Kingdom of Swaziland

Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus ©Glen Valentine Website
Birding Swaziland

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.

Contributors
  • Peregrine Rowse

    | prowse@ili.co.uk

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 507

    (As at September 2018)

    National Bird: Purple-crested Turaco Turaco porphyreolophus

Checklist

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    iGoTerra Checklist
    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
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 | ISBN: 0620281510 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • 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 NHBS.com
  • Roberts Birds of Southern Africa

    By Phil AR Hockey, W Richard J Dean & Peter G Ryan | Jacana Publishers | 2006 (2018 Re-print) | Hardback | 1296 pages, 80 colour plates, maps, keys | ISBN: 0620340533 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • 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 NHBS.com
  • 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: 1868727254 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • 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: 0620254998 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Organisations
  • African Bird Club

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

    Website
    To conserve the natural and cultural heritage of Swaziland through sustainable utilisation of these resources and promotion of environmental awareness throughout the nation.
Reserves

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
  • 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.
  • NP 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.
  • NP 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 Hawane

    InformationSatellite View
    Hawane Nature Reserve was first established in 1978 to protect an area of marsh along the Mbuluzi River.
  • 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.
Guides & Tour Operators


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  • Birding Ecotours

    Tour Operator
    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

    Tour Operator
    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.
Trip Reports


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  • 2013 [09 September] - Tony Benton - Mbulzi Game Reserve

    Report
    This report (actually my daily diary) spans an eight day self-drive holiday in Kruger National Park with almost five weeks in Swaziland. Four of the weeks in Swaziland were spent as a conservation volunteer with All Out Africa (www.alloutafrica.com), based at Mbuluzi Game reserve in the North East of the country. As a conservation volunteer, I was involved in bird surveys and a Crested Guineafowl research project, and supported a number of other research activities that were not bird related...
  • 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

    Website
    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

    Website
    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.

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