South Africa Birdlife

South Africa ranks as one of the top birding or birdlife destinations in the world

Proudly South AfricanSouth Africa Birdlife

South Africa is known the world around for its abundance of wildlife, not least of all its many birds. In fact, there is an established avi-tourism industry that invites birding enthusiasts from all over the world to indulge in top-class bird-watching.

Thanks to the abundance of excellent South African hotels and accommodation facilities, as well as an established transport infrastructure (including international car hire companies), South Africa is proving to be one of the world’s top birding hotspots.

The sheer variety of birdlife in South Africa is impressive; made up of typical African birds, migrants, and Endemic Birds. Visitors can join up with a formal birding tour group or can explore the country and its species on their own. Of the approximate 850 recorded bird species in the country, around 725 are resident birds (or, at least, annual visitors). An impressive 50 avian species can only be found in South Africa, giving birders a prime opportunity to spot something very special. In addition, there are many intra-African migrant birds that hail from across the globe. Some have their origins in China, Europe and even the Arctic and Antarctic.

South Africa's Prime Birding Areas

South Africa boasts a multitude of nature reserves and game reserves, and these are home to an extraordinary array of wildlife, including many bird species. Many of these cater specifically to keen bird-watchers to make their experience as rewarding as possible. Added facilities in these parks and reserves may comprise bird hides, trails through their natural habitat, information sheets and experienced guides that are equipped to find more elusive species and point them out to visitors.

Avian enthusiasts are often lured to South Africa by the variety of endemics and endangered bird species. The endemic species can be found throughout the countryside and landscapes of this country; through grasslands, mountains and even dry desert regions.

There are some parts of the country that are particularly rewarding in terms of bird-watching. These are:


The subtropical climate of KwaZulu-Natal makes for the ideal habitat for a number of exciting bird species. The lush greenery and tropical abundance of the north-east of the province is especially abundant in really gorgeous bird species.

The landscape is made up of freshwater lagoons, grasslands that have been flooded, dense forests, marshes, acacia woodlands and tidal estuaries. These provide the natural habitat of choice for a number of birds; most notably the Knysna Turaco, Palmnut Vulture, Neergaard's Sunbird, Rudd's Apalis, African Broadbill, Woodward's Barbet, Delegorgue's Pigeon, Livingstone's Turacos and Southern Banded Snake Eagle.

Due to its being such a popular birding destination, KwaZulu-Natal has implemented a number of initiatives in order to improve the birding experience for locals and visitors. There is the Zululand Birding Route, which is focussed on Eshowe, the home of the Dlinza Forest. This forest has a boardwalk on which visitors can meander to the canopy and enjoy sighting Delegorgue's Pigeon, Grey Cuckooshrike, Crowned Eagle and Spotted Ground Thrush.

Western Cape

As one of the world’s top tourist destinations, the Western Cape is also a prime spot for avid bird-watchers, as well as whale watching and shark cage diving. The natural beauty and abundance of this province lends itself to being home to an array of fauna and flora. In fact, this province is one of the best bird-watching destinations in South Africa. Some of the endemic birds to be found here include the Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Siskin, Protea Seedeater, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Rockjumper, Kynsna Warbler and Hottentot Buttonquail. An abundance of Birder-friendly options for accommodation in Cape Town completes the experience.

Wading birds from the breeding grounds of the Arctic can be found in the West Coast National Park (including the Langebaan Lagoon). These species, which include the Curlew Sandpiper, flock here during the summer months. The lagoon welcomes the Black Harrier, Southern Black Korhaan, Grey Tit, Cape Penduline Tit and Layard's Titbabbler.

The Cape of Good Hope National Park yields excellent sightings of species like the Hottentot Buttonquail and an array of seabirds. The Boulders Beach National Park in Simonstown has a sizeable and fascinating African Penguin colony.


Mpumalanga is home to the Lowveld, which is a low-lying tropical region that is taken up largely by the Kruger National Park, with the Drakensberg escarpment on the border. This entire area has an enormous variety South Africa's Wildlife, with no shortage of fascinating bird species. These species are typical of South African Reserves of this kind.

There are many raptor species here, which are always rewarding to see within their own habitat. These species include the Martial Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Walhberg's Eagle, the Steppe Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle. There are also Saddlebilled Storks, Southern Ground Hornbills, Ostrich, Kori Bustards, Taita Falcons, Bat Hawks and Cape Parrots.

The Central Grasslands are significant for many reasons, not least of all their being habitat to a variety of notable grassland and wetland species. Wakkerstroom is a small town near the meeting point of Mpumalanga, the Free State and KwaZulu-Natal and is frequented by the formal birding tour groups that visit the country. It has a number of fantastic birding facilities and resident tour guides.


As the commercial and economic hub of the country, Gauteng is heavily developed and urbanised. Still, there are many areas in which very rewarding bird-watching can be enjoyed. In fact, there are around 350 recorded bird species in the immediate proximity of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Some of the most prolific areas for bird-watching enthusiasts are Marievale, Suikerbosrand, the Magaliesberg Mountains, Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens and the Dinokeng Bushveld area. Those species that are commonly found, even in the city and residential areas, include the Black-collared Barbet, Hadeda Ibis, Speckled Pigeon, Bokmakerie, Green Woodhoopoe, Grey Loerie, Olive Thrush and Cape Robin.

Did you know?

Although it can fly, the secretary bird prefers to move around on foot and can cover 30 km a day, earning it the title 'Africa's marching eagle'.

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