5 Best Birding Spots in South Africa


Almost anywhere in South Africa is a good birding spot because we have more than 900 bird species ranging from big – such as the ostrich and kori bustard (the world’s heaviest flying bird) – to tiny ones like the willow warbler, which covers 12 000 km when it migrates from Siberia to spend summer here.

By: Kate Turkington

Ostrich. Image by Terry Bell

Many birders visit for our dozens of endemics – birds that you find here and nowhere else – including our national bird, the blue crane, the African black oystercatcher (SA’s rarest endemic coastal bird), the Cape vulture and ground woodpecker.

Black Oystercatcher. Image by Terry Bell

But there are some key spots that you really wouldn’t want to miss.

Kruger National Park has to be top of the list, with over 500 species during the summer months. In the north, that is one of the best birding spots for ‘specials’. Look out for the colourful little black-throated wattle-eye, Bohm’s spinetail, and the bird on every serious birders’ wish list, the elusive Pel’s fishing owl.

Pel’s Fishing Owl. Image taken in Pafuri, Kruger National Park. Image by Terry Bell.

But wherever you are in Kruger, look out for the Big Six: the lappet-faced vulture, the saddle-billed stork, southern ground hornbill, martial eagle, kori bustard and Pel’s fishing owl.

Kori Bustard. Image by Terry Bell

Another spectacular birding spot is Limpopo’s Nylsvlei Nature Reserve, home to water birds and waders of all shapes and sizes, including the rare lesser moorhen and Allen’s gallinule.

Wakkerstroom in Mpumalanga is a designated an ‘important bird area’ because of its variety of habitats, including high-altitude grassland, where you’ll find nine of our endemics. Hire a guide from Birdlife South Africa’s HQ in Wakkerstroom and spot Botha’s lark, the critically endangered Rudd’s lark, the yellow-breasted pipit and white-bellied korhaan, among others.

In Cape Town, visit Boulders Beach at Simon’s Town and enjoy the antics of the highly endangered, highly entertaining African penguins.

Penguin, Boulders Beach. Image Supplied by Cape Town Tourism

Pilanesberg Game Reserve (adjacent to Sun City) in North West province is one of our top birding destinations, as are Golden Gate Highlands National Park in the eastern Free State and KwaZulu-Natal’s national parks.

Cape Vulture in full flight. Image by Terry Bell.

But whether you’re in the city, the mountains, the bush, or by the sea, keep your eyes open – there are birds everywhere.

by Kate Turkington


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