Kingdom of Eswantini

Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus ©Glen Valentine Website

Eswantini is a landlocked country in Southern Africa. It is bordered by Mozambique to its northeast and South Africa to its north, west, south, and southeast. It has an area of about 17,300 km2 (6,700 square miles) and is no more than 200 km (120 mi) north to south and 130 km (81 mi) east to west, Eswatini is one of the smallest countries in Africa; despite this, its climate and topography are diverse, ranging from a cool and mountainous highveld to a hot and dry lowveld. Mbabane, the capital, is on the Highveld. Along the eastern border with Mozambique are the Lebombo Mountains, a mountain ridge at an altitude of around 600 metres (2,000 ft). The mountains are broken by the canyons of three rivers, the Ngwavuma, the Great Usutu and the Mbuluzi. The western border, with an average altitude of 1,200 metres (3,900 ft), lies on the edge of an escarpment.

Eswatini contains three ecosystems: Maputaland coastal forest mosaic, Zambezian and mopane woodlands, and Drakensberg montane grasslands. The coiuntry is divided into four climatic regions: the Highveld, Middleveld, Lowveld, and Lubombo plateau. Generally speaking, rain falls mostly during the summer months (December to March), often in the form of thunderstorms. Winter is the dry season. Annual rainfall is highest on the Highveld in the west, between 1,000mm and 2,000mm;  the further east, the less rain, with the Lowveld recording 500 to 900 mm per annum.[ Variations in temperature are also related to the altitude of the different regions. The Highveld temperature is temperate and seldom uncomfortably hot, while the Lowveld may record temperatures around 40 °C in summer.

Eswatini has a spectrum of formal and informal conservation areas that protect the nation’s rich biological diversity. These areas comprise about 5% of the country’s land area. There are over 820 species of vertebrates and over 2400 species of plants, with many endemic species. This diversity suggests Eswatini is globally important for biodiversity conservation. Land degradation and conversion to other land uses are the major threats to biodiversity, including plantation agriculture (legal and illegal), bush-clearing, the spread of alien and invasive plants, and unsustainable resource harvesting; major land fragmentation is evident

There are 6 formal and more than 10 informal protected areas in the country. The formal areas include: Malolotja Nature Reserve, Mantenga Nature Reserve, Mlawula Nature Reserve, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, and Mkhaya Game Reserve, and Hlane Royal National Park. In addition to these, there are many private and community nature reserves, as well as some with mixed governance structures. These include: Dombeya Game Reserve, Mbuluzi Game Reserve, Shewula Nature Reserve, Phophonyane Falls Nature Reserve, Royal Jozini, IYSIS (Inyoni Yami), Ngwempisi Wilderness, Sibebe and others.

Birding Eswantini

Eswatini is a small country with a wide range of environments and a big bird list – over 500 species.

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.

Eswatini’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. In the Lubombos you may see a Cape Vulture circle overhead (if you are lucky) or a Purple-crested Lourie scrambling in the tree tops below. Eswatini is rich in raptors with 48 species recorded and many species are still common, such as martial eagles, bateleurs, and long-crested eagles, and the southernmost nesting site of the marabou stork.

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 South African guides adequately cover identification.

  • Peregrine Rowse


Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 519

    (As at March 2024)

    National Bird: Purple-crested Turaco Turaco porphyreolophus

  • Avibase - Bird Checklists of the World

    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
  • DiBird

    Birds in Eswatini
  • Wikipedia

    List of birds of Eswatini
Useful Reading

  • Birds of the Malolotja Nature Reserve, Swaziland

    | By Richard Boycott & Vincent Parker | Avian Demography Unit | 2003 | Paperback | 60 pages, colour photos, line drawings, maps | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780620281515 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 | Edition 2 | 2018 | Flexibound | 570 pages, plates with colour illustrations; colour photos, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781920602017 Buy this book from
  • Sasol Birds of Southern Africa

    | By Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton, Peter G Ryan, Norman Arlott & Peter Hayman | Random House Struik | 2020 | (5th Edition) | Paperback | 482 pages, plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781775846680 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 col 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
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • The 6th Annual Eswatini Birding Spectacular

    Birding Spectacular
    You are invited to join us for a weekend of excellent birding in the Kingdom.
  • African Bird Club

    The Kingdom of Swaziland, one of Africa
  • Eswantini National Trust Commission

    The Eswatini National Trust Commission (ENTC) is responsible for conservation of the Kingdom’s natural and cultural heritage as mandated by the National Trust Commission Act No. 9 of 1972; amended by the King’s Order in Council of 1973.

Abbreviations Key

  • GR Mbuluzi

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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.
  • GR Mkhaya

    InformationSatellite View
    Mkhaya Private Game Reserve is the Kingdom's refuge for endangered species. Birds of note include Narina trogon, purple-crested turaco, grey-headed bush-shrike, gorgeous bushshrike and pygmy kingfisher.
  • IBAs

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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
  • Lubombo Conservancy

    InformationSatellite View
    Situated in the Lubombo District, the conservancy is part of the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area, which straddles the border between South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province, southern Mozambique and the northeastern part of Eswatini. It includes the Hlane Royal National Park, the Mlawula Nature Reserve, the Shewula Community Nature Reserve, the Mbuluzi Game Reserve, the Nkhalashane Siza Ranch and the Inyoni Yami Swaziland Irrigation Scheme (IYSIS). It is Eswatini's largest conservancy area.
  • NP Hlane Royal

    InformationSatellite View
    It has an abundant and diverse bird life, including the highest density of nesting white-backed vultures in Africa. Raptors include martial eagles, bateleurs, and long-crested eagles, as well as several species of vultures including white-backed, white-headed, lappet-faced and the occasional Cape vulture. It has the southernmost nesting site of the marabou stork.
  • NR Hawane

    InformationSatellite View
    Hawane Nature Reserve was first established in 1978 to protect an area of marsh along the Mbuluzi River.
  • NR Malolotja

    InformationSatellite View
    Bird species include louries, sunbirds, sugarbirds, blue cranes and swallows. Bald ibises nest in colony on cliffs near Malolotja Falls. A number of bird species are of conservation importance, because their habitat is limited and threatened outside the park. They are the orange ground-thrush, brown robin, bush blackcap, chorister robin-chat, white-starred robin, grey cuckoo-shrike, olive bush shrike, southern boubou, Narina trogon and Knysna lourie.
  • NR Mantenga Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    The reserve is a small protected area of 725 hectares in a secluded corner of the Ezulwini Valley, although it is only two kilometres from a major road. The Little Usuthu River (Lusushwana) forms the southern boundary of the reserve; over this rivier are commercial pine forests and Mlilwane Game Sanctuary.
  • NR Mlawula

    InformationSatellite View
    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.
  • NR Phophonyane Falls

    InformationSatellite View
    The Phophonyane Falls Nature Reserve is a scenic, 600 ha large nature reserve and tourist destination near Piggs Peak, Eswatini.
  • Swaziland National Trust Commission - Nature Reserves

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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.
  • WS Mlilwane

    InformationSatellite View
    The sanctuary serves as a headquarters for the Big Game Parks including Mlilwane's sister reserves Hlane Royal National Park and Mkhaya Game Reserve. The Sanctuary covers 4,560 hectares in the Ezulwini Valley or "Valley of Heaven". Formerly a farming and tin mining area, the area has been rehabilitated and is now Swaziland's most frequently visited reserve. Abundant wildlife grace the plains. The southern section is predominately open grassland plains with middleveld vegetation, stretching up onto Nyonyane Mountain.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • Birding in the Kingdom of Eswatini

    Welcome to Birding in the Kingdom of Eswatini. This group has been created to encourage and assist beginners in identifying local birds, and to provide a platform for any birder to share their Eswatini sightings.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Birds – Eswatini (Swaziland)

    Tour Guide
    Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) has over 500 bird species listed. This is a remarkable number for a tiny landlocked country. It is home to 52 southern Africa endemics, unique to the region. The beautiful Malolotja Nature Reserve is a breeding site for the blue swallow, one of southern Africa’s rarest birds. Southern bald ibis has several nesting sites around the country and the vulnerable Cape vulture can often be seen circling in the sky.
Trip Reports
  • 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
  • Birdwatching in the Kingdom of Eswantini

    Some 500 species of bird have been recorded in Eswatini (Swaziland). This puts it roughly on a par with France (517) or, more locally, the Kruger National Park (505), and is a remarkable tally for such a tiny, landlocked country. According to the Southern African Birdfinder, 21% of the 150 most sought after Southern African birds can be found in the country. These high numbers come from its diversity of habitats, with several very different bird communities occurring side-by-side. For sheer number of species, the lowveld is the richest region, with Hlane or Mlawula easily offering up to 100 species in a day to a keen birder – especially during summer, when all the migrants are around. You can also find the highest density of nesting white back vultures in Africa in the Hlane Royal National Park. The highveld has fewer species but is home to many rarities that are more elusive elsewhere. Malolotja is one of the top birding destinations in southern Africa.

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