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TThe water birds of Mpumalanga and their habitats are well known to birders throughout the world. It’s in Mpumalanga that you will find the rare Pel’s fishing owl, the highly endangered saddle-billed stork, the rarely glimpsed white-winged flufftail and many of their more common – but often as fascinating – cousins.
South Africa is known as one of the world’s most exciting destinations for birds and birding. There are many rewarding places to see over 800 birds of all shapes and sizes, but if you are after special species and special places then you’ll find the water birds of Mpumalanga particularly fascinating.
You’ll find the water birds of Mpumalanga almost everywhere – at dams, in rivers, foraging along river banks and paddling along streams. You may even see more common ones such as the water-associated Cape wagtail bathing in a garden birdbath, or a sacred ibis flying over the motorway.
But if it’s fantastic water bird destinations you’re looking for, then Mpumalanga has several.
Of course, you just can’t beat the Kruger National Park for any kind of bird. Its sheer size (think Israel or Wales), its numerous ecological regions and its bird population – over 500 species – will have you ticking off water birds in no time.
Look for Pel’s fishing owl along the banks of the Kruger’s great rivers, particularly where there are big riverine trees like jackalberry and nyala overhanging deep pools.
Pairs of endangered saddle-billed storks frequent the Kruger’s dams and rivers, as do woolly-necked and marabou storks.
Another great water bird destination in Mpumalanga is the Wakkerstroom Wetlands that lie in South Africa’s largest grassland biome, ranked alongside the Russian steppes and North American prairies. It’s a critical wetlands area along bird migration routes, so look out for summer migrant waders such as ruffs, sandpipers and stints.
Wakkerstroom is the haunt of the blue and crowned cranes, as well as that almost legendary bird–- the white-winged flufftail – a mega-tick on any serious birder’s list.
The lovely lake district of Chrissiesmeer is where you can find chestnut-banded plovers, thousands of flamingos, the red-chested flufftail (almost as elusive as its white-winged cousin) and lots of migratory waders.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Mpumalanga Tourism & Parks Agency
Tel: +27 (0)13 759 5300/1
How to get here
Mpumalanga Province in north-east of Johannesburg, about a 3- to 4-hour drive. If coming from further south, consider flying into the Kruger International Airport.
Best time to visit
Summer, when the migrant water birds are back from their northern wintering, although there are plenty of resident water birds throughout the year.
Things to do
Mpumalanga’s world-famous Panorama Route and Chrissiesmeer’s lake district.
Tours to do
Visit www.birdlife.org.za for birding tour options.
What to pack
Quality lightweight binoculars – heavy binoculars are very tiring and cumbersome when you are bird watching for any length of time.
Where to stay
The Kruger National Park has accommodation to suit all budgets. Both Wakkerstroom and Chrissiesmeer have charming, friendly, affordable B&Bs.