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Location Malawi, Northern
Central coordinates 33o 51.00' East  10o 34.08' South
IBA criteria A2, A3
Area 310,000 ha
Altitude 1,000 - 2,607m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Wildlife and Environmental Society of Malawi (WESM) (Affiliate)



Site description The Nyika Plateau is the largest montane complex in the country, with some 180,000 ha above the 1,800 m contour (above which montane conditions prevail). The scenery is spectacular, with the upper plateau covered by c.100,000 ha of gently rolling Loudetia–Andropogon grassland. The peak (Nganda, 2,607 m) is a grassy hill. Numerous impeded drainage channels support dambos, with small patches of short-canopy Hagenia–Myrica montane forest on the slopes (at 2,250–2,450 m). These are usually below 1–2 ha in size and cover c.2–3% of the area of the central plateau. Only the wet eastern escarpment is extensively forested, with some 3,400 ha of Ocotea–Ficalhoa montane rainforest at 1,700–2,350 m. Tall Aningeria–Olea montane rainforest reappears on the gentle south-western slopes (1,950–2,250 m) where it is rather fragmented. Total forest cover in the park is c.6,000 ha. Brachystegia (miombo) woodland ascends to 2,050 m on the drier and warmer western scarp. It is the dominant type of vegetation in the northern extension of the park (established 1978)—an area of rugged terrain, broken hills and large faulted valleys. A small section of the western side of the plateau lies in the contiguous Zambian Nyika National Park (IBA ZM022). The Nyika is an important catchment area and contains the source of four large rivers which drain into Lake Malawi, including the North Rukuru, and one into the Luangwa river in Zambia (the Chire or Luwumbu).

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Over 420 species have been recorded. The plateau grasslands contain the main breeding population of Grus carunculatus in the country (12 pairs in 1986) and the site is also the breeding stronghold for Neotis denhami. The breeding population of Hirundo atrocaerulea was estimated at 204–260 pairs for the central plateau above 2,200 m, so probably approaches 300 pairs in the whole park. Circus macrourus is a common winter visitor, while Falco naumanni and Gallinago media are annual visitors in small numbers, and Crex crex is recorded occasionally. Several species occur nowhere else in the country: Francolinus levaillantii (the isolated endemic race crawshayi), Chloropeta similis, Cisticola njombe, Nectarinia johnstoni, Euplectes psammocromius and Ploceus baglafecht, all at the southern limits of their distribution here. The endemic and very isolated race whytei of Nectarinia graueri breeds commonly in montane shrubland. The little-known swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus is locally common over the larger patches of forest.

Non-bird biodiversity: Vegetation: the park is noted for its orchid flora, with c.150 terrestrial and c.50 epiphytic species, four of which are endemic and two others near-endemic (shared with Misukus or South Viphya). Several montane-forest trees (including Hagenia abyssinica, Euphorbia obovalifolia) reach their southern limits of distribution on the Nyika. Amphibians: the tree frog Hyperolius mertensi (or H. quinquevittatus mertensi, according to taxonomic treatment) is endemic to the Nyika dambos, and the ‘Nyika Squeaker’ is an endemic race (nyikae) of Arthroleptis xenodactyloides. Mammals: the Nyika is the only known Malawi locality for the following: Suncus lixus, S. varilla (shrews); Plerotes anchietae (bat); Otomys typus and O. denti (rodents). Species for which the Nyika is especially important include Panthera pardus, Tragelaphus oryx (LR/cd), Hippotragus equinus (LR/cd) and Redunca arundinum (LR/cd). Butterflies: Charaxes dowsetti, Axiocerces nyika, Lepidochrysops handmani, L. chalceus and L. nyika are (on present evidence) endemic to the Nyika. The forest butterfly fauna is the richest in Malawi — some 120 of the 200 species present in the country. Species known from nowhere else in Malawi include: Papilio mackinnoni, Neptis nina, Argiolaus pamelae, Triclema nigeriae, Uranothauma williamsi, Brusa saxicola, Metisella medea, M. perexcellens and Chondrolepis telisignata. The plateau is the southern limit of the following additional species: Gorgyra bibulus, Charaxes ansorgei and Bematistes scalivittata. The Nyika appears to be the northern known limit of Eretis djaelaelae.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lybius minor resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Whyte's Barbet Stactolaema whytii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Moustached Green Tinkerbird Pogoniulus leucomystax resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Pied Barbet Tricholaema frontata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Buteo oreophilus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Dusky Turtle-dove Streptopelia lugens resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Caprimulgus poliocephalus resident  1999  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bar-tailed Trogon Apaloderma vittatum resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Pale-billed Hornbill Lophoceros pallidirostris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Fuelleborn's Boubou Laniarius fuelleborni resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Souza's Shrike Lanius souzae resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Crested-flycatcher Elminia albonotata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Rufous-bellied Tit Parus rufiventris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Tit Parus griseiventris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea breeding  1999  unknown  A3  Vulnerable 
Black-lored Cisticola Cisticola nigriloris resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Churring Cisticola Cisticola njombe resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Chapin's Apalis Apalis chapini resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Wren-warbler Camaroptera undosa resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Eastern Mountain Greenbul Andropadus nigriceps resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul Andropadus milanjensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-streaked Greenbul Phyllastrephus flavostriatus resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Bracken Warbler Bradypterus cinnamomeus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Mountain Flycatcher-warbler Chloropeta similis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-capped Crombec Sylvietta ruficapilla resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Warbler Sylvia lugens resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Mountain Illadopsis Illadopsis pyrrhoptera resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Hill Babbler Pseudoalcippe abyssinica resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Waller's Starling Onychognathus walleri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Slender-billed Starling Onychognathus tenuirostris resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-chested Alethe Alethe fuelleborni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sharpe's Akalat Sheppardia sharpei resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Olive-flanked Robin-chat Cossypha anomala resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Scrub-robin Erythropygia barbata resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-headed Black-chat Myrmecocichla arnoti resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Rock-thrush Monticola angolensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-eyed Slaty Flycatcher Dioptrornis fischeri resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Boehm's Flycatcher Muscicapa boehmi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Anchieta's Sunbird Anthreptes anchietae resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia manoensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Olive-bellied Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia fuelleborni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bronze Sunbird Nectarinia kilimensis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-tufted Sunbird Nectarinia johnstoni resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-weaver Plocepasser rufoscapulatus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Baglafecht Weaver Ploceus baglafecht resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bertrand's Weaver Ploceus bertrandi resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Buff-shouldered Widowbird Euplectes psammocromius resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Red-faced Crimson-wing Cryptospiza reichenovii resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah Vidua obtusa resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Grey-faced Citril Serinus hypostictus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-eared Seedeater Serinus mennelli resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 
Serinus whytii resident  1999  present  A2, A3  Not Recognised 
Oriole Finch Linurgus olivaceus resident  1999  present  A3  Least Concern 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Nyika National Park 313,400 is identical to site 313,400  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Shrubland   17%
Forest   81%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -

References Ansell and Dowsett (1988), Benson and Benson (1977), Chapman and White (1970), Clarke (1983a), Dowsett-Lemaire (1983, 1985, 1989a, b), Dyer (1992), Holroyd and Quinn (n.d.), La Croix et al. (1991), Stewart (1967).

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Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nyika National Park (Malawi). Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 26/12/2014

To provide new information to update this factsheet or to correct any errors, please email BirdLife