Birding around Cape Town

Cape Sugarbird can be found with relative ease around Cape Town.

The popular holiday destination of Cape Town is perhaps better known for its beautiful mountain views, fine beaches and world-famous wine farms however the area also offers birders the perfect opportunity to connect with a number of range-restricted fynbos and Karoo specials. The unique fynbos ecoregion represents one of the six floral kingdoms of the world and is well-known for its incredibly high concentrations of plant species. The diversity of unique plants has led to a number of bird species becoming specialized to survive in this habitat, and it is these specials (and other South African endemics) that many birders target around Cape Town. Below we outline some of the day tour options Birding Ecotours offers to help you find these Cape and South African bird endemics, within a couple hours of Cape Town.

The birding around the Cape Peninsula (on which Cape Town is located) is an easy way to get acquainted with some of the area’s more widespread specials. The picturesque Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden can easily produce beauties such as Orange-breasted Sunbird and Cape Sugarbird as well as the likes of Cape Spurfowl, Forest Canary and many others. On this day tour we then usually spend some time birding forest patches in the nearby area to look for Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk, Swee Waxbill and Cape Siskin (in the open areas) before we head down to False Bay Nature Reserve (and Strandfontein Sewage Works) which has some of the best birding around Cape Town, with a plethora of waterbirds to work our way through. We also make sure to enjoy comical African Penguins at Boulders Beach. More information on our Cape Peninsula day tour can be read here

Cape Rockjumper is one of the most important of the Cape endemics, which can be found in the mountains a little further east of Cape Town (they’re not found on Table Mountain). On our Cape mountains and fynbos day tour we head to the Rooi Els area where we will search the mountain slopes for Cape Rockjumper, Victorin’s Warbler, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Rock Thrush and Ground Woodpecker (not easy). After this we normally head to Betty’s Bay to look for a few other forest and scrub species before spending some time at a nearby African Penguin colony where we can also find Bank, Crowned, Cape and White-breasted Cormorants. See more info on this tour here.

The West Coast (north of Cape Town) offers some very different birding with our time mostly spent birding in farmland, strandveld (beach scrub) habitats and the Langebaan Lagoon for shorebirds and other waterbirds. We will spend time birding open farmland for Blue Crane, Cape Long-billed Lark, Sickle-winged Chat, Capped Wheatear and Pied Starling before we concentrate on the natural strandveld vegetation for specials such as Southern Black Korhaan, Black Harrier, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape Penduline Tit and many others. Although most Palearctic waders/shorebirds will be back on their breeding grounds at this time of the year, there should still be a few overwinterers around as well as Greater and Lesser Flamingoes, South African Shelduck, African Oystercatcher and more. Read more about our West Coast tour here.

Cape Rockjumper, a popular Cape endemic.
Indian Yellow-nosed Albatross is a regular on a Cape Town pelagic trip.
A Cape Town pelagic in winter is certainly a spectacle worth experiencing, with huge numbers of seabirds wintering in the Cape’s productive waters. We normally head south off the Cape Peninsula and search for fishing trawlers which attract thousands of seabirds looking for an easy meal.  Albatrosses including Shy, Black-browed, Indian Yellow-nosed and Atlantic Yellow-nosed are normally common as are White-chinned and Cape Petrels and the massive Northern and Southern Giant Petrels. Searching through the more numerous species will often produce Brown Skua, Sooty Shearwater, Antarctic Prion, Wilson’s Storm Petrel and many others. Winter also represents the best time of the year for something more exotic from colder waters down south such as Southern Fulmar, Soft-plumaged Petrel or Wandering Albatross, you never know what might be over the next wave! You can read more about our Cape Town pelagic trips here.

Two other trips exciting trips can be considered, although these are just a little too far to do in one day from Cape Town and we’d suggest a two- or three-day trip instead. The first trip is into the Agulhas Plains about two hours east of Cape Town where some of our big targets would include Denham’s Bustard, Blue Crane, Karoo Korhaan, Secretarybird, Cape Vulture, Agulhas Long-billed Lark, Southern Tchagra, Knysna Woodpecker and the tricky Fynbos Buttonquail. If a third night is included on this trip, we can target further forest specials such as Knysna Warbler, Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler and Narina Trogon. Finally, we can do overnight trips into the semi-desert of the Tankwa Karoo where we will be in search of a host of dry-country specials including the likes of Cinnamon-breasted, Layard’s, Namaqua and Rufous-eared Warblers, Karoo Eremomela, Karoo Korhaan, Namaqua Sandgrouse and larks such as Karoo, Large-billed, Spike-heeled and Karoo Long-billed Larks. We often find Protea Canary en route or returning from the Tankwa Karoo, too. More information on the Agulhas Plains trip can be found here and the Tankwa Karoo trip here.

Please do inquire ( if you’d like to find out more about the above trips, or if you’d like to customize any of these, we’d love to show you around the Cape.