A variety of habitats provide homes for more than 900 species of birds, or 10% of the world’s total. They range from the ostrich – farmed in the Oudtshoorn district of the Western Cape, but seen in the wild mostly in the north of the country – through such striking species as the hornbills to the ubiquitous LBJs (Little Brown Jobs).
One small area alone, around the town of Vryheid in northern KZN, offers wetlands, grasslands, thornveld, and both montane and riverine forest, and 380 species have been recorded there. A birder need not move out of a typical Gauteng garden to spot grey go-away-birds, mouse birds, hoopoes, hadeda ibises, crested or black-collared barbets, Cape white eyes, olive thrushes or a lone Burchell’s coucal poking clumsily around a tree. And that would by no means complete the list. Image
Among the most spectacular birds of South Africa are the cranes, all of which are probably most easily spotted in wetlands although the wattled crane is a lucky find as it is extremely uncommon. A project exists to hatch the second of the two eggs laid as the breeding pair only raises one chick at a time, abandoning the other egg.
The beautiful blue crane is South Africa’s national bird; the crowned crane is probably the flashiest of the three with its unmistakable prominent crest.
Among its larger bird species South Africa has several eagles and vultures. The most colourful birds include kingfishers, bee-eaters, sunbirds, the exquisite lilac breasted roller, and the Knysna and purple-crested turacos.