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South Africa

Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea ©James Wakelin http://www.rockjumperbirding.com

South Africa's attraction as a birding destination par excellence has to be one of the world's best kept secrets. Out of a total of more than 820 species (including some splits which are not yet universally recognised) 121 species are vagrants or accidentals, 40 species endemic to South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland and a further 110 species are endemic (or nearly so) to the southern African sub-continent, i.e. the area south of the Zambezi and Cunene Rivers. This makes South Africa one of the most desirable birding areas in Africa. Add to this a well-developed road system, an excellent network of internal airline routes and a plethora of car hire companies (including the large internationals) and this surely has to be one of the most desirable birding destinations in the world.

Unless you particularly want to have a long hike all the land-based birds in the country can be seen with nothing more than a relatively short and pleasant stroll from your car. A few require the use of a 4-wheel drive vehicle, but even these, with the exception of the endemic sub-species of Green Barbet, can, with a bit of extra work, be found using a normal car. The regular pelagic trips arranged from Cape Town and Durban take care of the rest of the region’s 700 or so regularly occurring species.

To this well-developed infrastructure add a 10 000 strong friendly and helpful birding fraternity and a host of well-qualified professional guides and one has to wonder why South Africa is not overrun by birders from all parts of the world.

Access
The vast majority of international birders fly into South Africa. The country has three international airports - Johannesburg, Cape Town and Durban. It is served with regular daily flights by most major airlines. The major domestic airports at Port Elizabeth, East London, George, Bloemfontein, Kimberley and Upington are all serviced by regular internal flights. It is also possible to reach the country via overland trips through Africa or via one of the many cruises that visit the country's major ports - Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban. For UK Birders the time zone is GMT!

Major Topographical Features
Simply put South Africa is comprised of a high lying plateau (known as the Highveld in South Africa) in the eastern interior largely 1,500m or more above sea level. This falls away in the west and north into a bowl-shaped feature known as the Kalahari Basin. These two features are rimmed by a mountainous escarpment - known as the Great Escarpment or simply the Escarpment - that varies in altitude from around 800m in the west to more than 3,000m in the Drakensberg range in the east. Finally there is a narrow coastal plain 50 to 200km wide and mostly below 500m in altitude.

Major Birding Regions
Bird-wise South Africa can be divided into seven major natural regions: Grassveld - almost treeless grassland; Fynbos (pronounced fain-bos) - a sort of Macchia or chaparral; Karoo - an arid to very arid semi-desert; Afromontane Forest - more or less evergreen with a closed canopy; Bushveld - a fairly arid to arid open to closed woodland often referred to in South Africa as Savannah; the East Coast Littoral - a moist tropical to sub-tropical mosaic of forest, coastal thicket and grassland; and Pelagic - open sea up to 200km off-shore. Each of these regions have their own suite of birds and the first four hold species that are endemic to their South African portions.

There are now pages for each South African State with links, Top Birding Spots, trip reports and all the usual links and facts… just click on the States on the map below.

Top Sites

Birding Hotspots

Birding hotspots abound throughout South Africa and birders are referred to Top Birding Spots in Southern Africa edited by Hugh Chittenden and published by Southern Book Publishers, Johannesburg in 1992 as well as Where to Watch Birds in Southern Africa by Aldo Berruti and Ian Sinclair published by C Struik, Cape Town in 1983. The hotspots listed below are merely representative of those in each Birding Region.

Pelagics

Pelagic trips are run out of various harbours in South Africa but,generally, Cape Town offers, by far, the best sea birding in South AfricaIn fact, is considered to be some of the best anywhere in the world. Thecold Benguela Current brings highly nutrient-rich waters up from thesouth, and the strong winds (predominately from the south-east) createan up welling that brings all the nutrients to the surface. This, inturn, sustains the phytoplankton that forms the basis of the marine foodchain. Pelagic fisheries thrive in the area, and discards from thetrawlers provide a constant food source for pelagic birds. There are around 85 species that have been recorded on South African pelagic trips including albatrosses, petrels, shearwaters, skuas and a whole host of other exciting birds. Day trips can produce in excess of 30 species with, particularly winter trips, providing the spectacle of some 30,000 individual birds. Added to this, there are a number of whale and dolphin species that are encountered as well as some other interesting marine wildlife.

Pelagic trips are spectacular to say the least and will provide one withmany cherished memories. If you are in South Africa, it should become apriority on your birding itinerary and should not be missed. For moreinformation on the seasonality of the various species, photographs and other general information regarding pelagic trips in South Africa, visit www.zestforbirds.co.za. Regular trips are offered out of Cape Town and Durban and occasionally trips are organised from Port Elizabeth. Interested birders should contact Trevor Hardaker hardaker@mweb.co.za or Anne Gray gray-ad@mweb.co.za for Cape Town trips and Athol Marchant athol@kznncs.org.za from Durban.

The Afromontane Forests - Approx. 1,000 km²

South African Afromontane forests are highly fragmented and scattered along the southern and eastern slopes of the Great Escarpment. With the exception of the fairly extensive forests around the coastal towns of George and Knysna and to the south of Port Elizabeth all are located more than 40 km inland. The southern forests are best accessed from Cape Town, Durban, George or Port Elizabeth. Johannesburg is the closest airport to the northern forests of Mpumalanga and the Northern Province. As is typical of mountainous areas everywhere the weather is rarely predictable except that it will be cold in winter. Summers are generally mild and evenings can be cool. Rain and mist can be expected throughout the year.

Some 120 species occur regularly in the Afromontane Forests. Nine of South Africa`s endemic species (two are endemic to the forests) and a further 15 species (eight of them are nearly endemic to these forests) endemic to southern Africa are found here. Birding hotspots include Grootvadersbos and the George-Knysna area in the Western Cape Province, Hogsback and Weza-Ingele forests in the Eastern Cape, Xumeni and Ntumeni in KwaZulu-Natal, the Barberton-Graskop-Blyde River Canyon area in Mpumalanga and Woodbush in the Northern Province.

The Bushveld - Area 385,799 km²

The Bushveld can basically be divided into two areas - the arid Bushveld of the Kalahari in the west and the moist (actually simply less arid) Bushveld in the east. It shares the Kalahari basin with the Karoo in the west and the north, but also extends into the lower lying area between the Great Escarpment and the East Coast Littoral in the east. The arid west is best accessed from Kimberley and Upington while the east and north is best accessed from Johannesburg. South Africa`s largest conservation areas - The Kruger and Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Parks and Pilanesberg and Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserves are situated in the Bushveld and most of the country`s remaining large mammal population is found here. For the most part summers are warm to hot and winters mild to cool. What rainfall there is falls during summer. Malaria can be a problem throughout the year in the moister east, but particularly in summer and prophylaxis and other precautions are recommended when visiting these areas.

Almost 550 species of birds occur regularly in the Bushveld. None of these are endemic to the South African Bushveld, but no fewer than 86 of the species endemic or nearly endemic to southern Africa as a whole can be found here. Birding hotspots are many in such a diverse area, but some of the best known ones include the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserves in KwaZulu-Natal, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park in the Northern Cape and Kruger National Park in Mpumalanga and Northern Province. Other less well-known spots include Nylsvley and Langjan Nature Reserves in Northern Province, the area north of Pretoria in Gauteng Province, the Kimberley area and Witsand Nature Reserve in the Northern Cape and Loskop Dam Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga.

The East Coast Littoral

This area is made up of a mosaic of sub-tropical to tropical grassland, woodland and forest and not surprisingly has a high diversity of species. As the name implies it is a narrow strip stretching up the east coast of South Africa from north of Port Elizabeth to the South African-Mozambique border. The area is best accessed from Durban or Port Elizabeth. The climate is generally humid with hot, wet summers and warm winters. Malaria can be a problem in the areas north of the towns of Eshowe and Mtunzini and prophylaxis and other precautions are recommended when visiting these areas.

Nearly 430 regularly occurring species can be found in this narrow coastal strip. While no species are endemic to the South African portion itself, five species - Pink-throated Twinspot, Neergard`s Sunbird, Rudd`s Apalis, Lemon-breasted Canary and Woodwards Batis all have a very localised distribution in northern KwaZulu-Natal and southern Mozambique, occurring only marginally outside this area. Overall 38 species found here are endemic or nearly so to southern Africa. It is difficult to single out any particular birding hotspots - virtually the entire area is a hotspot. Mkuzi and Ndumo Game Reserves, the Greater St Lucia Wetland area (a World Heritage site); Mtunzini village, Ongoye, Ntumeni and Dhlinza Forests near Eshowe and Oribi Gorge near Port Shepstone are but a few that spring to mind.

The Fynbos - Area 59,282 km²

The Fynbos occurs on the coastal plain and southern mountain slopes in the southernmost part of the African continent. It stretches from north of St Helena Bay in the west to around Port Elizabeth in the east. The vegetation comprises mostly a macchia type of scrub and it is renowned for its botanical variety. It is best accessed from Cape Town, George or Port Elizabeth. Typically the climate consists of mild to warm, dry summers (wetter in the east) and cool, wet winters.

Some 270 species of birds occur regularly in the Fynbos. Eighteen of South Africa`s endemic birds (seven of them endemic to the Fynbos) and a further 54 southern African endemics or near endemics can be found here. While none are of the Fynbos endemics are considered to be Globally Threatened by the IUCN, three - Cape Rockjumper, Cape Siskin and Protea Canary - are listed as Near Threatened. Birding hotspots include the Cape Peninsula, the West Coast National Park, the Berg River Estuary and De Hoop Provincial Nature Reserve.

The Grassveld - Area 280,047 km²

South Africa's Grassveld is concentrated in the high lying interior plateau and is best accessed from Johannesburg or Durban. East London, Bloemfontein and Kimberley are other possibilities, particularly for the more arid western areas. The climate is typically mild to warm, wet summers and cold, frosty, dry winters with snow sometimes in the higher lying areas.

More than 400 species occur regularly in the Grassveld. Twenty-one, or more than half, of South Africa's endemic birds (12 of these are endemic to the Grassveld) and a further 64 southern African endemics or near endemics can be found in here. In common with grasslands throughout the world South Africa's grasslands are under huge pressure from human development programmes. As much as 80% of South Africa's grasslands have been put to the plough, planted to alien trees, covered by urban sprawl or swallowed up by huge open-cast pits. These threats are reflected in its bird life. Of the 12 Grassveld endemics 4 (Rudd's Lark, the county's only Critically Threatened species, Botha's Lark, Yellow-breasted Pipit and Southern Bald Ibis) are listed as globally threatened and 5 (Blue Korhaan, Buff-streaked Chat, Orange-breasted Rockjumper, Mountain Pipit and Drakensberg Siskin) as Near Threatened by the IUCN.

Birding hotspots in the Grassveld include Wakkerstroom and Sani Pass (between South Africa and Lesotho) in the moist eastern area and Barberspan and the Bloemhof area in the arid west.

The Karoo - Area 369,946 km²

The Karoo stretches eastward from South Africa`s west coast, north of St Helena Bay across the southern portion of the Kalahari basin. The most arid parts are found in the north-west along the Namibian border, gradually becoming less arid to the east and south. It is best accessed from Cape Town, George, Port Elizabeth, East London, Kimberley or Upington. Generally summers are hot and dry with winters being cold and dry. What rain there is generally falls in spring and autumn and this is the best time for birding in this fascinating part of the country.

More than 300 species occur regularly in the Karoo. Eleven of South Africa`s endemic birds (two of them endemic to the Karoo) and a further 83 southern African endemics or near endemics can be found here. Of the two Karoo endemics one - Red Lark - is listed as Vulnerable on a global scale by the IUCN. Birding hotspots include the West Coast, Bushmanland, Namaqualand, the Karoo National Park and Karoopoort near the towns of Ceres and Worcester in the Western Cape.

Contributor

Trevor Hardaker

Zest for Birds (Supplied Pelagics Info)

Cape Town

trevor@zestforbirds.co.za

http://www.zestforbirds.co.za

John McAllister

Wakkerstroom, South Africa

mcallister@vlr.dorea.co.za

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 842

Number of bird species: National Bird

Blue Crane Anthropoides paradisea

Endemics

Number of endemics: 19

Blue Korhaan Eupodotis caerulescens
Southern Black Korhaan Afrotis afra
Hottentot Buttonquail Turnix hottentottus
Knysna Woodpecker Campethera notata
Cape Parrot Poicephalus robustus
Rudd's Lark Heteromirafra ruddi
Red Lark Calendulauda burra
Cape Long-billed Lark Certhilauda curvirostris
Agulhas Long-billed Lark Certhilauda brevirostris
Botha's Lark Spizocorys fringillaris
Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea
Cape Rock-jumper Chaetops frenatus
Cape Sugarbird Promerops cafer
Yellow-breasted Pipit Anthus chloris
Cape Bulbul Pycnonotus capensis
Victorin's Warbler Cryptillas victorini
Knysna Warbler Bradypterus sylvaticus
Protea Seedeater Crithagra leucopterus
Cape Siskin Crithagra totta

In addition there are Two 'Breeding Endemics':
Kimberley Pipit Anthus pseudosimilis
South African cliff-Swallow Petrochelidon spilodera

…and one 'Winter Endemic':
Long-tailed Pipit Anthus longicaudatus

Number of endemics: 48 Near Endemics

There are another 45 'Near Endemics' - that is birds with small populations (less than 30%) outside of South Africa. Such as, for example, the tiny population of Blue Cranes in Namibia. These are:

Fairy Flycatcher Stenostira scita
Gurney’s Sugarbird Promerops gurneyi
Greater Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris afer
Southern Double-collared Sunbird Cinnyris chalybeus
Layard’s Tit-Babbler Sylvia layardi
Large-billed Lark Galerida magnirostris
Cape Rock-Thrush Monticola rupestris
African Rock Pipit Anthus crenatus
Bush Blackcap Lioptilus nigricapillus
Black-eared Sparrowlark Eremopterix australis
Southern Tchagra Tchagra tchagra
Grey Tit Parus afer
Forest Buzzard Buteo trizonatus
Cape Spurfowl Pternistis capensis
Karoo Thrush Turdus smithi
Karoo Eremomela Eremomela gregalis
Eastern Long-billed Lark Certhilauda semitorquata
Pied Starling Lamprotornis bicolor
Cape Clapper Lark Mirafra apiata
Sickle-winged Chat Cercomela sinuata
Cloud Cisticola Cisticola textrix
Barratt’s Warbler Bradypterus barratti
Buff-streaked Chat Campicoloides bifasciata
Forest Canary Crithagra scotops
Melodious Lark Mirafra cheniana
Cape White-eye Zosterops capensis
Ground Woodpecker Geocolaptes olivaceus
Sclater’s Lark Spizocorys sclateri
Karoo Lark Calendulauda albescens
Jackal Buzzard Buteo rufofuscus
Black-headed Canary Serinus alario
Drakensberg Prinia Prinia hypoxantha
Chorister Robin-Chat Cossypha dichroa
Sentinel Rock-Thrush Monticola explorator
Knysna Turaco Tauraco corythaix
Southern Bald Ibis Geronticus calvus
Fiscal Flycatcher Sigelus silens
Grey-winged francolin Scleroptila africana
Swee Waxbill Coccopygia melanotis
Cape Weaver Ploceus capensis
Cape Grassbird Sphenoeacus afer
Black Harrier Circus maurus
Brown Scrub-Robin Erythropygia signata
Karoo Prinia Prinia maculosa
Cinnamon-breasted Warbler Euryptila subcinnamomea
Namaqua Warbler Phragmacia substriata

Useful Reading

Birds of Africa

A Complete Illustrated Field Guide to the Birds South of the Sahara by Ian Sinclair and Peter Ryan - 767 pages, 340 col plates, col illus, dist maps Paperback C Struik 2010

ISBN: 9781770076235

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Newman's Birds of Southern Africa

Kenneth Newman Paperback - 510 pages ( 1 January, 1999) Southern Book Publishers

ISBN: 1868127575

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Photographic Guide to Birds of Prey of Southern, Central and East Africa

David Allan, Peter Hayman (Illustrator) Paperback - 144 pages ( 1 November, 1996) New Holland Publishers (UK)

ISBN: 1868725219

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Sasol Birds of Southern Africa (4th Edition)

The Region's Most Comprehensively Illustrated Guide by Ian Sinclair, Phil Hockey, Warwick Tarboton and Peter Ryan | 464 pages, colour plates, distribution maps | published by C Struik | Softcover | 2011 | Edition: 4
See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781770079250

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Southern African Birdfinder

Where to find 1400 bird species in southern Africa and Madagascar Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Jonathan Rossouw 456 pages, 80 col photos, 100 maps, pull-out route map. New Holland Publishers 2006

ISBN: 1868727254

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Bradt Travel Guide: Southern African Wildlife

A Visitors Guide Mike Unwin Series: BRADT TRAVEL GUIDES 284 pages, col photos, maps. Bradt Travel Guides

See Fatbirder Review

ISBN: 9781841623474

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The ESKOM Red Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland

Edited by Keith N Barnes 169 pages, maps. BirdLife South Africa

ISBN: 0620254998

Buy this book from NHBS.com

The Important Bird Areas of Southern Africa

Edited by Keith Barnes. 1998. (BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg)

ISBN: 0620234237

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Watching Birds in Southern Africa

Kenneth Newman, Derek Soloman Paperback - 96 pages (1999) Southern Book Publishers

ISBN: 86424W 86426W

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

African Bird Club

Website

The Republic of South Africa, a large country boasting extraordinary natural history, is probably better known for apartheid, a fading legacy in a new democratic society. A popular destination for the birder interested in Africa's southern latitudes, South Africa's varied climate and topography has produced a variety of habitats that supports an astounding array of some 700 species, a large number of which are endemic or near-endemic. Ornithologically the country is well researched, which is evident from the excellent field and site finding guides available to birders. Coupled with a well developed infrastructure and a stable economy, South Africa must rank as one of Africa's prime birding destinations…

BirdLife

Website

P0 Box 515, Randburg, Johannesburg 2125. +27 11 7891122 info@birdlife.org.za
BirdLife.org.za is the official web portal of BirdLife South Africa, which represents close on 8000 birders in the subregion. The site provides news, events, rarity reports, competitions, bird ID quiz and opinion polls.

Also operate websites about selected birding groups… see: http://www.birdingroutes.co.za

MyBirdPatch - Bird monitoring everywhere

Website

South African patch watching…

South African Rarities Committee

No current listing for a website…

Museums

Animal Demography Unit

http://adu.org.za/

Animal Demography Unit, Deparment of Zoology, University of Cape Town - From 1 January 2008, the Avian Demography Unit (or the ADU for short) will become the Animal Demography Unit (still the ADU). What prompted this? Ever since the ADU initiated the frog atlas project a decade ago in 1998, there have been issues with the name Avian Demography Unit – “Why is the Avian Demography Unit doing the frog atlas?” This inconsistency has recently been heightened by our involvement with projects on reptiles (Southern African Reptile Conservation Assessment, effectively the reptile atlas), and with butterflies (Southern African Butterfly Conservation Assessment, the butterfly atlas), and with five postgraduate students doing PhD and MSc projects on seals, one on rare mammals in Namibia and even one on dwarf chameleons…

Avian Demography Unit (University of Cape Town)

http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/stats/adu/index.htm

Building on the nucleus of the South African Bird Ringing Unit (SAFRING) and the Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP); the Avian Demography Unit (ADU) was established in the Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, in December 1991. The ADU, always closely associated with BirdLife South Africa (formerly the Southern African Ornithological Society); entered into a formal partnership relationship with that organization during 1993 to foster the development of further ornithological projects. This close association is appropriate because the research of the ADU continues to focus on large-scale demographic studies in which participation by amateurs is a vital element.

Ornithology Department - National Museum

http://www.nasmus.co.za/departments/ornithology/introduction

National Museum, PO Box 266, Bloemfontein, 9300 SOUTH AFRICA
tel. +27 (0)51 4479609;
fax +27 (0)51 4476273
e-mail ornito@nasmus.co.za
National Museum: http://www.nasmus.co.za

Transvaal Museum

Bird Department's Information Cache - Would you like to ask one of us a bird question? Alan Kemp - specializes in hornbills and raptors but has a wide knowledge and much experience on all birdy topics; Tamar Cassidy - an expert in bird specimen collections and has good knowledge on the finer identification points of difficult birds; Richard Satekge - bird skin preperation.

University of Cape Town Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology

http://web.uct.ac.za/depts/fitzpatrick/

Welcome to The Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology on line! This web site provides an overview of what the Institute is about, study opportunities, including the Institute`s Conservation Biology Masters Programme, and current research themes and projects. You can also familiarise yourself with the staff and students of the Institute, and visit our hot links page for some useful and interesting websites.

Reserves

Diamond Birding Route

Website

The Diamond Birding Route is a partnership project between two Diamond companies and BirdLife South Africa and its mission is to maximise the potential of the rich and diverse natural resources of the Oppenheimer and De Beers properties to advance bird conservation, enhance environmental awareness and contribute to social development…

Gough Island Wildlife Reserve

Information

Satellite View

The spectacular cliffs, towering above the ocean, are home to one of the world`s largest colonies of sea birds…

South African National Parks

Website

The vision of the South African National Parks is that national parks will be the pride and joy of all South Africans. The mission of the South African National Parks is to acquire and manage a system of national parks that represent the indigenous wildlife, vegetation, landscapes and significant cultural assets of South Africa for the pride and benefit of the nation.

Trip Reports

CloudBirders

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.

2005 [November] - Chris Wormwell

Report

With easy access to pelagic birding off Cape Town, my passion for seabirds could be satiated and the large number of endemic land birds in the area made the Cape a must-visit. The next decision to be made was, should we just do the Cape area in our, albeit limiting, two weeks or perhaps include an area with different birdlife and animals? As Keren isn’t as keen on the birds as me, it was only fair that we included a visit to somewhere that would give us the drama of ‘big game’. Again the decision was a doddle. It had to be the Kruger National Park (KNP), arguably the best game park on the planet…

2006 [November] - John van der Woude

Report

Site guide etc…

2006 [November] - Kruger & Drakensberg

Report

…Unfortunately, there was no sign of the African Scops Owl despite searching possible roosting trees. After lunch, an hour's walk around camp produced further good views of Crested Barbet, African Black Flycatcher, Southern Black Tit, Violet-backed Starling, Diederik Cuckoo and Bennett's Woodpecker. At least one African Black Swift was amongst the large numbers of Little Swifts chittering overhead. The Sunset Drive (5pm - 8pm) produced good views of the 'usual' mammals, plus several pairs of Crowned Lapwings…

2006 [October] - Bo Beolens

Report

…the lanes around the village specifically to a spot where there are Broad-tailed Warbler which he taped out into the open for most of us to see; oddly Cape Grassbird also responded to the tape. In the area raptor sightings were confined to Yellow-billed and Black-shouldered Kites, Jackal Buzzard but we also saw our first Long-crested Eagles sitting on a telegraph pole close enough for photo silhouettes against the sky. In the fields there were also Fan-tailed, Red-collared and Long-tailed Widows, Cape Canary, White-throated Swallow, White-breasted Cormorant, Grey-crowned Crane and African Wattled Lapwing. He took us to a farm where he has regularly seen Black-bellied Korhaan and we got great views. Whilst looking for the Korhaan we also had a distant view of a magnificent Lanner Falcon…

2008 [October] - Glen Valentine

Report

Our 24 day Mega Endemics Birding tour around South Africa was nothing short of brilliant! We saw 91 South African endemics, near endemics and breeding endemics, 48 Southern African endemics and near endemics, a host of other wonderful birds and 59 species of mammal….

2008 [October] - Jan Pienaar

Report

After arrival at O.R Tambo International airport we left the hustle and bustle of the city and headed toward the quiet country town of Wakkerstroom….

2009 [October] - David Hoddinott

Report

Our record breaking trip total of 523 species in 24 days reflects the immense birding potential of South Africa. Whilst the focus of the tour was certainly the rich assemblage of Southern African endemics, we did not neglect the amazing diversity of mammals…

2010 - [September-October] David & Amanda Mason - South Africa:- Cape to Kruger and beyond

Report

South Africa has been on our wish list for a number of years. It’s such a big place, so narrowing down an itinerary which would enable us to see lots of birds, wildlife, flowers and still find time to relax and enjoy our holiday was quite a challenge. Our original agenda centred around Cape Town and the Kruger National Park, but when we started looking at logistics it soon became clear, if we were to make the most of one trip, we would need to clock up some mileage and stay for at least a month…

2010 [October] - Charley Hesse

Report

Some highlights of our trip included: coming face to face with the adorable African Penguins at Simon’s Town, finding Cape Rockjumper at Sir Lowry’s Pass, watching Southern Right Whales basking close to the coast at De Hoop Nature Reserve, eating our breakfast in Wilderness with the gorgeous Knysna Turaco just a few feet away…

2010 [October] - Mark Finn & Geoff Crane

Report

…The vast majority of the Cape’s specialty birds were observed including the uncommon and declining African Penguin, Bank Cormorant, Cape Rockjumper, Black Harrier, Black and Denham’s Bustards, Blue Crane, Knysa Woodpecker, Namaqua and Victorin’s Warblers and Cape Grassbird…

2011 [August] - Leon Marais – Cape to Kalahari

Report

Our second day began with an early departure for Rooi Els on the far side of False Bay. Being a weekend the traffic was light and we drove all the way around the bay via Muizenberg to Gordon’s Bay, where we took the incredibly scenic (but what part of the Cape isn’t?) drive along the coast, with the mountains of the Kogelberg Range rising up steeply on our left and the clear waters of the Atlantic crashing against the rocks on our right. We had a coffee stop on the way and then made our way to the holiday hamlet of Rooi Els (Red Elder in English) where we began our search for the Cape’s most sought-after bird, the endemic Cape Rockjumper. We took a walk down the dirt road below the steep slopes and then set up the scope and waited while patiently scanning the rocks for the birds. After a little while we caught sight of one, which was soon joined by a second bird, and were thrilled to have success…

2011 [December] - Markus Lilje

Report

On this very comprehensive tour through the eastern and south-western regions of South Africa, we covered much of the wide range of possible biomes, finding an astonishing 529 bird and 60 mammal species in the 19 days allotted to us – a new Rockjumper record for this particular tour!

2011 [November] - Athol Marchant

Report

On this tour we explored the fabulous eastern half of South Africa, including Kruger National Park, the teeming Zululand Game Reserves and the dramatic Drakensberg, before heading off to the endemic-rich Western Cape to round off our adventures…

2011 [October] - Athol Marchant

Report

A couple of us started the tour off on an unusually cool Johannesburg morning with Cape Robin-Chat, Cape Wagtail, Cape Sparrow and Cape Turtle Dove, followed by a Karoo Thrush and some distant Green Woodhoopoes around our B&B. We then set off north to the Pienaarsrivier area of dry thornveld north of Pretoria….

2011 [September] - Rainer Summers - South Africa’s Western & Northern Cape & Namibia

Report

The western half of southern Africa is an enthralling area that exhibits huge contrasts – scenically stunning Cape Town and its equally enthralling endemics, the rich oceanic waters off of Cape Point, and the semi-arid Northern Cape – that little-populated segment of South Africa more famous for its wilderness and wild animals than it is for its breath-taking beauty….

2012 [April] - Stephen Burch - South Africa (north east & south west)

Report

With a business trip to Durban, South Africa in April 2012, this was a great opportunity I could not resist for some birding and photography afterwards! Making a full week available after the business part of this trip, I decided to spend about half my time in the coastal areas north east of Durban which are semi-tropical and promised to be rich in birds…

2012 [February] - Jan Pienaar

Report

On this comprehensive tour of South Africa we explored much of what our great country has to offer – from the vast plains and savannahs of the world-renowned Kruger National Park, the upland grasslands around Wakkerstroom and the mountains and forests of Kwa-Zulu Natal, the teeming west coast and a pelagic birding adventure, this tour was certainly not short of diversity! In the end we managed to find 478 bird species and 50 species of mammal, making it a very successful and enjoyable tour for everyone involved…

2012 [July] – Glen Valentine

Report

This 19 day tour of eastern and south-west South Africa took us to many of the country’s best birding and wildlife sites and delivered a wealth of highly desirable species, many of which are endemic. The trip scored an impressive 436 species of birds and 59 mammals…

2012 [March] - Leon Marais - Eastern South Africa & Swaziland

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Raptor quest! After meeting up for coffee at 05h15 we left camp in the vehicles and headed north-east into the Mavumbye Plains (below right), a region of productive grasslands on the Basalt Soils. Our target birds of Common Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Chestnut-Backed Sparrowlark were seen, as well as numerous other species and incredible numbers of certain birds such as Red-billed Quealea and Wattled Starling. We could hear the chirping of hundreds of thousands of chicks in a massive Quealea colony some distance off to the south of the S90 dirt road, over which was the most incredible congregation of eagles - most probably Lesser-spotted (identified in flight), Steppe and Tawny Eagles, perhaps several hundred birds in total and truly something to behold…

2013 [August] - Andrew Stainthorpe - Eastern

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…The following morning saw us exploring the riches of the Kruger National Park, with Brown-headed Parrot, Green Wood Hoopoe, Golden-breasted Bunting, Lilac-breasted and Purple Rollers, plus a group of Red-billed Oxpeckers searching Buffalo for some tasty morsels being some of the early morning highlights….

2013 [August] - Andrew Stainthorpe - Western

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…This did not disappoint and we found hundreds of moulting Black-necked Grebes, had good sightings of Greater Flamingo, Cape Teal, Southern Pochard, Cape Shoveler, Great White Pelican and a distant view of a Maccoa Duck. A few raptors were also about including a pair of African Fish Eagles, quartering African Marsh Harrier, hovering Black-winged Kite and a well-seen Jackal Buzzard. Some of the reedbeds around the ponds produced Little Rush and Lesser Swamp W arblers, Levaillant’ s Cisticola, African Swamphen and Black Crake…

2013 [August] - Peregrine Bird Tours

Report

…We punctuated the long drive by frequent roadside birding stops, where we saw a large and varied selection of birds. By far the longest and most productive birding stops were at two fairly large lakes, situated on the outskirts of Johannesburg. With great excitement, we began observing a host of wetland birds, which included Little Grebe, Great and Reed Cormorants, Sacred Ibis, Greater Flamingo, Spur-winged and Egyptian Geese, Yellow-billed and Maccoa Ducks, Southern Pochard, Cape Shoveler, Red-billed Teal, Eurasian Moorhen, Red-knobbed Coot, Blacksmith Lapwing and African Snipe. Other new birds at the lakes included Speckled Pigeon, Cape Turtle-Dove, Laughing Dove, Pied Kingfisher, Southern Fiscal, Brown-throated Martin, Cape Sparrow, Southern Red Bishop, Long-tailed Widowbird, Cape Longclaw and our only Black-throated Canaries of the tour…

2013 [July] - Andrew Stainthorpe

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…a few more birds to our ever-growing list, including Common Ostrich, Natal and Swainson’s Spurfowls, Lizard Buzzard, Tawny Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, Red-crested Korhaan, Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Magpie Shrike and Burchell’s Starling…

Guides & Tour Operators

Absolute Birding

Tour Operator

My name is Sean de Nobrega and welcome to Absolute Birding ! Absolute Birding was founded on my passion for nature and its conservation. I am at my happiest when I am somewhere in nature away from the madding crowds appreciating what comes naturally. I have travelled Southern Africa extensively in search of the very best spots to see all sorts of animal life especially birds. Let me share my passion for all things wild with you…

African Adrenalin

Tour Operator

A tour company (the site is not that good and not easy to navigate unless you already know exactly what you want to do) specialising in Southern African trips. They do do some specialised wildlife trips including one pelagic.

Aves Birding Tours

Tour Operator

Aves Birding Tours offers simply the ultimate in Birding. With 98 endemic and 62 near endemic bird species, it is no wonder that Southern Africa should be at the top of any international birder's list. More than 800 spectacular bird species to be seen whilst enjoying the rich botanical heritage, extensive wildlife and vast scenic beauty. The First World infrastructure, fine food and wine and great hospitality, makes it a must-visit destination.

Avian Leisure Tours

Tour Operator

Essentially our business is organising birding and wildlife tours throughout South Africa - tailored to individual interests and requirements: both fully guided and self drive trips or a combination of self drive & guides in certain places. Patrick has an in depth knowledge of the country and puts together itineraries that are optimised for an individual client's requirements - minimising distances required to travel in one day and using accommodation in or near to the best birding localities. We do not run set departure tours (unless on behalf of another tour operator). Our focus is on small groups (between 2 and 6 ideally). We also run a self catering birder friendly guest house in Cape Town which is a convenient place for birders to stay whilst in the Cape, but this does not necessarily have to be part of the birders itinerary…

Birding Africa

Tour Operator

Birding Africa is run by three Capetonian birders and naturalists, Callan Cohen, Claire Spottiswoode and Peter Ryan, all based at the University of Cape Town`s Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology. Callan and Claire are postgraduate research students, and have recently published an new birding site guide to Cape Town and beyond: Essential Birding - Western South Africa. Peter is a lecturer and researcher, and the author of numerous publications, most recently a new field guide to the birds of Afrotropics.

Birding Ecotours

Tour Operator

This epic tour consists of two legs: (1) 12-day Western Cape Tour - more endemic birds than anywhere else in Africa and pelagic trips off Cape Town rank amongst the finest in the world. (2) 16-day Subtropical Tour - huge numbers of bird species are seen as well as a plethora of endemics, including a great number of birds restricted to the imposing Drakensberg escarpment. Please contact us for more tours that are run in South Africa.

Birding Pal

Information

Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Birding Voyages

Tour Operator

Upon departure from Tristan da Cunha bound for Cape Town, RMS St. Helena will sail around Inaccessible and Nightingale Islands to view the abundant bird life and detour to the remote southern outpost of Gough Island, 200 miles to the south east.

BirdWatch Cape

Tour Operator

BirdWatch Cape specialises in birdwatching tours in Cape Town and the South African dry west and also acts as agents for birding tours in other parts of South Africa. Established in 1997, BirdWatch Cape has introduced over 500 visitors to South Africa to the diverse and interesting bird variety offered in the South African dry west. From Cape Town to the Kalahari, deep into the endemic rich Karoo and down to the forests of the Garden Route our aim is to optimise your visit to this fascinating and underrated part of the natural world…

Indicator Birding

Tour Operator

With over 20 years of birding experience throughout Southern Africa, Etienne Marais will be your host and guide, on a birding tour of note! Tours are designed to maximise your specific birding objectives, and you can be sure of a big list. Typically we make all arrangements, according to your requirements…

Lawsons

Tour Operator

As Southern Africa is so diverse, with a great number of vastly different habitats, the birdlife is considerable. This makes the sub-region a popular birdwatching destination with over 900 species on the list. Lawson`s plan and run tailormade guided birdwatching tours for small groups throughout the sub-region. Most trips are led by Peter Lawson who is a highly experienced specialist tour guide. His knowledge and ability at finding and identifying difficult species is well known by birders from various parts of the globe. When Peter is not available to personally lead tours we engage the services of other knowledgeable registered guides and we have a good reputation for our expertise. P O BOX 16849, NELSPRUIT, 1200 SOUTH AFRICA

Lifers and Twitchers Birding Tours

Tour Operator

We have been birding for over 20 years, an activity that has given us much pleasure, especially in South Africa where even those who have been birding for many years can go to a new region and clock up more “lifers”. The South African climate is generally warm, so birding is pleasant even in the early mornings and evenings. Having been involved in the South African travel/tourism industry for many years and, being keen outdoors people, we have developed an excellent knowledge of the country’s natural history (including birds) and know which regions and places will give tourists the best possible nature-based experience…

Merlan Adventure Tours

Tour Operator

The people of the region carry a proud heritage of endeavour, wealth and traditions and the cultural diversity of it`s tribal and western civilizations are united to celebrate the African Century. The wildlife of our subcontinent is legendary and this, combined with our scenic beauty and cultural heritage makes Southern Africa a place of renewal and a sanctuary for the soul.

NtabaTours

Tour Operator

Birding tours across S Africa…

Rockjumper

Tour Operator

Our tours are intended for birders who wish to spend most or all of their holiday time birding. To optimise the increased bird activity in the cooler morning hours, an average day on tour usually begins before sunrise and frequently ends well after sunset with a night drive in search of nocturnal birds and mammals, although we often take a rest during the heat of the day. We try, where possible, to divide the day`s activities into optional sections, allowing participants greater freedom and flexibility. Whilst the hours are often rigorous, most Rockjumper tours are not physically strenuous, requiring no more than moderate fitness. Less focused itineraries can be planned for groups who wish to concentrate on the cultural or other wildlife aspect of the countries in which we offer tours (although in no way are these ignored on our standard itineraries.)

SA Tours & Safaris Ltd

Tour Operator

We design travel and safari packages into all the national parks and game reserves in Southern Africa. This includes birding tours and packages…

Safariwise

Tour Operator

SafariWise is an eco-tourism operator based in South Africa. We have been operating specialised and personal guided and self-drive tours throughout southern Africa since 1992…

Tropical Birding

Tour Operator

We are an innovative and rapidly-growing company offering superb birding tours to many tropical destinations throughout the world. One of the things that sets us apart is our commitment to protecting the same birds that we love to show our clients. We are running several tours in conjuction with BirdLife International where we will donate half, or in a few cases ALL of the profits to bird conservation!

Zest for Birds

Tour Operator

We specialise in extended birding tours throughout South Africa as well as guided birding day trips in the Western Cape targeting all the endemic and near endemic species. These trips are designed either to maximise the number of species our client can see or to chase their specific target birds. All trips are led by highly experienced guides to ensure you get the most out of the time you have available.

Places to Stay

Farmstay

Accommodation

Agri South Africa`s 40,000 commercial and 30,000 small scale farmers proudly present this fully electronic gateway to agricultural and ecotourism in South Africa. Click around and discover the wide variety of farmstays and activities on farms and in rural areas offering quality facilities in attractive yet unconventional surroundings and at tariffs you can afford - bed and breakfast, self-catering, game viewing, bird watching, hiking, biking, 4x4 routes, fly-fishing, horse riding, and many more…

Forums & Mailing Lists

SABirdNet

Mailing List

To post to list: sabirdnet@lists.ukzn.ac.za

List contact: Jnorman@ukzn.ac.za

Discussion Group South Africa - see website to join…

Zulubird

To post to list: zulubird@yahoogroups.com

To subscribe to list: zulubird-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.

Birdlife Zululand and the Zululand Birding Route has just established a new e-mail based forum for the area called Zulubird. The Zulubird forum is an email group where birders from around Zululand can correspond with the whole group by posting an e-mail message to the forum.

Blogs

The '800 Challenge' - Southern Africa

Blog

Mark Kirk's challenge… 800 species targeted in the Southern African region in a single calendar year (2013)

Other Links

Accipiters of Southern Africa

Website

Dedicated to the Goshawks, Sparrowhawks and related species of Southern Africa…

BirdInfo

Website

BirdInfo is Run by two enthusiastic Zululand birder/photographers, Guy Upfold and Hugh Chittenden. With their passion for birds and photography, a website like BirdInfo seemed like a great way to share photographs and birding experiences, and with the participation of other birders in the region, it promises to be a very exciting project. It will essentially remain a non-commercial site that we hope will not only attract contributions (photographic and text), but will update birders on forthcoming events, new publications, conservation concerns and of course general bird news…

BirdLife South Africa Avitourism - Birding Routes

Website

The objective of BirdLife South Africa’s avitourism division is to provide domestic and international birders with a one-stop resource to enjoying birding in South Africa. The avitourism division is however not only an information provider. Under the umbrellas of the different birding routes we have become involved in a number of different conservation and community initiatives with the aim of having a positive impact upon the environments and communities that we work in…

Birds of Southern Africa

Website

South Africa is home to more than 500 bird species of which only a few can be presented in this travel guide. Among them are migratory birds like the African Hoopoe, minute nectar birds like the Collared Sunbird, colourful Redbreasted Robins like the Green Twinspot, roller birds like the Lilac-Breasted Roller, innumerable birds of prey like the Martial Eagle, exotic cranes like the Crowned Crane…

Birdwatching info for Southern Africa

Website

A very good developing site - worth dipping into.
PLANNED CONTENTS OF THIS SITE - CURRENT ISSUES Preparing for Birding Big Day? What`s new - recent additions. What is bird watching? - birding skills and types of birder. Southern African Birds A guide to the birds of the region, including specials, photographs and checklists. Birding links - finding birder information - regional organisations, links and worldwide web resources. Where to watch birds in Southern Africa - best birding places, trip reports & site checklists. Bird watching resources - Fieldguides, Birdsound products, software and links to on-line shopping. Birder Travel - Guides, Tour Companies & travel information.

Bushwillow

Website

What started as a dream and a love for the outdoors became a reality for Carole and Mike Bridgeford when they first opened the doors of Bushwillow - in February 1990. The shops, named after the combretum family of trees, are nature conservation retail outlets closely associated with the Endangered Wildlife Trust, to which a proportion of sales are donated. Over and above Endangered Wildlife Trust regalia, the Bushwillow outlets sell all items associated with birding and animal watching, including field books, videos, tapes and CDs. There`s an excellent range of outdoor clothing and a large selection of gift items. We also stock Birdlife SA regalia. Bushwillow - run by people who enjoy and appreciate the great outdoors! Browse around and become part of the Bushwillow experience.

Pictures of South African Wildlife

Website

Another site with some terrific bird pictures

South African Birding

Website

This site is about birds and birding in South Africa and the Southern African region, including Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho, and Zambia. The region`s best birding sites are featured under Birding Spots, together with birding resources under Bird guides, tours and Accommodation. The latest rare bird sightings are posted on our Twitchers Tales page, What`s On highlights major events, and Birding Organisations puts you in touch with other birders and organisations working towards bird conservation. Some stunning pictures too!

Southern African Bird Atlas Project 2

Website

Mapping the distribution and abundance of birds in South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland…

Southern African Birds

Website

Welcome to Birdz, my South African Amateur Bird Photo page. The aim of this site is to try and assemble photographs of every South African bird species…

Webcam at SA Game Reserve

Website

Live streaming video of Flamingos…

Zest for Birds

Website

This site's aim is to provide an up to date resource centre which will appeal to all birders, whether you are a beginner starting out and hoping to find out more about this fascinating pastime or an avid twitcher working on augmenting your life list. We will provide general information on both land based and pelagic birding and will also keep you up to date with all the latest news and views of the birding world.

Zululand Birding Route

Website

A unique self-guided birding route in Southern Zululand. The Zululand Birding Route offers a range of great birding localities, with expert local guides and diverse accommodation.

Photographers & Artists

Photographer - Per Holmen - Per’s Birding Pages

Gallery

Per Holmen's Photos of birds of Southern Africa… Welcome to Per’s Birding Pages. On this site you will find a collection of my bird pictures and my trip reports in Southern Africa. There will also soon be a few birds posted from my home country Norway…

Photographers - Russell & Rina Warren

Gallery

Russell and Rina Warren’s bird pictures, mostly of South African species…