ZM028
Bangweulu Swamps


Country/territory: Zambia

IBA Criteria met: A1, A3, A4i (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 1,284,000 ha

Protection status:

BirdWatch Zambia
Most recent IBA monitoring assessment
Year of assessment Threat score (pressure) Condition score (state) Action score (response)
2013 very high unfavourable medium
For more information about IBA monitoring please click here


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).


Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2018) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Bangweulu Swamps. Downloaded from http://www.birdlife.org on 17/12/2018.