Birding in the Klein Karoo

Birding in the Klein Karoo

Lynette Boshoff

I have never been a bird watcher who chases a variety of birds when I go out birding.  I am one that enjoys watching the birds go about their daily lives.  Sometimes I am lucky enough to catch them doing something interesting.  Because of this I stop for every single bird I see even for something as common as a sparrow or a dove.

This is the best way to experience birding in the Klein Karoo.  We are not spoilt with the variety of birds that the northern part of our country has, so if you are looking to add a large number of species to your life list, you are probably going to be disappointed.

Don’t get me wrong, we are blessed with several endemic species which you will find only here.  We are also blessed to be situated in an area with transitional vegetation. Within a space of about 100km, we have Fynbos (fine bush), Karoo Scrubland, Succulent Karoo and Subtropical Thicket. And if you venture a little further across the Outeniqua Mountains you can add Coastal Fynbos to the mix.  Each of these is home to different species of birds.

Here are some tips for finding some of the special and endemic species of the area if you are planning a trip to the Klein Karoo:

Birds are up and about from early morning, so your best chance of a good birding day is to get up with them which makes summer the best time.  Pack your camera, binoculars, bird books and apps so that you are prepped for the day.  It never hurts to pack coffee and breakfast as well.

Although not the safest way to bird, roadside birding does yield some special sightings.  I always try to drive a little slower than the speed limit and allow other cars to pass me, so that when I spot one of the many raptors on a telephone pole, I am able to safely pull over. You will be surprised by the number of Pale Chanting Goshawks on poles, especially in the early morning. Keep your eyes open though for the Rock Kestrel and Lanner Falcon, also on top of these structures.

If you decide to include the coastal region on your Klein Karoo birding, then I suggest the Robinson Pass from Oudtshoorn to Mossel Bay.  Here you will be treated to Black-Wing Kite, Black Harriers, Jackal Buzzards and Common Buzzards, depending on the time of year.  Keep your eyes peeled for the Booted Eagle, often spotted flying overhead in the drier Karoo areas.

There are several gravel roads in the Oudtshoorn area.  Besides being a little safer for stopping, you could literally spend an entire day of birding on one of these roads. I know this from experience when a three-hour birding trip turned into a 12 hour one.

The Klein Karoo around Oudtshoorn has a few reserves that are great for birding.  My favorite is The Swartberg Nature Reserve.  It might not yield a huge variety of birds, but you will get to see some truly special birds.

Home to the Cape Rockjumper, Ground Woodpecker, Cape Sugarbird, Cape Siskin and Orange-Breasted Sunbird you could easily tick these off on your list in one day.  You just need to know where to look.  Get a local guide in the area to take you up the pass and assist you.

If you prefer to walk while birding, then Gamkaberg Nature Reserve is also a great option.  There are a few short and very manageable trails.  Be on the lookout for the Pririt Batis, Karoo Prina, Acacia Pied Barbet, Lesser Honeyguide and White-Throated Canary.

If birding from a deck chair with a drink is more your style, then there are a few lodges and guest farms in the area that may be of interest.  From water birds like Shelducks, Grebes, Lapwings and Plovers at the dams to our National Bird, the Blue Crane in the open fields will keep you occupied.  I have seen several breeding pairs of Blue Cranes, Ludwig’s Bustards, Burchell’s Coursers. If you are missing some larks from your life list, then these are places you should visit. Large-Billed Larks, Red-Capped Larks and Karoo Long-Billed Larks are a few of the common ones.  If you are lucky, you may see the Spiked-Heeled Lark as well.

All in all, a great birding experience awaits you south of the Swartberg Mountains.

I hope that my own Klein Karoo birding adventures will help you to plan your next birding trip.  For any advice or to book a bird guide please visit or contact Lynette Boshoff on + 27 82 926 9648.

For more information on accommodation, activities and attractions please contact Oudtshoorn & De Rust Tourism: | 044 279 2532

Happy Karoo Birding