Malawi has a total population of about 650 bird species that have been recorded by the government and although it is a small number as compared to the other African countries, the species that are found in Malawi are worth seeing as some of them are endemic to the country. When we talk about birding in Malawi, the country is divided into two that is the Southern birding region and the Northern birding region.
Top 10 Bird species found in Malawi
Malawi being a good spot for birding has several bird species to be seen and I have listed below some of the bird species with a few details about them.
- The pelican, these are water birds which have a pouch under their beaks and they are known to have webbed feet and majorly feed on fish. Malawi has tow bird species from the pelican family and these are the Pink backed pelican and the Great white pelican.
- The stork bird, these have long stout bills, long legged and necked and large birds. The country Malawi has eight of these stork bird species and these include the Marabou stork, wolly necked stork, yellow billed stork, saddle billed stork, white stork, black stork and the African openbill.
- The duck, these are aquatic birds which have webbed feet and the most common duck bird species in Malawi is known as the White faced whistling duck although there are other species and these include the African black duck, northern shoveled, white backed duck, Egyptian goose and the spur winged goose.
- The African Fish Eagle, this can be seen around the different lakes and rivers in Malawi and it is also the National bird in the country.
- The Lizard buzzard, this is seen throughout the different parts in Malawi.
- The Falcon, this is a raptor and it is known to be a bird that kills using its beak instead of the feet like other raptors. Malawi has a total of twelve falcon species and some of these include the Gray kestrel, lesser kestrel, Red necked Falcon and the Amur falcon.
- The Guinea fowl, this is a seed eating bird and Malawi has two guinea fowl bird species which include the Hottentots Buttonquail and the small Buttonquail.
- The crane, these are large long necked birds and they normally fly out with their long necks outstretched. Malawi has two bird species of the crane family and these include the Wattled crane and the Gray crowned crane.
- The African Jacana, This is normally found in the wetlands it has wide claws and feet which enable them easy floatation on the vegetation on the water.
- Cholo alethe
These regions have different birding spots and all these have different bird species that tourists get to see once they visit the National park but before you head down for your birding expeditions in the country, there are a few things that you will need to take with you in order for you to enjoy your birding experience and these include:
- A camera, this will help you capture the still life of the different bird species in the country.
- Binoculars, these help with viewing of birds that are far away from you and others that hide in their habitats.
- Hides, these act as camouflages and they can either be clothes or anything that keeps you hidden so that you can watch the birds without them noticing that they are being watched.
- Insect repellents, these will be used to avoid insect bites and to avoid malaria and other disease.
- A recognition book, these help with identifying the different bird species that you will see in the country.
There are several ways that you can get to the different birding destinations in Malawi but it is better if you book through one of the many tour guides who are found in the country. These will help you deal with the transportation from the airport to the different destinations and deal with accommodation facilities.
The southern part of Malawi
There are several birding spots that are located in the southern part of the country although the number of bird species that are found in the southern part of Malawi are not as many as those in the Northern part of the country, they still offer one a life time experience. Some of the best birding spots that are found in the southern part of Malawi are the Zomba plateau, Mountain Mulanje, Lengwe National Park, Mountain Soche, Liwonde National Park, Mountain Thyolo, Lake Malawi and River Zambezi at the border.
Birding in Liwonde
Liwonde National Park is one of the top birding destinations in Malawi and it has a population of about 300 bird species that habitate in the different habitats that are found in the park. You can either walk through the park or if you are a fun of the water birds, then it is better to take out a boat so that you get a clear view of them lounging around the water bodies. Some of the bird species that are found in the park include the Lilian’s lovebird, Bataluer, the African snake eagle, the Bohm’s bee-eater, the African martial eagle, the African open bill, the long toed lapwing, the pied Kingfisher, the Black heron and many more other bird species.
Birding in Lengwe National park
The Lengwe National park has over 330 bird species that habitate in the park and although most of them are indigenous, you will be able to see some of the migratory birds and some of the bird species include the banded snake eagle, the African paradise flycatcher, the Bohm bee-eater, the woolly necked stork, the Rudd’s Apalis, the green backed wood pecker, the crested guinea fowl, the mouse colored sunbird and many more others. Birding can be done almost throughout the year but the best time to see a combination of both the local and migratory birds is during the wet season which happens between the months of November and April.
Birding at Lake Malawi
Lake Malawi is the largest Lake in Malawi making it the third largest Lake on the African continent. The clear waters that are found at the lake make a great habitat for many bird species in Malawi and some of the species that can be seen around the Lake include the African hornbill, the African fish eagle, the swallow, the nightjar, the Kestrel.
Birding in Zomba
Zomba was the capital city of Malawi before it was transferred to Liwonde. It is among the birding spots found in the southern region of the country and some of the birding species that are found here include the square tailed Drongo, the forest weave, the yellow tailed Apalis, the bar throated Apalis, the white winged Apalis, the garden warbler, and the long tailed Apalis, the greenbul, Malawi Batis, the blue spotted dove, double collared sunbird, the white starred Robin and other species.
You can either drive through the Zomba plateau or observe the birds from a hill but all in all it is a perfect destination for all birders because you will get to enjoy the bird species and also learn more about the colonial times while here.
The Northern birding region
The Northern birding region in Malawi has some of the top birding spots and you can visit each one of these birding spots before heading out to the Southern region to do the same. Some of the top birding spots here include the Misuku hills, Kasungu National Park, Viphya plateau, Nyika National Park, Dzalanyama forest Reserve and the Vwaza wild life Reserve.
Some of the bird species that can be found in the Northern birding region of Malawi include the African Hill Babbler, Shelley’s sunbird, the white winged Babbling starling, the mountain llliadopsis, the orange winged Pytilia, the lesser seed cracker, Ludwig’s double collared sunbird and many more other bird species.
Birding in the Nyika National Park
The Nyika National Park has over 400 bird species that habitate in the Park which means that it has about half the population of the bird species in Malawi. Some of the bird species that can be seen in the Nyika National Park include the endemic birds to the Park which are the Mountain yellow warbler, the mountain marsh widowbird, the chirping Cisticola and the wing snapping Cisticola. Some of the other species include the long crested eagle, the Denham’s bustard, the cinnamon dove, the wattled crane, secretary bird and the African pied wagtail.
Birding in Vwaza wild life Reserve
The Vwaza wild life reserve does not have a lot bird species within its several habitats but it is commonly known to be a home to bird species like the Egyptian goose, the knob billed ducks, the white faced billed duck and the spur winged geese.
The Viphya plateau also part of the Northern birding spots in Malawi and the common bird species that habitate in this plateau include the yellow streaked bulbus, the Sharpe’s Akalat, the blue mantled flycatcher, the bar tailed trogon, the mustached green tinker bird and the olive flanked robin.
Birding in wetlands in Malawi
There are several wetlands in Malawi where birding can take place like the Chilwa Lake, the Shire River and other smaller water bodies. The best way for one to see all the aqua birds is by using a boat but with the help of a tour guide. Some of the bird species that can be viewed in these Malawian wetlands include kingfishers, the lesser flamingo, the lesser Egyptian goose, the knobilled duck, the spur winged geese, the elephant Marsh, the white pelican including many more other species that you can only see once you visit the Chilwa Lake.
Birding in Dzalanyama forest reserve
Dzalanyama forest reserve located in the southern part of Liwonde National Park is part of the Northern region birding spots and some of the bird species that can be viewed here include the sterling’s woodpecker, the Bohm’s flycatcher, the Scimitar billed wood hoopoes, the blue headed weaver Whyte’s barbets and many more other bird species.
Birding in the Rift Valley
The Rift Valley is also a very good birding spot in Malawi and some of the bird species that are found in the Great valley include the Bohm’s bee-eater, the Lilian’s lovebird, the white backed night Heron, the western banded snake eagle, the brown breasted Barbet. The best time for one to visit the rift valley for birding is during the wet season because then you will be able to see more bird species than those that have been mentioned above including some migratory birds that fly into the country from the neighboring countries.
Best time for one to go for birding in Malawi
Birding in Malawi can be done at any time of the year but the best time is during the wet season because during this time, migratory birds can be seen flying into the country and it is also the time when they reproduce and therefore you get to see both the young and the old birds at the same time and remember that the only way to see the birds is if you have a tour guide with you.
Several countries in African allege to be a paradise for birdwatcher’s however Malawi’s testimonials in this very field are above all impressive. About 650 different bird species have been recorded with 10 % not being found in other regions of southern Africa. To a certain extent over 80 % of the identified species have been recorded to breed in this country while the rest are migratory species , majorly from Europe whereas others are from Asia.
There is a great diversity of birds ranging from the huge Marabou stork (more than 150 cm or 59 inches) to very small birds such as the locust finch (below 10 cm or 4 inches). One gaze at Malawi’s good geographical position as well as its variety of environments fast explains why it prides of such a great birdlife. The central location of the country, near to the equator crossing, puts it evidently on the path of the migratory birds which look out to make use of the conditions in different hemispheres. The combination of river plains, mountains, plus plateaux, in addition to swamplands as well as lakes, caters for the territory demands of all types of bird species. Malawi must definitely be a destination special to the genuine ornithologist and by people who are basically fascinated by the view of this colorful and astonishing collection of birds in this somewhat small country.
Even though a specific bird species is not frequently restricted to a single habitat, the majority species prefer a particular hang around area that satisfies their cover needs, feeding as well as nesting. Dissimilar several mammals that require the shelter of a game reserve, the birds can actually be seen nearly everywhere that the circumstances are appropriate. However it is within the national parks plus reserves that the majority of natural habitats can be found, for this reason they are frequently the first choice to those people who visit Malawi and desire to experience the rich birdlife of this country. In addition, it is also within the parks that professional guiding can be accessible.
There isn’t a season through the year particular for bird watching. On the other hand, to see the largest variety that includes migrants, the time close to the finish of the dry months; late September- to the finish of the wet months – in April, offers the best opportunities. This certainly is, the winter in the northern hemisphere. possibly the best time is best time is in November as well as December, ahead of the rains when the birds are in the largest number and when the blend of numerous birds is all very vivid.
Bird Habitats in Malawi
in the region of the Lake
Lake Malawi draws a variety of birds that prefer either the water pus the islands or the specific vegetation along the shore-area. Among the very prominent species is the African fish eagle, which is the national bird of Malawi. There are additional populations of fish eagles in this place than in any other place in the rest of the world. This wonderful bird, that has a black colored body and a white head, neck as well as white tail feathers, is without difficulty seen as it dives to catch fish from the water surface. In case not seen, it’s very loud cry will certainly be heard as it rests on a water’s edge tree or fly over the stunning lake.
Alongside the shore of the lake, are palms that draw the collared palm-thrush as well as the palm swifts, whereas the great boababs have their spotty spinetails with amazingly swept back-wings. The Pied kingfishers frequently dive to catch small fish and, in case there are reeds, the golden plus the brown -throated weavers may as well be seen. Extremely famous, particularly on the islands that are off-shore, are white breasted cormorants, even though the reed cormorants are not as commonly spotted. Without a doubt the most striking bird, because of its utter size, seen close to the lake is the huge Marabou stork.
Huge numbers of species of birds dwell in the wetland as well as riverine areas of Malawi. Lake Chilwa, Elephant Marsh, Vwaza Marsh Wildlife Reserve as well as the bigger dambos, like the Mpatsanjoka close to Senga Bay, are worthwhile destinations for bird watchers.
greenbacked heron as well as the Squacco dwell in the Elephant Marsh, however the rubybellied and the rujousbellied heron may be found on the more easily reached Mpatsanjoka dambo. The White pelicans plus flamingos are often seen on Lake Chilwa as well as in Elephant Marsh. The Hamerkops, with their distinguishing crests, nourish in the shallow areas of Lake Chilwa. the great White pelicans and flamingos look very attractive within their breeding hgabitat when the, frequently white, feathers on their body reflect a pink color. an additional big as well as gorgeous bird among the dambos is the crowned-crane even though it is becoming uncommon.
Vwaza is renowned for its duck as well as geese populations that include the whitefaced in addition to knobbilled ducks along with the spurwinged geese, plus the lesser Egyptian goose.
The bigger rivers, like the Shire as well as the Bua, possess their private specialties. The uncovered sand cliffs close to Chikwawa are habitat to the carmine bee-eaters, recognized for their good-looking pale cinnamon under parts. The Giant kingfishers are in addition found close to the Shire although the smaller half collared kingfishers are to be seen mostly adjacent to the densely wooded banks of the river like in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve.
These woodlands, as well recognized as miombo, are the typical vegetation of most of Malawi. A variety of bird species are found only within these habitats and actually some of the finest viewing can be enjoyed within the Dzalanyama Forest found southwest of Lilongwe. Staying at the Forest Lodge found there can be very worthwhile.
Scimitar billed wood hoopoes, which have unusually curved bills, Whyte’s barbets and the lonely Souza’s shrikes are found here. The two infrequencies which are the blue-head weaver plus Stierling’s woodpecker in addition to Boehm’s flycatcher are not seen any place within southern Africa. An additional weaver bird, whose nest has an extended spout and at all times appears just a little disorderly, is the redheaded weaver seen in the Dzalanyama Forest and in another places.
There are many species of dazzlingly colored sunbirds seen in the Brachystegia woodlands. The Red plus blue sunbirds, Oustalet’s sunbirds and the green headed sunbirds are just 3 species not frequently seen in other parts of southern Africa. Among the pipits, the commonest is the wood pipit although the lighter colored bushveld pipit is an uncommon visitor.
The miombo rock thrush, regardless of its name, is not restricted to the stony regions of the woodlands although the boulder chat is frequently seen within the Mchinji region which has rocky projection. Two visiting species to these woodlands are the garden warbler as well as the European nightjar, frequently seen close to Thyolo in the wet months. A lengthy distance as well as uncommon guest is the European blackcap that glides to altitudes over 300 meters or 1000 feet.
Mixed savannah woodlands
2 national parks, Liwonde as well as Lengwe, offer this habitat. Similarly to the mixed vegetation, in addition one can look forward to to discover a predominantly wide assortment of birdlife. Regularly see are the long tailed glossy starlings, white browed sparrow-weavers, redbilled hornbills and the crowned hornbills. More constrained is the good-looking Lilian’s lovebird, only found in Liwonde. Just at the border of the woodlands and the rivers, you may see Pel’s fishing owl. yet again, Liwonde is the mainly the most probable place for a see it.
Below in the Lower Shire Valley, moreover particularly in Lengwe, are the yellow-billed hornbills. These are scarcely ever seen beyond this area although are fast recognized by their chiefly huge yellow bill. An uncommon summer guest is the hobby falcon that looks for small birds as well as bats at sunset. An additional hunter is the somewhat bigger long crested eagle, a moderately common species not only seen within the national parks but by the roadsides too. Throughout the day it can be seen up on a tree although early in the morning it will be flying so high in the sky.
Rocket-tailed rollers are rare although worth watching out for since their blue under parts grasp the sun light. Yet more uncommon is the biggest of all rollers; the purple roller – an additional pretty bird having a unification mixed colors. At the reverse end of the balance of sightings are the Mozambique nightjars. These feed from uncovered sandy surfaces as well as even from the dirt roads. yet more probable to be found are the Cape turtle doves.
Forest Birding in Malawi
There are not many although significant places of evergreen forest that offer a diverse home for birds from those that are more common- the deciduous woodlands. The Evergreen forest areas have a tendency to be somewhat small and different, like those on Kalwe Forest and Nyika next to Nkhata Bay, and in the Thyolo plus Mulanje region.
Among the species related to these habitats although not seen elsewhere within southern Africa is the stunning grey-olive bulbul, found particularly on Nyika. a number of other birds in this very family, stripe cheeked bulbuls, placid bulbuls and the yellow streaked bulbuls are also seen within this evergreen forests. These are not particularly easily seen although their shrilling calls are different.
A rare bird is Sharpe’s akalat. This is not easily seen except one gets a quick look of its white belly; the bird is in the same family with the robin although is not found in the other parts of southern Africa. Neither is olive flanked robin, although it is somewhat probable to be seen on the Viphya Plateau, within Nyika National Park as well as around Mulanje. 2 additional birds not sighted at in southern Africa on the exterior of Malawi are the bartailed trogon, and the moustached green tinker bird, one of the members of the barbet family with a characteristic white moustache. The trogon is attractively and marvelously colored all the way down to it’s silver tail having black bars.
an additional bird among the evergreens, that is something of a scarcity and not simple seen, is the blue mantled flycatcher. conversely, the green coucal is more common as well as can be recognized by its huge yellow bill, white underbelly as well as its green tail.
Mountains and hills
The really high ground areas such as Nyika as well as Mulanje visibly offer a distinguishing habitat save for the inselbergs which are spread across this country. The inselbergs are habitat to a diversity of raptors that pleasure in the rocky vantage areas offered within these hills. Amongst these birds are the somewhat common lanner falcon, the uncommon peregrine falcon as well as the black eagle. The most recent named is most probable to be found within the Mulanje region.
Amongst other dwellers of the rocky inselbergs as well as additional hills are the mocking chat, the mountain / rock cisticola plus the large striped pipit. The pipet has a tendency of flying off into the trees when it’s bothered and pretends to be one of the branches. Scornful chats, similar to others within this very family, have clearly different female plus male colors.
Among the birds found in the mountains, a number of them are distinctive to their exact home areas within Malawi. On the Nyika, Denham’s / Stanley’s bustard, the wattled crane and the red-winged francolin are all within this grouping, even though sights of the bustard on Viphya Plateau and as well in Kasungu National Park have been recorded. Each of these birds is drawn to Nyika’s grasslands. On the more stony regions of Nyika the portend buzzard can be sighted at.
On Mulanje Mountain, the widespread quail, regrettably, is not widespread in addition to the red tailed flufftail which is uncommon although worth searching for. The Eurasian swift is a summer visitor even though the rock martin is among the residents.
Around and about town
As already stated, birds have no borders even when in violently defensive. Not astonishingly, the bigger towns like Lilongwe as well as Blantyre possess their own populations of resident birds. For instance, 3 owls are sighted at close to the capital city. The pearl spotted owl in addition to the Scops owl are somewhat widespread although the huge eagle owl can be sighted at close to its hang around area in the Nature Sanctuary. Blantyre prides in the crested barbet as well as the pennant winged nightjar. Presenting no partiality, the sharp billed honey-guide can be seen in the two towns.
The reputation of Malawi for bird watching is renowned. Other than the very diverse array of habitats that attract such a large range of species, this country has an additional attraction for people interested in sightseeing. Malawi is a moderately small and as well it is very probable to visit a large number of various habitats to marvel at the wealth of birdlife even while on a very short stays within Malawi.