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Eastern Cape

Orange-breasted Sunbird Anthobaphes violacea ©Stephen Hammer Website

Roughly defined, the Eastern Cape is the part of South Africa which lies east of the 30 degree east line of longitude and south of the 30 degree 30 minute line of latitude.

A coastline, rocky in parts but with many sandy beaches, arid semi-desert scrub, grasslands, forests and large tracts of cultivated lands in some areas gives the Eastern Cape a wide mosaic of habitats. In consequence, the bird list for the province is well in excess of 450!

The climate is mild with temperatures seldom below freezing and, except for the interior, seldom rising above 35 degrees Celsius. The southern coast and its immediate interior forms part of the winter rainfall region of South Africa; the rest of the region receiving its rain mainly in summer.

The main towns in the region are Port Elizabeth and East London, both coastal, and Graaff-Reinet, Cradock and Queenstown in the interior. Roads between these and other larger towns are tarred. Most of the minor roads are gravel surfaced.

Top Sites

Cape Recife Nature Reserve, Port Elizabeth


Satellite View

This reserve is situated on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth and is one of the best seabird sites in the province. There is a large tern roost which, in summer, can boast Common, Swift (Great Crested); Caspian, Sandwich and Roseate Terns and Kelp Gulls. The rare Damara Tern, endemic to Southern Africa, is often present and Antarctic Tern visit in good numbers June to August. White-fronted Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones and Whimbrels all feed along the water's edge. African (Jackass) Penguin can sometimes be seen just off-shore and, when a strong south-easterly wind is blowing, albatrosses and petrels can be seen from the shore. The rocks just metres off-shore often hold large numbers of Cape Cormorant, White-breasted Cormorant.

Included in the reserve is one of the city's sewerage disposal works and a hide has been built at one of the settling ponds. Kelp and Grey-headed Gulls can be well seen from the hide, along with Pied and Malachite Kingfishers, Cape Wagtails, Purple Gallinules, Yellow-billed Ducks and an occasional African Marsh Harrier.

Mondplaas Ponds - Gamtoos River Mouth


Satellite View

Situated some 60 kilometres west of Port Elizabeth, the ponds are a short distance inland from the Gamtoos River mouth. A good place for waterfowl with four or five species of duck usually present. Other water birds include Darter, two cormorant species, Purple and Grey Herons, Purple Gallinule (Swamphen); Black Crake, African Rail and the occasional African Jacana.The river mouth, approximately 10 kilometres away by road, has a large mudbank which holds many migrant waders in summer. Red Knot, Terek Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Curlew and African Black Oystercatcher are among the species to be seen. The adjacent dunes are a good site for Eurasian Hobby in the summer.

These two sites have, from time to time, produced some most unexpected birds such as the Citrine Wagtail (the third record for Africa as a whole) and Garganey.The farm lands and bush along the road between these spots is good birding country and species such as Bokmakierie, Southern Boubou (Shrike), Southern Tchagra, Bar-throated Apalis, Stanley's Bustard, Glossy Starling and Pied Starling might be seen.

Mountain Zebra National Park


Satellite View

This National Park was proclaimed primarily to protect the few remaining Cape Mountain Zebra (Equus zebra). It is situated about 15 kilometres south-west of Cradock in what is known locally as the Karoo, a semi-arid area of grass and scrub with cold winters and hot summers. This is a good place to get to grips with the larks and chats of the dry areas. Long-billed, Large-billed, Spike-heeled, Red-capped and Eastern Clapper Larks are particularly obvious in the spring (August to November) when breeding is in full swing. Familiar and Sickle-winged Chats are plentiful. Other dry country birds include Cape Penduline Tit, Acacia Pied Barbet, Cardinal Woodpecker, Fairy Flycatcher, Red-winged Starling and a host of others can be seen. The list for the park is over 200 species, a good proportion of them being resident. Other interesting birds include Layard's Tit-babbler, Dusky Sunbird, Pale-winged Starling, Namaqua and Rufous-eared Warblers and Cape Rock Thrush.

Naude's Nek Pass


Satellite View

Naudesnek Pass, peaking at 2 740 metres, is the highest mountain pass in South Africa. This area, together with the adjacent areas of Lesotho, gives some of the best opportunities to see Orange-breasted Rockjumper, Drakensberg Siskin, Lammergeier and Mountain Pipit; three species with highly restricted ranges. Other species of interest are Barratt's Warbler, Black (Verreaux's) Eagle, Cape Vulture, Greywing Francolin and Rock Pipit. Ground Woodpeckers are common. Yellow-breasted Pipits occur on the eastern side of the pass but are not at all common.The villages of Rhodes on the west and Maclear on the east provide both accommodation and easy access to the pass itself.


Dave Brown

Port Elizabeth


Useful Reading

Filedguides & Cds etc.

See the main South Africa page of Fatbirder…

Useful Information

Tourist Information

Tourism (Port Elizabeth) P O Box 357 Port Elizabeth 6000 South Africa

Eastern Cape Tourism Board P O Box 1161 Port Elizabeth 6000 South Africa


BirdLife Eastern Cape

P O Box 27454
Port Elizabeth 6045
South Africa

Cape Bird Club


The site has some general info about birds and birding in Cape Province as well as a gallery and other useful info.


Abbreviations Key

Addo Elephant National Park


Satellite View

Deep within the shadows of the dense valley bushveld of the Sundays River region of the Eastern Cape lies the Addo Elephant National Park. Here, the evenings are punctuated by the strident howl of the black-backed jackal, and the francolin's call heralds each new dawn…

Lammergeier Private Nature Reserve


Satellite View

Lammergeier Private Nature Reserve invites you to pamper your soul in 8000 hectares of the most beautiful scenery in Africa. A proud heritage of being awarded several conservation awards through the reserves history, ensures the survival of endemic bird and game and the future of a unique African heritage…

Mountain Zebra National Park


Satellite View

Verreaux's (Black) and Martial Eagle and Jackal Buzzard soar impressively over this mountain habitat. Pale-winged Starling is very conspicuous on the mountain plateau, where Ostrich, Secretarybird, Blue Crane and Ludwig's Bustard are the larger more visible species. Grey-winged Francolin, Ground Woodpecker, Large-billed (Thick-billed) and Eastern Long-billed Lark, Cape and Sentinel Rock-Thrush, Mountain Wheatear (Chat) and Orange-breasted Rockjumper should also be searched for, while Pink-billed Lark and African Rock Pipit are less common…



Shamwari is the Southernmost, Big Game, private reserve in Africa - MALARIA FREE. This ultimate African adventure stretches along the Bushman`s river, halfway between Port Elizabeth and Grahamstown, and forms a natural extension to the famous Garden Route and Cape Town. The 14000 hectare game reserve is steeped in Settler history, and dates back to the time when game roamed freely in the Eastern Cape. Shamwari is about conserving a vanishing way of life, and has been awarded a number of International awards for it`s efforts in conservation coupled with tourism. Shamwari is an African dream. A game reserve in which a multitude of plant, animal and birdlife unfold the very soul of an untamed continent, along with the most luxurious means of experiencing your safari holiday. Shamwari`s highly trained game rangers, with skilled service staff will ensure a memorable adventure, personalised to your needs. In keeping with it`s conservation policy, Shamwari has a complete wildlife research team as well as it`s own anti poaching unit, ensuring an ecological balance prevails on this reclaimed piece of wilderness.

Sibuya Game Reserve


Satellite View

Sibuya Game Reserve covers more than 2000 hectares and incorporates the unique East Cape Valley Bushveld, Grasslands and Coastal Forests. Antelope abound, including the rare Bontebok and Oribi. Giraffe and Zebra silhouetted against an Indian Ocean backdrop complete a truly memorable picture…

Tsitsikamma National Park


Satellite View

Birding in Tsitsikamma offers a variety in choice of habitat. There is the open shoreline as typified by the environment at Storms River Rest Camp. There is the more sheltered water ways of the Nature's Valley Lagoon and the Groot River. There is the forest experience of the Tsitsikamma Forest. Then there is the mountain fynbos one can explore in the Tsitsikamma Mountains in the Soetkraal section…

Guides & Tour Operators

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

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 Pal


Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…

Dr A P Martin


(Registered Guide) can be reached at the above email address.


Tour Operator

Our home country of South Africa is quite simply one of the most pleasurable destinations in which to bird and travel, offering exceptional value for money along with world-class infrastructure. In addition, South Africa boasts the most endemic bird species of any African country, while a rich seabird assemblage and vast numbers of more widespread, yet no less spectacular, African birds and large mammals occur. Add to this the rich botanical heritage, fine food and wines, friendly people and the scenic splendor of Africa’s most varied country, and it’s not hard to see why South Africa is our most popular destination…

Shaun Peard


Occasional pelagics from East London

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.

2009 [11 November] - Honeyguide - South Africa’s Garden Route and Addo Elephant National Park



2011 [05 May] - Per Holmen


We landed in PE around 07:30 and headed straight for Cape Recife. Our main target here was Bridled Tern (both), Franklin´s Gull (Per) and Roseate Tern (Wilna). Our spirits were quite high since Justin Nicolau reported seeing the Franklin´s Gull the day before and had some fantastic pictures to prove it. The weather were not on our side. Quite strong wind and a little rain….

Places to Stay

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

Accommodation in Eastern Cape


List of accommodation by town.



Excellent birding opportunities on farms and in rural areas 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…

Walkabouts Inn


A number of rare species can be seen in the Highlands and Walkerbouts is an ideal venue from which enthusiasts can venture into the mountains to seek their next tick. The network of roads from Rhodes places one in ideal locations to view these specialities. Orange-breasted rock-jumpers and Ground woodpeckers on the concrete pass in the Carlisleshoekspruit. Drakensberg siskins and Sickle wings on the plateau on the Naudesnek Pass route. Black harriers on the Ben McDhui plateau. Bearded vultures in the Donkerhoek vicinity and many more…


Aliwal Birdblog


This blog is dedicated to birding and atlasing in the Aliwal North area in central South Africa. Sometimes the area can even be stretched a little further, to include other areas as well. I want to share my birding passion, my own analyses of observations and my contribution to SABAP2 with you. Feel free to visit regularly and to comment on the contents…

Photographers & Artists

Wildlife Photographer - Matthijs Ravensberg


Born & raised in the Netherland, my passion for wildlife photography was first awakened while studying in South Africa. This will probably not come as too much a surprise to anyone, as SA is teeming with national parks and large mammals…