Malaŵi | Malawi

Southern Africa

118,484 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), including Zambezian endemics or near-endemics (Z)
Whyte’s Francolin | Rufous-throated Francolin (Z)
Stierling’s Woodpecker (Z)
Lilian’s Lovebird | Nyasa Lovebird (Z)
Souza’s Shrike (Z)
Black-browed Greenbul | Southern Mountain Greenbul
Olive-headed Greenbul
Sharpe’s Greenbul
Churring Cisticola
White-winged Apalis
Chapin’s Apalis
Babbling Starling | White-winged Starling (Z)
Thyolo Alethe | Cholo Alethe (choloensis)
Olive-flanked Ground Robin | Olive-flanked Robin-Chat
Whyte’s Double-collared Sunbird
Forest Double-collared Sunbird
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Weaver (Z)
Bertram’s Weaver | Bertrand’s Weaver
Montane Widowbird | Buff-shouldered Widowbird
Yellow-browed Seedeater

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)
Shelley’s Greenbul

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

Böhm’s Flycatcher (Keith Valentine)

More Zambezian endemics or near-endemics occurring in Malawi
Coppery-tailed Coucal
Pale-billed Hornbill
Racket-tailed Roller
Whyte’s Barbet
Dickinson’s Kestrel
White-tailed Blue Flycatcher
Rufous-bellied Tit
Cinnamon-breasted Tit
Miombo Tit | Miombo Grey Tit
Red-capped Crombec
Tinkling Cisticola
Stierling’s Wren-Warbler
Miombo Blue-eared Starling
Meves’s Starling
Boulder Chat
Kurrichane Thrush
Miombo Scrub Robin
Collared Palm Thrush
Miombo Rock Thrush
Arnot’s Chat | White-headed Black Chat
Anchieta’s Sunbird | Red-and-blue Sunbird
Eastern Miombo Sunbird
Western Miombo Sunbird
Shelley’s Sunbird
White-bellied Sunbird | White-breasted Sunbird
Red-throated Twinspot | Peters’s Twinspot
Zambezi Indigobird | Green Indigobird
Broad-tailed Paradise Whydah

Proposed new species or splits not yet accepted by IOC
Kirk’s Francolin
Crawshay’s Francolin (BT)
Schuett’s Spurfowl
Cranch’s Spurfowl
Usambara Nightjar (B2)
Black-faced Go-away-bird
Chestnut-breasted Flufftail (B2)
Ngami Owlet
White-faced Barbet (Z)
Northern Olive Woodpecker
Grey-headed Parrot (B2)
East African Pitta
Four-colored Bushshrike
Anchieta’s Tchagra
Plateau Lark | Blackish Lark | Ukinga Rufous-naped Lark (BT)
Eastern Saw-wing (B2)
African Reed Warbler
Northern Olive-flanked Ground Robin | Rusty-flanked Robin-Chat (BT)
Southern Olive-flanked Ground Robin | Olive-flanked Robin-Chat (BT)
Stuhlmann’s Weaver
Black-fronted Red Bishop
Red-backed Mannikin
Vincent’s Bunting (BT)
Three-streaked Bunting

Other taxa of interest (see also under Birding Sites), including ESS
White-backed Duck
African Pygmy Goose
African Black Duck
Southern Pochard
Southern Crested Guineafowl
Crested Francolin (zambesiae)
Shelley’s Francolin
Hildebrandt’s Spurfowl
Swainson’s Spurfowl
Red-necked Spurfowl (melanogaster)
Fiery-necked Nightjar
Square-tailed Nightjar
Pennant-winged Nightjar
Böhm’s Spinetail
African Black Swift
Horus Swift
Grey Go-away-bird
Purple-crested Turaco
Livingstone’s Turaco
Schalow’s Turaco
Denham’s Bustard
White-browed Coucal
Burchell’s Coucal
Green Malkoha
Thick-billed Cuckoo
Denham’s Bustard
Double-banded Sandgrouse
African Finfoot
Lesser Moorhen
Grey Crowned Crane
Long-toed Lapwing
Blacksmith Lapwing
White-crowned Lapwing
Senegal Lapwing
Crowned Lapwing
Lesser Jacana
African Snipe
Rock Pratincole
African Skimmer
Saddle-billed Stork
White-backed Night Heron
Rufous-bellied Heron
Pink-backed Pelican
Western Banded Snake Eagle
Ayres’s Hawk-Eagle
Verreaux’s Eagle
African Marsh Harrier
Augur Buzzard
Southern White-faced Owl
Marsh Owl
Cape Eagle-Owl (mackinderi)
Spotted Eagle-Owl
Pel’s Fishing Owl
Red-faced Mousebird
Common Scimitarbill
Southern Ground Hornbill
Southern Red-billed Hornbill
Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill
Crowned Hornbill
Trumpeter Hornbill
Lilac-breasted Roller
Brown-hooded Kingfisher
Half-collared Kingfisher
Swallow-tailed Bee-eater
White-fronted Bee-eater
Olive Bee-eater
Southern Carmine Bee-eater
White-eared Barbet
Green Barbet (rungweensis/belcheri)
Green Tinkerbird
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird
Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird
Black-collared Barbet
Crested Barbet
Green-backed Honeybird
Pallid Honeyguide
Scaly-throated Honeyguide
Bennett’s Woodpecker
Golden-tailed Woodpecker
Little Spotted Woodpecker
Bearded Woodpecker
Rock Kestrel
Meyer’s Parrot
Brown-headed Parrot
African Broadbill
Woodwards’ Batis
Chinspot Batis
Pale Batis
Black-throated Wattle-eye
Olive Bushshrike (ESS bertrandi + makawa)
Black-backed Puffback (hamatus)
Retz’s Helmetshrike
Black-and-white Shrike-flycatcher
White-breasted Cuckooshrike
Grey Cuckooshrike
Magpie Shrike
Southern Fiscal
Green-headed Oriole (chlorocephalus)
Black-headed Oriole
Square-tailed Drongo
Blue-mantled Crested Flycatcher
White-necked Raven
White-winged Black Tit
Southern Black Tit
Grey Penduline Tit
Eastern Nicator
Fischer’s Sparrow-Lark
Rufous-naped Lark (ESS isolata)
Red-capped Lark
Sombre Greenbul
Yellow-bellied Greenbul
Little Greenbul (zombensis)
Terrestrial Brownbul
Grey-olive Greenbul (schoutedeni)
Pearl-breasted Swallow
White-throated Swallow
Angola Swallow
Red-faced Crombec
Long-billed Crombec
Lesser Swamp Warbler
Little Rush Warbler
Trilling Cisticola (lufira)
Lazy Cisticola
Rufous-winged Cisticola
Red-winged Prinia
Rudd’s Apalis (ESS caniviridis)
Green-backed Camaroptera
Yellow-bellied Eremomela
Green-capped Eremomela
Burnt-necked Eremomela
Southern Yellow White-eye
Arrow-marked Babbler
Yellow-bellied Hyliota
Southern Hyliota
African Spotted Creeper
Red-winged Starling
Yellow-billed Oxpecker
Red-billed Oxpecker
Groundscraper Thrush
Bearded Scrub Robin
Grey Tit-Flycatcher
Southern Black Flycatcher
African Dusky Flycatcher (subadusta)
White-browed Robin-Chat
Red-capped Robin-Chat
Capped Wheatear
Western Violet-backed Sunbird
Collared Sunbird
Green-headed Sunbird
Olive Sunbird
Grey Sunbird
Amethyst Sunbird
Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Purple-banded Sunbird
Variable Sunbird
Copper Sunbird
Yellow-throated Bush Sparrow
Northern Grey-headed Sparrow
Southern Grey-headed Sparrow
White-browed Sparrow-Weaver
Spectacled Weaver
Eastern Golden Weaver
Holub’s Golden Weaver
Southern Brown-throated Weaver
Lesser Masked Weaver
Southern Masked Weaver
Dark-backed Weaver
Cardinal Quelea
Yellow Bishop
White-winged Widowbird
Green Twinspot
Grey Waxbill
Crimson-rumped Waxbill
Blue Waxbill
Orange-winged Pytilia
Jameson’s Firefinch
Purple Indigobird
Dusky Indigobird
Long-tailed Paradise Whydah
Mountain Wagtail
Rosy-throated Longclaw
Wood Pipit
Buffy Pipit
Striped Pipit
Bushveld Pipit
Lemon-breasted Canary
Cinnamon-breasted 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

Misuku Hills, Nyika National Park (NP), Zomba Plateau and Mount Mulanje for Yellow-throated Apalis and Malawi Batis as well as Shelley’s Greenbul, many of the BT and B2 species listed above and other montane species including Common Quail, Scarce Swift, Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo, African Olive Pigeon, Dusky Turtle Dove, Striped Flufftail, Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Mountain Buzzard, Bar-tailed Trogon, Silvery-cheeked Hornbill, Moustached Tinkerbird, Black-fronted Bushshrike (nigrifons/sandgroundi), White-tailed Crested Flycatcher, Placid Greenbul, Yellow-streaked Greenbul (alfredi/vincenti), White-headed Saw-wing, Blue Swallow, Red-rumped Swallow, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler, Mountain Yellow Warbler, Evergreen Forest Warbler (usambarae/granti), Cinnamon Bracken Warbler, Wailing Cisticola, Wing-snapping Cisticola, Bar-throated Apalis, Black-headed Apalis (ESS fuliginosa + adjacens), Brown-headed Apalis, Mountain Illadopsis (ESS nyasae), African Hill Babbler (stictigula), Brown Parisoma, Slender-billed Starling, Waller’s Starling, Orange Ground Thrush, Spotted Ground Thrush (ESS belcheri), Olive Thrush (milanjensis), Abyssinian Thrush, White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher, Cape Robin-Chat, White-starred Robin, Bronzy Sunbird, Malachite Sunbird, Yellow-bellied Waxbill, Red-faced Crimsonwing, Oriole Finch and Yellow-crowned Canary
Dzalanyama Forest Reserve and Kasungu NP for miombo woodland species
Liwonde NP for mopane woodland and savanna species as well as waterbirds
Nkhata Bay for East Coast Akalat among other 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 National Park, Mangochi Forest Reserve, Majete Wildlife Reserve and Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve
Peace Parks Foundation: Malawi-Zambia Transfrontier Conservation Area

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

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