Top birding hotspots in the Western Cape

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

Top birding hotspots in the Western Cape

The Cape Floristic Kingdom, with its unique floral and habitat diversity, is one of South Africa’s most picturesque and most popular birding areas. Although the Fynbos does not have the large variation of bird species that the bushveld does, several endemic and highly sought after species do occur. Below is a selection of five favorite birding locations all within easy reach of Cape Town.


  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens lie at the base of the Table Mountain chain, within the suburbs of Cape Town. World-renowned for its floral displays of fynbos, this incredible diversity of plant life in turn attracts the best of the Western Cape birds, including: Cape Sugarbird, Orange-Breasted Sunbird, Cape Spurfowl, Cape Siskin and Protea Canary.
  • The 27600 hectare West Coast National Park has as its core, the Langebaan Lagoon. The park is a hotspot for endemism and is probably best known for its vast fields of spring flowers and for the huge numbers of Palearctic waders that it attracts during our spring and summer months. Annually, there are regular sightings of extremely rare waders on the shores of the Lagoon and it is well worthwhile scanning the flocks of waders with a spotting scope to try and pick these rarities out.
  • Pelagic birding is not just about trying to see a few new birds; it is a whole adventure that starts with climbing aboard a boat and heading way out to sea where land is no longer visible. It is about being able to feel the fresh sea air and smelling the salt spray, as swells push over the front of the bow.  It is about scanning the entire horizon from where you have the feeling that you could be the only people on earth and then seeing an almost magical appearance of that first albatross or petrel as it glides effortlessly between the swells with barely a wing-beat. With the Western Cape’s extensive coastline there are numerous opportunities for pelagic bird watching.
  • The Overberg lies on the doorstep of Cape Town and is well known for its picturesque landscapes of grazing sheep, green grain fields and yellow canola fields. It is also a great birding destination in its own right. Regular flocks of regal looking Blue Cranes can be seen along with Black Harriers, Denham’s Bustards, Karoo Korhaans, Cape Clapper Larks and Agulhas Long-Billed Larks.
  • De Hoop Nature Reserve, lies in the heart of the Overberg and is home to the only remaining breeding colony of Cape Vultures within the Western Cape. Perhaps the most obvious feature when driving through the gate and into the reserve is the 16 kilometer long vlei which is a Ramsar wetland and at times contains over 30 000 birds. Great White Pelicans arrive in flocks of up to 400 strong. Caspian Terns carry out continual patrols over the vlei and, in the summer months, White-winged and Whiskered Terns arrive in fluctuating numbers. African Spoonbill, Great Crested, Black-necked and Little Grebes are all common, along with a variety of duck species. On the coastline African Black Oystercatchers thrive amongst the inter-tidal rock pools and constant flocks of Swift and Sandwich Terns fly along the coastline together with Cape Cormorant and Kelp Gulls.


First Published: 18/09/15

Peter Chadwick

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