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Limpopo

KlaassCuckoo
Klaas's Cuckoo Chrysococcyx klaas ©Stephen Hammer Website

Birding Limpopo

The Limpopo Province, with its vast unexplored areas and diverse habitats, offers one of the most exciting birding destinations in Southern Africa. Habitats range from vast tracts of montane grassland to afro-temperate forests, bushveld and wetlands. There have been over 600 species recorded in the province to date.

The Eastern Escarpment (including Magoebaskloof) and the Soutpansberg mountain range create relief in the landscape which allows for the development of afro-temperate forests, with Cape Parrot, Black-fronted Bush-Shrike, Barratt's Warbler, Yellow-streaked Greenbul, and Orange Ground Thrush. While the eastern lower slopes and valleys of Magoebaskloof provide reliable sites for the elusive Bat Hawk and Green Twinspot.

The lowland rivers such as the Limpopo, Levubu and Letaba rivers form corridors for species normally associated with coastal forests with birds such as Mottled Spinetail, Lemon-breasted Canary, Pel's Fishing Owl and White-fronted Plover on them.

Nylsvley is one of the best known wetlands in South Africa and due to its importance for birds has been declared a RAMSAR site. The area has over 365 bird species recorded, with 104 of these being water birds. The flood plain is inundated every two to four years and when it floods, several rare and endangered water birds breed here. All three of the bittern species occur and breed here and all of the southern African herons have been recorded here. The largest recorded breeding concentrations in South Africa of Great Egret, Black Heron, Squacco Heron and Black-crowned Night Heron occur at Nylsvley. Streaky breasted Flufftail have been recorded here and Striped Crake and Lesser Moorhen and Allan’s Gallinule breed here too. Pygmy Goose, White-backed Duck and Comb Duck are some of the 15 duck and goose species that occur at Nylsvley in the wet years.

Many different kinds of woodland and bushveld types are found within the province hosting an incredible variety of birds including Crimson-breasted Shrike, African Wren-Warbler, Short-clawed Lark and Black-faced Waxbill. There are a number of species that are easier to find in the Limpopo Province than in the rest of the country. These are Short-clawed Lark, Shelley's Francolin, Grey-headed Parrot, African Broadbill & Crested Guineafowl. In addition to this, many Central and East African bird species reach their southern-most distribution here and thus will not be found anywhere else in the country. These include species such as Black-fronted Bush Shrike, Arnott's Chat, Blue-spotted Wood-Dove, Racket-tailed Roller, Senegal Coucal and Tropical Boubou.

The province has three National Parks and numerous provincial and municipal reserves within its borders. Kruger National Park, Mapungubwe and Maraklele National Parks are visited by hundreds of birdwatchers every year. Provincial Nature Reserves and Municipal Reserves are important sites for bird conservation. For example Blouberg Nature Reserve which is the home to one of the largest Cape Vulture breeding colonies in Southern Africa and Polokwane Nature Reserves has healthy populations of Short-clawed Lark.

Because Limpopo Province has tracts of relatively unexplored habitats as well as its more famous sites, intrepid birders are fortunate to have the opportunity to make exiting discoveries wherever they venture.

Top Sites

Kruger National Park

Information

Satellite View


The world-famous Kruger National Park is situated in the north-eastern corner of South Africa. It is predominantly a semi-arid summer rainfall area with rainfall varying from 350mm to 800mm. Most of Kruger is between 250 and 550 metres above sea level, and the interaction of the rainfall and altitude with soil types provides a wide a range of habitats. As one of the largest reserves in Africa it boasts over 500 species. The restcamps, rivers and drainage lines provide for some of the best birding in Kruger in terms of diversity. A morning of intense birding in of these areas in summer may well produce over 150 species. The area around Skukuza restcamp in the south of Kruger is particularly good for birding and is one the best spots for the African Finfoot. Additionally, it hosts a number endemic and near endemics such as Whitethroated Robin and Natal Francolin amongst a diversity of other attractive bushveld and riverine species.

The western half of Kruger is generally more wooded whereas the eastern half of Kruger is generally more open grassland and it is here where species such as Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Lesser Blackwinged Plover and Redcrested Korhaan are more commonly found. Raptors in Kruger are plentiful, and it is a great place to view a large diversity of large and small raptors such as the colourful Bateleur or aerial acrobat. Five species of vulture are regularly recorded in Kruger and it is not all that uncommon to have all 5 species feeding at one kill. This brings us to what Kruger is famous for - its great diversity of carnivores, large mammals and other wildlife. The birders I have guided through Kruger are amazed by the reserve, and the opportunity it offers to record a vast number of bird species, whilst at the same time viewing Africa's charismatic wildlife in a 20,000 square kilometre expanse of wilderness.

Contributor

Ben de Boer

The Greater Limpopo Birding Routes

http://www.limpopobirding.com/

Number of Species

Number of bird species: 669

(As at September 2018)

Useful Reading

Birds of Kruger National Park

By Keith Barnes & Ken Behrens | WILDGuides | 2017 | Paperback | 224 pages, 400+ colour photos, 2 colour maps |

ISBN: 9780691161266

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Fieldguides

See the main South Africa page of Fatbirder

Guide to Birds of the Kruger National Park

By Warwick Tarboton & Peter G Ryan | Random House Struik | 2016 | Paperback | 224 pages, 600+ colour photos, colour distribution maps |

ISBN: 9781775844495

Buy this book from NHBS.com

Organisations

Birdlife Polokwane

Website

The Pietersburg Bird Club as it was then known was born in the mid 1970's and then unfortunately died a premature death in 1987, mainly as a result of the coincidental relocation of some of the key committee members. During these initial years the club was instrumental in turning a portion of the City's water purification works into a world-class bird sanctuary. Due to the efforts of the late Kobus Venter and the current chairman Joe Grosel the club was resurrected in 1998 when a core group of eight enthusiastic birders was assembled. In 2004 under the chairmanship of Dave Johnson the club joined ranks with BirdLife South Africa and is today one of three affiliated branches, and the largest in the Limpopo Province.

BirdLife South Africa

Webpage

The Limpopo Province, with its vast unexplored areas and diverse habitats, offers one of the most exciting birding destinations in southern Africa. Habitats range from vast tracts of montane grassland to afro-temperate forests, bushveld and wetlands.

Friends of Nylsvley

Website

Friends of Nylsvley have run work parties at Nylsvley since March 1991 and courses since April 1996. Over the years we have financed and helped install the Kingfisher and Dabchick Hides, the Sasol Dragonfly Walkway, the Bittern Bridge and replaced the Jacana Walkway. We’ve rehabilitated the notorious long drop toilets in the campsite, installed an Enviro Loo at Vogelfontein and replaced the lookout tower ladder. Also see the Facebook page.

Reserves

Abbreviations Key

GR Lleweni

Website

Satellite View

Lleweni Game reserve is situated 10km from Naboomspruit, in Limpopo, South Africa, just over 2 hours drive (220km) from Johannesburg on a tarred road. The reserve is very scenic with a dense vegetation of bushveld and boekenhout trees, a large number of game species, 5 dams containing a variety of fish species and it holds a record for 184 bird species recorded within 3 hours by the South Africa birding society.

GR Makulu Makete

Website

Satellite View

The Limpopo Valley is a birding hotspot. In a single week in summer, a team of birders recorded 396 bird species in the area. Makulu Makete's varied habitats - mountain, riverine and savannah - attract a large proportion of the birdlife of the Limpopo Valley. The Mogalakwena River, and the massive trees lining its banks, provide a rich habitat for many species likely to be found in wetter areas, such as Collared Sunbird, Spectacled Weaver, and a variety of Cuckoos and Kingfishers. Larger birds such as Verreaux's Eagle Owl, Black Stork, and Goliath heron are to be found along the river, whilst the drier bush country, with its impressive baobabs, has White-faced Owl, Kori Bustard, Pied Babbler, Crimsonbreasted Shrike, Barred Warbler, Great-spotted Cuckoo and Swallow-tailed Bee-eater…

GR Tilodi Wilderness

Website

Satellite View

This page has been prepared for birdwatchers. Print the page to your own printer and there you have your own Field List for bird watching. The next step would be to book your stay at the Tilodi Wilderness for an unforgettable bird watching experience in the Heart of the Bushveld…

NP Kruger

Information

Satellite View

Out of the 517 species of birds found at Kruger, 253 are residents, 117 non-breeding migrants, and 147 nomads. Some of the larger birds require large territories or are sensitive to habitat degradation. Six of these species, which are by and large restricted to Kruger and other extensive conservation areas, have been assigned to a fanciful grouping called the "Big Six Birds". They are the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, ground hornbill and the reclusive Pel's fishing owl, which is localized and seldom seen. There are between 25 and 30 breeding pairs of saddle-billed storks in the park, besides a handful of non-breeding individuals. In 2012 178 family groups of ground hornbills roamed the park and 78 nests were known, of which 50% were active.

NP Mapungubwe

Information

Satellite View

Because of its new status, the park is relatively unexplored bird wise and with its proximity to Botswana and Zimbabwe, all sorts of species could turn up. 387 bird species have been recorded in Mapungubwe National Park and over 400 species occur in the region. There is a high density of Verreaux’s (black) eagle in this craggy landscape and other raptors are also prominent. Particularly enticing is an abundance of cuckoo species in summer with up to eleven species being found, including the rarer common and thick-billed cuckoos.

NR Doorndraai Dam

Webpage

Satellite View

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…

NR Nylsvlei

Information

Satellite View

Situated in the upper catchment area of the Nyl River, and covering about 20% of the floodplain, the area boasts some 370 bird species - of which more than 100 are waterfowl - and during peak floods, over 80,000 birds are to be seen. The reserve is also home to roan antelope and tsessebe. The only stands of wild rice in South Africa, Oryza longistaminata, are to be found here.

NR Timbavati Private Nature Reserve

Website

Satellite View

The Timbavati Private Nature Reserve came into existence on July 1956, when a group of conservation-minded persons who owned 'game farms' on the western boundary of the Kruger Park came together to form the Timbavati Association…

Guides & Tour Operators

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

Avian Leisure

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

South Africa is one of the best value destinations on the entire continent. The outstanding infrastructure, great accommodation, excellent food, wonderful South African hospitality, spectacular and varied scenery, and the presence of Africa’s big and small mammals makes it one of the most pleasant countries in the world to bird in...

Rockjumper

Tour Operator

There are 39 tours available in South Africa... Our Kruger Extension to our South Africa Mega Birding tour takes us to one of Africa’s most famous and fabulous reserves – The Kruger National Park!

Samson Mulaudzi - Birding Soutpansberg & Venda

Guide

Samson Mulaudzi trained as a BirdLife South Africa guide in 2005 and won an Owl Award in 2012 for his contribution to avian conservation and enducation. Samson is involved in the Mottled Spinetails conservation and education project in Sagole, runs the Birds in Trees Project in the Soutpansberg and conducts research projects for the Greater Limpopo Birding routes…

Trip Reports

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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.

2010 [11 November] - Honeyguide - Kruger National Park

PDF Report

We went to the Afsaal picnic stop for our breakfast , where we saw the resident African Scops Owl, conv eniently with a sign underneath the tree, saying ‘Scops Owl’ with an arrow pointing up! We also had Southern Ye llow-billed Hornbill, Red-headed Weaver, five starling species: Red-winged, Burchell's, Cape Glossy, Greater Blue- eared and Black-bellied. Arrow-marked Babbler, Dark-cappe d Bulbul, White-browed Robin-Chat, Blue Waxbill and Black-backed Puffback were also seen.

2012 [03 March] Pat & Judy Hayes - Kruger National Park

Report

…We were sitting at home watching a Golf tournament in South Africa; the course was set above the Crocodile River. The tantalising glimpses of all the various wild beasts coming down to drink, accompanied by continuous bird song and the sight of herons, egrets and storks, not to mention the many unidentifiable birds flying in and out of camera-shot, rekindled our lust for new horizons. It was our intention to bird independently where possible, as we usually do choose destinations which we are comfortable birding in. The Kruger National Park filled all those requirements…

2012 [10 October] – Geoff Crane – Kruger National Park

PDF Report

"We made very slow progress due to the fact that every bird was a ‘new’ bird. Lesser-striped Swallow, Water Thick-knee, African Jacana, Cattle Egret, Egyptian Goose, Natal Francolin, Scarlet-chested Sunbird, Cape Glossy Starling, African Green-Pigeon, Lilac-breasted Roller …"

2012 [11 November] - Soutpansberg - Samson Mulaudzi

Report

We started our outing at Muirhead Dams Reserve and forest at about 6:00 on Tuesday early morning and we saw amongst other birds a pair of African Pygmy Goose,Malachite Kingfisher,Purple Heron,Common Moorhen in the dam.In the forest they enjoyed a superb views of Olive Bush-Shrike,Lemon Dove,Tambourine Dove,Blue-Mantled Crested Flycatcher,Horus Swift,Forest Buzzard,Terrestrial Brownbul and Purple Crested Turaco…

2012 [12 December] - Roodewal Nature Reserve - Samson Mulaudzi

Report

Last weekend Friday and Sunday morning I took out clients from Pretoria and a family from Netherlands on a birding outing to Roodewal Nature Reserve,Hanglip Forest,Muirhead Dams and Reserve and Luvuvhu River in the Soutpansberg,Limpopo Province. As always at Roodewal Reserve we saw a single male African Broadbill.Other good birds we saw…

2015 [06 June] - Jason Boyce

PDF Report

This tour was a private Western Cape and Kruger Park trip for two families, one with children, which focused on seeing the best of South Africa’s fauna, flora, history, sights and scenes, landscapes, and people.

2015 [10 October] - Dylan Vasapolli

PDF Report

This trip was a combination of two consecutive tours, first the 8-day Western Cape Tour, followed directly afterwards by the 15-day Subtropical South Africa tour.

2016 [01 January] - Lisle Gwynn

PDF Report

2016 [03 March] - Jason Boyce - Kruger

PDF Report

BirdLife South Africa have done us all proud once again by hosting a truly fantastic Flock event in Skukuza, Kruger National Park. The 2016 event included the incredibly popular LAB and Layman’s LAB (Learn about birds) as well as the Annual General Meeting. Both LAB and Layman’s LAB had attractive programs for the delegates, including a whole host of speakers and some very interesting topics and courses – these were all well attended and thoroughly enjoyed.

2016 [03 March] - Pat & Judy Hayes - Kruger National Park

Report

Having spent 2 weeks in the Kruger proper in 2012 we knew we would return. Africa is a very special place and being able to bird independently in an area the size of Wales makes it extra special. Although the Kruger is a game park the very size of it means you are birding in a truly wild environment.

2016 [03 March] - Wian van Zyl - Kruger

PDF Report

Although the weather didn’t co-operate during the first two days of the tour, covering a wide range of habitats, from higher altitude grassland, indigenous forest, broad-leafed woodland with open pockets of savanna, as well as riverine forests, allowed us to record 244 bird species in total, with an additional 10 heard only, as well as 31 mammals.

2016 [11 November] - Matt Prophet

PDF Report

...The following day we birded the vicinity of the main rest camp and found Southern Boubou, Olive Woodpecker, Dark-capped Bulbul, Common Waxbill, Cape Weaver, Cape Canary, and Greater Double-collared Sunbird. Further sightings of Bearded and Cape Vultures were had as we scanned the skies above us...

2018 [02 February] - Pieter & Nicola Vrey - Magoebaskloof and Polokwane Bird Sanctuary

PDF Report

...We didn’t plan to target specific species but rather have a relaxed birding weekend, hoping toconnect with some of the specials the area has to offer: Cape parrot, Black-fronted and Olive bushshrikes, Olive woodpecker, Green twinspot, Red-backed mannikin, Narina trogon, Knysna turaco, Barratt’s warbler, etc....

Places to Stay

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Hanlin Lodge

Accommodation

Situated amongst lush Bushveld in the Waterberg area, Hanlin Lodge was established to give visitors who enjoy nature the opportunity to relax in comfort in Bushveld surroundings. Our core concept is to offer guests the opportunity to take that much needed break from the hectic demands of today’s lifestyle. We offer you a place to give your overloaded senses a break, where you can still see sunrises, sunsets and stars…

Ingababa Cabin

Accommodation

Igababa Cabin is popular for birders and nature lovers. Viewing raptors soaring above the cliffs from your bed is hard to beat and some of the guests have found birding from the outdoors double bath a very pleasant and unique experience!…

Koaxa Bush Camp

Accommodation

We have three thatched stone cottages and three luxury safari tents. Each unit nestles in the sandstone ridge amongst the Mopane Veld, creating a very low visual footprint. Their design ensures privacy, and each one boasts a veranda from which to observe the rugged beauty around you. The camp has electricity but is not air conditioned. There is a communal kitchen with an electric oven, gas hob, and fridge and freezer space. All utensils and crockery are provide…

Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge

Accommodation

At Madi a Thavha you will find all the area has to offer, the Dancing Fish Gallery with a permanent exhibition about Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho culture, numerous bird species, walking routes, and the textile workshop of Madi a Thavha Design….

Makulu Makete Lodge

Accommodation

Our Lodge is located on a rise next to a dry riverbed, amongst the thorn tree bushveld typical of the area. Six luxury tents, each with its own en-suite bathroom, accomodate a maximum of 12 guests in considerable comfort….

River Lodge

Accommodation

Luxury lodge in wildlife reserve…

Museums

Mogalakwena Research Centre

http://www.researchlimpopo.com

The Mogalakwena Research Centre is an independent research entity based in the remote north-western part of Limpopo Province. We prioritize the continued integrity of the ecological and social system. We prioritize the continued integrity of the ecological and social systems…