Among the most striking and interesting species of birds found in Lesotho are the Wattled Crane, Drakensberg Siskin, Half-collared kingfisher, Pale-crowned Cisticola, Mountain Pipit, and Sentinel Rock Thrush.
Rare species are often found only in Sehlabathebe Park, accessible from Matatiele in the Natal province. Here, you will find information on the diversity of waterbird species, breeding records, and habitat.
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Waterbird species diversity
This study assessed waterbird species diversity in Lesotho rivers. Data from river and dam surveys identified 19 species. Table 1 contains the scientific names of these species.
Two species are not true waterbirds, because they forage on dry land. However, they do occur in Lesotho highlands. The other four species are common migrants to the highlands. The data was collected between August 1997 and February 1998.
In both Malibamatso and Senqunyane river systems, the number of waterbird species remained relatively stable throughout the year, except for the winter and late summer periods.
These seasons are typically turbid and swollen, so waterbird diversity is higher at those times. The study sample size during May-July was small, weakening the reliability of the results. The study excluded the Cape Wagtail, one of the few long-distance migrants, from its data collection.
The study area had an interesting composition of vegetation. The dominant plant species were perennials, with specific traits that enable them to survive in wet conditions.
The vegetation structure was similar to that found in wetland habitats in Ethiopia. It is possible that wetlands in higher elevations of the Mpumalanga Province could be suitable for breeding. Species diversity in Lesotho is a result of the unique habitat structure.
Breeding activity was detected in 1991 on a cliff over the Malibamatso River. The nests were in the upper part of the river and lay their eggs and young in November-March. The nesting of this species was likely overlooked, as it was found only a few years before. The other seven species were nonbreeding visitors. For instance, the Malachite Kingfisher was spotted with fresh eggshells on the dam in February 1998, which shows that the population is breeding successfully in Lesotho.
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Impacts of Katse Dam on waterbird populations
The Lesotho Highlands Water Scheme is one of the many mega-developments that threaten the avifauna in the area.
The Lesotho highlands are also the headwaters of the Orange River, southern Africa’s largest water-catchment area. As a result, the region has been targeted for ambitious dam-building. The Lesotho Highlands Water Project includes several impoundments and inter-basin transfer schemes.
The Katse Dam’s inundation has changed the breeding territory of waterbirds in the region. While some species have disappeared or remained stable in their populations, others have colonised and increased.
While some species have experienced a change in breeding status or population structure as a result of the Katse Dam, the overall impact of the dam on waterbirds in Lesotho is less than expected.
In 1991, an adult pair of African eagles was found in an alien grey poplar tree on the Malibamatso River. The pair laid eggs and young between November and March.
Nesting for this species may have been overlooked until recently, as the dam was constructed just before the normal breeding season.
Besides breeding, researchers recorded 15 species of waterbirds in the area, including two pairs of small-bodied waders and a solitary adult with a large-bodied young.
While the dam is not yet operational, it has already created an economic benefit. The Lesotho government has increased water royalties and expanded infrastructure.
This project has contributed 5.4 percent of Lesotho’s GDP, and South Africa has reaped the benefits of water transfer by transferring about 16 million cubic meters of water to the country. It has also resulted in the displacement of 2,900 households.
The breeding records of birds in Lesotho were recently updated, providing new information on a variety of species. These records include waterfowl, wading birds, and a suite of song and game birds.
Breeding records of Lesotho birds are also included in a book that covers nature, birdwatching, feeding, and conservation. This guide will help you learn more about the species that live in Lesotho.
The Lesotho Bird Conservation Programme is based on records of breeding success and population trends of various species of bird. Data from the Katse Dam and Malibamatso River are available.
However, data for the latter is based on counts conducted in August 1997 and February 1998. The Senqunyane River records include information on dates and length of river covered, which is especially useful for researchers studying Lesotho’s breeding patterns.
Breeding records of birds of Lesotha were updated in November 1991 and March 1996. The data on waterbirds in the Malibamatso and Senqunyane systems show that eight species breed in Lesotho.
The Yellow-billed Duck increased in number while the Three-banded Plover, Giant Kingfisher, and Hamerkop remain unchanged. The other eight species, such as the Cape Wagtail, did not show any changes, most likely because of small sample sizes.
The Yellow-billed Stork is a popular bird in Lesotho. It lives mainly in wetlands in the country, where breeding occurs every year.
This species is classified as Critically Endangered due to its restricted range, and its rapid population fluctuations. It is also considered a resident species that receives migrants from the north. Its breeding success in Lesotho is likely due to the large number of breeding sites.
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The habitat of birds in Lesotho is diverse. The country is home to a variety of species, including a range of raptors and falcons.
These species live in the highlands and lowlands and are associated with a variety of vegetation, such as Salix su-berecta and the alien S. babylonica. In Lesotho, the Willow Warbler is the most commonly encountered bird, but is not widely distributed.
The birds are absent from October through February, but once the weather warms up in March, song activity increased and the species was confirmed to be common.
In Lesotho, over three hundred species of birds have been recorded, with a few species introduced by humans. Birds in Lesotho include waterfowl, wading birds, and a diverse suite of song and game birds.
Lesotho is home to a variety of ecosystems, including forests, rivers, lakes, and even urban green spaces. In addition, there are raptors and a wide variety of song and game birds.
In addition to waterbirds, the region also contains a range of migrant birds. A study in Lesotho found that 16 species of waterbirds reside in Katse Dam, which was a first for Lesotho.
This population has grown rapidly since the dam was constructed, and this increase in diversity is associated with the development of urban infrastructure. However, Lesotho is still far from becoming a city and its surrounding suburbs.
Despite the recent growth of urban areas, these migrant migrants have been thriving in the region. One particular colony was observed at a dam located at 29o02’S, 28o32’E, 3.5 km upstream of Katse Dam.
The two nests there were probably occupied during the breeding season and the area was inundated outside of the normal breeding season. There have been numerous reports of birds breeding in Lesotho and the breeding period is not yet fully understood.
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There are 362 species of birds in Lesotho. Of these, four species have been introduced by humans and six others are under review. Birds of Lesotho include many types of ducks and other duck-like waterfowl.
During breeding season, their feathers shed water. Other species are ground-nesting, seed-eating Guineafowl. These ground-nesting birds are gray with a spangled head.
Mountain Pipits, Sicklewing Chat, and Cape Canary are among the rarest species found in Lesotho. Some of the other rare species include the Wattled Crane, Drakensberg Siskin, and Half-collared Kingfisher.
Bird-watchers can also spot a mountain pipit, Sentinel Rock Thrush, and mountain reed-flycatcher at the Sehlabathebe Park, which is located in the south of Lesotho.
The Black-crowned Night Heron and Red-knobbed Coot are near-endemic and breed in Lesotho and Swaziland. Once widely distributed in South Africa, their range has contracted to the Drakensberg Mountains and rocky outlying areas.
During the Middle Ages, the Northern Bald Ibis, aka the Waldrapp, bred in large colonies on castle ramparts in Europe. They began their march to extinction in the 1970s.
Birdwatchers in Lesotho should consider visiting the Drakensberg to see the diverse birdlife. The Drakensberg, the mountains and the valleys of Lesotho offer an ideal location for birdwatching.
You will see hundreds of species of birds, from nocturnal to migratory, and you’ll be able to enjoy the diversity and beauty of the surrounding area.
Another important animal in Lesotho is the crocodile. The crocodile is featured on the national coat of arms. However, in the country, crocodiles are extinct.
There are more birds than mammals, which is one of the main reasons for Lesotho’s biodiversity hotspot status. There is a variety of birds, including a few endemic species.