The Soutpan Birding Route, adjacent to the 220 000 year-old Tswaing Crater, has become one of the Gauteng province's favourite birding destinations, where you can view more than 300 bird species in three different habitats – mixed woodland, thornveld thickets and open water.

Did you know?

South Africa covers only 2% of the world's land surface, but is home to 8% of the planet's birdlife.

The Soutpan Birding Route in the Tswaing Crater Nature Reserve lies just 40km north of Pretoria. Because of its variety of habitats, it's birding heaven with over 300 species of birdlife.

The crater, the result of a huge meteor impact millions of years ago, lies in the middle of the nature reserve and is easily accessible. But you're here for the birds, not the geology, so get your binoculars ready and start spotting.

Always keep your eyes open for raptors, because the Soutpan Birding Route is known for them. There's a breeding pair of African hawk-eagles, while gabar goshawks and little sparrowhawks dart between the trees. As owls are nocturnal, you probably won't see the barn owl and the southern white-faced scops-owl, but you may well hear the tiny pearl-spotted owlet's rising call during the day.

Begin your birding around the offices and museum, and look out for the southern black tit in the trees, and the brightly coloured crested barbet. Groundscraper thrushes criss-cross the ground looking for insects, and listen for the song of the white-browed robin-chat and the clattering call of the crested francolin.

Off to the river now, and, if you're lucky, you may see one of South Africa's most brilliantly coloured and striking birds – the crimson-breasted shrike. You may also hear the 'victor, victor' call of the greater honeyguide. Look out too for an assortment of waxbills – the blue, common and violet-eared.

On the river banks watch out for bird parties – you could spot anything from a long-billed crombec or striped cuckoo, to a spotted flycatcher. Remember though that cuckoos are here only in the summer.

On the river itself you can find herons, crakes and, in the swampy areas, that most elusive and sought-after avian of all birders – the red-chested flufftail.

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