Photo credit: A Wild Eye View Photography
You might have heard that there are over 3 times more bird species than mammals in the Kruger National Park. But after several hours of driving around, scanning the trees and river banks for the flutter of an iridescent sunbird or the swoop of Pel’s Fishing Owl, one might be tempted to ask “What birds?!” The best way to spot birds at the park, just like spotting the mammals, is simply to sit still. Birds are easily seen at hides, dams and rest camps and restaurants – where you will readily find weavers and starlings scavenging for food.The best thing to do is pull off of the road and take a couple of minutes to chill out, eat a sandwich and enjoy the peace and quiet. This is when you start to notice the bustle of living creatures all around you and you’re more likely to see that rare White-throated Bee Eater, or perhaps a leopard or two. These are some great places to spot Kruger’s most characteristic birds:
The rest camps themselves, especially Biyamiti, Shimuwini, Sirheni, Talamati and Tamboti are great spots for seeing a variety of birds, which often nest under thatched roofs and look for food. Biyamiti hosts Plum-coloured Starlings, Redbacked Shrikes as well as Orange Breasted Bush Shrikes among others. Crocodile Bridge Restcamp is well known for its wealth of bird species and the Pink-throated Twinspot and Blackbellied Starlings are two unique species to be spotted here.
The Kanniedood Dam, just south-east of Shingwedzi Restcamp is a wonderful spot to stop off and see the saddle billed stork, together with waders, herons and African Openbills. Other interesting water birds can be spotted quite easily wading in the waters of Lake Panic, near Skukuza Restcamp, the Pioneer Dam near Mopani Rest Camp, as well as Ratel Pan about 4km north of the Timbavati Picnic Site. Sable Dam, which is about 10km from Phalaborwa Gate and Sweni, near the N’wanetsi Picnic Site, are other popular dams. You can see the exact location of these dams on our maps pages.
Bird hides are great retreats for stretching your legs while you take a break from driving around. Often located a little off the beaten track, the bird hides are wonderfully secluded spots, where even the most amateur twitcher will be able to rack up a few positive identifications. Most often located near a lake or dam, water birds such as herons, fish eagles, storks, kingfishers and crakes are commonly sighted. Some of our favourite hides for great sightings include Matambeni , located North-west of the Letaba Restcamp; the Nthandanyathi Hide located south-east of Lower Sabie; Nyawutsi hide, which is situated between Mopani and Shingwedzi Rest Camps, near the Grootvlei Dam; and Shipandani , located about 3km south of Mopani Rest Camp on the Tsendze River. If you need help locating any hides, have a look at our maps.