Swaziland is one of Africa’s flagship conservation areas and is teeming with bird life. Peter Chadwick lists 10 to try and spot in Swaziland’s big game parks.
Words and Pictures: Peter Chadwick www.peterchadwick.co.za
Season and Weather
- Swaziland has a humid subtropical climate with dry winters and mild rainy summers. Winter temperatures average at 20°C during the day while summer temperatures average around 26°C. Annual average rainfall is 1 350mm.
Habitats – Interesting Facts
- Big Game Parks is a private non-profit trust that manages three game reserves in Swaziland: Hlane Royal National Park, Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary and Mkhaya Game Reserve.
- Hlane Royal National Park is home to the largest herds of game in the kingdom and encompasses 22 000 hectares of Swazi bushveld dominated by ancient hardwood vegetation.
- The Mlilwane Sanctuary covers 4 560 hectares and comprises a southern and northern section. The southern section’s grassland plains stretch up to the striking Nyonyane Mountain with its exposed granite peak known as the Rock of Execution.
- Mkhaya Game Reserve lies in the southeast of Swaziland, and is in the heart of the Lowveld.
- Crowned Eagle
- White-headed Vulture
- Crested Guineafowl
- Narina Trogon
- African Scops Owl
- Green Pigeon
Birding checklist: 10 birds to try and spot in Swaziland’s Big Game Parks
Measuring only 14-18cm in length, the African Scops Owl (Skopsuil) is a common resident of dry savannah, where it is usually found through its repetitive ‘prrrup’ call. By day it roosts against a tree trunk using its coloration as camouflage.
The African Harrier Hawk (Kaalvangvalk) has a bright-yellow face flushed red when in display. It clambers over tree trunks with loosely flapping wings and can easily dislodge prey hidden in crevices due to its tarsal joint, which
can bend forward.
The Burchell’s Starling (Grootglansspreeu) is usually found in small groups during the day, but roosts communally in large flocks in trees or reed beds. It feeds on the ground, taking insects, fruit
and small invertebrates.
Occurring in lowland evergreen forest and dense thickets, the Tambourine Dove (Witborsduifie) forages on the ground. The female has a grey face and chest that are white in the male.
The Bronze Mannikin (Gewonefret) is a gregarious species found in flocks of up to 30 birds. When disturbed, it flies into the nearest bush or tree with the wings making a soft whirring sound. It may build a special roosting nest during the winter months.
The White-throated Robin-Chat (Witkeeljanfrederik) is a retiring species that keeps to dense cover, where it feeds on the ground and is most active in the late evening. It breeds between September and December.
The Rufous-naped Lark (Rooineklewerik) has a clear rising and falling whistled call, uttered from a perch. Between every three to five phrases the bird raises its body on straight legs and rattles its wings. It also has a short display flight when it rapidly beats its wings.
Confined to the eastern rim of South Africa, the Yellow-throated Longclaw (Geelkeelkalkoentjie) is found in rank grassland and along the edge of vleis and wetlands. It is usually found in small groups of up to six individuals.
A locally common resident, the Crested Guineafowl (Kuifkoptarentaal) is a gregarious species with flocks of up to 30 birds. When breeding they break away in pairs. They follow troops of monkeys to feed on fallen fruit, but otherwise forage in leaf litter.
The nest of the Thick-billed Weaver (Dikbekwerwer) is a neatly woven oval of fine strips of grass with a small circular side-top entrance. Usually built over water, it’s made entirely by the male in two to twelve days.
Accommodation and Activities in the Area:
With a conservation mission encompassing Swazi wildlife, culture and heritage, Big Game Parks is Swaziland’s leading eco-tourism destination. It has a wide variety of accommodation, activities and dining options set within three distinct, ecological habitats.
- Contact central reservations: +268 2528 3943/4 and [email protected]
Add more of our birding checklists to your own as you travel the countryside.