Malaŵi | Malawi

South-Central Africa

118,480 km²



Strongly Afrotropical avifauna
Approximately 650 recorded species

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

Endemics (E)
Yellow-throated Apalis (EN)

Birds best found in Malawi but occurring more widely (BT)
Whyte’s Francolin
Stierling’s Woodpecker
Lilian’s Lovebird | Nyasa Lovebird
Souza’s Shrike
Black-browed Greenbul
Olive-headed Greenbul
Sharpe’s Greenbul
Black-lored Cisticola
Churring Cisticola
White-winged Apalis
Chapin’s Apalis
Babbling Starling
Thyolo Alethe
Olive-flanked Ground Robin
Sharpe’s Akalat
Whyte’s Double-collared Sunbird
Forest Double-collared Sunbird
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver
Bertram’s Weaver
Montane 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 near-endemics or BT (1/2)
Dark Batis
Fülleborn’s Black Boubou
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
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul
Livingstone’s Flycatcher
Böhm’s Flycatcher
White-chested Alethe
East Coast Akalat (ESS bensoni)
Scarlet-tufted Sunbird
Olive-headed Weaver
Lesser Seedcracker
Locust Finch
Reichard’s Seedeater
Black-eared Seedeater

Böhm’s Flycatcher (Keith Valentine)

Proposed new species or splits not yet accepted by IOC
Schuett’s Spurfowl
Kikuyu Red-winged Francolin (BT)
Chestnut-breasted Flufftail (B2)
Usambara Nightjar (B2)
Northern Olive Woodpecker
Grey-headed Parrot (B2)
Malawi Batis (NE)
Anchieta’s Tchagra
Northern Olive-flanked Ground Robin (BT)
Southern Olive-flanked Ground Robin (BT)
Eastern Saw-wing (B2)

Other taxa of interest, including more ESS
Scaly Spurfowl (ESS doni),
Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl
White-backed Night Heron
Ovambo Sparrowhawk
Denham’s Bustard
Wattled Crane
Livingstone’s Turaco
Burchell’s Coucal
Thick-billed Cuckoo
Pel’s Fishing Owl
Bar-tailed Trogon
Pale-billed Hornbill
White-eared Barbet
Whyte’s Barbet
Green Barbet (rungweensis, belcheri)
Moustached Tinkerbird
Dickinson’s Kestrel
Brown-headed Parrot
Black-fronted Bushshrike
Olive Bushshrike (ESS bertrandi + makawa)
Green-headed Oriole (chlorocephalus)
Rufous-bellied Tit
Miombo Tit
Eastern Nicator
Grey-olive Greenbul
Placid Greenbul
Yellow-streaked Greenbul (vincenti)
Blue Swallow
Red-capped Crombec
Evergreen Forest Warbler (granti)
Lazy Cisticola
Rudd’s Apalis (ESS caniviridis)
Mountain Illadopsis (ESS nyasae)
African Hill Babbler (stictigula)
Southern Hyliota
Spotted Ground Thrush (belcheri)
Olive Thrush (swynnertoni)
Miombo Scrub Robin
Collared Palm Thrush
Miombo Rock Thrush
Boulder Chat
Anchieta’s Sunbird
Shelley’s Sunbird
Baglafecht Weaver (ESS nyikae)
Southern Brown-throated Weaver
Red-faced Crimsonwing
Orange-winged Pytilia
Zambezi Indigobird
Striped Pipit

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, lowland riparian thickets, mopane woodland, lowland forest

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

Nyika National Park (NP), Zomba plateau and Mount Thyolo for montane species
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve for miombo woodland species
Liwonde NP for savanna and woodland species
Mukwadzi forest 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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