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 List of bird species seen


The massed flocks enclosed in the Ostrich farms along the Garden Route, with a peak in numbers within properties around Oudtshoorn (“the Ostrich capital of the world”) give the impression of an abundant bird within the region. However, only one or two birds along the journey look to have even a remotely wild credential, and it is possible that the nearest to truly wild birds were those seen at Cape of Good Hope Reserve. Here, one pair had two fairly well grown young, and a male was seen at Cape Point

Jackass Penguin

For the last 20 years or so, this species has decided to forego its island status to some degree, and 3 colonies have been established on the mainland of South Africa. Boulders Beach is the best known and most commercialised, with the colony undergoing practical work to fence it in from the nearby human dwellings (not a total success), yet leaving it in its wild state. The penguins are truly up close and personal here, with ~3000 birds present. We arrived during the moulting season, leaving most of them swimless, although small numbers were also seen swimming from both the Robben Island and Whale Watch boat trips

Cape Gannet

A total of ~6 birds were passing the boats on the Robben Island and Whale Watch boat journeys

Great Cormorant

This is probably one of the least common of the cormorants seen on the trip, with the largest number being at Storms River (8) and Brenton-on-Sea (20). A single bird stood out amongst the Cape Cormorants at Boulders Beach

Cape Cormorant

Common in colonies along the coast, with a small group of ~12 on the rocks at Hermanus, and much more populous colonies at Boulders Beach and Cape Point (again on rocks just offshore)

Bank Cormorant

The best site for these is the harbour of Robben Island, where a large colony greets those on the island tour

Long-tailed Cormorant

As is the case for this bird, all sightings were inland, with all the birds I saw along the Garden Route, with up to 6 around Oudtshoorn, and another over Buffalo Hills

Crowned Cormorant

At least 2 birds were in the harbour of Robben Island, with one on the dock as we were leaving, and 3+ in the harbour of the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town

Grey Heron

The only birds seen were 2 on the journey from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn

Black-headed Heron

Much more common than Grey Heron, these were seen regularly in the first week: Cape Town to Oudtshoorn (2); Buffalo Hills (1)

Little Egret

Oudtshoorn (1); journey from Knysna to Cape Town (1)

Cattle Egret

Journey from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn (~100); Cango Wildlife Ranch (3); Robben Island (~30)

Black-crowned Night-Heron

A pair of active birds were present at the reedbed in front of The Yot Club on both evenings

Sacred Ibis

Common along the Garden Route: journey from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn (~50); Buffalo Hills (~40); Brenton-on-Sea (22); journey from Knysna to Cape Town (1); Robben Island

Hadada Ibis

These birds are both common and noisy, being more or less ever present in small numbers while out of the city: Oudtshoorn (6, 2); Buffelsdrift (2); Buffalo Hills (1); Brenton (1); Knysna to Cape Town (8); Kirstenbosch (1)

Egyptian Goose

Very common. Seen on every day, although less commonly seen when spending time in Cape Town

South African Shelduck 

Only one seen, on the estuary just East of Plettenberg Bay when leaving Buffalo Hills

Red-billed Duck 

The only bird seen was on a small pond next to the airport

Black-shouldered Kite

A single bird was on telegraph wires on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn

Black Kite

Only 2 seen, both while travelling between the Garden Route and Cape Town

African Fish-Eagle

A single bird was seen briefly over the inland part of the lagoon at Knysna

Pale Chanting-Goshawk

5 were on wires during the journey from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn; 2 at Buffelsdrift; 1 at Oudtshoorn

Eurasian Buzzard

Another raptor seen exclusively while travelling: ~8 from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn; 1 from Storms River to Knysna; 2 around Knysna lagoon; 4 from Knysna to Cape Town

Jackal Buzzard

What was probably the same bird seen twice was circling Buffalo Hills

Eurasian Kestrel

A single male was seen while travelling from Oudtshoorn to Buffalo Hills

Peregrine Falcon

The bird seen at Signal Hill was playfully (?) stooping on a toy kite

Cape Francolin

Surprisingly, only a few of these were seen: Signal Hill (2); Robben Island (1); Kirstenbosch (3)

Helmeted Guineafowl

This is probably one of the most common and widespread species seen, occurring in almost every type of habitat

Blue Crane

This is almost a South African endemic, and listed as being threatened with a declining population. I was therefore surprised to see so many on the journey between Cape Town and the Garden Route, with ~25 on the outward journey, and 11 on the return. They usually occurred in open fields, quite often by the roadside, and were usually in pairs or small groups

Common Moorhen

2 at the pool adjacent to the airport, and 1 at Oudtshoorn

Red-knobbed Coot

1 on the lake at Buffelsdrift, and 25+ on the lagoon at Knysna

Black Bustard

A male was calling for some time from a sandbank while waiting for the Meerkats to appear early morning near Oudtshoorn

African Oystercatcher

This is a near threatened species which occurs along the Namibian and Western Cape coasts. Numbers were low, but it was found at three separate sites: Storms River (2); beach at Brenton (4); Boulders Beach (4)

Black-winged Stilt

2 were in the estuary just East of Plettenberg Bay

Spotted Thick-knee

Two birds were seen – 1 was next to the exit track when leaving Buffelsdrift Game Reserve, the other appeared on the road from the fynbos nature reserve at Brenton-on-Sea

Blacksmith Plover 

Pool next to airport (4); Buffelsdrift (~40); Robben Island (5)

Crowned Lapwing

A pair were on the open Karoo while following the Meerkats, and a single bird was at Buffalo Bay (along the beach from Brenton-on-Sea)

White-fronted Plover 

2 were on the beach at Brenton-on-Sea

Kelp Gull

Quite common, with small numbers seen on most days when near or at the coast

Hartlaub's Gull

Very common around Cape Town and the False Bay area

Great Crested Tern

Storms River (~200); Buffalo Bay (near Brenton-on-Sea 10); Cape Point (~50)

Sandwich Tern

Cape Town harbour (~10)

Speckled Pigeon

A common bird throughout, even being seen feeding from scraps in the harbours

Rameron Pigeon

~20 just outside of Brenton-on-Sea; 4 at Kirstenbosch

Red-eyed Dove


Ring-necked Dove


Laughing Dove

Common. A pair had made its nest and was incubating in one of the trees next to our entrance door at J&C’s Beach House in Brenton-on-Sea

Dideric Cuckoo 

Apparently, the owner at J&C’s Beach House had been looking for this bird for the last three months at the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-Sea, so I was pleased to find it calling from an open bush on the last morning there

Spotted Eagle-Owl 

Another surprise at Brenton – a pair were using two of the trees which were next to our entrance door as their roost site, and were calling to each other from above our room on the second evening. We also came across one of the birds setting off on an evening hunt just after dusk as we were driving to find our own restaurant!

Alpine Swift 

6 over Table Mountain; small numbers at Cape Point

African Swift

2 over Signal Hill

Little Swift

These were common around Oudtshoorn

Horus Swift

~6 were picked out amongst the Little Swifts at Oudtshoorn, and small numbers were over Buffalo Bay, Knysna

White-rumped Swift 

Up to 10 were with the Little Swifts at Oudtshoorn, and small numbers were with the Horus Swifts at Buffalo Bay, Knysna

Speckled Mousebird

Mousebirds were very common around Oudtshoorn, and this was the most common species identified amongst them. In addition, 5 were at Boulders Beach, and 3 at Cape Point

White-backed Mousebird

4 were identified at Oudtshoorn, with another at Buffalo Hills, and 1 at Brenton-on-Sea

Red-faced Mousebird

4 were at Buffelsdrift, and another 3 at Brenton-on-Sea

Brown-hooded Kingfisher

2 were seen – 1 perched on the wire over the river ford at Oudtshoorn, just outside of the Yot Club, and another next to the road leading into Brenton-on-Sea

Giant Kingfisher 

One bird was seen twice flying over the lake at Buffelsdrift; 1 flew along the rocks at Storms River; 1 perched over the lagoon at Knysna

Pied Kingfisher

1 on the journey from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn; 1 on the estuary East of Plettenberg Bay

Eurasian Hoopoe 

1 singing in front of the Yot Club at Oudtshoorn; 1 flying at Buffelsdrift; 1 at Buffalo Hills

Karoo Lark 

Good numbers of larks were seen but not identified on the Klein Karoo while watching the Meerkats, but of those seen well, this was the predominant species (~8)

Spike-heeled Lark

There were hints of the presence of these with the distinctive shape of occasional larks seen briefly, but only one was seen well enough to identify

Black Sawwing

1 over Brenton-on-Sea, and ~6 over Cape Point

Plain Martin

1 over Cape Point

Banded Martin

Strangely, these were only seen over the harbour at Knysna, where they were easily the most common hirundine

White-throated Swallow

An initial individual was seen perched on a fence during a coffee break just outside of Heidelberg, with 4 regularly landing on the dining area at Buffelsdrift, and 2 in front of the Yot Club at Oudtshoorn

Pearl-breasted Swallow 

Only seen passing over the Klein Karoo while sitting waiting for the Meerkats to appear, with at least 4 birds

Greater Striped-Swallow 

Regularly seen in mixed hirundine and swift flocks: Oudtshoorn (4, 10, 2 over Yot Club); Buffalo Hills (1); Brenton-on-Sea (1)

Cape Wagtail

Very common throughout, when it was seen on every day and in almost every habitat. A very young bird with a very short tail was on the weir of the river in front of the Yot Club

Black Cuckoo-shrike

Only one seen very briefly, in one of the few large trees just outside of the perimeter electric fence of the lodge at Buffalo Hills. It showed both yellow wing patch and gape

Cape Bulbul 

Brenton-on-Sea (quite common); Boulders Beach (1); Cape Point (2); Cape Town (2)

Sombre Greenbul

The rich song of this bird belies its plain looks, and it is often the song that is first noticed: Brenton-on-Sea (2, 2); Kirstenbosch (1)

Olive Thrush

Oudtshoorn (3, 1); Cango Wildlife Ranch (1); Buffalo Hills (2); Storms River (1); Kirstenbosch (~8)

Red-headed Cisticola 

3 were showing off song flights in the rough scrub just outside of the reception building of Buffelsdrift Wildlife Reserve

Karoo Prinia

One of those small and understated birds with a powerful call: Buffelsdrift (3 just outside of the reception building); Brenton-on-Sea (~8); Boulders Beach (2); Signal Hill (1); Kirstenbosch (3)

Bar-throated Apalis 

What was probably the same bird was seen in the same general area next to the road on both visits to the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-Sea

African Reed-Warbler 

Up to 10 birds were in the reeds, with some singing, in front of the Yot Club

Lesser Swamp-Warbler 

Noticeably larger and with a much cleaner appearance than the African Reed Warbler, the much more melodic song of this skulking bird was picked out of the reeds at the Yot Club in Oudtshoorn, with good views eventually obtained

Fiscal Flycatcher 

A pair were within the enclosed lodge area of Buffalo Hills, with at last 4 even more approachable birds in the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-Sea

Cape Robin-Chat

A fairly common bird seen on most days: Oudtshoorn (1); Cango Wildlife Ranch (2); Buffalo Hills (2); Knysna (1); Brenton-on-Sea (4, 3); Signal Hill (1); Cape Point (1); Kirstenbosch (4)

Karoo Scrub-Robin 

A pair were building a nest in the manicured area in front of the reception building at Buffelsdrift, and another were seen on the Klein Karoo at the end of the Meerkat outing

African Stonechat

A single bird landed in the reeds for a short time at the Yot Club

Familiar Chat

2 birds at Buffelsdrift, with one preening and showing off for some time on the fence surrounding the dining area

African Paradise-Flycatcher 

One briefly in the car park as we were about to leave Cango Wildife Ranch

Orange-breasted Sunbird 

After one was seen at Buffelsdrift, the only other location where they were seen was on the top of Table Mountain, with at least 5 males were singing, and a female was on the ground next to one of the popular tracks

Amethyst Sunbird

A stunning male was lit in the evening light just opposite J&C’s Beach House at Brenton-on-Sea on the second evening, with a pair on wires at the fynbos reserve the next morning

Malachite Sunbird

Another of those species which I have been looking forward to since childhood, they didn’t disappoint. After a non-breeding male was seen briefly on successive days next to the flowerbeds of the Yot Club, a pair was seen on both visits to the Protea Garden of Kirstenbosch

Southern Double-collared Sunbird

The only site where both this species and its Greater cousin were seen together was at Brenton-on-Sea, where sightings included a nest in the conifer adjoining our room (1, 3). Further single males were at Cape Point and Kirstenbosch

Greater Double-collared Sunbird 

This species seems to have a more easterly distribution in the Western Cape than Southern Double-collared Sunbird: Buffalo Hills (a pair inside the lodge area, and a separate extra male outside); Brenton-on-Sea (~6, 2)

Cape White-eye

Quite common around the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-Sea, and ~20 in Kirstenbosch Gardens

Cape Sugarbird 

I was surprised that these birds were absent from the Protea Gardens at Kirstenbosch, where they are likely to be seasonal, so had to make do with the single female which landed in the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-Sea

Common Fiscal 

Very common throughout

Southern Boubou

The rich song of this bird is quite often the only sign of its presence, since it is very much a skulker. It was heard at one or two localities, including from the balcony of J&C’s Beach House, but a pair were seen well at the lodge area of Buffalo Hills


It was relatively disappointing that the only view of this stunning bird was the olive back and yellow tail tips which flew past our jeep and into the scrub during the game drive at Buffelsdrift

Fork-tailed Drongo

Buffelsdrift (4, 4); Brenton-on-Sea (3)

Cape Crow 

Seen in small numbers sporadically, they were reasonably common while journeying between the Garden Route and Cape Town, with an additional 4 at Buffelsdrift, and a few at Buffalo Hills

Pied Crow 

4 were seen while travelling, with an additional 6 at Brenton-on-sea, and 4 at Cape of Good Hope Reserve

White-necked Raven

1 each was seen on both journeys to and from the Garden Route to Cape Town, with 1 over Kirstenbosch

Wattled Starling

Only birds were ~15 in a flock of Pied Starlings at Buffelsdrift

Cape Glossy-Starling

1 at Buffalo Hills

African Pied Starling

Apart from up to 6 seen on each journey between Cape Town and the Garden Route, and also between Buffalo Hills and Knysna, the only others were 30+ around Buffelsdrfit, including a mixed flock with Wattled Starlings

Red-winged Starling 

This species seems to be fulfilling a similar role to the Eurasian Starlings of other continents, since it is common within human habitation, such as the dining areas of Table Mountain, Cape Point, and the V&A Waterfront of Cape Town

House Sparrow 

Small numbers at Oudtshoorn, Cango Wildlife Ranch, and Robben Island

Cape Sparrow 

Thankfully, this more native sparrow seems to outnumber the House Sparrow, where it is quite common in the Oudtshoorn area, and also on Robben Island

Cape Weaver 

The most common weaver, with regular numbers at Oudtshoorn (breeding within the Yot Club grounds), Buffalo Hills (again breeding in a colony in the lodge area), and Brenton-on-Sea

Southern Masked-Weaver 

After a single bird at the coffee stop near Heidelberg, only seen at Oudtshoorn, where a small colony was breeding in the reeds in front of the Yot Club

Red Bishop

3 were the first birds seen at the coffee stop just outside of Heidelberg, but they were much more common and up close with a breeding colony within the reedbed of the Yot Club at Oudtshoorn

Yellow Bishop 

A single bird was in the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-Sea

Common Waxbill

Brenton-on-Sea (1)

Pin-tailed Whydah

Single male from the car between Cape Town and Oudtshoorn

Cape Canary 

A male was singing one evening from the wires in front of J&C’s Beach House at Brenton-on-Sea, with a small flock or two feeding amongst the flowerbeds at Kirstenbosch

Forest Canary 

A single bird landed briefly in the Protea Garden at Kirstenbosch

Streaky-headed Seedeater 

At least 2 pairs in the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-sea, with one pair gathering nesting material, and the other with a singing male

Cape Bunting

2 at Cape Point dining area, including one singing male

Mammals seen

Chacma Baboon

The most likely place for these to be seen is on the Cape of Good Hope Reserve, where regular signs warn against the feeding of the baboons. We didn’t see any here, but did watch a troop of about 12 individuals on our approach to Oudtshoorn on the first day. They were initially crossing the road in front of us, and found entertainment on the wet roof of a disused building in the rain. Another small troop was feeding on the verges of the main N2 highway East of Plettenberg Bay, with a single individual further on near to Nature’s Valley

Small Grey Mongoose

A single individual ran across in front of us and into the vegetation on Signal Hill

Grey Meerkat

The population on the Klein Karoo hadn’t been officially discovered until the intervention of Grant McIlrath and his Meerkat Magic project. They represent a subspecies distinctly darker than those in Namibia, North-western South Africa, and Botswana. The study group covers 3 populations, each with territories of around 10km2. We saw 11 animals in the study gang, with the female leader heavily pregnant, which subsequently gave birth the day after our visit

South African Fur Seal

We were pleasantly caught unaware to the presence of these within the harbour at Cape Town, where some could be regularly seen very close to while sleeping on gangways. There are apparently 250+ within the harbour, living off scraps, and are reportedly darker (dirtier?) than the ones found in the open ocean. We also saw 4 from the whale watch trip, all looking to follow in the wake of the boat for some distance

Southern Right Whale

Of the 3 regular whales found off the South African coast, this is by far the most common, approaching the shores during July to November. There are many spots along the coastline where they can be seen, with those around False Bay being among the best. We stopped off at Hermanus on the journey back from the Garden Route, to find a mini whale watching industry, and 3 whales a little distance offshore. A better experience was of 5 whales, including a very light grey one, in one of the bays South of Boulders Beach on the Cape. These were possibly as close to the shore as they could get, and we watched them from above. 3 more were also seen North of Cape Town from the Whale watch, with a further 3 just outside of the harbour entrance as we returned (apparently they had been within the harbour earlier)

White Rhinoceros

Both Buffelsdrift and Buffalo Hills held a pair of these, with the latter having a 2 year old calf

Common Rock Hyrax

One of the most regular sites for these is around the café on table mountain, but we couldn’t find any. However, they were feeding amongst the crowds and the rubbish bins at Hermanus (6), with more next to the boundary fence at Boulders Beach (3)

Common Hippopotamus 

A group of 7 were on the opposite shore to the reception area of Buffelsdrift


3 at Buffelsdrift and 5 at Buffalo Hills (each containing one calf)


3 at Buffalo Hills


Small numbers of these, the rather dapper caama subspecies indigenous to the Cape and Kalahari, are at Buffelsdrift, where we saw 1

Black Wildebeest 

Buffelsdrift (~15)


A pair of seemingly wild animals were beside a waterhole at Cape Point. Introduced animals were also at Buffalo Hills, where some of the females had days old calves


~20 at Bufflesdrift


2 were in the Klein Karoo just outside of Oudtshoorn while watching the Meerkats


A single animal of the relatively unmarked Cape variety was in the fynbos reserve at Brenton-on-Sea

Greater Kudu

5 at Buffelsdrift, and ~3 at Buffalo Hills

Beisa Oryx

~12 at Buffelsdrift

Four-striped Grass Mouse

A single animal was just below the entrance walkway within the flowerbeds at Buffelsdrift

Bush Karoo Rat 

2 preceded the Meerkats in waking up first next to the sleeping burrow



Paintings gallery

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Buffalo Hills


Cape Town+


Species list

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