Birder's Guide

MAR 2014

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Kruger National Park. Photo © Gerald Cubitt View of Cape Town and Table Mountain from Sunset Beach. Photo © Gerald Cubitt Black-breasted Snake-Eagle. Photo © Adam Riley South Africa 48 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 est avian diversity, you should spend a lot of time birding here. Birds often move in mixed focks, which are usually led by the vociferous Fork-tailed Drongo. Common fock members include Yellow-breasted Apalis, Brubru, Neddicky, Orange-breasted Bushshrike, African Paradise-Flycatcher, and Rattling Cisticola. The woodlands are packed with species from typically African bird families: hornbills, bee-eaters, roll- ers, kingfshers, robin-chats, barbets, and woodpeckers. The starling diversity is a sheer delight, and visitors are regularly blinded by iridescent Greater Blue-eared, Cape, and Burchell's glossy-starlings. Finches are also popular with birders, and the number of species is staggering. Names such as Green-winged Pytilia, Jameson's Firefnch, and Violet-eared Waxbill only hint at the exquisiteness of these delicate birds. One of the highlights of birding this habitat is bumping into a party of enor- mous Southern Ground-Hornbills. These unusual-looking birds spend their days patrolling the woodlands for scorpions, spiders, and snakes, which they toss into the air and swallow whole (and alive)! All of Kruger's camps and picnic sites provide excellent birding and permit bird- ing on foot. Visitors are bound to vehi- cles throughout the rest of the park due to the presence of dangerous mammals. Within the camps, many of the birds have become extremely habituated after years without human disturbance. In fact, you may have to guard your meal from an over- zealous Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill or a bold Gray Go-away-bird! Productive birding and photography can be enjoyed while quietly stalking the trails and paths that wind through the camps. Look out for species such as African Green-Pigeon, White-throated Robin-chat, Bennett's Woodpecker, and the multicolored Purple- crested Turaco. Areas of more open grassland—espe- cially towards central Kruger—host a bevy of different species: Common Ostrich, Secretarybird, Kori and Black-bellied bus- tards, Shelley's and Swainson's francolins, Small Buttonquail, Crowned Lapwing, Zitting Cisticola, and African Quailfnch. Rocky outcrops (locally known as kop- pies) host their own avifauna, including Mocking Cliff-chat and Striped Pipit. The raptor density throughout Kruger is as- tonishing and a sobering reminder that raptors have been decimated outside of large conservation areas. Bateleurs are al- most constantly overhead, sweeping low over the savannah in search of carrion and small prey. Martial Eagles watch from high perches, and snake-eagles (both Brown and Black-chested) abound. African Fish- Eagle (a close relative of the Bald Eagle) is regularly encountered along rivers and lakes, and numerous other eagles, buz- zards, kites, sparrowhawks, goshawks, fal- cons, harriers, and kestrels can be expect- ed. Vultures are also a prominent feature. No fewer than fve species are regularly encountered, and they often signal a large cat kill. Numerous rivers, lakes, and human- made dams in Kruger provide habitat for an exciting array of waterbirds. Large species predominate and are found here in densities that no longer exist outside of the park. Nowhere in South Africa are Saddle-billed Stork, Goliath Heron, and African Finfoot as easily seen. Several other large species also oc- cur, including the Black Stork, African Openbill, Yellow-billed Stork, and the unique Hamerkop. Giant, Pied, and Malachite kingfshers hunt conspicu- ously along watercourses, but only the most fortunate birders will come across such cryptic species as Greater Painted- 7-South Africa.indd 48 3/4/14 1:13 PM

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