Nyika National Park encompasses and protects the Nyika Plateau, which lies 1,800 m above sea level. Above this height, the Nyika Plateau experiences montane conditions, with its rolling grassland hills often blanketed in mist. These conditions are ideal for the critically endangered Blue Swallow.
Blue Swallows breed widely on montane grasslands across south-eastern Africa, but the most prolific population breeds on the high plateau of Nyika, and there are estimated to be well over 200 breeding pairs in Nyika National Park. Populations of Blue Swallows are, however, threatened by habitat degradation, including uncontrolled fires and invasive alien (i.e. non-native native and harms local organisms) plant species, and Peace Parks Foundation, together with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, is actively working to prevent further degradation.
Invasive alien tree species such as wattle and pine can grow over Blue Swallow breeding sites. Invasive alien trees not only threaten breeding sites but also take up a lot of groundwater, which can be detrimental to the environment as Nyika National Park is a vital water catchment area that feeds into Lake Malawi.
In this video, Nyika National Park’s Counter-Poaching Coordinator, Norman English, comes across a couple of Blue Swallow nests wedged in the side of a riverbank cavity gouged out by the river just below Dam Three. This is a welcome sighting but not unusual, as Blue Swallows favour breeding in grasslands dotted with drainage lines in gullies or valleys. The nests are unoccupied as Norman’s visit is at the end of their breeding period (October to March), and they migrate within the African continent and fly north in the colder months as far as west Kenya, south Uganda, and the north-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
From preserving water sources to protecting bird breeding sites and migratory corridors, Peace Parks Foundation is working towards revitalising biodiversity in Malawi and across southern Africa. You too can support this mission by visiting Nyika National Park. If you’re a keen birdwatcher, you could see hundreds of Blue Swallows as well as 420 other bird species. Check out the Peace Parks Foundation website to start planning your trip today!