Birding in the Western Cape
With nearly 600 different species recorded in the Western Cape province, there is no shortage of birding to be done. A vast variety of habitats and elevations make the Western Cape a superb birding location for hundreds of resident species. During the summer months, the province plays host to dozens of migrant species, many of which are waders. The West Coast National Park along the west coast shoreline offers some of the country’s best summer birding, hosting a massive number of summer migrants. The park has also seen dozens of rarities reported over the past decade alone. Just inland – heading east – you will encounter a completely new range of species as you enter the plains of the Darling Hills area. Sprawling farmlands offer endless hours of back road birding, along with it being the southern most point for a number of species.
Closer to Cape Town itself, you will find a vast number of birding spots, from the notorious Strandfontein Sewage Works to the pristine botanical gardens of Kirstenbosch. Simon’s Town, just a 30 minute drive from Cape Town, offers pelagic birding tours where the operators take you out off of Cape Point. These pelagic tours are a great way to increase your South African life list, with massive numbers of sea birds present. There is always the possibility for something rare to occur as well.
The Boland and Overberg areas also host their own unique birding locations, with the Overberg also offering endless fields of farmland (though with very different species to that of the West Coast). Along the southern portions of the Overberg, De Hoop Nature Reserve is a popular location. De Hoop is the last remaining breeding location in the province for the Cape Vulture.
Towards the center and northern parts of the province, your habitat changes from fields and fynbos. Instead, the Tankwa Karoo offers birders a rather arid, dry habitat. The Tankwa area may not be the smoothest ride, with a lot of gravel roads working through the area, but it offers excellent birding with exclusive species that can be found nowhere else in the province. Similar habitat extend towards the NE of the province, however the range of species changes considerately towards Murraysburg, as one starts encountering birds which exist only in a small portion of the province, such as the Firefinches and northward.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Garden Route area. The Garden Route offers some of the best forest birding in the country and certainly the best in the province. The Knysna forests bring with them an entirely new array of birds. While the farmlands typically provide the dull, drab, Larks and Pipits; the Garden Route brings with it the bright colourful forest birds native to the tropical climates towards Kwazulu-Natal.
Below is a list of birding locations that I have birded at before. The information hopes to help others who may be new or unfamiliar with the areas, in allowing them to see which species can be seen at the locations, as well as where I have had the best luck seeing those particular species. As I continue to bird in new parts of the province, the list will be updated to reflect it.