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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Watching white rhinos in Kruger National Park. Photo © Gerald Cubitt South Africa 50 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2014 elephants and rhinos regularly hold up the tourist crowds, and, in those cases, you may only pass when Kruger's original inhabitants allow! Kruger offers unrivaled opportunities for observing big cats. About 2,000 lions, 1,000 leopards, and 120 cheetahs reside in the park. Prides of lions are usually found lounging in the shade or near waterholes during the day, but early morning starts and night drives can provide exhilarating opportunities for watching lion behavior. The thrill of experiencing lions roaring at close quarters cannot be easily described. Leopards have a reputation for being near- ly impossible to spot, but in Kruger their high density and relative habituation pro- vide the visitor with excellent chances of encountering one. Cheetahs are the tough- est of the big cats to fnd because they tend to avoid areas dominated by lions and oc- cur at lower densities. They are diurnal hunters, and you may luck into a chase by this fastest of land mammals. Other predators to keep an eye out for include the endangered African wild dog, packs of which are most regularly en- countered roaming the southern section of the park, and spotted hyena, which is often seen patrolling the roads at dawn and dusk. Matriarchal herds of African elephant are a regular sight. Kruger's elephants are famously relaxed and sometimes even sur- round your vehicle. Herds of Cape buf- falo are always accompanied by oxpeckers. Usually these are Red-billed, but if you are lucky, a Yellow-billed Oxpecker may show itself. Another popular animal is the world's tallest, the giraffe, which occurs at high densities in Kruger. Rhinoceros of both species (white and black) are present, but the former is more regularly encoun- tered than the more shy and aggressive black rhino. Smaller mammals can provide just as much excitement as big ones, espe- cially such characterful creatures as dwarf mongoose, vervet monkey, and the noto- rious honey badger (thanks to YouTube). No fewer than 148 mammal species occur in the park, and you never know when you might snag the tricky ones, such as ground pangolin, aardvark, roan antelope, and sable antelope. It is unusual to locate fewer than 20 species of mammals in a day. Other regularly-encountered species in- clude impala, Burchell's zebra, blue wilde- beest, hippopotamus, common bushbuck, reedbuck, waterbuck, greater kudu, and common warthog. This article covers only two relatively small regions of South Africa. With its incredible diversity of wildlife and fora, amazing scenery, ease of travel, and friend- ly people, it's no wonder that South Africa has become one of the world's most popu- lar birding destinations. If Africa is on your bucket-list, then South Africa should be seriously considered for your next birding destination. On behalf of the South African birding community, we welcome you to the Rainbow Nation. SUGGESTED READING Sinclair, I., Hockey, P. and Tarboton, W. (2011, Edition 4). Sasol Birds of Southern Africa . Struik, Cape Town. ISBN-13: 9781770079250. Sasol eBirds (mydigitalearth.com). Chittenden, Hugh. (2007). Roberts Birds Guide . John Voelcker Bird Book Fund: Cape Town. Chittenden, H, Allan, D and Weiersbye, I (2012). Roberts Geographic Variations of Southern African Birds . John Voelcker Bird Book Fund: Cape Town. Tarboton, W. (2001). A Guide to the Nests and Eggs of Southern African Birds. Cape Town, Struik. Mammals: Kingdon, J. (2003). The Kingdon Field Guide to African Mammals. Academic Press, San Diego. Kingdon, J. (2004). Kingdon Pocket Guide to African Mammals. Stuart, C. & T. (2007 – Edition 4). Field Guide to the Mammals of Southern Africa . Cape Town: Struik. Stuart, Chris and Mathilde. eGuide to Mammals of Southern Africa. (2012, mydigitalearth.com). Estes, R. (1999). The Safari Companion: A Guide to Watching Africa's Mammals. Chelsea Green. Reptiles and Amphibians: Branch, B. (1998). A Field Guide to the Snakes and other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Third edition. Struik: Cape Town. Carruthers, V.C. (2001). Frogs and frogging in Southern Africa . Struik Publishers. Plants: Coates Palgrave, K. (2002). Trees of Southern Africa. Third edition. Struik: Cape Town. Van Wyk, P. (2002). Southern African Trees: A Photographic Guide. Struik Publishers. Other Wildlife Guides: Filmer, M.R. (1997). Southern African Spi- ders, an Identifcation Guide. Struik. Woodhall, S (2005). Field Guide to Butter- fies of South Africa. Picker, M., Griffth, C. & A. Weaving. (2002). A Field Guide to Insects of South Africa. Travel Guides: Bradt and Lonely Planet Country Guides . 7-South Africa.indd 50 3/4/14 1:13 PM

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