email a friend
printable version
Location Zimbabwe, Manicaland Province
Central coordinates 32o 47.58' East  18o 18.30' South
IBA criteria A1, A2, A3
Area 29,000 ha
Altitude 1,650 - 2,592m
Year of IBA assessment 2001

BirdLife Zimbabwe

Site description The Nyanga mountains form the northernmost extent of the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe. They lie about 70 km north-east of Mutare in two rural Districts, Nyanga and Mutasa. The mountains are a popular tourist destination, attracting large numbers of visitors. Nyanga National Park (440 km²) forms the core of this site and also part of an adjacent, contiguous IBA, Nyanga lowlands/Honde valley (IBA ZW002). The park is surrounded by privately owned commercial farms, forestry plantations, tea estates and communal lands.

The Nyangani massif peaks at 2,592 m. The topography is very diverse, with a rolling hilly plateau in the west and north giving rise to several large rivers: the Kairezi, Nyangombe and Pungwe. The plateau is deeply bisected by the gorges of the Pungwe and Nyazengu rivers in the south. There are numerous high waterfalls, with the Mutarazi waterfall being one of the highest in Africa, dropping 380 m. The eastern slopes of the mountains, particularly Nyangani mountain, form a steep-sided escarpment, dropping down to 900 m into the Honde valley. The west side has an escarpment that drops from Rukotso (2,405 m) and World’s View to the Nyanga North Communal Land (1,400 m).

The eastern slopes are often covered in mist. Above 1,800 m the temperatures are cool and relatively temperate. Frost (­4°C) is common in winter. The mountains have extensive Afromontane vegetation at high altitude (1,800–2,400 m), comprising fine-leaved dwarf shrubland with a large variety of herbaceous plants, including some Afro-alpine species. Afromontane rainforests are found on the eastern (windward) slopes (the IBA is defined as extending down to the 1,650 m contour, the boundary of the montane forest) and in kloofs on the leeward slopes. Syzygium is dominant in this undisturbed forest. Afrocrania montane forest occurs on wet boulder-screes and in high valleys. These forests have affinities with those further north in Malawi and East Africa. There are small patches of drier Widdringtonia coniferous forest in fire-protected sites. In the drier, flatter west, the grasslands are interspersed with dwarf Brachystegia woodland. Acacia woodlands occur in isolated patches at the base of granite kopjes. There are also extensive plantations and forests of non-native Acacia and Pinus throughout the area. Fire is an important ecological factor, particularly in the grassland environment.

Key Biodiversity See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Because of its accessibility and popularity with tourists, the Nyanga avifauna is relatively well known and includes 246 species. With respect to the species of global conservation concern, Nyanga’s grasslands are an important breeding ground for Hirundo atrocaerulea. An unpublished field survey in Nyanga National Park estimated the population to be at least 400 birds. Since there are areas of suitable habitat outside the park, the total population could be at least 600 birds. Grus carunculatus (four pairs) breed in the national park and adjacent farms. Circus macrourus is an occasional visitor, and Falco fasciinucha, although seen rarely, may breed in the area. Nyanga is a breeding area for two restricted-range species, Apalis chirindensis and Prinia robertsi.

Non-bird biodiversity: The extensive grasslands contain many herbs and shrubs with restricted/localized distributions. There are five or six endemic plants and a further six species with very localized distributions: Aloe inyangensis, Moraea inyangani, Erica simii, Scadoxus pole-evansii, Aloe rhodesiana, Dierama inyangensis, Euphorbia citrina, E. crebifolia and Protea inyangensis. The unusual grassland species are linked to the northernmost limits of the Drakensberg flora. There are several endemic or restricted-range species of amphibian: Bufo gariepensis inyangae, Probreviceps rhodesianus, Arthroleptis xenodactyliodes, Leptopelis flavomaculatus, Afrixalus fornasinii and Hyperolius tuberilinguis. The snake Bitis atropos occurs in the montane grasslands.

Populations of IBA trigger species

Species Season Period Population estimate Quality of estimate IBA Criteria IUCN Category
Whyte's Barbet Stactolaema whytii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Taita Falcon Falco fasciinucha resident  present  A1  Vulnerable 
Dickinson's Kestrel Falco dickinsoni resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus winter  present  A1  Near Threatened 
Striped Flufftail Sarothrura affinis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Wattled Crane Bugeranus carunculatus resident  1998  4 breeding pairs  A1  Vulnerable 
Scarce Swift Schoutedenapus myoptilus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Olive Bush-shrike Telophorus olivaceus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-tailed Crested-flycatcher Elminia albonotata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Tit Parus griseiventris resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Blue Swallow Hirundo atrocaerulea breeding  1998  present  A1, A3  Vulnerable 
Briar Warbler Prinia robertsi resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Chirinda Apalis Apalis chirindensis resident  1998  present  A2, A3  Least Concern 
Stripe-cheeked Greenbul Andropadus milanjensis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
African Scrub-warbler Bradypterus barratti resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Yellow-throated Woodland-warbler Phylloscopus ruficapilla resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Orange Ground-thrush Zoothera gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Kurrichane Thrush Turdus libonyanus resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-starred Robin Pogonocichla stellata resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
White-throated Robin-chat Cossypha humeralis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Miombo Double-collared Sunbird Nectarinia manoensis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Bronze Sunbird Nectarinia kilimensis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Gurney's Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Red-faced Crimson-wing Cryptospiza reichenovii resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Swee Waxbill Estrilda melanotis resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Broad-tailed Paradise-whydah Vidua obtusa resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 
Black-eared Seedeater Serinus mennelli resident  1998  present  A3  Least Concern 

IBA Monitoring

2011 high unfavourable medium
Good - based on reliable and complete / representative data

Agricultural expansion and intensification livestock farming and ranching (includes forest grazing) - small-holder grazing, ranching or farming happening now small area/few individuals (<10%) no or imperceptible deterioration low
Over-exploitation, persecution and control of species habitat effects - gathering plants happening now some of area/population (10-49%) slow but significant deterioration medium

Forest   0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable
Grassland Grassland - montane  0 0 moderate (70-90%) moderate (70-90%) unfavourable
Wetlands (inland) Rivers & streams  0 0 good (> 90%) good (> 90%) favourable

Most of site (50-90%) covered (including the most critical parts for important bird species)  A comprehensive and appropriate management plan exists that aims to maintain or improve the populations of qualifying bird species  Substantive conservation measures are being implemented but these are not comprehensive and are limited by resources and capacity  medium 

Protected areas

Protected area Designation Area (ha) Relationship with IBA Overlap with IBA (ha)  
Rhodes Nyanga National Park 47,150 protected area contains site 40,000  

Local conservation groups The local conservation group below is working to support conservation at this IBA.

Name Year formed
Sanyatwe Site Support Group 2005


IUCN habitat Habitat detail Extent (% of site)
Forest   100%
Grassland Grassland - montane  major
Wetlands (inland) Ephemeral pools and wetlands; Rivers & streams  minor

Land use

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

Further web sources of information 

Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) species/site profile. This site has been identified as an AZE due to it containing a Critically Endangered or Endangered species with a limited range.

References Childes (1989), Childes (1997a), Douglas (1993), Lambiris (1989), Muller (1994), Timberlake and Muller (1993).

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 (2014) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Nyanga mountains. Downloaded from on 26/11/2014

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