Each trip to Kruger deepens one’s affinity to the birds of the bush and produces something new or different. Birding in Kruger is an experience that gets deeper over time with the joy of the familiar sighting – confirming one’s existing knowledge – and the thrill of the unexpected. No two birding trips to Kruger are ever the same.
Traditionally, coming across a kill is the highlight of a visit to the Kruger Park. And while there is undoubtedly vicarious pleasure in seeing nature in all its savage beauty, visitors to the Park are increasingly looking for a deeper experience, one that offers a taste of life beyond the confines of our modern existence, an insight into a world driven by natural forces rather than artificial deadlines.
The bush links us to our most ancient past as it is typical of the African landscape in which our earliest ancestors emerged before their long walk to global dominance.
It speaks about survival, reminding us of what we once were, and gives us a chance to reflect on what we have become. In Kruger we have the space to lose ourselves … and find ourselves all over again.
Birds as a species, are old. Their origins lie in the era of the dinosaurs some 200 million years ago. That is a hundred times older than our own genus, of which some of the earliest evidence has been found in Kruger.
There are recently discovered human occupation sites in the far north of the Park that date back over 1.5 million years to the early stone age, a time when our brain size was less than half of what it is today, when we had no language to speak of and could only master the most rudimentary stone tools.
During the entire passage of our subsequent evolution as a species, birds have been a constant companion along the way, inspiring us with their songs, colours and habits.
They have even preyed on us. A large raptor – quite possibly the African Crowned Eagle – was probably responsible for the death of the Taung child (see the Bird of Prey Hypothesis) some 2.4 million years ago.
A Note on Nomenclature
This birding information follows the lead of Roberts VII for bird names, while tree names take their cue from the Sappi Tree Spotting Lifer List (Jacana, 2004). All new name changes have been adopted for both birds and trees – with one exception. The common Yellow-billed Kite (Milvus migrans parasitus) has been deliberately retained while recognising that it has been scientifically reclassified as the same species as the Black Kite (Milvus migrans).
The main justification is that the Yellow-billed Kite is one of the most commonly seen raptors, while the Black Kite is an occasional visitor. To talk about them in the same breath as far as Kruger is concerned is to invite confusion (see Kites ). All new bird name changes are marked with an *.
Most experienced Kruger birders will probably agree with us that the best birding in Kruger is in the Far North in the sandveld and tropical riverine bush.
This is where subtropical and tropical species overlap resulting in the highest diversity of birds in the Park and the chances of sightings that one will not have elsewhere in South Africa.
See the Birding Calendar to discover what is happening in the Park’s birdlife on a month by month basis. Read up on bird migration details of the fascinating journey undertaken annually by hundreds of thousands of birds that make Kruger their summer home.