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New South Africa Bird List

A remarkable diversity of birds

There has been a major focus on the Southern African bird list - which includes seven countries south of the Zambezi River. South Africa itself has never received much attention, and few birders even know how many species this remarkably diverse country holds. BirdLife South Africa has now reconvened the BirdLife South Africa List Committee and the resulting official South Africa bird list contains an amazing 90% of the species recorded in the entire southern African sub-region (according to Roberts 7, the definitive reference book on southern African birds).

The South African bird list ( which is downloadable on the BirdLife South Africa website: http://www.birdlife.org.za ) has an incredible 841 species, plus another seven species occurring in South African territory but far from our mainland, on the sub-Antarctic Prince Edward Islands. And, this is a highly conservative list, since vagrants have only been included after passing strict tests, basically approval by BirdLife South Africa’s Rarities Committee.Of the 841 (+ seven on the Prince Edward Islands) bird species so far recorded in South Africa, 20 are true endemics, 50 others are near-endemics occurring in Swaziland and Lesotho or very marginally spreading into countries north of us, three are breeding endemics and one seems to be a winter endemic (Long-tailed Pipit) whose entire winter range is within our borders. There are very few places on the planet that have such a spectacular level of endemism.

Of the 841 species, 120 are vagrants unlikely to be recorded by most birders. Of the remaining 721 birds, 80 % are resident.

An exciting prospect is that all nine provinces of South Africa may hold new species for the South African list. Limpopo and North West provinces are bird-diverse, yet relatively poorly-birded and will probably generate new species to add to our constantly growing list. The Northern Cape has an unidentified canary that could even be new to science. The coastal provinces could generate new seabirds and waders, and the Eastern Cape has been terribly poorly-explored so anything could happen there.

We are now in the process of highlighting Red Data birds on the list, to emphasise conservation priorities.

We urge birders to submit sightings of species new to the South Africa bird list to the BirdLife South Africa Rarities Committee and to notify the List Committee, so we can potentially add them.

Please contact Dr Chris Lotz, Chairman of BirdLife South Africa’s List Committee for more information mailto:info@birdingecotours.co.za

4th July 2014