Birds are one of the most fascinating and diverse creatures on earth. Chiradzulu, a district in the southern region of Malawi, is home to a rich and varied avifauna. The district is home to more than 200 species of birds, including both endemic and migratory species.
Many of these birds can be seen in the area’s protected areas, which include Grassland National Park, Liwonde National Park, and Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve.
Birdwatchers and nature lovers alike can enjoy the sights and sounds of the area’s avian inhabitants, from colorful kingfishers and bee-eaters to majestic eagles and vultures.
Chiradzulu’s birdlife is a testament to the area’s immense biodiversity and a reminder of the important role that birds play in the natural world.
1. Black-winged Stilt
The black-winged stilt is a long-legged wading bird of the avocet and stilt family, found in many parts of the world, from Africa and southern Europe to Australia, New Zealand, and South America.
It is an especially graceful and striking bird, with its long, slim black legs, white body and wings, and a distinctive black cap. The scientific name for the black-winged stilt is H. himantopus, and it is sometimes referred to as a single, almost cosmopolitan species.
This means that the species is found across a wide range of geographic locations, which is unusual for a bird of this type. The black-winged stilt lives in a wide variety of habitats, including wetlands, marshes, shallow lakes, and rivers.
It is a very social bird and is often seen in large flocks, foraging in shallow waters. The diet of the black-winged stilt consists of small crustaceans, insects, and larvae, which it finds by probing the mud with its long bill.
It is also an adept hunter, and can often be seen chasing after prey on the wing. The black-winged stilt is an important species for conservation and is listed as being of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
It is a species that is particularly vulnerable to human disturbance and habitat destruction, and many of its wetland habitats have been drained or polluted by human activities.
It is therefore important to ensure that suitable habitats remain available for these beautiful and elegant birds.
2. Crested Francolin
The crested francolin is a medium-sized bird found in southern Africa, belonging to the Phasianidae family of birds. It is mostly brown in color with a distinctive white crest that gives it its name.
The crested francolin has several subspecies that can be found in various parts of its range. One of these subspecies, Ortygornis sephaena rovuma, is sometimes considered to be a separate species, known as Kirk’s francolin.
This species is more brightly colored than the crested francolin, with a reddish-brown head and neck, and a white chest and belly. It is also slightly smaller than the crested francolin and has a shorter tail.
Kirk’s francolin has a different diet and range than the crested francolin and is mainly found in northern Tanzania. The two species are very closely related, and hybridization between them is known to occur.
3. Greater Flamingo
The greater flamingo is a species of the flamingo family that is widely distributed across the Old World.
It is the largest species of flamingo and is found in a variety of habitats, from Northern and Sub-Saharan Africa to the Indian Subcontinent, the Middle East, the Levant, the Persian Gulf, the Gulf of Aden, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean countries of Southern Europe.
This species is especially well-adapted to living in warm climates, as it can be found in both wet and dry areas. The greater flamingo is a highly social bird that is often seen in large flocks.
They feed mainly on plankton, which they filter from the water using their specialized beaks. They are also known to feed on aquatic plants and small invertebrates.
The flamingo’s plumage is mainly pink or reddish in color due to the carotenoids in their diet. The greater flamingo is an important species for its ecosystem as it helps to keep the water clean and healthy.
It also serves as an important food source for many other species, including humans. The greater flamingo is currently listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, however, its population is decreasing due to habitat destruction and other human-related activities.
Conservation efforts are being made to protect the flamingo and its habitat.
4. Pennant-winged Nightjar
The Pennant-winged Nightjar is a species of nightjar that is found in regions ranging from Nigeria to northern South Africa.
This species demonstrates an interesting behavior known as intra-African migration, which is the seasonal movement of animals from one region in Africa to another.
During the breeding season, this species is also known for its remarkable sexual dimorphism, which is the physical and behavioral differences between males and females.
Male Pennant-winged Nightjars have a more striking and colorful plumage, while females are generally more dull in color. Additionally, males are known to be more vocal than females and are also more likely to perform courtship displays.
In this way, the males and females of this species exhibit different physical and behavioral traits that help them recognize each other and mate.
5. Grey-headed Gull
The Grey-headed Gull is a small species of gull that is found in both South America and Africa south of the Sahara. It is not a migratory species, but its range is wider in the winter months.
This bird is a rare vagrant in North America, Italy, and Spain, meaning that it has been spotted in those areas, but it is not a regular occurrence. This species is also known as the Gray-hooded Gull due to its distinctive grey head.
It breeds patchily in its range, meaning that the breeding sites for this species can be found in scattered locations throughout its range. The Grey-headed Gull is a relatively small bird, measuring about 16 inches in length with a wingspan of up to 44 inches.
It has a grey head and neck, with white underparts and a light-brown back. Its legs are pink and its bill is yellow with a black tip. The Grey-headed Gull prefers to feed in shallow waters, often in bodies of freshwater such as rivers and lakes.
It eats small insects, crustaceans, mollusks, and other aquatic animals, as well as some fruits and berries. It also scavenges for food, particularly in areas where fishing boats are present.
The Grey-headed Gull is an interesting species of gull that has a wide range in both South America and Africa. Its range is wider in winter months, and it has been spotted as a rare vagrant in North America, Italy, and Spain.
It has a distinctive grey head and neck and feeds mostly on aquatic animals.
6. Cattle Egret
The Cattle Egret is a species of heron that is found all over the world in tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate climates.
It is the only species in its genus, Bubulcus, though some experts think that it actually consists of two distinct subspecies: the Western Cattle Egret and the Eastern Cattle Egret.
These two subspecies have some slight differences in their size, color, and habits, which is why some authorities believe that they should be classified as separate species.
The Cattle Egret is a small, white bird that lives in wetlands, grasslands, and other areas where there is plenty of open space. They usually hunt for small animals such as insects and frogs in shallow water.
They are also known to follow grazing animals such as cows and horses to catch the insects that are disturbed by the animals’ movement. The Cattle Egret is a highly successful species that has adapted to many different habitats.
They are often seen gathering in large flocks and can be seen in many different parts of the world. They are also a common sight in many urban areas, where they often feed in parks and other open spaces.
7. Emerald-spotted Wood Dove
The emerald-spotted wood dove is a bird that is found in the family Columbidae and is native to eastern and southern Africa. It is a species that prefers open, drier deciduous woodland and second growth.
This species is not found in evergreen rainforests and semidesert areas, indicating that it has adapted to thrive in its preferred environment. The emerald-spotted wood dove is a medium-sized bird, typically measuring between 28 and 30 cm in length, with a wingspan of around 48 cm.
It has a distinctive emerald-green spotted plumage and a dark tail with white tips. The head is greyish-brown with a yellow eye-ring.
The call of this species is a loud, melancholic ‘coo-oo’.The emerald-spotted wood dove is a ground-dwelling species that feeds on grains, fruits, seeds, and small invertebrates. This species is usually found alone or in pairs, and rarely in large flocks.
It is usually observed on the ground or perched in low shrubs, but it will take to flight when disturbed.
Breeding season usually occurs during the rainy season, and the female will lay two eggs in a flimsy nest made of twigs and grass. The emerald-spotted wood dove is an important species to the African environment.
It is a food source for predators such as hawks and snakes, as well as being important for seed dispersal. It is a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List, however, it is not considered to be under any major threat.
8. Red-eyed Dove
The red-eyed dove is a species of dove found in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is a widespread and common species in this region, making it a species of least concern on the IUCN Red List.
This means that the species is not currently under threat of extinction and that its population is stable. The red-eyed dove has been classified as least concern since 2004, showing that its population has remained stable over the past 16 years.
This species is a medium-sized dove with distinctive red eyes, gray and white plumage, and black tips on its wings. The red-eyed dove feeds on seeds, fruits, buds, and flowers, and often roosts in trees or on power lines.
It is also known for its loud cooing call, which can be heard in the early morning and late afternoon. The red-eyed dove is an important species in its habitat, providing food for a variety of predators and playing an important role in the ecosystem.
9. White-browed Coucal
The white-browed coucal, also known as the lark-heeled cuckoo, is a species of cuckoo from the family Cuculidae that is native to sub-Saharan Africa.
It is commonly found in areas that offer thick vegetation, such as rank undergrowth and scrub, as well as in some coastal regions. In some cases, the Burchell’s coucal is considered to be a subspecies of the white-browed coucal.
This species of coucal is a small to medium-sized bird, with a long tail and typically gray-brown plumage. It is a ground-dwelling species, which forages for insects, berries, and other small invertebrates.
The white-browed coucal is known for its loud call, which is a series of harsh croaks that can carry long distances. The species is not considered to be threatened, although its population is believed to be in decline in some areas due to habitat loss and fragmentation.
10. Helmeted Guineafowl
The helmeted guineafowl is a species of bird that is part of the Numididae family. It is the only member of the genus Numida and is native to Africa south of the Sahara.
However, it has also been introduced to many other places around the world, particularly as a domesticated species. The West Indies, North America, Colombia, Brazil, Australia, and Europe all have populations of helmeted guineafowl, although not all of them are wild.
The helmeted guineafowl is recognizable by its distinctive helmet-like crest, and they are usually gray or black in color with white spots. They are social birds that live in small groups or flocks, and they are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals.
They are known to be quite vocal, and their loud calls can often be heard in the morning and evening. The helmeted guineafowl is popular as a game bird, and it is also kept as a pet in some areas. It is valued for its eggs, which are said to have a unique flavor.
In some areas, the birds are also hunted for their meat, and in some parts of the world, they are considered pests because they can damage crops.
In conclusion, the helmeted guineafowl is a species of bird that is part of the Numididae family and is native to Africa south of the Sahara. It has also been introduced to many other places around the world, particularly as a domesticated species.
It is recognizable by its distinctive helmet-like crest and is valued for its eggs, meat, and as a pet.
11. Fiery-necked Nightjar
The fiery-necked nightjar is a species of nightjar that is found in the southern regions of Africa. It belongs to the family Caprimulgidae, a group of birds that is known for their distinctive nocturnal habits.
The fiery-necked nightjar has a distinct call that is easily recognizable and often repeated, which is rendered as “good-lord-deliver-us”. This call is often heard during the night when the fiery-necked nightjar is most active.
The fiery-necked nightjar is a medium-sized bird, with a length of about 25 cm and a wingspan of around 40 cm. Its upperparts are grey-brown, while its underparts are whitish with black and white barring.
It has a distinctive crest on its head and a bright orange-red throat patch. The fiery-necked nightjar is a ground-dwelling bird, typically found in open woodland and savannah habitats. The fiery-necked nightjar feeds mainly on insects, which it catches in flight.
It is crepuscular in its habits, meaning that it is most active at dawn and dusk. During the day, it roosts on the ground, camouflaged by its coloration. The fiery-necked nightjar is an important predator in its ecosystem, helping to control populations of insect pests.
The fiery-necked nightjar is a unique species, with its distinctive call and bright coloration. It is a fascinating bird to observe, and its presence in the African night sky is an important part of the landscape.
12. Little Grebe
The little grebe, also known as dabchick, is an aquatic bird that belongs to the family of grebes. Its scientific name is derived from two Ancient Greek words, takhus which means “fast” and bapto meaning “to sink under”.
The specific name of the little grebe, ruficollis, is composed of two Latin words; rufus, which means “red” and -collis, “-necked”, which comes from the Latin word collum meaning “neck”.
The combination of these words gives the impression of a small water bird that is capable of swimming and diving quickly and has a reddish-colored neck.
This is a perfect description of the little grebe, which is an agile bird that is able to submerge in the water in a matter of seconds.
13. African Emerald Cuckoo
The African emerald cuckoo is a beautiful bird species that is native to the continent of Africa. It is a member of the cuckoo family, Cuculidae, and is known for its bright emerald green feathers.
This bird is found in a variety of habitats all across Africa, from deserts to rainforests. It typically feeds on insects, fruits, and small invertebrates. The African emerald cuckoo is a fairly small bird, measuring around 7-9 inches in length and weighing between 25-30 grams.
It has a distinct call, which is often heard in the early morning and evening. The African emerald cuckoo is usually a solitary bird and can often be seen perched high in trees.
While not endangered, the African emerald cuckoo is still considered a vulnerable species due to habitat loss and illegal trapping. Conservation efforts are in place to help protect this species and its habitat.
14. Barred Long-tailed Cuckoo
The barred long-tailed cuckoo is a bird that is part of the Cuculidae family, which includes many of the common cuckoo species. It is commonly found in the Albertine Rift montane forests, which are located mainly in the Albertine Rift mountain range.
This mountain range is part of the African Great Lakes region and is located in the east of Africa. The barred long-tailed cuckoo is also found disjunctly, or in scattered areas, elsewhere in East Africa.
The barred long-tailed cuckoo is an interesting species of bird because it has unique physical characteristics. It is mostly gray in color, with a white belly and black and white barring on its tail and wings.
Its tail is particularly long, with an adult cuckoo’s tail measuring up to twice the length of its body. The barred long-tailed cuckoo is an important part of the East African ecosystem. It feeds on insects, which it finds by searching through foliage.
It also helps with pest control, as it eats many of the insects that can harm crops and other plants. The cuckoo is also an important source of food for other animals, such as hawks and other birds of prey.
Overall, the barred long-tailed cuckoo is an interesting and important species of bird. It is found in the Albertine Rift montane forests as well as other parts of East Africa, and it plays an important role in the ecosystem.
With its unique physical characteristics and its important ecological role, the barred long-tailed cuckoo is definitely an important species to be aware of.
15. Common Swift
The common swift is a mid-sized bird from the order Apodiformes, which is unrelated to the barn swallow and house martin species. These species, however, share a similar appearance due to a concept known as convergent evolution.
Convergent evolution is the process in which two distantly related species develop similar traits due to the fact that they occupy similar environmental conditions.
For example, the common swift and the barn swallow both have streamlined bodies that are well-suited for a life of aerial acrobatics. Despite their similar appearance, however, they have evolved independently and are not closely related.
16. Great Spotted Cuckoo
The great spotted cuckoo is a species of bird that is native to both Africa and the Mediterranean Basin. It is a member of the Cuculiformes, the same order of birds which includes roadrunners, anis, and coucals.
This species is most notable for its behavior as a brood parasite, meaning that it lays its eggs in the nests of other birds.
The most common host species is the Eurasian magpie, although it is also known to use other species of corvids. The great spotted cuckoo is a relatively small bird, with a length of about 10 inches and a wingspan of around 24 inches.
Its plumage is a combination of gray and brown, with a few white spots on its wings.
In addition, it has a characteristic call that is recognizable even by those unfamiliar with the species. The great spotted cuckoo is an opportunistic species, which means that it will take advantage of any opportunity to reproduce.
By laying its eggs in the nests of other birds, it is able to benefit from the resources of a host species without having to do any of the work of nest building or rearing its own young.
This behavior has caused some species of corvids to develop defensive behaviors that are aimed at keeping the cuckoo out of their nests. The great spotted cuckoo is a fascinating species that has adapted to a unique lifestyle.
It is an important part of the ecosystem, and its presence ensures that the populations of its hosts are kept in check.
Despite the negative consequences of its behavior, it is an important part of the natural world, and its continued survival is essential for the health of the environment.
17. Namaqua Dove
The Namaqua dove is a small species of pigeon which is the only one of its genus, Oena. This species can be found in many regions of Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as in parts of Arabia and Madagascar. Its size is small, with a length of around twenty-one centimeters.
It has a grayish-brown color, with a pale buff throat and breast. Its head and wings are darker in color, and it has a white stripe across its back. The Namaqua dove typically lives in dry, open country, and it is known to inhabit deserts and semi-deserts.
It feeds mainly on seeds, but it also eats some insects and other invertebrates. It can often be found in small groups, and it is usually seen on the ground foraging for food.
The Namaqua dove is quite common in some parts of its range, but it is considered to be near threatened in other areas due to habitat loss and hunting. Conservation efforts are being made to protect this species and its habitat.
18. Red-chested Cuckoo
The red-chested cuckoo is a species of cuckoo belonging to the family Cuculidae. It is native to Africa south of the Sahara desert and is typically medium-sized.
Its name in Afrikaans is “Piet-my-vrou”, which translates to “my wife’s Peter” in English and is derived from its distinctive call. The red-chested cuckoo is a solitary bird that is often seen perched on branches or flying around in search of food.
It primarily feeds on insects such as caterpillars and is also known to eat small frogs, lizards, and reptiles. The red-chested cuckoo is a migratory species, moving between Africa and Europe during the winter months.
It is an important species for controlling some insect populations and is also a popular bird for birdwatchers to observe.
19. Spur-winged Goose
The spur-winged goose is a species of waterbird found in the Sub-Saharan region of Africa. This large bird belongs to the family Anatidae, which also includes geese and shelducks. As its name suggests, the spur-winged goose has a distinctive feature of spurs on its wings.
These spurs, which are located near the tips of its wings, are thought to help the bird during flight. The spur-winged goose is a large bird, typically measuring between 24-28 inches in length and weighing up to nine pounds.
It is mostly brown in color, with lighter feathers on its face and neck. Its most distinguishing feature is the small, yellow-colored spurs on its wings.
It also has a long, black bill, as well as a black, wedge-shaped tail. The spur-winged goose’s diet consists mainly of aquatic plants, such as pondweed, and small invertebrates, such as snails and crayfish. It is also known to eat maize and other grains.
The bird has a strong, fast flight and is known to travel long distances in search of food and suitable nesting areas. The spur-winged goose is a social bird, often seen in flocks of up to several hundred individuals.
It is also a vocal species, often producing loud honking calls. They breed during the wet season, with the female laying between four and nine eggs. The eggs are incubated by both parents and hatch after an incubation period of about a month.
The chicks are able to fly and fend for themselves within a few weeks of hatching. The spur-winged goose is an important species in its native Sub-Saharan Africa. It is often hunted for food by local people, and its feathers are used for traditional ceremonies.
The species is also threatened by the loss of its wetland habitats, due to overgrazing, drainage, and the destruction of wetlands for agriculture. As a result, the spur-winged goose is listed as Near Threatened by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.
20. Thick-billed Cuckoo
The thick-billed cuckoo is a species of cuckoo that belongs to the family Cuculidae. It is the only species in the genus Pachycoccyx, making it “monotypic”.
It is easily identifiable from other cuckoo species due to its unique bill, which is thick and curved in a hawk-like fashion. The thick bill of the cuckoo is both useful and necessary for its survival, as it helps it to crack open hard-shelled fruits and insects.
It is also used for protection against its many predators, such as raptors and other birds of prey. The thick-billed cuckoo is found in Africa, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia and prefers a habitat of dense forests and woodlands.
It is a shy and solitary bird, usually seen perching alone on branches or flying in search of food. Its diet consists mainly of insects, which it catches by swooping down from the trees and bushes. It is also known to feed on fruits and occasionally small reptiles.
21. White-rumped Swift
The white-rumped swift is a species of swift, which is a type of bird. It is not closely related to the house martin, which is a type of passerine bird. Even though the white-rumped Swift and the house martin look similar, they are actually not closely related.
The similarities between these two birds are due to a process called convergent evolution. This process occurs when two different species evolve in similar ways, even though they are not related, due to them having the same lifestyle.
In this case, the white-rumped swift and the house martin have both evolved to have similar characteristics, like their bodies and wings, because they both have the same lifestyle of catching insects in flight.
22. Yellow-billed Duck
The yellow-billed duck is a dabbling duck that is found in southern and eastern Africa. It is 51 to 58 cm in length and is an abundant resident breeder in these regions. In the dry season, this duck is known to wander in search of suitable water.
It is a highly social bird, and during the non-breeding period, it forms large flocks. The yellow-billed duck is not migratory, meaning it does not move in order to breed. Instead, it stays in the same area and maintains its population within that area.
The ducks will also form large groups for protection and for mutual benefits such as foraging and roosting. This species of duck is a valuable part of the African ecosystems, and the conservation of this species is important.
23. Great Cormorant
The great cormorant is a species of seabird found across the Northern Hemisphere and in many parts of Australasia and India.
It is known by many different names depending on the region, such as the black shag or kawau in New Zealand, the great black cormorant in the Northern Hemisphere, the black cormorant in Australia, and the large cormorant in India.
This is indicative of how widespread the species is, and how ingrained it is in the culture of many countries. The great cormorant belongs to the cormorant family of seabirds, a group of birds that are closely related and share many features.
This family includes the common cormorant, the double-crested cormorant, and the pelagic cormorant, which are all found in the Northern Hemisphere.
Cormorants are known for their ability to dive and swim underwater, which they use to catch fish and other prey. The great cormorant is usually black in color, with a long, thin neck and a long, hooked bill.
Its wingspan can reach up to five feet in length, and it can weigh up to four pounds. It is a strong flyer and is capable of flying great distances in search of food.
It is found in coastal areas, estuaries, rivers, and lakes, and it often nests in large colonies. The great cormorant is an important species to the environment, as it helps to keep the fish population in check.
It is also a popular bird among birdwatchers, as its distinctive features and behavior make it an interesting subject for observation.
With its wide range and varied names, the great cormorant is a species that will continue to be appreciated and studied for many years to come.
24. African Hawk-eagle
The African hawk-eagle is a majestic bird of prey that is found throughout tropical Sub-Saharan Africa. It belongs to the family Accipitridae, which is the scientific name for the family of birds that are commonly referred to as hawks, eagles, and other diurnal raptors.
This species is typically quite large and is distinguished by its feathered legs, which sets it apart from other members of the Accipitridae and identifies it as a part of the Aquilinae subfamily. Breeding typically occurs in the wild, throughout tropical Sub-Saharan Africa.
Birds in Chiradzulu are an important part of the local ecosystem. They provide food for other animals, act as pollinators, and even help disperse the seeds of local plants.
The numbers of birds may fluctuate due to human activities such as logging, land clearing, and poaching, but the conservation and protection of these species are essential for the health and diversity of the local environment.