email a friend
printable version
Location Zambia, Luapula,Northern
Central coordinates 30o 7.00' East  11o 50.00' South
IBA criteria A1, A3, A4i
Area 1,284,000 ha
Altitude 1,100 - 1,400m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

Zambian Ornithological Society (Partner Designate)



Site description A vast area of swamp, flood-plain and termitaria encompassing about 40% of the total wetland area in the Bangweulu basin. The site includes Chikuni Game Management Area, a designated Ramsar Site (250,000 ha), and some adjacent areas to the north and west. It lies on the southern side of the basin and reaches the Serenje–Samfya road to the south-west. In areas of permanent swamp the vegetation is dominated by Cyperus, Phragmites, Typha, Limnophyton and Thalia species, and in the flooded grassland dominant genera include Acroceras, Leersia, Sacciolepsis and Setaria. During flood periods, thick mats of aquatic vegetation may form ‘floating meadows’. The extent and timing of the annual flood depends on rainfall, but water-levels usually begin to rise in January and reach their peak in March. From April onwards the water recedes and the flood-plain tends to be dry by late May, although in wetter years pools may persist until August. The area holds considerable numbers of large mammals, and tourists and licensed hunters may stay at one of several camps on the south-eastern side. Many small-scale fishermen inhabit islands and other surrounding areas.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Table 3 for key species. The area is famous for its population of Balaeniceps rex, an uncommon resident which, for much of the year, is loosely concentrated near the main river channels, although during flood periods there is much dispersal. Grus carunculatus is a common breeding resident, often present in large numbers, Egretta vinaceigula is a scarce resident or visitor which possibly breeds, while Gallinago media is a common wintering visitor. The three Palearctic Circus species are all regular, with C. pygargus the most numerous, followed by C. macrourus; least common is C. aeruginosus. Falco naumanni occurs in some numbers, Phoenicopterus minor is a vagrant. The basin as a whole may represent one of the last strongholds of the Afrotropical subspecies Botaurus stellaris capensis, in view of its drastic decline in southern Africa (Allan in Harrison et al. 1997). Neotis denhami is common on the flood-plain and during passage periods is found alongside large numbers of Ciconia abdimii and C. ciconia. Some of the largest concentrations of herons (Ardeidae), storks (Ciconiidae) and wildfowl (Anatidae) occur as the flood-waters recede and at this time large numbers of waterbirds are also breeding within the swamp. Egretta vinaceigula is a scarce resident or visitor which possibly breeds, while Gallinago media is a common non-breeding visitor. The three Palearctic Circus species are all regular, with C. pygargus the most numerous, followed by C. macrourus and least common is C. aeruginosus. The permanent swamps must hold enormous numbers of rails (Rallidae), but no censusing has been carried out. Common swamp passerines include Acrocephalus rufescens, Cisticola pipiens, Muscicapa aquatica and Ploceus katangae (small range in Zambia). Merops variegatus is distributed throughout the area and the plains hold an isolated population of Cisticola aridulus alongside the rather localized Euplectes progne. Phoenicopterus minor is a vagrant.

Non-bird biodiversity: A wide variety of mammals occur, including Tragelaphus spekii (LR/nt) and the endemic subspecies Kobus leche smithemani. Reptiles include Crocodylus cataphractus (DD).

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Lybius minor resident  1998  present  A3  Not Recognised 
Spur-winged Goose Plectropterus gambensis winter  3,750 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
African Openbill Anastomus lamelligerus winter  1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Saddlebill Ephippiorhynchus senegalensis winter  1983  275 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Glossy Ibis Plegadis falcinellus winter  1998  1,000 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
African Spoonbill Platalea alba winter  150 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Cattle Egret Bubulcus ibis winter  10,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Egretta garzetta winter  1,000 individuals  A4i  Not Recognised 
Slaty Egret Egretta vinaceigula winter  1998  uncommon  A1  Vulnerable 
Eurasian Bittern Botaurus stellaris breeding  17 breeding pairs  A4i  Least Concern 
Squacco Heron Ardeola ralloides winter  1998  500 individuals  poor  A4i  Least Concern 
Rufous-bellied Heron Ardeola rufiventris winter  1,400 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great White Egret Ardea alba winter  500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Black Heron Egretta ardesiaca winter  500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Shoebill Balaeniceps rex resident  1983  232 individuals  unknown  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Lesser Kestrel Falco naumanni winter  1998  unknown  A1  Least Concern 
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus winter  1998  unknown  A1  Near Threatened 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus resident  1992  780 individuals  unknown  A1, A4i  Vulnerable 
Kittlitz's Plover Charadrius pecuarius winter  1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Caspian Plover Charadrius asiaticus winter  200 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Great Snipe Gallinago media winter  1998  300 individuals  unknown  A1, A4i  Near Threatened 
African Snipe Gallinago nigripennis winter  500 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Ruff Calidris pugnax winter  20,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Collared Pratincole Glareola pratincola winter  1,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
White-winged Tern Chlidonias leucopterus winter  2,000 individuals  A4i  Least Concern 
Coppery-tailed Coucal Centropus cupreicaudus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Racquet-tailed Roller Coracias spatulatus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Tit Parus griseiventris resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Chirping Cisticola Cisticola pipiens resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Angola Babbler Turdoides hartlaubii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Sharp-tailed Glossy-starling Lamprotornis acuticaudus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Scrub-robin Erythropygia barbata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-breasted Sunbird Nectarinia talatala resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Katanga Masked-weaver Ploceus katangae resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Brown Firefinch Lagonosticta nitidula resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Fuelleborn's Longclaw Macronyx fuellebornii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2013 very high unfavourable medium
Habitat
Unknown

Agricultural expansion and intensification annual & perennial non-timber crops - shifting agriculture happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low
Natural system modifications fire & fire suppression - increase in fire frequency/intensity happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Natural system modifications other ecosystem modifications happening now whole area/population (>90%) slow but significant deterioration high
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species fishing & harvesting aquatic resources - unintentional effects: subsistence/small scale happening now whole area/population (>90%) very rapid to severe deterioration very high
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species hunting & collecting terrestrial animals - intentional use (species being assessed is the target) happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) very rapid to severe deterioration low

Wetlands (inland)   0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable

Whole area of site (>90%) covered by appropriate conservation designation  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Some limited conservation initiatives are in place  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Bangweulu Game Management Area 657,000 protected area contained by site 657,000  
Bangweulu Swamps: Chikuni Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar) 1,100,000 protected area contained by site 1,100,000  
Chambeshi Game Management Area 62,000 protected area contained by site 62,000  
Isangano National Park 84,000 protected area contained by site 84,000  
Kafinda Game Management Area 386,000 protected area is adjacent to site 0  
Kalaso Mukoso Game Management Area 67,500 protected area overlaps with site 0  
Lavushi Manda National Park 150,000 protected area is adjacent to site 0  
Luwingu Game Management Area 109,000 protected area is adjacent to site 0  
Mulembo Forest Reserve 19,395 protected area is adjacent to site 0  

Habitats

IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Artificial - terrestrial   10%
Wetlands (inland)   15%
Shrubland   20%
Grassland   4%
Forest   49%

Land use

Land-use Extent (% of site)
fisheries/aquaculture -
hunting -
nature conservation and research -
tourism/recreation -
water management -

References Buxton et al. (1978), Christian (1997), Howard and Aspinwall (1984), Mwenya (1973), Renson (1998).

Contribute  Please click here to help BirdLife conserve the world's birds - your data for this IBA and others are vital for helping protect the environment.

Recommended citation  BirdLife International (2015) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bangweulu Swamps. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 28/01/2015

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