Swaziland is a small country with a big bird list - approximately 500 species. A staggeringly wide range of environments are found in only 17,360 square km from cool, wet mountain tops to foetid riverine forest.
The Swazi Highveld in the northwest forms part of the Drakensberg escapement. There are steep wooded gorges and sour grasslands. Malolotja National Park covers some of the best Highveld country. Blue Crane, Stanley's Bustard and Southern Bald Ibis can be found here. Malolotja is best known for critically rare breeding Blue Swallow. There are small numbers of Gurney's Sugarbird breeding on hillsides which have Protea trees. Ground Woodpeckers are also characteristic of the area.
The Midveld consists of rolling hills and river valleys; one of the best being the Mlumati where Green Twinspot is found. Much of the broadleaved savannah and forest of the Midveld has been lost or degraded by agriculture and forestry but there are numerous unspoilt areas with fantastic birding.
The Lowveld is the least developed part of the country, which consists largely of knobthorn-marula savannah with forested river valleys. The Leadwood forest in Mlawula National Park, is spectacular. It holds African Broadbill and Red-billed Helemetshrike. There is probably no better place in the world to see the rare and beautiful Pink-throated Twinspot than the Swazi Lowveld. Rudd's Apalis is resident particularly in the south. There is little natural standing water in the Lowveld, so where it does exist, usually in association with sugar cane and cotton production for example at Big Bend (where over 300 species have been recorded) and the Kalanga Regional Development Association dam, migrant Palaearctic waders and other water birds abound.
Swaziland's eastern border with Mozambique is formed by the ancient Lubombo Mountains rising to 780m. There are spectacular remote valleys running down to the border for example at Mambane. The Lubombos are famous for a number of Palaeolithic caves. As you sit in a cave mouth, resting your weary limbs after a long climb, watching a Cape Vulture circle overhead (if you are lucky) or a Purple-crested Lourie scrambling in the tree tops below, contemplate the fact that early hominids sat in the very same place, doing the same thing over 100,000 years ago!
Swaziland is rich in raptors with 48 species recorded and many species are still common.
December to February is probably the best time to visit. Resident species and inter-African migrants, such as the Cuckoos, are in full breeding plumage, which certainly helps with identifying the Weavers and Widowbirds and it is the time when the Palaearctic migrants are present.
The Swaziland Bird Atlas provides distributional data down to 1/8th degree grid squares (approx 12.5km x 12.5km) as well as seasonal data for migrants. It is essential reading. The South African guides adequately cover identification.
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 505
National Bird: Purple-crested Turaco Turaco porphyreolophus
Fatbirder's very own checklists are now available through WebBirder
Newman's Birds of Southern Africa
Kenneth Newman Paperback - 510 pages (January, 1999) Southern Book Publishers
ISBN: 1868127575Buy 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: 1868727254Buy 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: 0620254998Buy this book from NHBS.com
Guides & Tour Operators
Please contact us for 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.
Lawson's Birding Safaris
In birding terms, Swaziland represents a microcosm of eastern South Africa. Falling at the convergence zone of three slightly different bird communities, it actually offers some good birding venues within a relatively small area. The road network is relatively good, and the main birding sites are easily accessible, making it great for a short visit as part of an extended Eastern South Africa trip, or as a stop on a self-drive tour.
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.
Places to Stay
The Lodge is ideally situated among natural surroundings at the foot of Sheaba's Breasts Mountains over looking the legendary Execution rock…
African Bird Club
The Kingdom of Swaziland, one of Africa’s few remaining monarchies, is landlocked by South Africa and Mozambique. Located in southern Africa (in the eastern half), Swaziland is a small country with limited birding to be had, however it does present one of the best opportunities to catch up with one of Southern Africa’s rarest birds, the vulnerable Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea…
Swaziland National Trust Commission
The SNTC is responsible for the management of four nature reserves, namely, Malolotja, Mlawula, Mantenga and Hawane Nature Reserves. These reserves are for the conservation of the natural flora and fauna of these areas as well as the cultural resources within them…
Hawane Nature Reserve
Swaziland is an independent monarchy which is situated in southeastern Africa. This Kingdom, one of the smallest in the world is bordered in the east by Mozambique and in the southeast, south, west and north by South Africa.
Hlane Royal National Park
The largest park in the Kingdom, Hlane (which means wilderness) is held in trust for the Nation by King Mswati III. Comprising a vast bushveld wilderness, two picturesque camps and a network of connecting roads, Hlane is the perfect retreat for lovers of peace, nature and self-catering isolation…
The western highveld zone has pockets of forest which support five restricted range species of the South African forests Endemic Bird Area (EBA). The eastern lowveld supports two restricted range species of the South-east African coast EBA. As a result of the extensive altitudinal variation, Afrotropical Highlands biome with 12 of its species in Swaziland, East African Coast biome with 5 species and Zambezian biome with 3 species are represented…
Mbuluzi Game Reserve
Mbuluzi lies in the foothills of the Lubombo Mountains and is part of 60,000 ha conservancy that includes Mlawula Nature Reserve and Hlane Royal National Park. This beautiful reserve, the habitat of over 300 species of birds, including some rare and uncommon species, and much varied game, is a unique wilderness area.
Mkhaya Game Reserve
Mkhaya Private Game Reserve is the Kingdom's refuge for endangered species.
Mlawula National Park
The variety of topography and ecotypes enables a large variety of vertebrates to exist in the reserve. The reserve is noteworthy for its high diversity of birdlife, with about 350 species having been recorded in the area, compared with the total of about 500 species recorded in the whole of Swaziland. Over sixty species of small and large mammals have been recorded in the reserve, which includes those species which have been re-introduced.
Swaziland National Trust Commission - Nature Reserves
The SNTC is responsible for the management of four nature reserves, namely, Malolotja, Mlawula, Mantenga and Hawane Nature Reserves. These reserves are for the conservation of the natural flora and fauna of these areas as well as the cultural resources within them.
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.
Swaziland Bird Checklist
The checklist lists all bird species recorded in Swaziland between 1985 and 1991 inclusive. Appendix 1 lists those species which were recorded prior to 1985 and have not been recorded since. Appendix 2 lists those species recorded in Swaziland for which further confirmation is required.