List of birds of Malawi

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African fish-eagle, common around lakes and rivers

This is a list of the bird species recorded in Malawi. The avifauna of Malawi include a total of 650 species, of which one has been introduced by humans and thirty-one are rare or accidental. Ten species are globally threatened. Several bird subspecies are endemic to Malawi. One of these, the yellow-throated apalis, is treated as a full endemic species by some authors. Several species such as the Thyolo alethe are near-endemic to Malawi with only a restricted range outside the country.

This list's taxonomic treatment (designation and sequence of orders, families and species) and nomenclature (common and scientific names) follow the conventions of The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 5th edition. The family accounts at the beginning of each heading reflect this taxonomy, as do the species counts found in each family account. Introduced and accidental species are included in the total counts for Malawi.

The following tags have been used to highlight several categories, but not all species fall into one of these categories. Those that do not are commonly occurring native species.

  • (A) Accidental - a rarely occurring species with no more than about five records in Malawi
  • (I) Introduced - a species introduced to Malawi as a consequence, direct or indirect, of human actions
  • (Ex) Extirpated - a species that no longer occurs in Malawi although populations exist elsewhere


Table of contents

See also        References        External links

Grebes[edit]

Order: Podicipediformes   Family: Podicipedidae

Little grebe, widespread on small bodies of water

Grebes are small to medium-large freshwater diving birds. They have lobed toes and are excellent swimmers and divers. However, they have their feet placed far back on the body, making them quite ungainly on land. There are 20 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Cormorants[edit]

Order: Suliformes   Family: Phalacrocoracidae

Phalacrocoracidae is a family of medium to large coastal, fish-eating seabirds that includes cormorants and shags. Plumage colouration varies, with the majority having mainly dark plumage, some species being black-and-white and a few being colourful.

Darters[edit]

Order: Suliformes   Family: Anhingidae

Darter, a local resident of lakes and rivers

Darters are often called "snake-birds" because of their long thin neck, which gives a snake-like appearance when they swim with their bodies submerged. The males have black and dark-brown plumage, an erectile crest on the nape and a larger bill than the female. The females have much paler plumage especially on the neck and underparts. The darters have completely webbed feet and their legs are short and set far back on the body. Their plumage is somewhat permeable, like that of cormorants, and they spread their wings to dry after diving.

  • Darter, Anhinga melanogaster

Pelicans[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Pelecanidae

Pink-backed pelican, there are several breeding colonies in the south of the country.

Pelicans are large water birds with a distinctive pouch under their beak. As with other members of the order Pelecaniformes, they have webbed feet with four toes.

Herons, egrets and bitterns[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Ardeidae

Goliath heron, a shy resident of large bodies of water

The family Ardeidae contains the bitterns, herons and egrets. Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter necked and more wary. Members of Ardeidae fly with their necks retracted, unlike other long-necked birds such as storks, ibises and spoonbills.

Hamerkop[edit]

Order: Pelecaniformes   Family: Scopidae

Hamerkop, a common resident

The hamerkop is a medium-sized bird with a long shaggy crest. The shape of its head with a curved bill and crest at the back is reminiscent of a hammer, hence its name. Its plumage is drab-brown all over.

Ibises and spoonbills[edit]

Order: Pelcaniformes   Family: Threskiornithidae

Threskiornithidae is a family of large terrestrial and wading birds which includes the ibises and spoonbills. They have long, broad wings with 11 primary and about 20 secondary feathers. They are strong fliers and despite their size and weight, very capable soarers.

Storks[edit]

Order: Ciconiiformes   Family: Ciconiidae

Yellow-billed stork, a widespread and dispersive bird of wetlands

Storks are large, long-legged, long-necked, wading birds with long, stout bills. Storks are mute, but bill-clattering is an important mode of communication at the nest. Their nests can be large and may be reused for many years. Many species are migratory.

Flamingos[edit]

Order: Phoenicopteriformes   Family: Phoenicopteridae

Greater flamingo, a regular migrant to Lake Chilwa and other wetlands

Flamingos are gregarious wading birds, usually 3 to 5 feet (0.9 to 1.5 m) tall, found in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres. Flamingos filter-feed on shellfish and algae. Their oddly shaped beaks are specially adapted to separate mud and silt from the food they consume and, uniquely, are used upside-down. There are 6 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Ducks and geese[edit]

Order: Anseriformes   Family: Anatidae

White-faced whistling-duck, the most widespread of Malawi's ducks

Anatidae includes the ducks and most duck-like waterfowl, such as geese and swans. These birds are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet, flattened bills, and feathers that are excellent at shedding water due to an oily coating.

Osprey[edit]

Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Pandionidae

Osprey, a migrant from the Northern Hemisphere

The Pandionidae family contains only one species, the osprey. The osprey is a medium-large raptor which is a specialist fish-eater with a worldwide distribution.

Hawks, kites and eagles[edit]

Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Accipitridae

Yellow-billed kite, the breeding form of the black kite
Lizard buzzard, common in woodland throughout Malawi
Wahlberg's eagle, a breeding migrant present from August to April

Accipitridae is a family of birds of prey, which includes hawks, eagles, kites, harriers and Old World vultures. These birds have powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight.

Secretarybird[edit]

Order: Accipitriformes   Family: Sagittariidae

The secretarybird is a bird of prey in the order Falconiformes but is easily distinguished from other raptors by its long crane-like legs.

Falcons[edit]

Order: Falconiformes   Family: Falconidae

Falconidae is a family of diurnal birds of prey. They differ from hawks, eagles and kites in that they kill with their beaks instead of their talons.

Francolins and quails[edit]

Order: Galliformes   Family: Phasianidae

Red-necked spurfowl, the most common francolin in Malawi

The Phasianidae are a family of terrestrial birds which consists of quails, partridges, snowcocks, francolins, spurfowls, tragopans, monals, pheasants, peafowls and jungle fowls. In general, they are plump (although they vary in size) and have broad, relatively short wings. There are 11 species which have been recorded in Malawi.

Guineafowl[edit]

Order: Galliformes   Family: Numididae

Helmeted guineafowl, domesticated in many areas

Guineafowl are a group of African, seed-eating, ground-nesting birds that resemble partridges, but with featherless heads and spangled grey plumage. There are 6 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Cranes[edit]

Order: Gruiformes   Family: Gruidae

Wattled crane, now very rare

Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". There are 15 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Flufftails[edit]

Order: Gruiformes   Family: Sarothruridae

Rails, crakes, gallinules and coots[edit]

Order: Gruiformes   Family: Rallidae

Corn crake, a declining migrant from Eurasia

Rallidae is a large family of small to medium-sized birds which includes the rails, crakes, coots and gallinules. Typically they inhabit dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, swamps or rivers. In general they are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. They tend to have short, rounded wings and to be weak fliers. There are 12 species which occur in Malawi.

Finfoots[edit]

Order: Gruiformes   Family: Heliornithidae

Heliornithidae is a small family of tropical birds with webbed lobes on their feet similar to those of grebes and coots. There are 3 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Bustards[edit]

Order: Otidiformes   Family: Otididae

Bustards are large terrestrial birds mainly associated with dry open country and steppes in the Old World. They are omnivorous and nest on the ground. They walk steadily on strong legs and big toes, pecking for food as they go. They have long broad wings with "fingered" wingtips and striking patterns in flight. Many have interesting mating displays.

Buttonquails[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Turnicidae

The buttonquails are small, drab, running birds which resemble the true quails. The female is the brighter of the sexes and initiates courtship. The male incubates the eggs and tends the young.

Jacanas[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Jacanidae

African jacana, very common in well-vegetated wetlands

The jacanas are a group of tropical waders in the family Jacanidae. They are found throughout the tropics. They are identifiable by their huge feet and claws which enable them to walk on floating vegetation in the shallow lakes that are their preferred habitat. There 8 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Painted-snipe[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Rostratulidae

Greater painted-snipe, a difficult-to-see bird of marshes and the edges of water

Painted-snipe are short-legged, long-billed birds similar in shape to the true snipes, but more brightly coloured. There are 2 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Avocets and stilts[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Recurvirostridae

Recurvirostridae is a family of large wading birds, which includes the avocets and stilts. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. There are 9 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Thick-knees[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Burhinidae

Spotted thick-knee, a scarce and little-known nocturnal bird

The thick-knees are a group of largely tropical waders in the family Burhinidae. They are found worldwide within the tropical zone, with some species also breeding in temperate Europe and Australia. They are medium to large waders with strong black or yellow-black bills, large yellow eyes and cryptic plumage. Despite being classed as waders, most species have a preference for arid or semi-arid habitats. There are 9 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Pratincoles and coursers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Glareolidae

Collared pratincole, a colonial nester of grassland and wetlands

Glareolidae is a family of wading birds comprising the pratincoles, which have short legs, long pointed wings and long forked tails, and the coursers, which have long legs, short wings and long, pointed bills which curve downwards. There are 17 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Malawi.

Plovers and lapwings[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Charadriidae

Wattled lapwing, locally fairly common in short, moist grassland

The family Charadriidae includes the plovers, dotterels and lapwings. They are small to medium-sized birds with compact bodies, short, thick necks and long, usually pointed, wings. They are found in open country worldwide, mostly in habitats near water. There are 66 species worldwide and 15 species which occur in Malawi.

Sandpipers and allies[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Scolopacidae

Common sandpiper, a very common Eurasian migrant
Ruff, a widespread migrant to wetlands and grassland

Scolopacidae is a large diverse family of small to medium-sized shorebirds including the sandpipers, curlews, godwits, shanks, tattlers, woodcocks, snipes, dowitchers and phalaropes. The majority of these species eat small invertebrates picked out of the mud or soil. Variation in length of legs and bills enables multiple species to feed in the same habitat, particularly on the coast, without direct competition for food. There are 89 species worldwide and 21 species which occur in Malawi.

Gulls[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Laridae

Grey-headed gull, a resident of larger lakes and rivers

Laridae is a family of medium to large seabirds, the gulls and kittiwakes. They are typically grey or white, often with black markings on the head or wings. They have stout, longish bills and webbed feet.

Terns[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Sternidae

Whiskered tern, frequent at Lake Chilwa where there is a breeding colony

Terns are a group of generally medium to large seabirds typically with grey or white plumage, often with black markings on the head. Most terns hunt fish by diving but some pick insects off the surface of fresh water. Terns are generally long-lived birds, with several species known to live in excess of 30 years.

Skimmers[edit]

Order: Charadriiformes   Family: Rynchopidae

African skimmer, breeds along the River Shire

Skimmers are a small family of tropical tern-like birds. They have an elongated lower mandible which they use to feed by flying low over the water surface and skimming the water for small fish. There are 3 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Sandgrouse[edit]

Order: Pterocliformes   Family: Pteroclidae

Sandgrouse have small, pigeon like heads and necks, but sturdy compact bodies. They have long pointed wings and sometimes tails and a fast direct flight. Flocks fly to watering holes at dawn and dusk. Their legs are feathered down to the toes. There are 16 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Pigeons and doves[edit]

Order: Columbiformes   Family: Columbidae

Laughing dove, widespread in drier regions and increasing in number

Pigeons and doves are stout-bodied birds with short necks and short slender bills with a fleshy cere.

Old World parrots[edit]

Order: Psittaciformes   Family: Psittaculidae

African and New World parrots[edit]

Order: Psittaciformes   Family: Psittacidae

Meyer's parrot, occurs in woodland in northern and central Malawi

Turacos[edit]

Order: Cuculiformes   Family: Musophagidae

Livingstone's turaco, common in forest and woodland in the south-east

The turacos, plantain eaters and go-away-birds make up the bird family Musophagidae. They are medium-sized arboreal birds. The turacos and plantain eaters are brightly coloured, usually in blue, green or purple. The go-away birds are mostly grey and white. There are 23 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Malawi.

Cuckoos[edit]

Order: Cuculiformes   Family: Cuculidae

Pied cuckoo, a migrant from other parts of Africa and perhaps also from Asia

The family Cuculidae includes cuckoos, roadrunners and anis. These birds are of variable size with slender bodies, long tails and strong legs. The Old World cuckoos are brood parasites. There are 138 species worldwide and 19 species which occur in Malawi.

Barn owls[edit]

Order: Strigiformes   Family: Tytonidae

Barn owl, often around farms and villages

Barn owls are medium to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons.

Typical owls[edit]

Order: Strigiformes   Family: Strigidae

Spotted eagle-owl, common in many habitats

The typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disk.

Nightjars[edit]

Order: Caprimulgiformes   Family: Caprimulgidae

Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Most have small feet, of little use for walking, and long pointed wings. Their soft plumage is camouflaged to resemble bark or leaves. There are 6 species which have been recorded in Malawi.

Swifts[edit]

Order: Apodiformes   Family: Apodidae

African palm-swift, common around palms in lowland areas

Swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. Many swifts have long swept-back wings which resemble a crescent or boomerang. There are 98 species worldwide and 11 species which occur in Malawi.

Mousebirds[edit]

Order: Coliiformes   Family: Coliidae

Speckled mousebird, a sociable bird which often visits gardens

The mousebirds are slender greyish or brown birds with soft, hairlike body feathers and very long thin tails. They are arboreal and scurry through the leaves like rodents in search of berries, fruit and buds. They are acrobatic and can feed upside down. All species have strong claws and reversible outer toes. They also have crests and stubby bills. There are 6 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Trogons[edit]

Order: Trogoniformes   Family: Trogonidae

Bar-tailed trogon, resident in highland rainforests

The family Trogonidae includes trogons and quetzals. Found in tropical woodlands worldwide, they feed on insects and fruit, and their broad bills and weak legs reflect their diet and arboreal habits. Although their flight is fast, they are reluctant to fly any distance. Trogons have soft, often colourful, feathers with distinctive male and female plumage. There are 33 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Kingfishers[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Alcedinidae

Striped kingfisher, widespread in open woodland and savannah

Kingfishers are medium-sized birds with large heads, long, pointed bills, short legs and stubby tails. There are 93 species worldwide and 9 species which occur in Malawi.

Bee-eaters[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Meropidae

Boehm's bee-eater, a local resident most common near rivers

The bee-eaters are a group of near passerine birds in the family Meropidae. Most species are found in Africa but others occur in southern Europe, Madagascar, Australia and New Guinea. They are characterised by richly coloured plumage, slender bodies and usually elongated central tail feathers. All are colourful and have long downturned bills and pointed wings, which give them a swallow-like appearance when seen from afar. There are 26 species worldwide and 8 species which occur in Malawi.

Typical rollers[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Coraciidae

Lilac-breasted roller, widespread in open woodland and savannah

Rollers resemble crows in size and build, but are more closely related to the kingfishers and bee-eaters. They share the colourful appearance of those groups with blues and browns predominating. The two inner front toes are connected, but the outer toe is not. There are 12 species worldwide and 5 species which occur in Malawi.

Hoopoes[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Upupidae

Hoopoes have black, white and orangey-pink colouring with a large erectile crest on their head. There are 2 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Woodhoopoes[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Phoeniculidae

Common scimitar-bill, a widespread resident in woodland

The woodhoopoes are related to the kingfishers, rollers and hoopoes. They most resemble the hoopoes with their long curved bills, used to probe for insects, and short rounded wings. However, they differ in that they have metallic plumage, often blue, green or purple, and lack an erectile crest. There are 8 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Hornbills[edit]

Order: Coraciiformes   Family: Bucerotidae

Southern ground-hornbill, disappearing from more densely populated areas

Hornbills are a group of birds whose bill is shaped like a cow's horn, but without a twist, sometimes with a casque on the upper mandible. Frequently, the bill is brightly coloured.

Barbets[edit]

Order: Piciformes   Family: Lybiidae

Black-collared barbet, a widespread and common resident

The barbets are plump birds, with short necks and large heads. They get their name from the bristles which fringe their heavy bills. Most species are brightly coloured.

Honeyguides[edit]

Order: Piciformes   Family: Indicatoridae

Honeyguides are among the few birds that feed on wax. They are named for the greater honeyguide which leads traditional honey-hunters to bees' nests and, after the hunters have harvested the honey, feeds on the remaining contents of the hive. There are 17 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Malawi.

Woodpeckers[edit]

Order: Piciformes   Family: Picidae

Golden-tailed woodpecker, a widespread resident most common in the south-east

Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Some species have feet with two toes pointing forward and two backward, while several species have only three toes. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks.

Broadbills[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Eurylaimidae

The broadbills are small, brightly coloured birds, which feed on fruit and also take insects in flycatcher fashion, snapping their broad bills. Their habitat is canopies of wet forests. There are 15 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Pittas[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Pittidae

Pittas are medium-sized by passerine standards and are stocky, with fairly long, strong legs, short tails and stout bills. Many are brightly coloured. They spend the majority of their time on wet forest floors, eating snails, insects and similar invertebrates. There are 32 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Larks[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Alaudidae

Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds. There are 91 species worldwide and 6 species which occur in Malawi.

Swallows and martins[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Hirundinidae

Barn swallow, large numbers migrate to Malawi from the Northern Hemisphere
Lesser striped swallow, a common bird which has adapted to urban areas

The family Hirundinidae is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. The feet are adapted to perching rather than walking, and the front toes are partially joined at the base. There are 75 species worldwide and 21 species which occur in Malawi.

Wagtails and pipits[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Motacillidae

African pied wagtail, common near water and in urban areas
Yellow-throated longclaw, fairly common in grassland

Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They include the wagtails, longclaws and pipits. They are slender, ground feeding insectivores of open country. There are 54 species worldwide and 14 species which occur in Malawi.

Cuckooshrikes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Campephagidae

The cuckooshrikes are small to medium-sized passerine birds. They are predominantly greyish with white and black, although some species are brightly coloured.

Bulbuls[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Pycnonotidae

Common bulbul, one of Malawi's most common birds

Bulbuls are medium-sized songbirds. Some are colourful with yellow, red or orange vents, cheeks, throats or supercilia, but most are drab, with uniform olive-brown to black plumage. Some species have distinct crests.

Thrushes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Turdidae

Groundscraper thrush, small numbers occur in open woodland, gardens and golf courses

The thrushes are a group of passerine birds that occur mainly in the Old World. They are plump, soft plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs.

Cisticolas and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Cisticolidae

Wailing cisticola, a bird of mountain grassland
Tawny-flanked prinia, a very common and widespread resident

The Cisticolidae are warblers found mainly in warmer southern regions of the Old World. They are generally very small birds of drab brown or grey appearance found in open country such as grassland or scrub. There are 111 species worldwide and 26 species which occur in Malawi.

African warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Macrosphenidae

Locustellid warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Locustellidae

Acrocephalid warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Acrocephalidae

Marsh warbler, large numbers winter in the Lower Shire Valley

Phylloscopid warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Phylloscopidae

Willow warbler, a common migrant from Eurasia

Hyliotid warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Hyliotidae

Old World warblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Sylviidae The family Sylviidae is a group of small insectivorous passerine birds. They mainly occur as breeding species, as the common name implies, in Europe, Asia and, to a lesser extent, Africa. Most are of generally undistinguished appearance, but many have distinctive songs.

Old World flycatchers and chats[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Muscicapidae

Spotted flycatcher, a common and widespread migrant
African stonechat, most common in highland areas

Old World flycatchers and chats are a large group of small passerine birds native to the Old World. They are mainly small insectivores. The appearance of these birds is highly varied, but they mostly have weak songs and harsh calls.

Wattle-eyes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Platysteiridae

The wattle-eyes, or puffback flycatchers, are small stout passerine birds of the African tropics. They get their name from the brightly coloured fleshy eye decorations found in most species in this group.

Erythrocercid flycatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Erythrocercidae

Fairy flycatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Stenostiridae

Monarch flycatchers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Monarchidae

The monarch flycatchers are small to medium-sized insectivorous passerines which hunt by flycatching.

Arcanatorids[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Arcanatoridae

Ground babblers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Pellorneidae

Laughingthrushes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Leiothrichidae

Tits[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Paridae

The Paridae are mainly small stocky woodland species with short stout bills. Some have crests. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. There are 59 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Malawi.

Treecreepers[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Certhiidae

Treecreepers are small woodland birds, brown above and white below. They have thin pointed down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. They have stiff tail feathers, like woodpeckers, which they use to support themselves on vertical trees. There are 6 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Penduline tits[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Remizidae

The penduline tits are a group of small passerine birds related to the true tits. They are insectivores. There are 13 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Sunbirds[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Nectariniidae

Eastern double-collared sunbird, very common in mountain rainforest
Copper sunbird, many move down to lowland regions outside the breeding season

The sunbirds and spiderhunters are very small passerine birds which feed largely on nectar, although they will also take insects, especially when feeding young. Flight is fast and direct on their short wings. Most species can take nectar by hovering like a hummingbird, but usually perch to feed. There are 131 species worldwide and 20 species which occur in Malawi.

White-eyes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Zosteropidae

The white-eyes are small and mostly undistinguished, their plumage above being generally some dull colour like greenish-olive, but some species have a white or bright yellow throat, breast or lower parts, and several have buff flanks. As their name suggests, many species have a white ring around each eye. There are 96 species worldwide and 1 species which occurs in Malawi.

Old World orioles[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Oriolidae

The Old World orioles are colourful passerine birds. They are not related to the New World orioles. There are 29 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Malawi.

Shrikes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Laniidae

Southern fiscal, conspicuous in open country

Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey.

Bushshrikes and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Malaconotidae

Tropical boubou, a very common resident

Bushshrikes are similar in habits to shrikes, hunting insects and other small prey from a perch on a bush. Although similar in build to the shrikes, these tend to be either colourful species or largely black; some species are quite secretive. There are 46 species worldwide and 12 species which occur in Malawi.

Helmetshrikes[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Prionopidae

White helmetshrike, a gregarious bird of woodland

The helmetshrikes are similar in build to the shrikes, but tend to be colourful species with distinctive crests or other head ornaments, such as wattles, from which they get their name. There are 12 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Drongos[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Dicruridae

The drongos are mostly black or dark grey in colour, sometimes with metallic tints. They have long forked tails, and some Asian species have elaborate tail decorations. They have short legs and sit very upright when perched, like a shrike. They flycatch or take prey from the ground. There are 24 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Crows and ravens[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Corvidae

Pied crow, has adapted well to man-made habitats

The family Corvidae includes crows, ravens, jays, choughs, magpies, treepies, nutcrackers and ground jays. Corvids are above average in size among the Passeriformes, and some of the larger species show high levels of intelligence. There are 120 species worldwide and 2 species which occur in Malawi.

Starlings[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Sturnidae

Red-billed oxpecker, mainly found in national parks and nature reserves where there are populations of large wild mammals

Starlings are small to medium-sized passerine birds. Their flight is strong and direct and they are very gregarious. Their preferred habitat is fairly open country. They eat insects and fruit. Plumage is typically dark with a metallic sheen. There are 125 species worldwide and 11 species which occur in Malawi.

Weavers and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Ploceidae

Village weaver, breeds in colonies near water
Red bishop, locally very common

The weavers are small passerine birds related to the finches. They are seed-eating birds with rounded conical bills. The males of many species are brightly coloured, usually in red or yellow and black, some species show variation in colour only in the breeding season.

Waxbills and allies[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Estrildidae

Common waxbill, occurs in grassland and marshes throughout Malawi
Bronze mannikin, very common in grassy areas

The estrildid finches are small passerine birds of the Old World tropics and Australasia. They are gregarious and often colonial seed eaters with short thick but pointed bills. They are all similar in structure and habits, but have wide variation in plumage colours and patterns.

Indigobirds[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Viduidae

Pin-tailed whydah, lays its eggs in the nests of waxbills and mannikins

The indigobirds are finch-like species which usually have black or indigo predominating in their plumage. All are brood parasites, which lay their eggs in the nests of estrildid finches. There are 20 species worldwide and 8 species which occur in Malawi.

Buntings[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Emberizidae

The emberizids are a large family of passerine birds. They are seed-eating birds with distinctively shaped bills. In Europe, most species are called buntings. In North America, most of the species in this family are known as sparrows, but these birds are not closely related to the Old World sparrows which are in the family Passeridae. Many emberizid species have distinctive head patterns. There are 275 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Malawi.

Finches[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Fringillidae

Yellow-fronted canary, common everywhere except high mountain regions

Finches are seed-eating passerine birds, that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. All have twelve tail feathers and nine primaries. These birds have a bouncing flight with alternating bouts of flapping and gliding on closed wings, and most sing well.

Sparrows[edit]

Order: Passeriformes   Family: Passeridae

House sparrow, introduced to South Africa, this species has since spread, reaching Malawi in 1967.

Sparrows are small passerine birds. In general, sparrows tend to be small, plump, brown or grey birds with short tails and short powerful beaks. Sparrows are seed eaters, but they also consume small insects. There are 35 species worldwide and 4 species which occur in Malawi.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • African Bird Club & Dowsett, Bob (2007) Checklist of the Birds of Malawi. Retrieved on 30 December 2007.
  • Clements, James F. (2000). Birds of the World: a Checklist. Cornell University Press. p. 880. ISBN 0-934797-16-1. 
  • Dowsett-Lemaire, Françoise & Dowsett, Robert J. (2006) The Birds of Malawi, Tauraco Press & Aves, Liège, Belgium.
  • Lepage, Denis. "Checklist of birds of Malawi". Bird Checklists of the World. Avibase. Retrieved 27 April 2007. 

External links[edit]