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North West Province

Crimson-breasted Shrike Laniarius atrococcineus ©John Dempsey

The North-West province is one of the less known birding areas of Southern Africa. However, it does not imply that there isn’t any birding to be done. The North-West is probably one of the more accessible arid areas to bird in Southern Africa. This gives birders the unique opportunity to see many of the near-endemic species of Southern Africa.

These include: Pale Chanting Goshawk, Northern Black Korhaan, White-backed Mousebird (the family is endemic to Africa south of the Sahara), Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Acacia Pied Barbet, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Southern Pied Babbler, Orange River White-eye, Marico Flycatcher, Black-faced Waxbill, Red-headed Finch, Shaft-tailed Whydah, Barred Wren-warbler, Black-chested Prinia and a host of larks including Eastern Clapper-, Fawn-coloured- and Spike-heeled Larks.

Much of the birding in the province is centered on the Game Reserves and Parks around the province. The best known of these parks is Pilanesberg Game Reserve. This park boasts a number of regional and national species. Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Secretarybird and Kalahari Scrub-Robin are a few examples of the former and Cape Vulture and White-backed Heron examples of the latter. Pilanesberg is also classified as an IBA [Important Bird Area]. Other IBA’s in the region include Kgaswane Mountain Reserve, Barberspan Nature Reserve, Sandveld Nature Reserve and Bloemhof Nature Reserve.

Pilanesberg Nature Reserve is within easy reach of Johannesburg. It is approximately two hours by car from the Johannesburg International Airport. The other reserves are also easy accessible via a good maintained road system. The going does get a little more isolated if one is chasing some of the more uncommon specials of the province. An excellent example of this is the Yellow-throated Sandgrouse that is found in the Northam-Thabazimbi area.

This area of Southern Africa is a worthwhile extension to any trip to Southern Africa. When visiting this exciting area, be on a special look-out for the Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, Short-clawed Lark, Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Barred Wren-warbler, Short-toed Rock-Thrush, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, Orange River Francolin, Pink-billed Lark and Olive-tree Warbler as these make up the top 10 birds of the province.

Top Sites

Sandgrouse Route

The North West area of South Africa offers the unique opportunity to see four of the ten African Pterocles (Sandgrouse) species. These are the Yellow-throated Sandgrouse, the largest of the African sandgrouse, Burchell’s, Namaqua and Double-banded Sandgrouse.

The Sandgrouse Route is a 5 day trip, starting in Johannesburg, which visits some of the prime spots for these species; while exploring some of the more remote and untouched birding areas in South Africa.

Although the four sandgrouse species form the flagship of this stunning foray into the North West of South Africa, there are a number of other important and sought after species to be seen on the route. Some of the other notables of the route’s birdlist include Short-clawed Lark and Burchell’s Courser. The Short-clawed Lark is an endemic species to South Africa with a very limited range. The Sandgrouse Route transgresses the primary distribution range of this species. Burchell’s Courser is an uncommon, nomadic endemic to South Africa with an aura all of its own.

Other species of note include Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike, Barred Wren-warbler, Kalahari Scrub-Robin, White-Backed Mousebird, Acacia Pied Barbet, Eastern Clapper Lark, Fawn-coloured Lark, Ashy Tit, Cape Penduline-Tit, Black-faced Waxbill (all Near Endemics to South Africa), Swallow-tailed Bee-eater, Pririt Batis, Rufous-eared Warbler and Chat Flycatcher.


Hanno Langenhoven

Independent Guide - Birding Ecotours

Thaba Phuti Safari Lodge



Useful Reading

Fieldguides & CDs etc.

See the main South Africa page of Fatbirder…


Wesvaal Bird Club


Abbreviations Key

GR Borakalalo


Satellite View

This large game reserve is close to Gauteng and has a wide variety of bushveld, woodland and water birds. Besides the big game (Hippo, Rhino & Buffalo) over 300 bird species have been recorded. Storks, Herons, Eagles, Kingfishers, Shrikes and Cuckoos (summer) are well represented. The reserve features the large Klipvoor Dam, the Moreleta River below and the scenic Mogoshane hills which form broken terrain, small kloofs and habitat for several rock loving species. Woodland habitats include acacia thornveld, riverine woodland and broadleaved savannah, including an area of fine tall Burkea Woodland…

GR Madikwe


Satellite View

The 75 000ha Madikwe Game Reserve lies in the extreme northwest corner of South Africa’s North West province, abutting the Botswana border close to the Kalahari Desert…

GR Mafikeng


Satellite View

The bird life is prolific, with many species of the waxbill and finch families…

GR Sabi Sand


Satellite View

Renowned for its Big Five game viewing, the 65 000ha Sabi Sand Game Reserve – within which Cheetah Plains Private Game reserve is located – lies adjacent to the south-west corner of the Kruger National Park, where it shares a 50km border. There are no fences between the two reserves, allowing game to move freely between the two areas and, as a result, the reserve offers some of the most exceptional wildlife in southern Africa…

NP Marakele


Satellite View

Arguably the Park's biggest birding attraction is the largest colony of Cape Vultures in the world (around 800 breeding pairs). However the park is also appealing to birders as it falls within the transition zone between the dry western regions and the moister eastern regions of the country…

NP Pilanesberg


Satellite View

The park offers a number of wonderful picnic spots, numerous hides for game watching, huge walk-in aviaries, safe hiking trails, safari drives at night and flights over the park in a hot-air balloon…

Tilodi Wilderness


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.

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.

Jaci’s Lodges Birding Safaris

Tour Operator

Jaci’s Lodges in Madikwe Game Reserve is delighted to introduce specialised birding safaris – learn to identify birds by sound, habitat and sight, with professional and passionate birding specialist guides. Led by passionate birder Martin Benadie, you will soon be listening to every chirp and song you hear, ready to identify and discover the source of the sound…

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.

2018 [01 January] - Pieter & Nicola Vrey - Pilanesberg National Park

PDF Report

This was a short weekend birding trip to Pilanesberg Nationa l Park * in the North West province of South Africa. We didn’t really have any particular birding goals in mind – just a relaxing birding weekend and doing some atlassing for SABAP2 . We recorded a total of 147 birds and 17 mammals.

Places to Stay

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

Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve


heetah Plains is one of the oldest bush camps in the Sabi Sand, where the emphasis is on offering guests traditional Safari values, comfortable accommodation, with great food, prepared around the campfire. An excellent game viewing on 8500 ha and friendly attentive staff will round our safari off. The lodge only has eight chalets, which ensures an exclusive Safari experience…

Ekala Guest Farm and Eco Tours


South Africa & Johannesburg Tours that will satisfy any traveller’s desires. Specialising in South Africa Safaris & birding tours…



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…

Game Lodges and Reserves in and around the Pilanesberg Area


A clickable list.

Jaci's Safari Lodge


Unleash your wild spirit and fall in love again at Jaci's Safari Lodge, a dream holiday destination customized for you. Your hosts will welcome you with open arms and into the Jaci's family, your home away from home…

Thaba Phuti Safari Lodge

Facebook Page

Thaba Phuti Safari Lodge provides exclusive private surroundings, situated in the North West Province, just south of the Magaliesburg Mountain Range and the town of Rustenburg. At Thaba Phuti Safari Lodge, you are ensured an experience so exclusive and personal you are sure to feel like royalty. Seven rooms with en-suite bathrooms, a restaurant, two bar areas, conference venue, boma, wine cellar, swimming pool, as well as our staff are all there to make your stay with us as pleasurable as possible.


Mafikeng Birding Blog


The aim of the blog is to showcase the species and birding spots in and around Mahikeng…