigii and Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird Pogoniulus bilineatus.

See Lengwe Photo Gallery for photographs of some of the species which inhabit Lengwe National Park (Chikwawa District).

Nyala Park on the Illovo sugar estate at Nchalo near Chikwawa is an excellent birding site for acacia woodland, grassland and marsh species. Most of the avian species found in Lengwe are more easily accessed here. The park contains what is almost certainly the world’s largest breeding population of Boehm’s Bee-eater Merops boehmi and has resident populations of Marsh Tchagra Tchagra minuta, Red-headed Quelea Quelea erythrops and Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas quadrivirgata. Nyala are ubiquitous and Giraffe, Zebra, Red Hartebeest, Bushbuck, Impala and other herbivores are present. The park is privately maintained by Illovo and there is a modest entry charge. Enquiries should be made to Pat Whitbread, Illovo Sugar Company, P O Box 578, Limbe, Malaŵi.

Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve contains the only substantial fully-protected  area of montane evergreen forest in southern Malaŵi. It is the best place to see the endemic subspecies of Cape Batis Batis capensis dimorpha (some authorities consider this to be a full species Malaŵi Batis Batis dimorpha) and Bar-throated Apalis Apalis thoracica flavigularis (some authorities consider this to be a full species Yellow-throated Apalis Apalis flavigularis) and the only place to see the endemic subspecies of Olive-flanked Robin-Chat Cossypha anomala anomala. The subspecies of Eastern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris mediocris fuelleborni is very common (some authorities consider this to be a full species  Forest Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris fuelleborni). Verraux’s Eagle Aquila verrauxii, Evergreen-Forest Warbler Bradypterus lopezi, Cinnamon Bracken-Warbler Bradypterus cinnamomeus, Olive Bush-Shrike Telophorus olivaceus, Red-faced Crimsonwing Cryptospiza reichenovii, Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis, Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum and many other evergreen forest species are relatively common. African Pitta Pitta angolensis visits on its way south.

Information about climbing the mountain and information and bookings for accommodation on top and nearby can be obtained from [email protected] mw or by writing to Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust, PO Box 193, Mulanje.

Lake Malaŵi Wildlife Reserve has sandy beaches, snorkelling, lakeshore hills and islands. There are extensive wetlands along the shore and the southern end of the lake holds the greatest population density anywhere in Africa of Malaŵi's national bird, African Fish Eagle Haliaeetus vocifer, with pairs holding territory and nesting every half kilometre or so along the shore.

Viphya Forest Reserve has mainly pine plantation with some montane grassland and riparian rainforest. The Viphya Mountains host an endemic race of Scaly Francolin Francolinus squamatus doni. Surviving ribbons of riparian forest are easily accessible and are good for Olive Woodpecker Dendropicos griseocephalus and Red-faced Crimsonwing Cryptospiza reichenovii.

Nkwadzi Forest Reserve has lakeshore rainforest and this is the best location for the local race of East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi bensoni. Nkwadzi usually turns up Yellowbill Ceuthmochares aereus and Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher Trochocercus cyanomelas.

Lilongwe Nature Sanctuary has dense acacia woodland with a river in the heart of the modern capital, well worth visiting at the beginning or end of a trip. It supports a tremendous variety of species and is useful for catching up on those missed elsewhere. Typical of the canopy are Eastern Black-headed Oriole Oriolus larvatus, Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike Telophorus sulfureopectus, African Paradise Flycatcher Terpsiphone viridis and Chinspot Batis Batis molitor.

From Lilongwe, Ntchisi and Dedza Mountains are in easy reach: the former is as good a place as any for the magnificent Crowned Eagle Stephanoaetus coronatus, Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum and Chestnut-throated Apalis Apalis porphyrolaema, whilst Dedza can usually be relied on to provide Olive Bush-Shrike Telophorus olivaceus.

Dzalanyama Forest Reserve has an extensive range of miombo-clad hills only one hour from Lilongwe. The many miombo specials include White-tailed Blue Flycatcher Elminia albicauda, Olive-headed Weaver Ploceus olivaceiceps, Stierling's Woodpecker Dendropicos stierlingi (almost unknown outside Malaŵi), Swallow-tailed Bee-eater Merops hirundineus, Miombo Rock Thrush Monticola angolensis and two hyliotas, Southern Hyliota australis and Yellow-bellied H. flavigaster. Miombo also has its own endemic (or nearly so) sunbirds including Anchieta's Sunbird Anthreptes anchietae, Shelley's Cinnyris shelleyi and Amethyst Chalcomitra amethystina. In the breeding season (Sept-Oct), several species of nightjar, including Pennant-winged Macrodipteryx vexillarius, are fairly common along roads at dusk.

In the far north, the Misuku Hills are capped with three forests, the only location in Malaŵi for the enigmatic Spot-throat Modulatrix stictigula and Forest Batis Batis mixta. Relatively unspoilt and a long way off the beaten track, the Misukus are the best place for finding Silvery-cheeked Hornbill Bycanistes brevis, Oriole-Finch Linurgus olivaceus and Shelley's Greenbul Andropadus masukuensis.

Sadly, the forest on Thyolo Mountain no longer exists and that on Soche Mountain exists as a remnant only. Some important species such as Black-fronted Bush-Shrike Telophorus nigrifrons and Green-headed Oriole Oriolus chlorocephalus still exist in riverine patches preserved by the tea estates on the slopes but the fate of the subspecies of Green Barbet Stactolaema olivacea belcheri, nearly endemic to Thyolo Mountain itself, is unknown.


Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:42 -- abc_admin

Evergreen-Forest Warbler Bradypterus lopezi, Mount Mulanje, Malawi

Image Credit: 
Stewart Lane

Country checklist and status



We are delighted that our Corporate Sponsor iGoTerra has made its country checklists, including subspecies (IOC or Clements) as well as all other species groups like mammals, butterflies etc. available through the ABC website. The only thing required is a Basic membership / registration which is free of charge. Go to Malawi checklists. If you are already a member of iGoTerra, you will be taken directly to the country page. In case you are not a member, you will be redirected automatically to the registration form and from there can go straight to the country page.

ABC and other checklists

You can download and print an ABC / Dowsett checklist for Malawi. The ABC lists follow the taxonomic sequence and names of Birds of Africa Volumes I-VII and are kept up to date with published and peer-reviewed records.

Endemic species

There are no endemic species: Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis is also found on Mounts Chiperone and Namuli, just across the border in Mozambique.

Threatened species

BirdLife International notes the following species as being of high global conservation concern:

Madagascar Pond Heron Ardeola idae Vulnerable (prob. annual)
Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus Vulnerable
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni Vulnerable
Corncrake Crex crex Vulnerable
Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea Vulnerable
East Coast Akalat Sheppardia gunningi Vulnerable
Cholo Alethe Alethe choloensis Endangered
Spotted Ground-Thrush Zoothera guttata Endangered
White-winged Apalis Apalis chariessa Vulnerable
*Yellow-throated Apalis Apalis flavigularis Endangered

* Yellow-throated Apalis Apalis flavigularis is considered to be a subspecies of Bar-throated Apalis Apalis thoracica flavigularis by the African Bird Club.

Important Bird Areas

Fri, 01/18/2013 - 19:41 -- abc_admin

Mount Mulanje, Malaŵi

Image Credit: 
Claire Spottiswoode

In Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands (BirdLife International 2001), 22 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are listed for Malaŵi as follows:

Misuku Hills Forest Reserves Nyika National Park
Uzumara Forest Reserve Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve
Lake Shore Forest Reserves South Viphya Forest Reserve
Mtangatanga and Perekezi Forest Reserves Kasungu National Park
Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve Ntchisi Mountain Forest Reserve
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve Namizimu Forest Reserve
Mangochi Mountain Forest Reserve Liwonde National Park
Liwonde Hills Forest Reserve Lake Chilwa and Flood Plain
Soche Mountain Forest Reserve Mount Mulanje Forest Reserve
Thyolo Tea Estates Thyolo Mountain Forest Reserve
Lengwe National Park Malawi Hills Forest Reserve

For further details, download the country IBAs from BirdLife International.


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