Birding in South Africa
Did you know?
The yellowbilled stork is one of South Africa's 9 stork species.
Birding in South Africa is amazing – whether you're on safari, cruising round the Cape Winelands, hiking in the Drakensberg or sunning yourself by the sea, you won't be far from bird-watching opportunities.
South Africa boasts over 900 bird species, ranging from the familiar – swallows, robins and thrushes – to the lesser known, such as turacos, penguins and sunbirds.
Many birders come for the endemics, those species found in southern Africa and nowhere else. The blue crane (South Africa's national bird), Cape vulture, black oystercatcher and ground woodpecker are among those 113 endemics.
If you're in the Kruger National Park, look out not only for the Big Five, but also the Big Six birds: the lappet-faced vulture, martial eagle, saddle-billed stork, kori bustard, ground hornbill and Pel's fishing-owl. And watch the oxpeckers busily hoovering up ticks and insects from the hides of antelope, buffalo and giraffe.
When in the city suburbs take note of that prehistoric-looking bird flying noisily overhead. This mini pterodactyl is the hadeda ibis.
If you're in Cape Town, birder or not, a visit to the penguin colony at Simon's Town's Boulders Beach is non-negotiable. To see these highly endangered, totally loveable little birds at rest and play will be a highlight.
There are some great birding routes all over South Africa; some take just a few hours, others a day or more. Get in touch with one of our many thriving bird clubs for local information on the best routes and times to visit.
Birding in South Africa can be a lark – literally and metaphorically. Among our endemics are 15 kinds of these feathery LBJs (little brown jobs). So keep your eyes open.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Birdlife South Africa
Tel: +27 (0) 11 789 1122
Best time to visit
Spring and summer are the best times to go birding because all the migrant birds are back – some from as far afield as the Arctic.
The best way to bird is on foot.
What to pack
Good quality binoculars, a camera and comfy walking shoes. Always pack a hat and plenty of sunscreen, no matter the season.
Where to stay
There are many specific birding destinations such as the various national parks and reserves, and well-known birding areas such as Nylsvlei, Chrissiesmeer and the Drakensberg. Consult the local tourism offices of the specific area for accommodation options.
A good birding field guide, such as Newman or Roberts.