Birdwatching in the Western Cape
Many people enjoy observing birds in their natural environment as a hobby.
Birdwatching is a very popular recreational activity that the whole family can enjoy. It's also one of the preferred subject matters for photographers. Bird photography provides many opportunities for spectacular photos in unique settings. Birdwatching can also be quite captivating during times of migration, when different kinds of birds migrate to and from different parts of the province.
Get started with the basics of birdwatching. Here are some tips to help you:
- Binoculars will allow you to see the birds clearly which will enable you to identify the birds better. Some birds are very shy and a pair of binoculars will allow you to see them up close without scaring them away.
- A field guide book will help you identify the birds that you see. Any bookstore will be able to help you with a field guide of South African birds. You can also borrow one from your local library.
- Bird trails will give you an opportunity to explore new places that you might not have seen otherwise. You can also discover the birds in your garden or a public park near your home first. Practice identifying birds close to home with your binoculars and field guide before you explore further away from home.
- Join a birdwatching group to learn more about the secrets of this hobby by joining bird walks. You can find a birding group near you by searching online. CapeNature and SANparks will also be able to give you more information on birding trails within conservation parks.
Birds can be identified by sight or sound. If you have a smartphone, you can carry an amazing collection of digital guides in your pocket. Most of the field guides are available as apps, and most of them have bird sounds you can listen to as well.
You’ll need a notebook to record your sightings or if you have a smartphone, you can download an app to record and safely store your bird sightings online.
Assisting conservation groups
When you’ve gained enough experience and confidence in your birdwatching skills, you can start helping conservation groups to record and monitor endangered and other species. SANParks and the Endangered Wildlife Trust have a joint initiative where you can give feedback on your sightings of endangered birds. Western Cape Birding has a lot of information on different bird counting, workshops on different birds as well as handy information on different routes and groups for bird watching.
Below is a list of some of the best birdwatching spots in the different areas in the Western Cape as well as some of the birds that you can expect to find in and a small example of the birds you will find at each of them.
Table Mountain National Park
Look out for these birds: Verreaux's Eagles, Streaky-headed Seedeater and Grey-backed Cisticola.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Look out for these birds: Orange-breasted Sunbird, Olive Woodpecker and Spotted Flycatcher.
Simon’s Town and Boulders Beach
Look out for these birds: African Penguin, Swift Terns and African Black Oystercatchers.
Intaka Island, Century City
Look out for these birds: Malachite Kingfisher, Red-knobbed Coot and Black-crowned Night-Heron.
Rondevlei Nature Reserve & Cape Flats-wetland
Look out for these birds: African Fish-Eagle, Lesser Swamp-warbler, Black Crake as well as rare sightings of the Rufous-tailed Scrub Robin.
The Cape Whale Coast
Look out for these birds: Blue Crane, Denham's Bustards and Cape-Rock-jumper
Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens
Look out for these birds: African Paradise Flycatcher, Southern Boubou and Cape Grassbird.
Kleinmond and the Botrivier Estuary
Look out for these birds: Western Osprey, Eurasian Oystercatcher and African Openbill.
The Vermont Salt Pan
Look out for these birds: Greater Flamingo, Pied Avocet and Red-billed Teals.
Salmonsdam Nature Reserve and Environs
Look out for these birds: Cape Bunting, Ground Woodpecker and Peregrine Falcon.
Garden of Eden
Look out for these birds: Knysna Turaco, Yellow-throated Woodland-Warbler and African Emerald Cuckoo.
Robberg Nature Reserve
Look out for these birds: Orange-breasted Sunbird, Southern Tchagra and Cape Rock-thrush
Bitou River Floodplain
Look out for these birds: Blue-mantled Crested-Flycatcher, Scaly-throated Honeyguide and Black-backed Puffback.
The Plettenberg Bay Game Reserve
Look out for these birds: Bar-throated Apalis, Yellow Bishop and Bokmakierie.
The Tsitsikamma National Park
Look out for these birds: Giant Kingfishers, Half-collared Kingfisher and African Finfoot.
The Mountain Passes Of The Witzenberg Region
Look out for these birds: Cape Siskin, Victorin's Warbler and Cape Rock-jumper.
The Tankwa-Karoo National Park
Look out for these birds: Tractrac Chat, Burchell's Coursers and Karoo Eremomela.
Look out for these birds: Booted and Eagle, Cape Siskin and Ground Woodpecker.
The Swartberg Pass
Look out for these birds: Cape Eagle-owl, Peregrine Falcon and Black Stork.
The Karoo plains to the east of Beaufort West
Look out for these birds: Karoo-longbilled Larks, Karoo Chats and Karoo Eremomelas.
The Marloth Nature Reserve
Look out for these birds: Black Eagle, Tambourine Dove and Cape Vulture.
The Bontebok National Park
Look out for these birds: Black Harrier, Orange-Breasted Sunbird and Southern Tchagra.
The Grootvadersbosch Nature Reserve
Look out for these birds: Swee Waxbills, Alpine Swift and African Harrier-Hawk.
The Boosmansbos Wilderness Area
Look out for these birds: Striped Flufftail, Black Eagle and Knysna Woodpecker.
Potberg Nature Reserve
Look out for these birds: Cape Vulture Grey-backed Cisticola and Malachite Sunbird.
West Coast National Park and the Langebaan Lagoon
Look out for these birds: Lesser flamingo, White Pelican and Curlew Sandpiper.
The Lower Berg River Wetlands
Look out for these birds: Malachite Kingfishers, Pied Avocet and Purple Herons.
Laaiplek and Rocherpan
Look out for these birds: Maccoa Duck, Black Crake and African Purple Swamphen.
Cederberg Wilderness Area
Look out for these birds: Sentinel Rock-thrushes, Karoo Long-billed Larks and Southern Pale Chanting Goshawk.
Olifants River Estuary
Look out for these birds: Sickle-winged Chats, Red-capped Larks and Namaqua Warblers.
Apart from seeing some of the more than 170 endemic bird species of the Western Cape you’ll be able to explore and enjoy the diverse and beautiful scenery of our province.
Benefits of birdwatching
Birdwatching is a healthy outdoors hobby for the whole family. The search for new bird species will also take you to the most beautiful places in our province that you might not have visited otherwise. While practicing this hobby you’ll get the opportunity to assist in the conservation of our wild birds and get a better understanding of their natural habitat.
Videos courtesy Harry Mateman