Working for birds in Africa



Wed, 02/06/2013 - 15:44 -- abc_admin

These are largely unconfirmed records published in recent Bulletins of the African Bird Club for information only.

from ABC Bulletin 24.1

Noteworthy records from Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary include a group of at least five Swallow-tailed Beeeaters Merops hirundineus on 9–10 August 2016—possibly only the second record for Swaziland, following the sighting of a single in the same reserve—and several White-eared Barbets Stactolaema leucotis on 4 September—all previous records are from the east of the country (per TH).

from ABC Bulletin 20.1

A Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti was photographed in Mbuluzi Game Reserve on 20 July 2012; the record of this scarcely reported species is noteworthy as it is quite far south and in winter.

from ABC Bulletin 19.2

A pair of Double-banded Sandgrouse Pterocles bicinctus was observed in arid woodland c.7 km south-west of Big Bend, in the south, on 4 April 2012; this may constitute the first record for the country


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 23:11 -- abc_admin


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 23:09 -- abc_admin

BARNES, K. and MONADJEM, A. Swaziland chapter pp 891-895 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).

BirdLife International (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Barcelona and Cambridge, UK: Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International.

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

HAREBOTTLE, D.M. and ANDERSON, M. (2011) Flamingos on the runway! ABC Bulletin 18(1) pp 83-85.

PARKER, V. (1994) Swaziland Bird Atlas published by Websters of Mbabane ISBN: 0-7978-0396-3.

PERRY, P. (2006) First record of Blue Quail Coturnix adansonii for Swaziland. ABC Bulletin 13 (2) pp 215-216.


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 23:08 -- abc_admin

Conservation issues in Swaziland stem largely from overgrazing and commercial afforestation of the grassland areas. Subsistence agriculture and wood collecting has also placed a lot of pressure on Swaziland habitats.

The National Trust Commission Act of 1972 provided the momentum for the creation of the Swaziland National Trust Commission and the creation of National Parks. Despite this legislation there are very few publicly-owned protected areas in Swaziland (approximately 3.7% of total area).

Avifauna conservation gives the priorities for the conservation of Swaziland’s avifauna.

Swaziland is party to several international agreements: Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Ozone Layer Protection.

Books & Sounds

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 23:07 -- abc_admin

With birding such a big pastime in southern Africa, there is a well established birding literature available. Not only are there great field and sound guides but also many second-level publications dealing with birds from particular species groups.

The major field guides for most of the southern Africa region are the SASOL and Newman's guides and various photographic guides with some specific ones for different countries. The SASOL guide is excellent - its illustrations are fantastic and the text succinct yet authoritative.

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. With a very slick layout this book is an essential addition to any trip in southern Africa. Highly recommended.


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: 
Newman's Birds of Southern Africa, Ken Newman, New Holland, Softback.
Book description: 

Commemorative Edition.

Sadly, Ken Newman passed away in 2006. This commemorative edition of his book has been revised by Vanessa Newman, Ken's daugter and incorporates the latest taxonomic changes. 510 pages.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Roberts Bird Guide, Hugh Chittenden, John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Softback.
Book description: 

At last! a field guide version of Roberts Birds of Southern Africa VIIth Edition featuring large, clear illustrations, distribution maps as well as a "breeding bar" indicating breeding season. Covers over 950 species including all the recent splits. 456 pages.

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: 
A Photographic Guide to Birds of Southern Africa, Ian Sinclair, New Holland, Softback.
Book description: 

Covers 500 species in a user-friendly format and includes distribution maps and an 'occurrence bar'. 144 pages.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Complete Photo Field Guide Birds of Southern Africa, Ian Sinclair & Peter Ryan, Struik, Softback.
Book description: 

Comprising the most comprehensive collection of photos of southern African birds in one volume, this field guide describes and illustrates all 958 bird species found in the region plus an additional 17 species from Antarctica, the Southern Ocean & associated islands. 432 pages.

Book image: 
Book info: 
Sasol Birding Map of Southern Africa, Ian Sinclair and Trevor Hardaker, Struik, Map.
Book description: 

2002. Includes over 200 birding sites in Southern Africa, as well as many game and nature reserves, towns, and routes. Each site description gives details of habitat type and the birds it attracts. Includes in-depth profiles on 8 of the region's major sites.

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


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 23:02 -- abc_admin

Birding tours

We know of no organised tours to Swaziland.


We know of no birding guides in Swaziland.

Trip reports

We know of no trip reports.


Travel to Swaziland is best visited from South Africa via the 11 border posts on its western border. Generally speaking, cars hired from the major hire companies in South Africa can be driven into Swaziland, hence this is the most effective way to visit this country. Roads are good in Swaziland, but look out for pedestrians and livestock.

You can also travel by air from Johannesburg.


Guidebooks, travel companies and websites provide the advice one needs, but key points warrant repetition here: (1) be aware of the risk of malaria and 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 for too long, ensure you use sun-block, drink plenty of water and wear a hat; (4) be aware of the risk of AIDS (note that Swaziland has the highest incidence of AIDS of any country in the world); (5) ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles. See the following 2 websites or your own embassy website for the latest safety and travel information: US Travel and UK FCO.


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 23:01 -- abc_admin

The following extracts are taken from "Southern African Birdfinder: where to find 1,400 birds in southern Africa and Madagascar" by Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Jonathan Rossouw, released by Struik Publishers in 2006. 

Malalotja Nature Reserve

The 1,800 hectare Malalotja Nature Reserve is home to one of Southern Africa's rarest birds, the magnificent Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea. It is arguably Swaziland's most attractive reserve, lying on the edge of the Drakensberg Escarpment and protecting a wide variety of habitats that range in altitude from below 800m to above 1,800m. The birdlist of over 280 species is correspondingly diverse and it is possible in summer to see more than 100 species in a day here.

Specials: Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami, Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus, Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis, Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus melanopterus, Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus, Sentinel Rock-Thrush Monticola explorator, Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata, Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea, Broad-tailed Warbler Schoenicola brevirostris, Eastern Long-billed Lark Certhilauda semitorquata and Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi.

Season: The Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea is present only in summer. This is the best time also for most of the grassland specials, although the Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus colonies are active only from June to October.

Habitats: Habitats include montane grassland, gorges and rocky slopes, wetlands in the form of montane vleis, dams and tropical rivers, with patches of mist belt and riverine forest in the valleys.

Access and facilities: The reserve lies approximately 30 km north of Mbabane on the road to Pigg's Peak and is well signposted. Log cabins and camping facilities are available near the reserve entrance. Excellent leaflets covering recommended walks, along with bird and mammal lists, are available from the informative museum at the entrance gate.

Birding: Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea is undoubtedly the star attraction here and a few pairs of this endangered species breed in sinkholes in the pristine montane grassland. These elegant birds are best viewed by walking in the area between the entrance gate and Malalotja Vlei, or along the Upper Majalomba Gorge Walk. Malalotja Vlei is worth checking for Broad-tailed Warbler Schoenicola brevirostris and a variety of commoner waterbirds. After dark, the elusive Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis has been heard booming from vlei fringes.

The 20 km of gravel road in the eastern part of the park are passable easily by 2WD vehicles and provide access to good grassland and rocky slope habitat. Driving slowly and scanning the surroundings should turn up coveys of Red-winged Francolin Francolinus levaillantii (especially in the early morning), Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus, Denham’s Bustard Neotis denhami, Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus melanopterus, Cape Monticola rupestris and Sentinel Rock-Thrushes M. explorator, Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata, Cliff Chat Thamnolaea cinnamomeiventris and Eastern Long-billed Lark Certhilauda semitorquata. Cisticolas are particularly well represented and are best identified by their breeding displays in summer. Listen for Zitting Cisticola Cisticola juncidis and Croaking Cisticola C. natalensis (widespread), Cloud Cisticola C. textrix and Ayre's Cisticola C. ayresii (gentle, short-grass slopes), Wailing Cisticola C. lais (tall-grass slopes), Rock-loving Cisticola C. aberrans (rocky slopes), Levaillant's Cisticola C. tinniens (wetlands) and Piping Cisticola C. fulvicapilla (thicker cover), as well as for the jumbled melody of Grassbird Sphenoeacus afer (rank vegetation).

Two colonies of Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus are present during winter, one on the remote cliffs above the Nkomati River and a more visible colony on the cliffs above Malalotja Falls. Keep an eye out here for Black Stork Ciconia nigra (a year-round resident of the park), Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus, Verreaux’s Eagle Aquila verreauxii and African Cuckoo Hawk Aviceda cuculoides, which is seen occasionally quartering the forest patches in the upper Malalotja Valley.

Hiking into some of the more remote sectors of the park should reward the energetic birder with Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi (Protea stands on Ngwenya Mountain) and, in the forest patches along the Malalotja River, a host of Afromontane forest birds.

Other animals: Malalotja is an excellent area for viewing a variety of grassland mammals, the most interesting of which include Black Wildebeest, Blesbok, Oribi, Mountain and Common Reedbuck, Grey Rhebok, and Klipspringer. Serval, Caracal, Leopard and South African Porcupine are also present but recorded rarely. Cape Clawless Otter is regularly encountered on the dams.

Mlawula Nature Reserve

This scenic 16,500 hectare reserve, lying in the foothills of the Lebombo mountains along Swaziland’s north-eastern border with Mozambique, incorporates a variety of habitats that range from Lowveld thicket and riverine woodland to grassland and rocky slopes. Its avifauna, which runs to over 350 species, is strongly reminiscent of the more accessible southern Kruger National Park, although a number of special birds typical of the East Coast Littoral are more easily seen here.

Specials: Scaly-throated Honeyguide Indicator variegatus, Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti, Black Coucal Centropus grillii, Lesser Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus lugubris, African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus, Retz’s Helmet-Shrike Prionops retzii, Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas quadrivirgata, Eastern Nicator Nicator gularis and a number of species restricted to the East Coast Littoral such as African Broadbill Smithornis capensis, Grey Sunbird Cyanomitra veroxii and Pink-throated Twinspot Hypargos margaritatus.

Habitats include Acacia savanna, moist woodland, riverine forest, grassland and rocky slopes.

Facilities include a road network in variable condition (all 2WD), self-guided trails, a camping site and accommodation in the form of pre-erected tents.

Birding: The 2WD road from the main entrance to the Siphiso campsite runs up the broad Siphiso valley, passing through excellent moist savanna where a variety of typical Lowveld birds may be found. Watch for African Finfoot Podica senegalensis, Black Stork Ciconia nigra and Wire-tailed Swallow Hirundo smithii at the crossing over the Mlawula River, Bennett’s Woodpecker Campethera bennettii and Green-capped Eremomela Eremomela scotops in the taller Camelthorn woodland, and Crested Guineafowl Guttera pucherani, Gorgeous Bush-Shrike Telophorus viridis, Eastern Bearded Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas quadrivirgata and Eastern Nicator Nicator gularis in dense thickets along the Siphiso River. The area around the campsite is productive and easily explored by means of self-guided hiking trails. Watch especially for parties of the characterful Retz’s Helmet-Shrike Prionops retzii and its brood parasite, Thick-billed Cuckoo Pachycoccyx audeberti. The cuckoos are scarce and highly elusive but may occasionally be seen (or more likely, heard) in display flight above the woodland in early summer.

More open savanna areas along the road to Siphiso camping site may produce Black-bellied Bustard Eupodotis melanogaster, Bronze-winged Courser Rhinoptilus chalcopterus and, when burnt, Lesser Black-winged Lapwing Vanellus lugubris. Black Coucals Centropus grillii are occasionally seen in the area after good summer rains, when Harlequin Quail Coturnix delegorguei and African Crake Crex egregia may also be present.

Access to the northern and eastern parts of the reserve is via a road that commences opposite the main entrance, passes the Environmental Centre and follows first the Mlawula and then the large Mbuluzi River towards the Mozambique border. Most of the riparian woodland was decimated by cyclone-created floods, though the few remaining patches still support Scaly-throated Honeyguide Indicator variegatus, Crowned Tockus alboterminatus and Trumpeter Hornbills Bycanistes bucinator, and Brown-headed Parrot Poicephalus cryptoxanthus whilst the thickets are home to African Broadbill Smithornis capensis, Eastern Nicator Nicator gularis, Grey Sunbird Cyanomitra veroxii and Pink-throated Twinspot Hypargos margaritatus. A night drive (request permission at the office) may produce White-backed Night Heron Gorsachius leuconotus, African Barred Owlet Glaucidium capense or even Pel’s Fishing-owl Scotopelia peli.

Access: The entrance to the reserve lies off the Manzini-Lomahasha road, 10 km north of Simunye. Just south of this village, the road traverses the Hlane National Park which has self-contained cottage accommodation, though the birding is better within the combined Mlawula / Mbuluzi Nature Reserves and camping in one of the two campsites is recommended.


Fri, 01/25/2013 - 22:59 -- abc_admin

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 Swaziland 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.

Endemic species

There are no bird species endemic to Swaziland.

Near endemic species (found in 3 or less countries)

Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus
Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix
Chorister Robin-Chat Cossypha dichroa
Brown Scrub-Robin Cercotrichas signata
Buff-streaked Chat Oenanthe bifasciata
Rudd’s Apalis Apalis ruddi
Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus
Pink-throated Twinspot Hypargos margaritatus

Threatened species

Southern Bald Ibis

Geronticus calvus

Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres Vulnerable
Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus Vulnerable
*Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus Vulnerable
Blue Crane Anthropoides paradiseus Vulnerable
Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea Vulnerable


* Not recorded in Swaziland since 1985.

The lists of endemic, near endemic and threatened species have been compiled from a number of sources including the African Bird Club, BirdLife International, and Birds of the World Version 2.0 ® 1994-1996, Dr. Charles Sibley and Thayer Birding Software, Ltd.

Important Bird Areas

Fri, 01/25/2013 - 22:58 -- abc_admin

The western highveld zone has pockets of forest which support five restricted range species of the South African forests Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The eastern lowveld supports two restricted range species of the South-east African coast EBA. As a result of the extensive altitudinal variation, Afrotropical Highlands biome with 12 of its species in Swaziland, East African Coast biome with 5 species and Zambezian biome with 3 species are represented.

The 3 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) designated by BirdLife International in Swaziland cover 580 km2 or 3.3% of the area of the country. The IBAs are as follows.

Important Bird Area Administrative Region
Malolotja Nature Reserve Hhohho
Hlane and Mlawula Game Reserves Lubombo
Mahamba Mountain Shiselweni

Malolotja Nature Reserve is one of only a few sizeable areas of pristine high-altitude grasslands remaining in the country supporting regular populations of Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea. Mahamba Mountain also covers an area of high-altitude grassland and Mahamba Gorge is the site of the largest Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus colony in Swaziland. Hlane and Mlawula Game Reserves are situated in north-east Swaziland and are the only breeding sites in the country for Lappet-faced Vulture Torgos tracheliotus and White-headed Vulture Trigonoceps occipitalis with Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres seen regularly.

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


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