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Birding Gauteng

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.

This page is sponsored by Birding Ecotours

Top Sites
  • Marievale Bird Sanctuary

    InformationSatellite View
    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.
  • Northeastern Gauteng

    Satellite View
    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

    Satellite View
    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.
  • The Witwatersburg

    Satellite View
    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.
  • Etienne Marais

    Pretoria |

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 350

    (As at September 2018)
  • But c. 60 of the South Africa endemics or near endemics can be found in the state
Useful Reading

  • The Chamberlain Guide to Birding Gauteng

    | (101 Prime Birding Sites in and Around Johannesburg and Pretoria ) | by Faansie Peacock & Etienne Marais | Mirafra Publishing | 2008 | 384 pages, Maps, colour photos, maps | ISBN: 9780620416214 Buy this book from
Festivals & Bird Fairs
  • Sasol Bird Fair

    Facebook Page
    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.
Museums & Universities
  • Ditsong National Museum of Natural History

    The Bird or Ornithology Section has had a fluctuating history as the structure of the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History has altered over the decades. Until the Second World War, the Bird Collections were curated within a larger “Higher Vertebrates Department” under the curatorship of Austin Roberts. During his 38-year-long career at the Museum Roberts established the museum’s bird collection as the finest on the African continent.
  • BirdLife Northern Gauteng

    Facebook Page
    Formerly the Pretoria Bird Club….

Abbreviations Key

  • BS Austin Roberts

    InformationSatellite View
    The Austin Roberts (Memorial) Bird Sanctuary is a 11.76 ha (29.1 acres) nature reserve located in the Walkerspruit Open Space System, in the Nieuw Muckleneuk suburb of Pretoria, South Africa. It became the first bird refuge in Pretoria when it was opened.
  • BS Marievale

    Facebook PageSatellite View
    Approximately 1 000ha in extent, the sanctuary supports more than 240 bird species, among them 65 waterbird species, including large populations of Reed Cormorant, Red-knobbed Coot and Yellow-billed Duck. The sanctuary is also one of the best locations in Gauteng to see Goliath, Black, Squacco and Purple herons.
  • NR Abe Bailey

    InformationSatellite View
    It is situated near Carletonville, beside the township of Khutsong on the West Rand. It is about 4,200 hectares in size.
  • NR Alice Glockner

    InformationSatellite View
    It is a 168-hectare (420-acre) nature reserve located south of Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve. It has altitudes between 1,600 and 1,700 metres (5,200 and 5,600 ft) above sea level.
  • NR Roodeplaat

    InformationSatellite View
    It is located on the shores of the Roodeplaat Dam, 22 km north-east of Pretoria.
  • NR Suikerbosrand

    InformationSatellite View
    An hour's drive from Johannesburg International Airport and near the historical town of Heidelberg, this reserve boasts a representative sample of the fauna and flora of the rocky Highveld grassland biome.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • 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
    The 1-3-day trip to the northeastern parts of ‘wider’ Gauteng offers both species richness and species diversity. A day list of 150 in the summer and 120 in the winter is not an uncommon achievement.
  • Bustards Birding

    Tour Operator
    Day trips in the area know by local birders as the Wider Gauteng area, focused on a geographical area a 100km radius from the city centers of Johannesburg and Pretoria provide a diverse array of habitats, which in turn produce a diverse array of bird species, some 500 species have been recorded. In an 8 hour trip during summer, over 100 species can be recorded, and winter 80 or more.
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2013 [05 May] - Martin Birch - Korsman Conservancy

    PDF Report
  • 2015 [09 September] - Dylan Vasapolli - Zaagkuilsdrift & Wakkerstroom

    PDF Report
    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.
  • 2017 [09 September] - Dylan Vasapolli

    PDF Report
    This short tour began and ended in Johannesburg and saw us transiting northwards first to the rich thornveld of the Zaagkuilsdrift Road, followed by the montane forests of the Magoebaskloof hills before visiting the moist grasslands and broad-leaved woodlands found in north-eastern Gauteng.
Places to Stay

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2 Mokolo

    2 Mokolo offers an intimate respite from the hustle of the city. Entering the gates, you
  • 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
Other Links
  • Etienne Marais Birding

    Facebook Page
    Etienne Marais (see above) leads short tours in the Gauteng and surrounding areas, and is available to lead customised trips in the area. This is the facebook page for the birding interests of Etienne Marais. I've been a birder all my life and through Indicator Birding currently run tours, courses and guide in South and Southern Africa.
  • Ernst Retief - Ernst's Birding

    Last updated December 2012 - 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…
  • Gareth Hazell - 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….
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

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