Malaŵi | Malawi

South-Central Africa

118,480 km²



Strongly Afrotropical avifauna
Approximately 660 recorded species

Yellow-throated Apalis (Werner Suter)
Sharpe’s Greenbul (Paul van Giersbergen)
Livingstone’s Turaco (Kevin Ravno)

Endemics (E)
Yellow-throated Apalis (EN)

Near-endemics (NE)
Malawi Batis

Birds best found in Malawi but occurring more widely (BT)
Whyte’s Francolin | Rufous-throated Francolin
Stierling’s Woodpecker
Lilian’s Lovebird | Nyasa Lovebird
Souza’s Shrike
Black-browed Greenbul | Southern Mountain Greenbul
Olive-headed Greenbul
Sharpe’s Greenbul
Churring Cisticola
White-winged Apalis
Chapin’s Apalis
Babbling Starling
Thyolo Alethe | Cholo Alethe (choloensis)
Olive-flanked Ground Robin | Olive-flanked Robin-Chat
Sharpe’s Akalat
Whyte’s Double-collared Sunbird
Forest Double-collared Sunbird
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver
Bertram’s Weaver | Bertrand’s Weaver
Montane Widowbird | Buff-shouldered Widowbird
Yellow-browed Seedeater
Vincent’s Bunting

White-winged Apalis (Nik Borrow)
Chapin’s Apalis (Pete Morris)
Miombo Pied Barbet (Pete Morris)
Stierling’s Woodpecker (David Hoddinott)

Birds occurring in only two territories of the ABC region but not NE or BT (1/2)
Dark Batis
Shelley’s Greenbul

Birds best found in two territories but occurring in more (B2), including endemic subspecies (ESS)
Böhm’s Bee-eater
Miombo Pied Barbet
Brown-breasted Barbet
Speckle-throated Woodpecker | Reichenow’s Woodpecker
Fülleborn’s Boubou
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul
Livingstone’s Flycatcher
Black-lored Cisticola
Böhm’s Flycatcher
White-chested Alethe
East Coast Akalat (ESS bensoni)
Scarlet-tufted Sunbird
Olive-headed Weaver
Lesser Seedcracker
Locust Finch
Southern Citril | East African Citril
Reichard’s Seedeater
Black-eared Seedeater

Böhm’s Flycatcher (Keith Valentine)

Proposed new species or splits not yet accepted by IOC
Kirk’s Francolin
Schuett’s Spurfowl
Cranch’s Spurfowl
Rwenzori Nightjar (B2)
Black-faced Go-away-bird
Chestnut-breasted Flufftail (B2)
Ngami Owlet
White-faced Barbet
Northern Olive Woodpecker
Grey-headed Parrot (B2)
East African Pitta
Four-colored Bushshrike
Anchieta’s Tchagra
Eastern Saw-wing (B2)
Northern Olive-flanked Ground Robin | Rusty-flanked Robin-Chat (BT)
Southern Olive-flanked Ground Robin (BT)
Stuhlmann’s Weaver

Other taxa of interest, including ESS
Southern Crested Guineafowl
Red-winged Francolin (ESS crawshayi)
Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl
Swainson’s Spurfowl
Pennant-winged Nightjar
Scarce Swift
Livingstone’s Turaco
Schalow’s Turaco
Coppery-tailed Coucal
Green Malkoha
Thick-billed Cuckoo
Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo
Denham’s Bustard
Double-banded Sandgrouse
Dusky Turtle Dove
Striped Flufftail
White-backed Night Heron
Western Banded Snake Eagle
Ovambo Sparrowhawk
Mountain Buzzard
Pel’s Fishing Owl
Bar-tailed Trogon
Southern Ground Hornbill
Southern Red-billed Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Pale-billed Hornbill
Trumpeter Hornbill
Silvery-cheeked Hornbill
Racket-tailed Roller
Half-collared Kingfisher
Olive Bee-eater
Southern Carmine Bee-eater
White-eared Barbet
Whyte’s Barbet
Green Barbet (rungweensis + belcheri)
Green Tinkerbird
Moustached Tinkerbird
Crested Barbet
Pallid Honeyguide
Bennett’s Woodpecker
Little Spotted Woodpecker
Dickinson’s Kestrel
Brown-headed Parrot
African Broadbill
Woodwards’ Batis
Pale Batis
Black-throated Wattle-eye
Black-fronted Bushshrike
Olive Bushshrike (ESS bertrandi + makawa)
Retz’s Helmetshrike
White-breasted Cuckooshrike
Grey Cuckooshrike
Green-headed Oriole (chlorocephalus)
Common Square-tailed Drongo
Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher
White-necked Raven
White-tailed Blue Flycatcher
White-tailed Crested Flycatcher
White-winged Black Tit
Southern Black Tit
Rufous-bellied Tit
Cinnamon-breasted Tit
Miombo Tit
Eastern Nicator
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark
Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark
Rufous-naped Lark (ESS isolata)
Sombre Greenbul
Grey-olive Greenbul
Placid Greenbul
Cabanis’s Greenbul
Yellow-streaked Greenbul (vincenti)
Blue Swallow
Pearl-breasted Swallow
White-throated Swallow
Angola Swallow
Red-faced Crombec
Long-billed Crombec
Red-capped Crombec
Mountain Yellow Warbler
Evergreen Forest Warbler (granti)
Cinnamon Bracken Warbler
Trilling Cisticola (lufira)
Lazy Cisticola
Tinkling Cisticola
Wailing Cisticola
Rufous-winged Cisticola
Wing-snapping Cisticola
Red-winged Prinia
Bar-throated Apalis
Rudd’s Apalis (ESS caniviridis)
Black-headed Apalis (ESS fuliginosa + adjacens)
Brown-headed Apalis
Stierling’s Wren-Warbler
Green-capped Eremomela
Burnt-necked Eremomela
Mountain Illadopsis (ESS nyasae)
African Hill Babbler (stictigula)
Brown Parisoma
Yellow-bellied Hyliota
Southern Hyliota
African Spotted Creeper
Miombo Blue-eared Starling
Meves’s Starling
Slender-billed Starling
Waller’s Starling
Boulder Chat
Orange Ground Thrush
Spotted Ground Thrush (ESS belcheri)
Groundscraper Thrush
Kurrichane Thrush
Olive Thrush (milanjensis)
Abyssinian Thrush
Bearded Scrub Robin
Miombo Scrub Robin
Grey Tit-Flycatcher
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher
African Dusky Flycatcher
White-starred Robin
Collared Palm Thrush
Miombo Rock Thrush
Arnot’s Chat
Capped Wheatear
Anchieta’s Sunbird
Western Violet-backed Sunbird
Grey Sunbird
Bronzy Sunbird
Malachite Sunbird
Eastern Miombo Sunbird
Western Miombo Sunbird
Shelley’s Sunbird
Purple-banded Sunbird
White-bellied Sunbird
Eastern Golden Weaver
Southern Brown-throated Weaver
Southern Masked Weaver
Dark-backed Weaver
Yellow-bellied Waxbill
Green Twinspot
Red-faced Crimsonwing
Grey Waxbill
Crimson-rumped Waxbill
Blue Waxbill
Orange-winged Pytilia
Red-throated Twinspot
Jameson’s Firefinch
Purple Indigobird
Dusky Indigobird
Zambezi Indigobird
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah
Mountain Wagtail
Rosy-throated Longclaw
Wood Pipit
Buffy Pipit
Striped Pipit
Bushveld Pipit
Oriole Finch
Lemon-breasted Canary
Yellow-crowned Canary
Cabanis’s Bunting

Black-fronted Bushshrike (Paul van Giersbergen)
Red-faced Crimsonwing (Paul van Giersbergen)
Churring Cisticola (Pete Morris)

National bird
African Fish Eagle | Nkhwazi

Montane forest and grassland, miombo woodland, mopane woodland, lowland riparian thickets, lowland forest

South-east African coast Endemic Bird Area (EBA)
Tanzania – Malawi mountains EBA
21 Important Bird Areas

Nyika National Park (NP), Zomba Plateau, Misuku Hills, Mount Mulanje and Mount Thyolo for montane species
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve and Kasungu NP for miombo woodland species
Liwonde NP for savanna and woodland species
Nkhata Bay for lowland forest species

TIMING (Oct–Dec)
Visit around the start of the rains when most birds breed
Whydahs and indigobirds are in breeding plumage Jan–May
The worst time is probably Jun–Jul

Birds of Africa (iOS or Android)
Roberts Bird Guide 2 covers most species

Field guides
Birds of Africa South of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair & Peter Ryan (2010)
Birds of Southern Africa by Ber van Perlo (2009)
Birds of Malawi: a Supplement to Newman’s Birds of Southern Africa by Kenneth Newman, Nigel Johnston-Stewart & Bob Medland (1998) covers species not treated in Newman’s field guide
Bridging the Bird Gap: a Field Guide to the 64 Species in Malawi Not Described in Roberts’ Birds of South Africa by N G B Johnston-Stewart & J B Heigham (1982)

Site guides
Southern African Birdfinder by Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode & Jonathan Rossouw (2006)
Birdwatching in Malawi by Bob Medland (1995)

Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2 (SABAP2), a member of the African Bird Atlas Project

Further reading
The Birds of Malawi: an Atlas and Handbook by Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire & Robert J Dowsett (2006)
A Contribution to the Ornithology of Malawi by Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire (2006)
Malaŵi by Françoise Dowsett-Lemaire, Robert J Dowsett & Michael Dyer in Important Bird Areas in Africa and Associated Islands: Priority Sites for Conservation edited by Lincoln D C Fishpool & Michael I Evans (2001)
Birds of Malawi: the Splendour of Diversity by John Wilson (2017)
Vernacular Names of Malawi’s Birds by John Wilson (2012)
Bird Activity Book for Wildlife Clubs of Malawi by Deepa Pullanikkatil & Matthews Chilambo (2011)
Articles in WESM Newsletter, Vocifer (WSM bulletin of ornithological news in Malawi), Nyala (NFPS magazine), Society of Malawi Journal, Bull. ABC, etc.

Lake Malawi National Park – UNESCO World Heritage List
Malawi Tourism

Birds of Malawi by Edward Selfe (2022)

Facebook groups
Birds of Malawi
Birds Malawi


The BirdLife Partner in Malawi is the Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM), formerly the Wildlife Society of Malawi (WSM) and originally the Nyasaland Faunal Preservation Society (NFPS)

Other bird or conservation organisations active in Malawi include –
Malawi Ornithological Society (MOS)
Mulanje Mountain Conservation Trust (MMCT)
Lilongwe Wildlife Trust (LWT)
The Nyika Vwaza Trust
Wildlife Action Group (WAG)
Biodiversity Inventory for Conservation (BINCO)
African Parks: Liwonde, Majete, Mangochi Forest Reserve & Nkhotakota
Peace Parks Foundation: Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area

Museums of Malawi, Blantyre, curate a collection of bird specimens

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