ENDEMIC BIRDS OF SOUTHERN AFRICA
South Africa has an amazing total of endemic bird species, the highest number on the African continent: 18 true endemics, 50 near endemics (with more than 70% of their range within the borders of South Africa), and one breeding near-endemic, making a grand total of 69 birds endemic or near-endemic to southern Africa.
South Africa’s national bird is the Blue Crane, a small, elegant crane and arguably one of the world’s classiest birds, with a gunpowder blue plumage, massively extended primary plumes and an exhilarating and elegant courtship dance. This species is mostly restricted to South Africa.
Please click here to view and download South Africa’s complete bird checklist, as well lists of the country’s endemic and near-endemic species.
Listed below are 18 South African true endemics whose range is entirely restricted to South Africa, along with their conservation status. Many of these are threatened due to a variety of reasons, mostly due to habitat loss.
Thanks to Chris Lotz of Birding Ecotours for helpful comments that improved the contents of this page. Find out more about endemic birds here:
- Rudd’s Lark (Heteromirafra ruddi). Endangered.
- Botha’s Lark (Spizocorys fringillaris). Endangered.
- Fynbos Buttonquail (Turnix hottentottus). Endangered.
- Cape Parrot (Poicephalus robustus). Endangered.
- Knysna Warbler (Bradypterus sylvaticus). Vulnerable.
- Red Lark (Calendulauda burra). Vulnerable.
- Southern Black Korhaan (Afrotis afra). Vulnerable.
- Yellow-breasted Pipit (Anthus chloris). Vulnerable.
- Knysna Woodpecker (Campethera notata). Near threatened.
- Protea Seedeater (Crithagra leucoptera). Near threatened.
- Cape Rockjumper (Chaetops frenatus). Near threatened.
- Agulhas Long-billed Lark (Certhilauda brevirostris). Near threatened.
- Cape Bulbul (Pycnonotus capensis). Least Concern.
- Cape Long-billed Lark (Certhilauda curvirostris). Least Concern.
- Victorin’s Warbler (Cryptillas victorini). Least Concern.
- Orange-breasted Sunbird (Anthobaphes violacea) Least Concern.
- Cape Siskin (Crithagra totta). Least Concern.
- Cape Sugarbird (Promerops cafer). Least Concern.
Of the endemic and near-endemic birds of South Africa, there are 49 species present in KwaZulu-Natal Province, making this region a must on any birders’ wish list.
KwaZulu-Natal Province provides southern Africa’s most diverse area for birding, including forest, grassland, wetland, bushveld, mountain, estuarine, coastline and open ocean habitats. At least 750 of South Africa’s 865 recorded species occur in KwaZulu-Natal. Two birding routes, the Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route and the Zululand Birding Route, have been set up in the province.
The Southern KwaZulu-Natal Birding Route takes you from the golden beaches and lush forests of South Africa’s south coastline through the beautiful Midlands and up to the spectacular heights of the Drakensberg Mountains. The variety of habitat and a bird list in excess of 550 species including many rare and endemic species such as Blue Swallow, Cape Parrot, Drakensberg Rockjumper, all three southern African Crane species, and Bearded Vulture.
The Zululand Birding Route covers a zone where more than 600 bird species have been recorded. This route is grouped into four regions, with five different birding areas. Each birding area has its own unique character and set of special bird species.
More information about these birding routes can be found on this link:
How does one compile a list of must-see or iconic birds of South Africa?
An icon is not always the biggest, the fastest, the flashiest or the most pervasive. An icon is something that captures the spirit of a time or the essence of a place. It’s different for everyone, but the following are some of the local organising committee favourites.