Kingdom of Lesotho

Drakensberg Rockjumper Chaetops aurantius ©Adam Riley Website
Birding Lesotho

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: 360

    (As at April 2020)

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Useful Reading

  • Birds of Lesotho

    | By Kurt Bonde | University of KwaZulu-Natal Press | 1996 | Paperback | 120 pages, 5 colour photos, b/w illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780869808818 Buy this book from
  • Newman's Birds of Southern Africa

    | By Kenneth B Newman, Faansie Peacock & vanessa Newman | Random House Struik | 2010 | Paperback | 536 pages, plates with colour illustrations; colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781770078765 Buy this book from
  • Roberts Bird Guide

    | By Hugh Chittenden, Greg Davies & Ingrid Weiersbye | Jacana Publishers | 2019 | Hardback | 570 pages, plates with colour illustrations; colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781920602024 Buy this book from
  • Sasol Birds of Southern Africa

    | (4th Edition) | Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton, Peter G Ryan, Norman Arlott & Peter Hayman | Random House Struik | 2014 | Paperback | 464 pages, plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781775840992 Buy this book from
  • Southern African Birdfinder

    | (Where to find 1400 bird species in southern Africa and Madagascar) | By Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode & Jonathan Rossouw | New Holland Publishers | 2006 | Paperback | 456 pages, 80 colour photos, 100 maps, pull-out route map | ISBN: 9781868727254 Buy this book from
  • The ESKOM Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland

    | Edited by Keith N Barnes | BirdLife South Africa | 2000 | Paperback | 169 pages, maps | ISBN: 9780620254991 Buy this book from
  • African Bird Club

    The mountain Kingdom of Lesotho, one of Africa

Abbreviations Key

  • IBAs

    WebpageSatellite View
    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
  • NP Sehlabathebe

    InformationSatellite View
    The Sehlabathebe National Park is located in the Maloti Mountains in Qacha's Nek District, Lesotho, and is part of the larger Maloti-Drakensberg World Heritage Site. It offers a significant habitat to a range of unique Afro-Alpine and Sub-Alpine plants, mammals, avifauna, reptiles, amphibians and fish. It has spectacular scenery with unique rock formations. Most of the Park is taken up by a designated wilderness area and although small by international standards, it retains its natural character and is uninhabited.
  • NP Ts'ehlanyane

    InformationSatellite View
    Ts'ehlanyane National Park is Lesotho's largest National Park and is located in the Maloti Mountains in Butha-Buthe District, Lesotho, and is part of the larger Maloti-Drakensberg Transfrontier Conservation Area. This Lesotho northern park protects a high-altitude, 5,600-metre (18,400 ft) patch of rugged wilderness, including one of Lesotho’s only stands of indigenous forest with a number of rare undergrowth plants that are unique to this woodland habitat.
  • NR Bokong

    InformationSatellite View
    It contains Afro-alpine wetlands at the sources of the Bokong and Lepaqoa rivers, plus montane grassland and patches of heathland boulder beds, both of which are regular haunts for Vaal rhebuck. The reserve's highlight, however, is the Lepaqoa Waterfall, which freezes in winter to form a column of ice.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • 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

    Facebook Page
    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

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 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

    PDF Report
    We looked forward to a day trip up Sani Pass and into Lesotho. On the way to the South African border post at the foot of the pass some good birds were seen including Bokmakierie, Cape Grassbird, Horus Swift, Rufous - necked Wryneck, Cape Canary, Bush Blackcap, Cape Rock Thrush and Drakensberg Prinia. At the border control post we were informed that the pass had been closed due to rock slides as a result of local flooding during the night. After some persuasion we were allowed to travel up the pass for about 4km but couldn’t go all the way through into Lesotho. Travelling up through the lower slopes there were nice views of Cape Vulture, Broad -tailed Warbler (Fan - tailed Grassbird), Dark -capped Yellow Warbler, Wailing Cisticola, Gurney’s Sugarbird, Bu ff-streaked Bush -Chat, Ground Woodpecker, Malachite Sunbird and Barratt’s Warbler.
  • 2016 [06 June] - Jim Rose

    Very Brief
  • 2016 [12 December] - Gergo Nagy - South Africa (plus Lesotho &Swaziland )

    PDF Report
    This journey was a three weeks independent birds and mammals tour in Southern Africa, including three countries: Republic of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland. Actually,we were for a short time in the latter ones, however we tasted these two small countries.
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.

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