Ntchisi Mountain is one of several peaks in the Dowa Hills rising above 1,600 m, but it is the only one still bearing forest in this densely cultivated and eroded region. A short way south of Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve (MW009), it is 75 km north-north-east of the capital Lilongwe. The forest is in one block and contains c.220 ha of Aningeria montane rainforest at 1,450–1,640 m, with a smaller area (30 ha) of tall Newtonia mid-altitude rainforest extending down the south-eastern slopes; strangling figs Ficus spp. are abundant. Most of the rest of the reserve contains some fine miombo woodland on the north-eastern gradient, down to an altitude of c.700 m.
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. Over 180 species have been recorded; in addition Hirundo atrocaerulea has been recorded once, on passage. The miombo woodland is more difficult of access than the forest and further exploration should produce more Zambezian biome species (cf. nearby site MW008, which has 22). Ntchisi is at the southern limit of distribution of Phyllastrephus alfredi.
Non-bird biodiversity: Vegetation: a Garcinia tree, found commonly throughout the forest, is closely related to G. semseii (a rare tree from eastern Tanzania); flowering material needs collecting. It also occurs on Chipata Mountain (part of site MW009). Mammals: Ntchisi is the only Malawi locality for the bat Rhinolophus swinnyi. Butterflies: two species reach their southern limit here: Charaxes ameliae and Hypolycaena hatita.
Pressure/threats to key biodiversity
The site is situated in an area of high population density; some natural vegetation has been cleared on the southern and south-western sides and replaced with exotic plantations to help alleviate pressure on the forest. The latter is still in good condition and the maintenance of fire-breaks has been largely successful in the past. The woodland to the north-east is relatively untouched.