North West Province

Shaft-tailed Whydah Vidua regia ©Dylan Vasapolli Website

Dylan VasapolliNorth West is a province of South Africa covering an area of c.105,000 km² (c.40,000 square miles) with a population approaching three million people. The province is located to the west of the major population centre of Gauteng, southwest of Limpopo, northwest of Free State, northeast of Northern Cape and south of Botswana. Much of the province consists of flat areas of scattered trees and grassland. The Magaliesberg mountain range in the northeast extends about 130 km (about 80 miles) from Pretoria to Rustenburg. The Vaal River flows along the southern border of the province. Its capital is Mahikeng (formerely known as Mafeking) the largest habitation with c.300,000 people.

Temperatures range from 17° to 31 °C (62° to 88 °F) in the summer and from 3° to 21 °C (37° to 70 °F) in the winter. Annual rainfall totals about 360 mm (about 14 in), with almost all of it falling during the summer months, between October and April.

The mainstay of the economy of North West Province is mining, which generates more than half of the province’s gross domestic product and provides jobs for a quarter of its workforce. The chief minerals are gold, mined at Orkney and Klerksdorp; uranium, mined at Klerksdorp; platinum, mined at Rustenburg and Brits; and diamonds, mined at Lichtenburg, Christiana, and Bloemhof. The northern and western parts of the province have many sheep farms and cattle and game ranches. The eastern and southern parts are crop-growing regions that produce maize, sunflowers, tobacco, cotton, and citrus fruits. The entertainment and casino complex at Sun City and Lost City also contributes to the provincial economy.

Birding Northwest Province

The North-West province is one of the lesser known birding areas of Southern Africa. However, there are plenty of birding opportunities. 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 country’s near-endemic species. These include: Pale Chanting Goshawk, Northern Black Korhaan, White-backed Mousebird, 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 cantered on Game Reserves and Parks. 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.

Magaliesberg ©Dylan Vasapolli

Pilanesberg Nature Reserve is within easy reach of Johannesburg, being approximately two hours by car from the Johannesburg International Airport. The other reserves are also easily accessible via a well-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.

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 are commonly regarded as the top 10 birds of the province.

This page is sponsored by Birding Ecotours

Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 573

  • Avibase - The World Bird Database

    PDF Checklist
    This checklist includes all bird species found in Northwest Province , based on the best information available at this time. It is based on a wide variety of sources that I collated over many years. I am pleased to offer these checklists as a service to birdwatchers.
  • BirdLife Harties

    Facebook Page
    Birdlife Harties studies the bird life in the Hartbeespoort Dam area. Members are for instance Counting waterbirds twice a year around the Dam to detect any modification in the time and are part of the Cape Vulture preservation Project. We organise outings and meetings with top speakers. Come and join us if you love the nature and its birds. John Wesson will warmly welcome you as well as our full team. Gerard.
  • Birdlife Rustenburg

    Facebook Page
    Rustenburg Birdlife is a member organisation of Birdlife South Africa. Our aim is to increase awareness and enjoyment of birds.
  • Wesvaal Bird Club

    Facebook Page
    Birding club situated in Potchefstroom and surrounding areas. Meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month at Elgro hotel.

Abbreviations Key

  • *Provincial Parks

    InformationSatellite View
    Information on eight provincial parks
  • GR Borakalalo

    InformationSatellite 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 Dikhololo

    InformationSatellite View
    Visitors can closely interact with giraffes, a variety of deer, zebras, jackals, hundreds of bird species, among others, along with featuring a variety of amenities...
  • GR Madikwe

    WebsiteSatellite 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 Sabi Sand

    WebsiteSatellite 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…
  • GR Tilodi

    WebsiteSatellite 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 Marakele

    WebpageSatellite 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

    WebsiteSatellite View
    Among Southern Africa’s fascinating game reserves, Pilanesberg National Park is possibly the most accessible. Situated in the ecologically rich transition zone between the Kalahari and the Lowveld, this vast area promises thrilling big game viewing in a malaria free environment. A wide variety of accommodation is available to suit your needs.
  • NR Toggle the table of contents Leon Taljaard

    InformationSatellite View
    110 species of birds have been registered in the reserve
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
    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...
Places to Stay
  • Cheetah Plains Private Game Reserve

    Featuring 3 exclusive-use, contemporary, luxurious bushveld houses, each comprising of a main house with 4 private guest suites. Each house boasts 2 lounges, dining areas, outdoor boma, wine cellars & heated swimming pool as well as a private game viewing vehicle & designated field guide for the duration of your stay.
  • Ekala Guest Farm and Eco Tours

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

    At Jaci’s Lodges, we offer a range of accommodation to suit every need and preference, from our one-of-a-kind romantic Starbed Suites, luxury tented-style rooms and bespoke family-friendly Nare and Safari suites at Jaci’s Safari Lodge, to the custom-built designer Treehouse Suites at Jaci’s Tree Lodge.

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