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.
Eswatini is home to 52 southern African endemics and is one of the only breeding sites for the blue swallow, one of Africa’s rarest breeding birds. Other A-listers for keen birders include the narina trogon, southern bald ibis, pink-throated twinspot and crowned eagle. For non-birders the most popular is the purple-crested turaco – the royal national emblem (ligwalagwala) and very pretty.
The best birdwatching is to be had in the protected reserves, sanctuaries and national parks, where the natural habitats are better preserved. But, of course, the birds are not confined to reserves and can be seen throughout the country. Hotspots & highlights include the following:
Malolotja: Highveld specials: blue swallow, southern bald ibis, malachite sunbird, gurney’s sugarbird, ground woodpecker, crowned eagle
Phophonyane: Middlveld and forest birds: narina trogon, African wood owl, red-breasted sparrowhawk, crowned eagle, pink-throated twinspot, Eastern nicator,
Hlane: Lowveld birds and raptors: white-backed vulture, marabou stork, bateleur eagle
Mbuluzi: Lowveld birds and waterbirds: white-backed vulture, bateleur eagle, African finfoot
Mlawula: Lowveld birds and Lubombo specials: vultures, raptors, waterbirds, African Broadbill
Mkhaya: Lowveld birds: crested guineafowl, narina trogon, purple-crested turaco, pink-throated twinspot
Mahamba Gorge: Highveld specials: Southern bald ibis, Verreaux’s eagle
Mlilwane: Middleveld birds and waterbirds: Verreaux’s eagle, purple-crested turaco, white-fronted bee-eater, waterbirds
Nisela: Broad selection of lowveld birds and waterbirds
Dombeya: Lower-middleveld transition area with savannah grassland favourite for pink-throated twin spot, yellow-throated longclaw, black-chested snake eagle
You can find out more information about the different species of birds that live in Eswatini on the ENTC website. The list provides a full and comprehensive database of all the birds you can see, as well as more specific databases covering the different areas. There is also a range of images, as well as more specific maps of Eswatini showing the exact locations in which the species can be found.