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Kingdom of Lesotho

Drakensberg Rockjumper Chaetops aurantius ©Adam Riley Website

The Mountain Kingdom of Lesotho is land-locked within South Africa; rugged and grand, it is high lying Big Sky country with clear clear air and lots of silent space. Picturesque tranquil villages lie in the cultivated valleys, rude shepherd's huts cling to the lofty mountainslopes. All Lesotho lies above 1000 metres. In all the world it is the country with the highest lowest point.

The Caledon river forms Lesotho's boundary with South Africa's Free State Province, the mighty Drakensberg with Natal. The entire drainage is to the Atlantic, via the Orange river. The landscape of the Maluti; the mountains, is of basalt lava overlying creamy sandstone and red shale, relicts of primaeval Gondwanaland. Overhanging cliffs and walls of sandstone provided living shelters and art galleries for the Bushmen, that Ancient Race of Africa some of whose genes and culture flow on through the Basuto people of today.

The deepest valleys are, or were, partly wooded; the lower mountain slopes shrubby and denuded by overgrazing. The highlands are grassy, with high altitude representatives of South Africa's Karoo semi-desert heath plants.

The total bird species count is around 200, and the best months to see them are October to March.

The special birds of the region are to be found in their greatest concentrations and diversity along the road which spans an altidudinal range from 1700m to 3250m between the threshold to Sani Pass near Underberg (in Natal, S.Africa) and a point about half-way towards the Lesotho town of Mokhotlong. In the course of a one-day expedition, and more or less in order of wished for appearance, the following special birds occur:

Wattled Crane, Drakensberg Siskin, Half-collared Kingfisher, Drakensberg Rock-jumper, Yellow Warbler, Sentinel Rock Thrush, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Sicklewing Chat, Bush Blackcap, Mountain Pipit, Sharp-billed Honeyguide, Grey-wing Francolin, Barratt's Warbler, Southern Grey Tit, Broad-tailed Warbler, Lammergeier, Buff-streaked Chat, Rock Pipit, Gurney's Sugarbird, Black-headed Canary, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Eagle Owl, Drakensberg Prinia, Cape Vulture, Cape Rock Thrush, Layard's Tit-babbler, Fairy Flycatcher, Horus Swift, Bald Ibis.

In central Lesotho birds are rather sparse, though a drive anywhere into the high mountain country would yield some of the specials. Lesotho's Sehlabathebe Park, accessed with some difficulty from Matatiele in Natal, is a stronghold of Yellow-breasted Pipit.


Rob Guy

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 331


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

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Useful Reading

Birds of Lesotho

Kurt Bonde Paperback - 120 pages (1996) University of Natal Press

ISBN: 0869808818

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Southern African Birdfinder

Where to find 1400 bird species in southern Africa and Madagascar Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Jonathan Rossouw 456 pages, 80 col photos, 100 maps, pull-out route map. New Holland Publishers 2006

ISBN: 1868727254

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The ESKOM Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

Edited by Keith N Barnes 169 pages, maps. BirdLife South Africa

ISBN: 0620254998

Buy this book from NHBS.com


African Bird Club


The mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, one of Africa’s smallest countries, is largely an unknown birding destination. Landlocked by South Africa and home to the Basutho people, Lesotho, when compared to its sole neighbour is relatively devoid of bird life, but it does provide refuge to a handful of highland specials. Perhaps not a prime destination, Lesotho’s small size and easily accessible birding localities bode well for its inclusion in a South Africa trip…


Abbreviations Key



There are 6 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) designated by BirdLife International in Lesotho (BARNES, K. 2001). They cover 2,168 km2 or some 7% of the land area of the country. The IBAs were selected on the basis of breeding colonies of Cape Vulture Gyps coprotheres. Lesotho holds about 600 pairs of this species or 12% of the world population and the IBAs hold 64% of this number…

Sehlabathebe National Park


Satellite View

The only national park in the country, Sehlabathebe National Park (free entrance) is remote and inaccessible, but predictably peaceful and beautiful. Set on the border with South Africa, in the eastern reaches of the Drakensberg, the park has a few game animals, and is better known for its birdlife, excellent trout fishing, waterfalls, and seemingly endless open spaces that make for perfect hiking.

Guides & Tour Operators

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Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

Lesotho is visited during our 16-day Subtropical South Africa Birding Adventure. Please contact us for more details. Birding Ecotours aims to provide world-wide birding experiences of superb quality, while contributing to environmental conservation and disadvantaged communities. Please contact us for detailed information, queries and quotations as we are happy to help you in every aspect of planning your birding holiday.

Indicator Birding

Tour Operator

Birding trip with a tried and tested route and lifers galore. Top birds on this trip include White-chested Alethe, Black and White (Vanga) Flycatcher, Green-Headed Oriole, Marsh (Anchieta's Tchagra), Lesser Seedcracker, Yellow-bellied Hyliota and Locust Finch…

Trip Reports

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Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2009 - Birding off the Beaten Track


Strategically situated close to the meandering Crocodile river, which scythes its way lethargically through the boulder strewn and euphorbia dotted Lebombo mountains at the southern end of the Kruger National Park, this outpost of a Colonial era long ago has seen travelers come and go in their quest for a new life as mining opportunity opened up the promise of good fortune in the 19th Century…

2010 [02 February] - Leon Marais

Report PDF

…After entering the reserve we did the circular route on the plateau before having a wonderful picnic lunch where we were entertained by Fiscal Flycatchers, Karoo Thrushes, Mocking Cliff-Chats and Southern Masked Weavers….

2013 [04 April] - Joe Grosel & Lyn Hunt


…This morning we headed up Sani Pass. The weather was overcast and cold but fortunately ‘dry’. Several birding stops were made on the way up and at least two walks were conducted within Lesotho. We paid the customary visit to the Sani Top Hotel before the descent. Most of the Sani Pass specialties were seen including Bearded Vulture, Bush Blackcap, Ground Woodpecker, Wailing Cisticola, Buff-streaked Chat, Drakensberg Siskin, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes and excellent views of Drakensberg Rockjumper. In Lesotho: Mountain Pipit, Lanner Falcon, Sickle-winged Chat, Layard’s Tit-Babbler, Fairy Flycatcher, African Black Duck, Large-billed Lark and Southern Grey Tit. Other interesting bird sightings for the day were – a Cuckoo finch chick being fed by its Levaillant’s Cisticola host, several Brown-backed Honeybirds along the lower part of the pass and large mixed feeding flocks of swifts. Sloggert’s Ice Rat, Chacma Baboon and Mountain Reedbuck were three of several mammals seen while Crag Lizard and Southern Rock Agama were two of the reptiles recorded on the day.

2015 [01 January] - Joe Grosel - Kruger, Lesotho & Zululand

Report PDF

Places to Stay

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Lesotho Hostels


Hostels.com brings you the best selection of hostels in Lesotho. Many of these hostels can be booked online - alternatively you can contact all other Lesotho hostels by mail or phone using the details featured…

Other Links

Southern Africa Birding


Birding Resources for Southern Africa. This site is about birds and birding in South Africa and the Southern African region, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Zambia. The region`s best birding sites are featured under Birding Spots, together with birding resources under Bird guides, tours and Accommodation. The latest rare bird sightings are posted on our Twitchers` Tales page, What`s On highlights major events, and Birding Organisations puts you in touch with other birders and organisations working towards bird conservation.