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Republic of Sierra Leone

Shining-Blue Kingfisher Alcedo quadribrachys ©Jonathan Rossouw Website

Sierra Leone, officially the Republic of Sierra Leone, is a country in West Africa. It is bordered by Guinea in the northeast, Liberia in the southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean in the southwest. Sierra Leone covers a total area of 71,740 km2 (27,699 sq mi) and has a population estimated at 6,296,803 The country has a tropical climate, with a diverse environment ranging from savannah to rainforests. Freetown is the capital, seat of government, and largest city. Bo is the second largest city. Other major cities in the country with a population over 100,000 are Kenema, Koidu Town and Makeni. The country is home to Fourah Bay College, the oldest university in West Africa, established in 1827.

Sierra Leone is located on the west coast of Africa, between the 7th and 10th parallels north of the equator. Sierra Leone is bordered by Guinea to the north and northeast, Liberia to the south and southeast, and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. The country has a total area of 71,740 square kilometers (27,699 square miles), divided into a land area of 71,620 square kilometers and water of 120 square kilometers.

The country has four distinct geographical regions. In eastern Sierra Leone is an interior region of large plateaus interspersed with high mountains, where Mount Bintumani reaches 1,948 meters (6,390 ft) the highest point in the country. The upper part of the drainage basin of the Moa River is located in the south of the region. In the central part of the country is region of lowland plains, containing forests, bush and farmland, that occupy about 43% of Sierra Leone's land area. Starting in the west, Sierra Leone has some 400 kilometres (250 miles) of coastline, giving it both bountiful marine resources and attractive tourist potential. This is followed by low-lying mangrove swamps, rain-forested plains and farmland. The national capital Freetown sits on a coastal peninsula, situated next to the Sierra Leone Harbor, the world's third largest natural harbour. This prime location historically made Sierra Leone the centre of trade and colonial administration in the region.

The climate is tropical, with two seasons determining the agricultural cycle: the rainy season from May to November, and a dry season from December to May, which includes harmattan, when cool, dry winds blow in off the Sahara Desert and the night-time temperature can be as low as 16 °C (60.8 °F). The average temperature is 26 °C (78.8 °F) and varies from around 26 °C (80 °F) to 36 °C (90 °F) during the year.

Logging, mining, slash and burn, and deforestation for alternative land use - such as cattle grazing - have dramatically decreased forested land in Sierra Leone since the 1980s. Until 2002, Sierra Leone lacked a forest management system due to a brutal civil war that caused tens of thousands of deaths. Deforestation rates have increased 7.3% since the end of the civil war. On paper, 55 protected areas covered 4.5% of Sierra Leone as of 2003. The country has 2,090 known species of higher plants, 147 mammals, 626 birds, 67 reptiles, 35 amphibians, and 99 fish species.

In June 2005, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Bird Life International agreed to support a conservation-sustainable development project in the Gola Forest in southeastern Sierra Leone, the most important surviving fragment of rain forest in Sierra Leone.



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Number of Species

Number of bird species: 656


iGoTerra Checklist

iGoTerra Checklist

Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web

Useful Reading

Birds of Western Africa: An Identification Guide

Nik Borrow and Ron Demey Series: CHRISTOPHER HELM IDENTIFICATION GUIDE SERIES 832 pages, 147 col plates, 1100 dist maps. Christopher Helm

ISBN: 0713639598

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Field Guide to the Birds of Western Africa

Nik Borrow and Ron Demey Series: HELM FIELD GUIDES 496 pages, 150 col plates, 1300 maps. Christopher Helm See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 0713666927

Buy this book from NHBS.com


African Bird Club


Sierra Leone has 626 bird species recorded in an area of similar size to Scotland. It is also one of the best places to see the enigmatic White-necked Picathartes Picathartes gymnocephalus and perhaps to find the eponymous Sierra Leone Prinia Prinia leontica. The potential for birdwatchers is therefore high. A 10 year conflict and its aftermath denied birdwatchers the opportunity to visit in the recent past, but this is slowly changing as peace and democracy take hold…

Conservation Society of Sierra Leone


P0 Box 1292, Freetown. cssl_03@yahoo.com

West African Ornithological Society


The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.The West African Ornithological Society grew out of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society, which was founded in February 1964. Its object is to promote scientific interest in the birds of West Africa and to further the region’s ornithology, mainly by means of its journal Malimbus (formerly the Bulletin of the Nigerian Ornithologists’ Society). This journal is biannual and bilingual, a unique feature in Africa.


Abbreviations Key



626 bird species have been recorded in Sierra Leone of which over 430 are resident and over 130 are regular seasonal migrants including 90 Palearctic migrants. There are 23 species of global conservation concern. The forests of eastern Sierra Leone form the western part of the Upper Guinea forests Endemic Bird Area (EBA) and 14 of its 15 restricted range species occur in the country. Some 174 species of the Guinea-Congo forests biome and 28 of the Sudan-Guinea Savanna biome are known from Sierra Leone. The coastline forms part of the eastern Atlantic flyway for migrant waterbirds and is probably one of the major stop-over and wintering sites for many Palearctic waders along the coast of west Africa…

Tiwai Island Wildlife Sanctuary


Satellite View

Tiwai is a biodiversity paradise, located between Barri and Koya Chiefdoms, boasting a high concentration and diversity of primates, many of whom are threatened with extinction throughout West Africa…

Guides & Tour Operators

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…

Jays Bar International

Tour Operator

My name is Kenneth Gbengba from Fact Finding Tours of Sierra Leone. I have been a bird guide for 18 years, guiding birding tours all over West Africa. I am recognised as Sierra Leone’s top birdwatcher and I run the only indigenous eco tourism handling agency in the name of Fact Finding Tours. My office is situated on Lumley Beach Road at the National Tourist board Information and Business Centre…

Rockjumper Birding Tours


While we no longer offer any set departures to Sierra Leone, we will happily tailor-make a private tour for you.

Trip Reports

Click on WAND for tours, guides, lodges and more…


Trip Report Repository

CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.

2008 [04 April] - Kenneth Gbengba


I was the expert guide for H’s bird watching trip to Sierra Leone, which was for six days bird watching over a one week period. I designed an itinery which included his particular wishes to see the White-Necked Picathartes (Bare Headed Rock Fowl) and Tiwai Isaland. Luckily I have particular knowledge about a Picathartes colony which which is reasonably easily accessible and where I can ensure a certainty of a sighting…

2012 [03 March] - John Bowler


…The neighbouring trees and muddy beach held a surprising variety of birds given the urban location. We spent a lot of time here and recorded some 50 species – mostly widespread birds such as Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Western Grey Plantain-eater, African Thrush, Yellow White-eye, Black-necked Weaver, Shikra, Royal Tern, Western Reef-heron and Hooded Vulture but including surprises such as Oriole Warbler, Chestnut-breasted Negro-finch, Broad-billed Roller, Grey Woodpecker and Woodland Kingfisher, plus no less than 5 species of sunbird including Splendid, Brown, Copper, Variable and Green-headed Sunbird. We also saw several Rose-ringed Parakeets here – the only place we saw them in the country…

2013 [02 February] - Duncan Orr-Ewing


…Other birds seen at Kilimi include; Ahanta francolin, squacco heron, black headed heron, African fish eagle, white backed vulture, western marsh harrier, dark chanting and African goshawks, red thighed sparrowhawk, grasshopper buzzard (10), tawny eagle, Cassin’s hawk eagle (4 between Outamba and Kilimi. Brood on the wing?), long crested eagle, grey and common kestrels, African hobby, peregrine, Guinea turaco, black coucal (1), plain nightjar, mottled swift, Abyssinian roller, chocolate backed kingfisher, little, blue cheeked and European bee-eaters, black scimitarbill, grey hornbill, double toothed barbet (1), Willcock’s honeyguide, fine spotted woodpecker, Turati’s boubou (common), white breasted cuckoo-shrike, golden and Honeyguide greenbuls, grey headed bristlebill, pied winged swallow, moustached grass warbler, red faced, singing, croaking, short-winged, black backed and whistling cisticolas, oriole warbler, yellow browed cameroptera, blackcap illadopsis, chiffchaff (out of range), yellow bellied hyliota, spotted creeper, bronze tailed starling, western violet backed sunbird, pygmy and blue throated brown sunbirds, yellow mantled widowbird, Togo paradise wydah, and Cabanis’s bunting…

2014 [11 November] - Tiwai Island and Kambui (South) Forest Reserve

PDF Report

...Having learned from Kenneth that the RSPB-managed Gola Forest was currently off-limits to birders, we decided on Tiwai Island, a community-managed conservation area in SL’s most southerly Pujehun District (border with Liberia). Tiwai is almost contiguous with the Gola West Forest Reserve....

2015 [01 January] - Outamba National Park

PDF Report

...A weekend break from Freetown to visit Outamba National Park (part of the Outamba-Kilimi complex) in the north of Sierra Leone. Outamba is notable for being one of the largest expanses of true savannah woodland in Sierra Leone and has some distinct avifauna not readily found elsewhere in the country....

2015 [04 April] - David McLachlan-Karr - Gola Rainforest National Park

Report PDF

Gola was only declared a National Park by Presidential Decree in December 2010. The park is an amalgam of three almost contiguous reserves: Gola North Forest Reserve, Gola East Forest Reserve and Gola West Forest Reserves.

2015 [09 September] - David McLachlan-Karr - Tingi Hills Forest Reserve

Report PDF

With the West Africa monsoon finally tapering off, the long weekend of Eid-ul-Adha (24-27 September) was an opportunity to come out of birding hibernation and visit the Tingi Hills Forest Reserve of Kono District in north-eastern Sierra Leone