Republic of Sierra Leone

White-necked Rockfowl Picathartes gymnocephalus ©Birding Ecotours Website
Birding Sierra Leone

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.

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 669

    (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 Western Africa

    | By Nik Borrow & Ron Demey | Christopher Helm | 2014 | Edition 2 | Paperback | 592 pages, 266 plates with colour illustrations; colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781472905680 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Western and Central Africa

    | By Ber van Perlo | Princeton University Press | 2003 | Paperback | 384 pages, 109 plates with colour illustrations; colour & b/w illustrations, 1500+ b/w distribution maps, colour maps | ISBN: 9780691007144 Buy this book from
  • 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

    4C Main Motor Road, Tengbeh Town, Freetown, SL
  • West African Ornithological Society

    The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists

Abbreviations Key

  • IBAs

    WebsiteSatellite View
    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
  • NP Gola Rainforest

    InformationSatellite View
    The GRNP is Sierra Leone's largest tract of rainforest, and covers 71,070 hectares in the east of the country. Recent biological surveys show that the forest is home to more than 330 species of birds, 14 of which are threatened, over 650 species of butterfly and 49 species of mammals, including a population of 300+ chimpanzees, pygmy hippopotamuses and a much dwindled forest elephant population.
  • NP Outamba-Kilimi

    InformationSatellite View
    The area was originally chosen for preservation as it contains a large number of chimpanzees. Wildlife includes primates such as chimpanzees, colobus monkeys and sooty mangabeys; hippopotamuses and pygmy hippos; elephants; common warthogs; rare bongo antelopes and over a hundred species of birds.
  • NP Western Area Forest Reserve

    InformationSatellite View
    The Reserve is home to the Tacugama Chimpanzee Sanctuary - It is the westernmost semi-deciduous closed canopy forest in Sierra. Leone. The forest is home to various endangered species, including a wide variety of endangered birds
  • WS Mamunta Mayosso

    InformationSatellite View
    It is one of the few areas in the country that protects the threatened Dwarf Crocodile as well as being home to 252 bird species despite its small size.
  • WS Tiwai Island

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Tiwai is a community conservation programme, managed by the Tiwai Island Administrative Committee (TIAC), which represents both communities, government, Universities & conservation organizations. All funds raised go towards running the project as well as supporting the Community Development Fund, to help finance community initiated programmes.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • BirdQuest

    Tour Operator
    Sierra Leone Birding Tours: our Sierra Leone bird watching holiday explores a country that has only recently started to register on the bird watching map. Our Sierra Leone birding tour offers some marvellous frontier African birding, being rich in West African specialities, including many Guinea Forest endemics, among which is the splendid Yellow-headed Picathartes or White-necked Rockfowl.
  • Jays Bar International

    Tour Operator
    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

    Tour Operator
    Sierra Leone - Rockfowls & Upper Guinea specials 2019 - A birding tour to Sierra Leone takes one to the biologically rich rainforests that are the undoubted stronghold of West Africa’s Upper Guinea bird endemics! The unfortunate political history of this country has meant that for many years these superb forests have been under-birded and little explored; however, in recent years Sierra Leone has opened up and intrepid birders now have a fantastic opportunity to explore this productive region.
Trip Reports
  • 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

    PDF Report
    ...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 PujehunDistrict (border with Liberia). Tiwai is almost contiguous with the Gola West Forest Reserve....
  • 2015 [01 January] - Outamba National Park

    PDF Report
    ...A weekend break from Freetown to visit Outamba National Park (part of the Outamba-Kilimicomplex) in the north of Sierra Leone. Outamba is notable for being one of the largest expanses oftrue savannah woodland in Sierra Leone and has some distinct avifauna not readily found elsewherein the country....
  • 2015 [04 April] - David McLachlan-Karr - Gola Rainforest National Park

    PDF Report
    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

    PDF Report
    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
  • 2017 [02 February] - Charles Davies

    ...We started to pick up some of the commoner forest edge birds, including a couple of African Thrush on the trail, a party of Violet-backed Starling, Buff-spotted Woodpecker, Gray-headed Bristlebill, Green Hylia and Gray Longbill, as well as a single Lesser Spot-nosed Monkey. White-throated Bee-eater is a migrant from the Sahel, and when in Sierra Leone is common in a wide range of habitats from open country and farms to the canopy of primary forest...
  • 2017 [12 December] - Momoh B Sesay - Year Report

    PDF Report
    Thisisthe reportofthe activities, initiatives and the most interesting bird species that have been recorded in 2017by myself or by others. I'm workingas African Bird Club representative for Sierra Leone & as BirdLife International Field officerattached at Conservation Society of Sierra Leone (CSSL)helping Birdlife International on various projects -among other on the White-Necked Picarthertes at Kambui Hill Forest.
  • 2018 [01 January] - Nik Borrow

    PDF Report
    A series of terrible events have befallen Sierra Leone since our last visit and in the aftermath of Ebola the country has been struggling to once again find its feet and their tourist industry is keen to encourage visitors to the country
  • 2018 [12 December] - Mike Moore

    PDF Report
    Having spent 2 ½ months in Ghana prior to flying into Freetown, I was wanting to focus on trying to find a number of range-restricted species in Sierra Leone and a few others that I missed during my time in Ghana.
  • 2019 [01 January] - Mark Van Beirs

    PDF Report
    The delicate Sierra Leone Prina, the exquisite Gola Malimbe, the rarely-seen Turati’s Boubou, the very smart Emerald Starling, the jewel-like Crimson Seedcracker and the extraordinary White-necked Rockfowl (or Yellow-headed Picathartes) were without a doubt the most favoured birds of our January 2019 Sierra Leone tour. Searching for Upper Guinea Forest endemics in this much maligned country is more difficult than in Ghana, due to the much less developed roads and tourist infrastructure
  • 2019 [04 April] - Daniel Branch

    PDF Report
    Sierra Leone is an amazing country, with a vibrant atmosphere and amazing people. With so much to offer both culturally and birding, it is remarkable that so few birders make tracks here.

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content