Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea in the northeast, Liberia in the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and has a population estimated at 6,296,803 The country has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. Freetown is the capital, seat of government, and largest city. Bo is the second largest city. Other major cities in the country with a population over 100,000 are Kenema, Koidu Town and Makeni. The country is home to Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, established in 1827.
Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa, between the 7th and 10th parallels north of the equator. Sierra Leone is bordered by Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The country has a total area of 71,740 square kilometers (27,699 square miles), divided into a land area of 71,620 square kilometers and water of 120 square kilometers.
The country has four distinct geographical regions. In eastern Sierra Leone is an interior region of large plateaus interspersed with high mountains, where Mount Bintumani reaches 1,948 meters (6,390 ft) the highest point in the country. The upper part of the drainage basin of the Moa River is located in the south of the region. In the central part of the country is region of lowland plains, containing forests, bush and farmland, that occupy about 43% of Sierra Leone's land area. Starting in the west, Sierra Leone has some 400 kilometres (250 miles) of coastline, giving it both bountiful marine resources and attractive tourist potential. This is followed by low-lying mangrove swamps, rain-forested plains and farmland. The national capital Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula, situated next to the Sierra Leone Harbor, the world's third largest natural harbour. This prime location historically made Sierra Leone the centre of trade and colonial administration in the region.
The climate is tropical, with two seasons determining the agricultural cycle: the rainy season from May to November, and a dry season from December to May, which includes harmattan, when cool, dry winds blow in off the Sahara Desert and the night-time temperature can be as low as 16 °C (60.8 °F). The average temperature is 26 °C (78.8 °F) and varies from around 26 °C (80 °F) to 36 °C (90 °F) during the year.
Logging, mining, slash and burn, and deforestation for alternative land use - such as cattle grazing - have dramatically decreased forested land in Sierra Leone since the 1980s. Until 2002, Sierra Leone lacked a forest management system due to a brutal civil war that caused tens of thousands of deaths. Deforestation rates have increased 7.3% since the end of the civil war. On paper, 55 protected areas covered 4.5% of Sierra Leone as of 2003. The country has 2,090 known species of higher plants, 147 mammals, 626 birds, 67 reptiles, 35 amphibians, and 99 fish species.
In June 2005, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Bird Life International agreed to support a conservation-sustainable development project in the Gola Forest in southeastern Sierra Leone, the most important surviving fragment of rain forest in Sierra Leone.
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Number of Species
Number of bird species: 656
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Birds of Western Africa: An Identification Guide
Nik Borrow and Ron Demey Series: CHRISTOPHER HELM IDENTIFICATION GUIDE SERIES 832 pages, 147 col plates, 1100 dist maps. Christopher Helm
ISBN: 0713639598Buy this book from NHBS.com
Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa
Nik Borrow and Ron Demey Series: HELM FIELD GUIDES 496 pages, 150 col plates, 1300 maps. Christopher Helm See Fatbirder Review
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Guides & Tour Operators
Jays Bar International
My name is Kenneth Gbengba from Fact Finding Tours of Sierra Leone. I have been a bird guide for 18 years, guiding birding tours all over West Africa. I am recognised as Sierra Leone’s top birdwatcher and I run the only indigenous eco tourism handling agency in the name of Fact Finding Tours. My office is situated on Lumley Beach Road at the National Tourist board Information and Business Centre…
Rockjumper Birding Tours
While we no longer offer any set departures to Sierra Leone, we will happily tailor-make a private tour for you.
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.
2006 [08 August] - David Hoddinott 2
This second ever, birding tour of Sierra Leone started off in the Western Area Peninsula Forest. Our first goal was to find one of the most sought after birds in Africa, the pre-historic looking White-necked Picathartes. After waiting for the early morning rain to dissipate, we took a short walk to a Picathartes colony. Here we waited patiently for several hours, during the long wait we did see a Green-tailed Bristlebill, a threatened Upper Guinea endemic. However, one could feel the suspense in the air, and suddenly there they were, a magnificent pair of these incredible birds. We watched them for an amazing twenty minutes. Everyone was thrilled and it was a wonderful way to start the trip…
2006 [09 September] - David Hoddinott
This third ever, birding tour of Sierra Leone started off in the Western Area Peninsula Forest. Some birding highlights here included an obliging Melancholy Woodpecker, Chestnut Wattle-eye, Blue-throated Brown Sunbird, Shining Drongo and Gray’s Malimbe…
2006 [12 December] - John Hornbuckle
I visited Sierra Leone with my friends Rich Hopf and Frank Lambert to try to see as many of the West African specialities as possible. 16 of the 17 Upper Guinea endemics occur, along with at least 4 other species also found only in Nigeria. We saw 13 of these, including White-necked Rockfowl and White-breasted Guineafowl, plus other rarely seen birds such as Red-thighed Sparrowhawk, Kemp's Longbill, Ussher's Flycatcher, Lowland Akalat, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, Red-fronted Antpecker, Crimson Seedcracker and for some, Spot-breasted Ibis and African Pitta. Sierra Leone is a safe, if under-developed, country now after 10 years of bloody civil war and the best place to see these birds now that Ivory Coast is unsafe to visit. Few birders have been to Sierra Leone other than South African tour-leaders and a few employed by the RSPB to do detailed surveys of Gola Forest and Rockfowl sites, a highly commendable extension to the RSPB's previously rather insular activities…
2007 [12 December] - David Hoddinott
his, the first ever comprehensive two-week birding tour to Sierra Leone, proved to be a very successful trip. We saw just over 300 species and found 23 out of 27 Upper Guinea Specials including Ahanta Francolin, White-breasted Guineafowl, Brown-cheeked Hornbill, Little Green, Melancholy and Fire-bellied Woodpecker, Ghana Cuckooshrike, Baumann’s Greenbul, Green-tailed Bristlebill, Yellow-bearded Greenbul, Finsch’s Flycatcher-Thrush, Sharpe’s Apalis, Kemp’s Longbill, Ussher’s Flycatcher, Red-cheeked Wattle-eye, the mega White-necked Picathartes, Rufous-winged Illadopsis, Turati’s Boubou, Chestnut-bellied Helmetshrike, Emerald and Copper-tailed Starling, the very rare Gola Malimbe and Crimson Seedcracker…
2008 [04 April] - Kenneth Gbengba
I was the expert guide for H’s bird watching trip to Sierra Leone, which was for six days bird watching over a one week period. I designed an itinery which included his particular wishes to see the White-Necked Picathartes (Bare Headed Rock Fowl) and Tiwai Isaland. Luckily I have particular knowledge about a Picathartes colony which which is reasonably easily accessible and where I can ensure a certainty of a sighting…
2008 [12 December] - Keith Valentine
This, only our second ever comprehensive two-week birding tour to Sierra Leone, proved to be a very successful trip. Sierra Leone, as with any country in West Africa, can often be brutal on logistics however we enjoyed a fabulous, hassle free trip with smooth logistics and, most importantly, superb birding in some of West Africa’s finest lowland forests…
2009 [12 December] - David Hoddinott
Our comprehensive, two-week birding tour to Sierra Leone proved to be extraordinarily successful, with a record breaking trip total of 341 species reflecting the countries’ incredible birding potential! Whilst the focus of the tour was certainly the rich assemblage of Upper Guinea specialties, we did not neglect the region’s interesting diversity of primates. Participants were treated to 19 Upper Guinea specialties and an array of rare, elusive, localized and stunning species…
2012 [03 March] - John Bowler
…The neighbouring trees and muddy beach held a surprising variety of birds given the urban location. We spent a lot of time here and recorded some 50 species – mostly widespread birds such as Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Western Grey Plantain-eater, African Thrush, Yellow White-eye, Black-necked Weaver, Shikra, Royal Tern, Western Reef-heron and Hooded Vulture but including surprises such as Oriole Warbler, Chestnut-breasted Negro-finch, Broad-billed Roller, Grey Woodpecker and Woodland Kingfisher, plus no less than 5 species of sunbird including Splendid, Brown, Copper, Variable and Green-headed Sunbird. We also saw several Rose-ringed Parakeets here – the only place we saw them in the country…
2013 [02 February] - Duncan Orr-Ewing
…Other birds seen at Kilimi include; Ahanta francolin, squacco heron, black headed heron, African fish eagle, white backed vulture, western marsh harrier, dark chanting and African goshawks, red thighed sparrowhawk, grasshopper buzzard (10), tawny eagle, Cassin’s hawk eagle (4 between Outamba and Kilimi. Brood on the wing?), long crested eagle, grey and common kestrels, African hobby, peregrine, Guinea turaco, black coucal (1), plain nightjar, mottled swift, Abyssinian roller, chocolate backed kingfisher, little, blue cheeked and European bee-eaters, black scimitarbill, grey hornbill, double toothed barbet (1), Willcock’s honeyguide, fine spotted woodpecker, Turati’s boubou (common), white breasted cuckoo-shrike, golden and Honeyguide greenbuls, grey headed bristlebill, pied winged swallow, moustached grass warbler, red faced, singing, croaking, short-winged, black backed and whistling cisticolas, oriole warbler, yellow browed cameroptera, blackcap illadopsis, chiffchaff (out of range), yellow bellied hyliota, spotted creeper, bronze tailed starling, western violet backed sunbird, pygmy and blue throated brown sunbirds, yellow mantled widowbird, Togo paradise wydah, and Cabanis’s bunting…
2014 [11 November] - Tiwai Island and Kambui (South) Forest Reserve
...Having learned from Kenneth that the RSPB-managed Gola Forest was currently off-limits to birders, we decided on Tiwai Island, a community-managed conservation area in SL’s most southerly Pujehun District (border with Liberia). Tiwai is almost contiguous with the Gola West Forest Reserve....
2015 [01 January] - Outamba National Park
...A weekend break from Freetown to visit Outamba National Park (part of the Outamba-Kilimi complex) in the north of Sierra Leone. Outamba is notable for being one of the largest expanses of true savannah woodland in Sierra Leone and has some distinct avifauna not readily found elsewhere in the country....
2015 [04 April] - David McLachlan-Karr - Gola Rainforest National Park
Gola was only declared a National Park by Presidential Decree in December 2010. The park is an amalgam of three almost contiguous reserves: Gola North Forest Reserve, Gola East Forest Reserve and Gola West Forest Reserves.
2015 [09 September] - David McLachlan-Karr - Tingi Hills Forest Reserve
With the West Africa monsoon finally tapering off, the long weekend of Eid-ul-Adha (24-27 September) was an opportunity to come out of birding hibernation and visit the Tingi Hills Forest Reserve of Kono District in north-eastern Sierra Leone
African Bird Club
Sierra Leone has 626 bird species recorded in an area of similar size to Scotland. It is also one of the best places to see the enigmatic White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus and perhaps to find the eponymous Sierra Leone Prinia Prinia leontica. The potential for birdwatchers is therefore high. A 10 year conflict and its aftermath denied birdwatchers the opportunity to visit in the recent past, but this is slowly changing as peace and democracy take hold…
Conservation Society of Sierra Leone
P0 Box 1292, Freetown. email@example.com
West African Ornithological Society
The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.
626 bird species have been recorded in Sierra Leone of which over 430 are resident and over 130 are regular seasonal migrants including 90 Palearctic migrants. There are 23 species of global conservation concern. The forests of eastern Sierra Leone form the western part of the Upper Guinea forests Endemic Bird Area (EBA) and 14 of its 15 restricted range species occur in the country. Some 174 species of the Guinea-Congo forests biome and 28 of the Sudan-Guinea Savanna biome are known from Sierra Leone. The coastline forms part of the eastern Atlantic flyway for migrant waterbirds and is probably one of the major stop-over and wintering sites for many Palearctic waders along the coast of west Africa…