Upper Quthing Valley

Country/territory: Lesotho

IBA Criteria met: A1, A2, A3, A4ii (2001)
For more information about IBA criteria please click here

Area: 30,000 ha

Site description
This site consists of the near-vertical cliffs flanking the 230-m-deep gorge of the Qanatu river, together with the surrounding mountainous area, including Letšeng-la-Letsie. These highlands support a traditional pastoral economy with a low-density population. Approximately 35% of the surrounding area (within a 25 km radius) is cultivated, the remainder being open pasture. The vegetation is primarily montane grassland, but thick bush and scrub flank the lower gorge walls. High-altitude shrubs form a heath of Erica, Chrysocoma and Helichrysum. The summits are generally rocky with bare, shallow soil patches and rock sheets near the escarpment.

Key biodiversity
See Box and Tables 2 and 3 for key species. This site supports two ‘nucleus’ breeding colonies of Gyps coprotheres, Upper Quthing Valley (the largest single colony in Lesotho) and Seforong, which together hold over 200 birds (95 pairs). The nests are concentrated on the upper third of the cliff, on gorge walls and basalt pinnacles. The rare but widespread Gypaetus barbatus meridionalis also forages widely across this area. Other cliff-nesting species include Buteo rufofuscus, Falco biarmicus and Ciconia nigra. The high-altitude rocky, boulder-strewn slopes and outcrops (above 2,000 m) support Chaetops aurantius, and the surrounding grassy slopes and plateau hold Anthus hoeschi, which breeds in large numbers during the austral summer (especially above 3,000 m). The grassy slopes and valleys also hold Sagittarius serpentarius. Serinus symonsi occurs commonly above 1,500 m, and has become commensal with humans, occupying and foraging in villages and among fallow and harvested crop fields. Anthus crenatus, Monticola explorator and Geocolaptes olivaceus occur commonly in the vicinity of rocky outcrops. Cercomela sinuata hypernephela, Sylvia layardi barnesi and Circus maurus are uncommon. The small, isolated, Lesotho subspecies Parus afer arens occurs at the site. Small numbers of Geronticus calvus occasionally forage in this area and it is thought that there may be breeding colonies in the vicinity.

Non-bird biodiversity: The alpine floral communities found in the Maloti/Drakensberg mountains are unique in southern Africa, holding a remarkable number of endemic plant species. A recent botanical survey of three valleys in the Maloti yielded many species that could not be identified, and some may be new to science.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Important Bird Areas factsheet: Upper Quthing Valley. Downloaded from on 01/02/2023.