Gauteng is is smallest province of South Africa, and, as the industrial heartland of South Africa, much habitat is degraded. The province does however offer high bird diversity, as it straddles the transition between several different biomes. Approximately 350 species are regularly present, and many more have been recorded. Gauteng province offers the visitor 60 endemic species or near endemics to the Southern African Region, which can make a short birding foray very worthwhile for global twitchers with limited time.
Gauteng lies on the continental watershed, and much of the province is at relatively high altitude (1000 – 1600m). This is part of a wider region known as the highveld. The east and south is largely grasslands, with the Suikerbosrand range being a key feature of the southern section. These grasslands are largely degraded through agriculture, but a range of grassland endemics and specials are still present, especially in the Suikerbosrand reserve, and to a lesser extent along the eastern border of the province. The Magaliesburg is a prominent ridge that runs westwards from Pretoria-east. North of the Magaliesburg range, and in the valleys of the west and north-west part of the province, it is much warmer and woodlands and wooded valleys prevail. The best woodlands are the acacia thornveld of the northern parts of the province and broadleaved woodlands in the northeast. A number of significant wetlands and large water bodies provide for a good range of water birds, and up to 17 species of herons are possible! The most important of the wetlands is the Blesbokspruit – an extensive wetland near Nigel in the southeast of the province.
While there is no reason for birders to restrict themselves to birding just in the Gauteng Province, it does contain a number of excellent birding localities, so is well worth a visit.
Gauteng is a common stopover for business travellers or conference-goers, and while the localities below can provide a fine birding interlude, it is best to venture a little further into neighbouring North-west Province for really excellent bushveld birding. Top localities nearby include Vaalkop Dam (Northwest Bird Sanctuary); Borakolalo National Park and Pilanesburg in the North-West Province, Nylsvley Nature Reserve and Zaagkuildrift in the Northern Province, and Loskop Dam Nature Reserve in Mpumalanga. There is also superb highveld birding some three hours drive away in the Memel or Wakkerstroom areas – both of which offer a range of grassland endemics.
Marievale Bird Sanctuary
This sanctuary is part of the Blesbokspruit, a RAMSAR wetland, and it contains the best wetland birding in the region. It is known for regional rarities such as Slaty Egret, Baillon’s Crake and Painted Snipe as well as endemics such as Cape Shoveler, Yellow Canary and South African Shelduck.
This relatively unknown area offers a wide variety of woodland habitats, including very fine broadleaved woodland that is host to a number of specials. The area is good for raptors such as African Baza, Lizard Buzzard and Black-breasted Snake Eagle. Most local birders come here for woodland specials such a Green-capped Eremomela, Tinkling Cisticola and Pallid Flycatcher. The area also offers the Roodeplaat Dam and neighbouring reserves, as well as the Buffelsdrift Conservancy area, which offers a range of excellent thornveld and riverine birding.
Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve
A very fine, pristine patch of highveld grassland and rugged hills, the Suikerbosrand reserve is the best place to see a range of specialities, some of which are found nowhere else in the province. These include Grey-winged Francolin, Yellow-tufted Pipit and in Winter, Sentinel Rock Thrush.
This range of hills which runs parallel to the larger magaliesburg provides a mix of highveld grassland, partially wooded (bushveld) and more densely wooded habitats. Several relatively undisturbed areas provide haven for large raptors such as Martial Eagle and rivers conceal African Finfoot. There are a number of private reserves, hiking trails and picnic spots in this scenic area, which extends for the town of Magaliesburg in the west to the Schurveburge just west of Pretoria.
Number of endemics: 60 South Africa endemics or near endemics
Fieldguides & Cds etc.
See the main South Africa page of Fatbirder…
The Chamberlain Guide to Birding Gauteng
101 Prime Birding Sites in and Around Johannesburg and Pretoria by Faansie Peacock & Etienne Marais Mirafra Publishing 2009
ISBN: 0620416211Buy this book from NHBS.com
BirdLife Northern Gauteng
Formerly the Pretoria Bird Club….
Doorndraai Dam Nature Reserve
The reserve includes the large Doondraai dam and is set amidst hilly country south west of Potgietersrus. It is about 60 km from Naboomspruit. It's main attractions are good camping facilities and the freedom and space to walk unhindered to a wide variety of habitats. Game viewing can also be good, although summer weekends around the main campsite can be quite busy…
Treehaven Waterfowl Trust
Situated 3km from Vereeniging, Gauteng, South Africa, and only a 45 minute drive from Sandton, Johannesburg, Treehaven Waterfowl Trust is an oasis comprising 30 acres of specially developed wetlands dedicated to the world's waterfowl. What you can see: All 16 species of South African ducks, 124 species of exotic ducks, geese and swans, Over 70 species of wild water birds that visit TWT regularly, Flamingos, All 3 South African crane species, which form part of a captive breeding program, for release into the wild, and beautiful gardens.
Guides & Tour Operators
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.
Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area…
Etienne Marais (see above) leads short tours in the Gauteng and surrounding areas, and is available to lead customised trips in the area.
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.
2013 [05 May] - Martin Birch - Korsman Conservancy
2015 [09 September] - Dylan Vasapolli - Zaagkuilsdrift & Wakkerstroom
We had a beautiful (but warm) day up north, with many of the acacia/western specials being found (Ashy Tit, Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Shaft-tailed Whydah, and Red-headed Weaver). However, the weather severely hampered us around Wakkerstroom, with incredibly cold conditions, rain, thick fog, and lots of wind over the entire time we were present there. That being said, we got virtually all of the major target around the area, Yellow-breasted Pipit, Rudd’s and Botha’s Larks, Blue Korhaan, Blue and Grey Crowned Cranes, Grey-winged Francolin, etc.
2015 [12 December] - Birding Ecotours
2016 [09 September] - Wian van Zyl - Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve
It was a day well spent in the well-known Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, and, known among birders, Marievale Bird Sanctuary. The fact that we did the tour in two separate vehicles made the birding challenging at times, but nonetheless we managed to record a total of 107 species for the day, finding a good amount of specials for the area. We also managed to find seven mammal species, which all resulted in a good, successful day out birding in the Johannesburg area.
Places to Stay
2 Mokolo offers an intimate respite from the hustle of the city. Entering the gates, you’ll imagine yourself in a country retreat. It’s hard to believe you’re a mere 4.5km from the heart of busy Sandton. The house embraces a Highveld ‘koppie’, set amid a rambling array of indigenous trees and plants. Bird life, of course, is found in profusion here: A breeding pair of Cape Glossy Starlings protect their turf from the marauding Burchells’ Coucal, while the leisurely preening of the doves and sparrows is disturbed by a Little Sparrowhawk swooping in for the kill…
Crane's Nest Guest House
Situated adjacent the Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary, this Guest House offers guests on business or holiday easy access to a Nature Paradise or to the Brooklyn Shopping Mall. Hospitality is second nature at Crane's Nest. We know the art of tranquil living and offer you this with the perfect surroundings…
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…
The Manor - Sandton
Awaken after a peaceful night's sleep to the glorious sound of birdsong. If you can bear to leave the comfort of your bed, you might make yourself a cup of tea or coffee and sit out on your patio in time to see the rising sun immerse heaven and earth in colour…
…book your stay at the Tilodi Wilderness for an unforgetful bird watching experience in the Heart of the Bushveld…
Sasol Bird Fair
The Sasol Bird Fair will be held on 5 and 6 September 2015 at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden in Roodepoort, Gauteng. The annual Sasol Bird Fair provides a superb opportunity to create awareness about birds, bird research and conservation, and the bird conservation organisations, like BirdLife South Africa, who work tirelessly to conserve our country's birds. BirdLife South Africa is very grateful to Sasol for sponsoring this important event, and for SANBI and the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden for hosting the Fair.
The Transvaal Museum's Bird Division that forms part of the Vertebrate Section, is the largest museum-based ornithological facility in South Africa. It houses the second largest ornithological collection in Southern Africa, and has a staff of one curator, one collection manager, and one preparator…
Ernst's Birding - Ernst Retief
A BLOG about anything related to my birding experiences - I am passionate about birds and their conservation. I love to contribute to bird monitoring projects - to me that is birding with a real purpose. I contributed to numerous bird monitoring projects as for instance bird riging, BIRP, PCC, Natworld and SABAP2 to name a few. I am also a proud member of Birdlife Northern-Gauteng and the Regional Co-ordinator for the second South-African Bird Atlas Project…
The Lazy Birder
I am a South African birder living in the south of Pretoria in the province of Gauteng. The reason I thought of this name for my blog is that I really love birds and birding but the thought of getting in my car and driving off at 2 or even 4a.m. to get to a prime birding site by first light is enough to make me roll over and go back to sleep. This means that most weekends I end up birding in the garden or some local park that I can get to in 5 to 10 minutes, which is not always bad…….I mean I have had species like Southern Whitefaced Owl, Little Bittern and Ovambo Sparrowhawk right in my back yard. What I hope to achieve with this blog is to share some of the birds I have seen on my weekend and holiday trips with my friends and family….
Niall's Nature Pages
A site dedicated to birds and other things natural, concentrating on Southern Africa but encompassing other parts of the globe as I visit them…
Photographers & Artists
Webcam - Allen BirdCam
Welcome to our South African garden! With the Allen BirdCam you can witness many different garden birds feed all day long. The Allen BirdCam is placed in our Pretoria (Tshwane) suburban garden, and allows us to share with you all the fun of watching so many birds…