The Kruger National Park is, without doubt, the finest birding locality in Southern Africa. It provides a unique combination of wilderness areas, varied habitats, easy road access, and comfortable amenities, together with a wide variety and concentration of bird species and big game animals. The park is situated in the northeast of South Africa, bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe, in an area known as the Transvaal Lowveld. As one of the largest parks in Africa, it covers an area of almost 20 000 square kilometers, and is roughly 350 km long and 60 km wide.
For the birder, the high diversity and density of bird species is the great attraction. The wide range of habitats is responsible for a bird list of over 500 species, while the productivity of these habitats is such that many species occur in abundance. The Park is especially good for large raptors that are rare outside of extensive conservation areas, while many other scarce and migrant species are attracted to it's unspoiled wilderness.
The parks wide variety of habitats can be summarised into 13 major habitat types, which are influenced by the underlying geology, topography and annual rainfall. The park is generally flat to undulating, with average height of 260m above sea level. The Lebombo Mountains form the eastern boundary, and hilly areas occur in the southwest and far north. Rocky outcrops also occur sporadically throughout. Rainfall occurs in summer from September to March, decreasing from 800mm in the south to 400mm in the north, with an average of 500mm. Flat basaltic plains in the east support open grassland and savanna, while the undulating granitic soils in the west support various woodlands. In the drier area north of the Olifants River, the dominant woodland and savanna plant is the Mopane, while in the moister south, mixed broad-leaved and acacia species occur. In the far north, dense mixed woodland occurs on red sandy hills around Punda Maria, and a rugged dry Baobab and Mopane veld occurs around Pafuri.
Six major rivers traverse the park from west to east and these yield a range of riverine habitats including forest. Approximately eighty dams and numerous seasonal pans provide additional habitat for water birds. Cliffs and gorges occur where the rivers cut through the Lebombo Mountains, and also along the Luvuvu River in the north.
Finding birds in the Kruger Park is a relatively simple matter. On arrival, one is immediately impressed by the sheer number of birds and variety of species. The older camps with more established indigenous gardens are some of the best places for general birding while the newer bushveld camps attract shyer species to their more natural areas. At some of the camps, birdbaths are worth spending time at during the heat of the day. While driving, the roads that follow rivers and drainage lines with well developed vegetation are generally best. Picnic sites are usually situated in these areas and are worth walking around. In general, the denser vegetation and variety of habitats in the south and far north are the most productive birding areas. Punda Maria and Pafuri are particularly good for specials. With a potential bird list of over 500 species, and depending on the season, a competent birder could expect to find between 150 and 250 species on a one to two week visit.
Bushveld and woodland birds are found throughout the park in any habitat that has bush and trees. The camps, riverine bush and acacia thickets are best, while the mopane and broadleaved woodlands north of Olifants are less productive. The park is particularly rich in Cuckoos (9), Rollers (5), Hornbills (6), and Kingfishers (9). Interesting species include Greyheaded Parrot, African Cuckoo, Thickbilled Cuckoo, and Great Spotted Cuckoo, Greyhooded Kingfisher and Woodland Kingfisher, Carmine Bee-eater and Bluecheeked Bee-eater, Broadbilled Roller and Rackettailed Roller, Ground Hornbill and Trumpeter Hornbill, Bennett's Woodpecker and Bearded Woodpecker, Redbreasted Swallow and Mosque Swallow, Black Cuckooshrike and Whitebreasted Cuckooshrike, African Golden Oriole and European Golden Oriole, Whitethroated Robin and Bearded Robin, Stierling's Barred Warbler, Greyheaded Bush Shrike, Longtailed Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling and Plumcoloured Starling, Yellowbilled Oxpecker and Redbilled Oxpecker, Scarletchested Sunbird, Redheaded Weaver, Melba Finch, Violeteared Waxbill and Lemonbreasted Canary.
Grassland species also occur throughout, but more predominantly in the savannas around Satara. Good birds to see are Coqui Francolin and Shelley's Francolin, Common Quail and Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquail, and after good rains Corncrake, Flappet Lark and Monotonous Lark, and Chestnutbacked Finchlark,
Although there is no typical forest within the park, some forest species occur in the dense riverine vegetation along the larger rivers. In addition, some typically forest species occur in the dense woodland around Punda Maria. These include Narina Trogon, Yellowspotted Nicator, Wattle-eyed Flycatcher, Tropical Boubou, Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Redbilled Helmetshrike,
Waterbirds are found on all the major rivers and dams, and at seasonal pans and streams during the wet season. In general, the larger species are encountered, with ducks and smaller birds that prefer waterside vegetation being less common. The best places to look are the low-level bridges and the major dams. Some of the more interesting species include Goliath Heron, Saddlebilled Stork, Openbilled Stork, Yellowbilled Stork, Woollynecked Stork, Black Stork and Marabou Stork, Whitebacked Night Heron, African Finfoot, Knobbilled Duck, Whitecrowned Plover and Halfcollared Kingfisher. After good rains birds like Dwarf Bittern and Little Bittern, Pygmy Goose, Old World Painted Snipe, and Black Coucal are seen. Redwinged Pratincole is uncommon but regular breeders.
Raptors are generally widespread in the park and occur over all habitats in search of prey. The Satara area is particularly good for large raptors with its tall trees in open savanna plains. Redbilled Quelea breeding colonies attract many species, and flocks of kestrels congregate for insects after good rains. The tall trees found along rivers also provide roosting and breeding sites for vultures and other large raptors, especially at Pafuri. Smaller raptors are less frequently seen but are more common in the thicker bush of the south and far north. Vultures include Whitebacked Vulture, Cape Vulture, Lappetfaced Vulture, Hooded Vulture and Whiteheaded Vulture. Large raptors encountered throughout the year are Martial Eagle, Crowned Eagle, Black Eagle, Tawny Eagle, African Fish Eagle, African Hawk Eagle, Brown Snake Eagle and Blackbreasted Snake Eagle, Gymnogene, Bateleur and Dark Chanting Goshawk. Summer visitors include Steppe Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle. Smaller species include Cuckoo Hawk and Bat Hawk, Lizard Buzzard, Gabar Goshawk, African Goshawk and Little Banded Goshawk, Little Sparrowhawk, Black Sparrowhawk and Ovambo Sparrowhawk, Lanner Falcon, European Hobby, Dickinson's Kestrel, Lesser Kestrel and Eastern Redfooted Kestrel. Rare visitors include Ayres' Eagle, Montagu's Harrier and Pallid Harrier, Sooty Falcon and Rednecked Falcon, Honey Buzzard, and Osprey.
Night birds are frequently encountered in the park. Most camps have a variety of resident owls and nightjars, and these need only to be listened for to detect their presence. The recently introduced night drives also afford the chance of seeing species not normally found in camps. During the day, careful spotting will also reveal both owls and nocturnal ground birds such as coursers and dikkops. Species seen regularly include Barn Owl, Scops Owl, Whitefaced Owl, Barred Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl and Giant Eagle Owl, Fierynecked Nightjar, Mozambique Nightjar, and Freckled Nightjar, and Bronzewinged Courser. Specials include Pel's Owl, Bat Hawk, Pennantwinged Nightjar, Whitebacked Night Heron and Threebanded Courser.
The descriptions below vary from general to specific. It should be borne in mind that the Kruger Park is larger in area and has more bird species than many countries. Many of the birds are general and common throughout and to name even the more interesting species encountered is a laborious task. It is hoped to improve the detail of descriptions in future editions of this CD-Rom.
Pafuri is situated on the Luvuvu River at the northern tip of the Kruger Park. It is an exciting birding spot with a high concentration and variety of birds. Birding Big Day teams have recorded 24-hour lists of over 260 species for the area. The prime habitat is riverine forest, and this is backed up by the sandy river bed itself, patches of acacia woodland, cliffs, and all surrounded by dry mopane and baobab woodland. The nearest camp is Punda Maria, although there is a very attractive picnic site on the river. Birding is best if you leave Punda Maria when the gates open, and drive straight down to Pafuri (about 60 km).
1. Stop on the bridge over the Luvuvhu River, and check the river for Whitecrowned Plover and Black Stork. Search the riverine trees for Pel's Owl, and check the swallows and swifts overhead for Mottled and Bohm's Spinetail. A lot of raptors use the riverine forest for roosting and nesting, so look out for Bateleur, Whitebacked Vulture, Hooded Vulture and Lappetfaced Vulture, and Crowned Eagle, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle and Lesser Spotted Eagle. In summer, listen out for Thickbilled Cuckoo.
2. Return to the south side of the river and at the crossroads turn west along the S64. This is the shorter of the two loops and should be done first. Look out for Crowned Guineafowl, and just after a sandy riverbed, check the baobabs on your left for Mottled Spinetail and Greyheaded Parrots. Further on, the dry acacia woodland should be checked for Longtailed Starling. Crowned Eagle breed in the riverine forest at this point, and Black Eagle can be seen along the cliffs to your left. At the end of the road, check the riverbed for Woollynecked Stork and Black Stork.
3. Head back to the tar and continue eastwards along the S63. This route is far longer and can include a stop at the picnic site for breakfast or lunch. The first few kilometers pass through dense acacia thicket that should be checked for Burntnecked Eremomela and Greencapped Eremomela, Sharpbilled Honeyguide, Yellowbreasted Apalis and Melba Finch. In late summer, and where the undergrowth is denser, listen out for Olivetree and River Warbler. Beyond the picnic site in the denser riverine bush and forest, listen for Gorgeous Bush Shrike and Yellowspotted Nicator. Take all the loops down to the river and check the large trees for Pel's Owl. Beyond the dense woodland, the fever trees are a good spot to look for Broadbilled Roller in summer. Towards the end of the loop is a more open palm savanna where Lemonbreasted Canary occurs.
4. The picnic site is a tranquil and shady spot where you can relax through the heat of the day beneath the tall trees and observe the riverbed. A short walk can be taken to the left of the site. Birds include Trumpeter Hornbill and Crowned Hornbill, Tropical Boubou, Wattle-eyed Flycatcher, Redbilled Helmetshrike, and Whitecrowned Plover.
5. If you have time, look for Threebanded Courser, a very rare summer migrant that has been recorded in the dry woodland just north of the bridge. The baobabs further up the road support colonies of Mottled Spinetails.
Punda Maria is the northernmost camp in the Park, and is situated on a ridge amongst some rolling hills. It is a good base for the northern areas from Shingwidzi to Pafuri, and provides access to a number of productive habitats and special birds.
1. The camp itself is small but charming, and the fenced area is quite large, with an area of natural bush on the ridge above the camp. The birdbath just below the picnic site in front of the chalets is always productive; Whitethroated Robin and Bearded Robin, Melba Finch, Purplecrested Lourie, Terrestrial Bulbul, Plumcoloured Starling, Blue Waxbill, Cutthroat Finch, Jameson's Firefinch, Bearded Woodpecker, Greater Blue-eared Starling, and Redheaded Weaver are amongst the visitors. The trail up the ridge behind the camp is worth exploring for Greyheaded Bush Shrike and Orangebreasted Bush Shrike, Yellowspotted Nicator and Bearded Robin. The campsite is rather bare but may turn up Dusky Lark, Goldenbreasted Bunting, Grey Penduline Tit, Yellowbellied Bulbul and Burchell's Starling. At night, listen out for African Scops Owl, Barred Owl, Barn Owl, Giant Eagle Owl, Spotted Eagle Owl and Whitefaced Owl, as well as Fierynecked Nightjar and Mozambique Nightjar. Pennantwinged Nightjar has also been recorded in summer.
2. The Mahone Loop (S99) is an excellent 28km circuit for a mornings birding. The road passes through some dense mixed woodland on red sandy soils. Driving anti-clockwise, you first pass through some mixed mopane woodland. The best 'sandveld' woodland, including some Miombo or brachystegia species, is in the region of Matukwale dam on the western side of the loop. Here you should look out for Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Whitebreasted Cuckooshrike, Narina Trogon, Yellowspotted Nicator, Thickbilled Cuckoo, Broadbilled Roller, Mosque Swallow, Greyheaded Parrot and Greyhooded Kingfisher. The rare Rackettailed Roller has been recorded from Mopane Woodland on this loop, and the few Miombo trees have attracted Mashona Hyliota. Crowned Eagle breed near the dam, African Hawk Eagle have a number of nest sites along the ridge on the southern side of the loop, and Bateleur breed near the waterhole 3km from the tar road. In late summer a number of migrant warblers occur in the thickets, including Icterine Warbler, European Marsh Warbler and River Warbler, and Thrush Nightingale.
3. During the heat of the day, and especially when a southerly wind blows, large raptors use the ridge above the camp for uplift. These include Whitebacked Vulture and Lappetfaced Vulture, Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle and Brown Snake Eagle, Gymnogene, Lanner Falcon and African Goshawk all year round, and in summer, Wahlberg's Eagle, Steppe Eagle, Lesser Spotted Eagle, Steppe Buzzard, Yellowbilled Kite and Black Kite, European Hobby, and if lucky, Dickinson's Kestrel.
3. From Punda Maria take the tar road H13-2 towards the junction with the H13-1. There is some worthwhile birding along here, including African Cuckoo, Greyheaded Parrot and Mosque Swallow. The road passes over a culvert that is used for breeding by Whiterumped Swift and Little Swift and Lesser Striped Swallow. Shortly thereafter turn left onto the S60 towards Pafuri. The road runs along the side of a ridge of hills and passes through some mature Mopane Woodland. Look out for European Golden Oriole and African Golden Oriole, Rackettailed Roller and Purple Roller, Arnot's Chat, and Bearded Woodpecker. Continue to the tar via the S59, S60 or S61. The more open habitat here is suitable for Blackbellied Korhaan, Kori Bustard and Ground Hornbill. In spring, burnt areas will have Temminck's Courser, while in late summer Harlequin Quail, African Crake and Corncrake should be looked for in rank grass. Klopperfontein dam can be checked for Knobbilled Duck, African Jacana and possibly Lesser Moorhen. At the tar head south to the intersection with the H13 back to Punda Maria. Look out for Tawny Eagle and Blackbreasted Snake Eagle, and in summer, Montague's Harrier. Just past the Punda Maria turnoff is an area of palm savanna which should be checked for Black Coucal in late summer. A little further on turn right onto the S58 where the road crosses a stream and passes through some wet areas after good summer rains. These should be checked for Little Bittern and Dwarf Bittern, Lesser Moorhen and Lesser Gallinule. Head back to Punda Maria through the tall Mopane woodland on the H13-1, and check carefully for Arnot's Chat, especially on the north side about 500 m before exiting the woodland.
Berg-en-dal is one of the most attractive camps in the Kruger Park. The buildings are set within natural bush, the gardens planted with flowering shrubs and aloes, and the restaurant looks onto a small dam. The camp is surrounded by rocky hillsides covered in mixed broadleaf woodland known as Malelane Mountain Bushveld.
1. Many of the shyer bush species are attracted into the camp itself, and the area is large enough for a walking trail around the perimeter fence. If quiet, the campsite is good for birding. Birds include Natal Francolin and Crested Francolin, African Hawk Eagle, Brownheaded Parrot, Redchested Cuckoo, African Cuckoo and Diederik Cuckoo, Lesser Honeyguide, Whitethroated Robin, Greyheaded Bush Shrike and Orangebreasted Bush Shrike, Glossy Starling, Greater Blue-eared Starling and Redwinged Starling, Scarletchested Sunbird, Black Sunbird and Whitebellied Sunbird, Blue Waxbill and Bluebilled Firefinch.
2. From the camp, the loop road S110 heads west and then swings north through a heavily wooded valley. Here you should look for Gorgeous Bush Shrike, Stierling's Barred Warbler and in summer, Greyhooded Kingfisher. The rocky hills should be checked for Mocking Chat and Redwinged Starling. Continue on to the H3 tar road connecting Malelane to Skukuza.
Bateleur is a small bushveld (residents only) camp situated in Mopane woodland about 40km from Shingwidzi. Although the Mopane is fairly quiet for birding, the camp is situated beneath some tall trees that attract a variety of birds, including Little Banded Goshawk. Ground Hornbill nest nearby, and Rufouscheeked Nightjar are heard at night. The nearby Rooibosrand Dam (residents only) is worth visiting for all the general waterbirds, including African Spoonbill, Yellowbilled Stork and African Fish Eagle, Whitefaced Duck and Knobbilled Duck, Greenshank Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Common Sandpiper, Little Stint, Blackwinged Stilt and even Old World Painted Snipe.
Biyamiti is a 'bushveld' camp (residents only) on the Biyamiti River at the southern end of the park. The luxurious accommodation has been developed within the natural bush, and there is a waterhole directly in front of the camp. The surrounding vegetation is mixed woodland with heavier growth and sizeable trees along the river.
1. The camp is small and relatively quiet. Consequently most bush species move straight through camp. These include Greyheaded Bush Shrike and Orangebreasted Bush Shrike, Blackcrowned Tchagra, Striped Cuckoo and Diederik Cuckoo, Redbilled Woodhoopoe, Woodland Kingfisher, Whitebrowed Robin, Blackbacked Puffback and Scarletchested Sunbird. Lesser Striped Swallow breed under the eaves. Yellowthroated Longclaw and Redfaced Cisticola occur in the long grass in front of the camp. At night Scops Owl and Barred Owl and Fierynecked Nightjar occur in camp, while Water Dikkop call from the riverbed.
2. Access to the camp is along a 'private-residents only' road that follows the Biyamiti River. The bush is fairly dense and birding from the car can be quite successful, including Plumcoloured Starling, Purple Roller, and Redbacked Shrike.
Crocodile Bridge is situated on the Crocodile River within easy reach of a variety of habitats. As an entrance gate and public camp with small campsite it is fairly busy.
1. Some of the parks rarer species have been recorded from this area, including Purplebanded Sunbird, Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet and Blackbellied Starling.
2. The hippo pool on the Crocodile River is a pleasant 6-km drive through Knob-thorn and Marula savanna, and then Delagoa thorn tickets where woodland birds are plentiful. Smaller raptors also like this habitat. Species such as Goliath Heron and Greenbacked Heron and Little Egret may be seen at the hippo pool.
3. In wet years, the S28 leading north to Lower Sabie passes through flooded vlei areas where Black Coucal and migrant crakes and flufftails should be looked for. Further north, the Nhlanganzwani Dam is a good spot for general waterbirds. Similarly, the S130 passes a few pans that are worth inspecting for waterbirds and Woollynecked Storks.
4. The savanna plains along the S28 are also good for large grassland species such as Ostrich, Kori Bustard and Swainson's Francolin, and in wetter years Common Quail and Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquail are common.
Letaba camp is situated on the Letaba River in the centre of the park in the Mopane woodland belt that is not very productive for birds. However, birding in the camp and along the Letaba River and nearby Engelhardt Dam can be rewarding.
1. The rest camp itself is a haven for woodland birds and the parklike gardens are worth walking around. African Mourning Dove and Redwinged Starling have colonised the camp, as have Natal Robin. There is a paved walk along the riverfront that provides lovely views of the river. Check the swallows for Greyrumped Swallow and Pearlbreasted Swallow, and even Horus Swift.
2. The Engelhardt Dam is relatively close to camp and worth visiting. Look out for Dusky Larks on the roadside on the way to the dam. Redwinged Pratincole have bred in early summer on the south bank right next to the road. Waterbirds vary with the level of the dam and may include Pelicans and Flamingoes, Openbilled Stork, African Spoonbill, Goliath Heron and Grey Heron.
Lower Sabie is situated on a dam in the Lower Sabie River. The surrounding plains are covered in a low scrubby savanna. The restcamp is busy, but the gardens are pleasant and overlook the Lower Sabie Dam.
1. Just a short distance from the camp gate, on the main road to Skukuza, is a small dam that regularly attracts a variety of storks, including Marabou Stork, Yellowbilled Stork, Openbilled Stork, Woollynecked Stork and Black Stork.
2. A short distance to the southeast of camp, the causeway over the Lower Sabie River is a good spot to look for waterbirds including African Jacana, Goliath Heron and Greenbacked Heron, and Wiretailed Swallow.
3. Whitefronted Bee-eaters breed in a large 'donga' a few kilometers up the road towards Skukuza. Further up the road the N'watimhiri causeway is a spot to look for Whitecrowned Plover.
4. The surrounding plains support Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Redcrested Korhaan and Blackbellied Korhaan, Swainson's Francolin, Common Quail and Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquail. On very short or burnt veld you may find Temminck's Courser and Lesser Blackwinged Plover.
Mopani is a relatively new restcamp situated in the north of the park in the less productive Mopane woodland area. The camp itself is attractively situated on a hillside overlooking the Pioneer Dam and is luxuriously appointed.
1. On the dam larger waterbirds are common and include Whitebreasted Cormorant and Reed Cormorant and Darter.
2. The nearby Mooiplaas picnic site is a good spot to look for Giant Eagle Owl.
3. Nshawu Dam is also nearby and is worth checking for waterbirds, although one generally cannot get close to the water. On the shoreline, Kittlitz's Plover are regular, while Redwinged Pratincole has bred and Caspian Plover are rare visitors.
4. The surrounding savanna plains are less interesting but support Redcrested Korhaan and Blackbellied Korhaan, Crowned Plover and Chestnutbacked Finchlark.
Olifants restcamp is attractively situated on a high ridge overlooking the Olifants River. Although the surrounding mopane veld is not particularly attractive for birding, the camp itself is worth exploring for Redwinged Starling, Yellowbellied Bulbul and a variety of sunbirds. The outlook over the Olifants River can provide views of Saddlebilled Stork and Black Stork which breed in the vicinity. The updraft from the ridge is attractive to soaring raptors, and at sunset Gabar Goshawk, European Hobby and occasionally Bat Hawk prey on emerging bats.
Pretoriuskop is situated on higher-lying ground in the southwest of the park. The surrounding vegetation is varied with some well developed woodland, grassland and the granite dome of Shabeni hill.
1. A few species not normally found in the lowveld may be encountered. These include Broadtailed Warbler, Redthroated Wryneck, Yellowfronted Tinker Barbet, and Black Sunbird.
2. Shabeni hill has some dense thickets that support Gorgeous Bush Shrike. Other birds to look out for are Mocking Chat, Lazy Cisticola and Threestreaked Tchagra. If you leave camp very early in summer, and preferably on an overcast morning, you may be lucky enough to see Freckled Nightjar and possibly Pennantwinged Nightjar which are recorded from the area.
3. From Shabeni Hill, the S1 becomes the S3 and follows the Sabie River to Skukuza. The riverine forest supports some species more typical of forests, including African Goshawk, Black Sparrowhawk, Narina Trogon, Trumpeter Hornbill, Scalythroated Honeyguide, Natal Robin and Green Twinspot. In winter a number of species moving to lower altitude are found, including Grey Cuckooshrike, Bluemantled Flycatcher and Cape Robin. The river itself should be checked for African Finfoot.
Satara is situated in the centre of the park in the middle of a flat plain of tall tree savanna, of which Knob-thorn and Marula are the dominant species. Although there are no major rivers, there are watercourses lined with well-developed trees.
1. The restcamp area is large and although busy, is relatively good for birding. Burchell's Starling, Redbilled Buffalo-Weaver and African Mourning Dove are common. The central 'park' has a small reed-lined pond with Black Crake and Thickbilled Weaver, Redbilled Hornbill nest in a nearby tree, and Groundscraper Thrush inspect the lawns. The office/restaurant complex has a colony of Lesser Masked Weavers, and Little Swifts nest under the eaves. In summer, Woodland Kingfisher calls prettily and hawks insects in the restaurant garden.
2. The surrounding savanna plains have Ostrich, Kori Bustard, Secretarybird, Blackbellied Korhaan and Swainson's Francolin. Sabota Lark, Grassveld Pipit and Chestnutbacked Finchlark inhabit the short Grass areas. Other ground-dwelling species of interest that are regularly found in the Satara area are Lesser Blackwinged Plover, Bronzewinged Courser and Temminck's Courser. The S90 north of Satara is particularly good for these species.
3. After good rains Common Quail and Harlequin Quail and Kurrichane Buttonquail call from the long grass, and Monotonous Lark call incessantly from any available perch, while Flappet Lark and Fantailed Cisticola cruise overhead. Redbacked Shrike and Lesser Grey Shrike, and even African Cuckoo can be seen hawking from low bushes.
4. Flocks of small raptors converge on termite emergences after summer rains, and include Lesser Kestrel, and Eastern Redfooted Kestrel, Blackshouldered Kite and Lanner Falcon. Western Redfooted Kestrel and Montagu's Harrier are rare and Pallid Harrier very occasional.
5. In summer Wattled Starling and Redbilled Quelea breed in colonies in dwarf knob-thorn veld to the north of Satara, especially along the S127. These are regularly attended by a variety of large raptors.
6. The open savanna habitat with large trees, high population density of herbivores and attendant predators, is prime habitat for large raptors. Many of the parks large raptors can be seen in the Satara area, including Martial Eagle, Tawny Eagle, Steppe Eagle, and Lesser Spotted Eagle. Kills attract Whiteheaded Vulture, Lappetfaced Vulture, Whitebacked Vulture, Hooded Vulture and sometimes Cape Vulture.
Skukuza is the operational headquarters of the Kruger Park. Situated on the Sabie River, the surrounding habitat is a mix of riverine forest and thorn thicket, providing for very good birding.
1. Although very busy, the camp area itself is large and has well established trees and gardens. In front of the restaurant complex is a walk along the riverbank, and one may look directly into some large sycamore fig trees. When the trees are in fruit, Green Pigeon and Purplecrested Lourie are regular visitors, while Spottedbacked Weaver and Lesser Masked Weaver hang there nests here. The river should be checked for African Black Duck, African Finfoot and Halfcollared Kingfisher, and Redfaced Cisticola call from the reeds. On summer evenings, European Hobby and rarely Bat Hawk can be seen hawking bats along the riverfront. The campsite has a number of tame woodland species, including Glossy Starling and Greater Blue-eared Starling, Cardinal Woodpecker and Goldentailed Woodpecker.
2. The plant nursery at Skukuza attracts a variety of birds, including Scarletchested Sunbird, Marico Sunbird, Whitebellied Sunbird and Collared Sunbird. The dam on the access road to the nursery now has a hide and is worth checking out.
3. The low-level bridge over the Sabie River is a good spot to look for African Finfoot in the very early morning. Halfcollared Kingfisher has also been reported from here.
Shingwidzi restcamp is situated in the north of the park on the Shingwedzi River. The surrounding habitat is Mopane woodland, but birding is very good in lush the riverine woodland.
1. In camp, the restaurant and picnic site front onto the river and many species can be observed at close quarters, including Redbilled Hornbill and Yellowbilled Hornbill, Glossy Starling and Greater Blue-eared Starling, Natal Francolin, African Mourning Dove and Grey Lourie. The riverine vegetation supports Redfaced Cisticola, Bleating Warbler. The camp area is rather bare but is worth walking around. Redheaded Weavers breed amongst the huts, and are followed by Cutthroat Finches using their nests.
2. Just south of the camp is a low-level causeway over the river. This is a good spot for waterbirds, including Whitecrowned Plover.
3. The drive to Kanniedood Dam along the S50 passes through some dense riverine woodland, with many loops of the main road that allow views of the river. A variety of woodland species occur, including Woodland Kingfisher, Brownheaded Parrot, Redbilled Helmetshrike and possibly Thickbilled Cuckoo. Giant Eagle Owl should be looked for in the large dense trees.
4. Kanniedood Dam is good for general waterbirds and has a lookout platform
5. Collared Palm Thrush was recently discovered in suitable habitat along the Shingwidzi River.
The Kruger Park runs a number of three-day walking trails that offer an excellent opportunity for birding on foot. There are seven different trails, the most popular for birding being the Nyalaland Trail between Punda Maria and Pafuri. Booking needs to be done up to a year in advance. To avoid conflicting interests, it is recommended that you book the trail as a group of eight birders.
ACCOMMODATION AND RESERVATIONS
The Kruger Park offers a wide range of accommodation and camping facilities. Reservations can be made through the National Parks Board, telephone 012-3431991 or 021-222810, and fax 012-3430905 or 021-246211. Their web page at http://africa.com/~venture/saparks/ offers the opportunity to explore the options and make e-mail reservations.
Restcamps are generally the older and more established public camps. They offer a lot of different types of accommodation, from simple two-bed huts to luxurious lodges, and facilities include shops and restaurants. The restcamps are Skukuza, Berg-en-dal, Crocodile Bridge, Letaba, Lower Sabie, Mopani, Olifants, Orpen, Pretoriuskop, Punda Maria, Satara, Shingwidzi.
Bushveld camps are small more exclusive 'residents-only' camps developed to include the natural bush environment. The accommodation is usually a four to six bed unit, and is luxurious by park standards. No shops and restaurants are provided. These are Bateleur, Shimuwini, Sirheni in the north, and Talamati and Biyamiti in the south.
Private camps are small exclusive camps for 12 to 19 people that need to be hired in their entirety. Accommodation is luxurious and no shops or restaurants are provided. The camps are Boulders and Roodewal in the north, and Jakkalsbessie, Jock of the Bushveld, Malelane and N'wanetsi in the south.
CAMPING and CARAVANING
Camping is offered at all the restcamps but not at the bushveld and private camps. The standard of the campsites and facilities is generally very high, although it can sometimes be very hot in summer and rather crowded in school holidays.