Kruger Park Birding Calendar

Bird in the water.
It always helps to know your subjects movements, an anticipate its activity. This is best done by understanding the relationship between seasons and climate, and no less so in Kruger where the wide variations in vegetation and temperature gradient affects what bird species you will see where.

Check the arrival times of migratory birds...

Month
Terrain Features
Bird Activity
Sunrise & Sunset
Av. Min/Max
Aug
Late winter: dry bush with little leaf cover; water scarce; veld very prone to fire; mopaneveld is orange-brown; winds indicate spring is on the way; Wild-pear Dombeya in flower attracts lots of insect-eating birds, including the first migrants; red flowers out on Weeping Boer-bean and Natal-mahogany
Migrant arrival intensifies with many European species joining African migrants - cuckoos call noisily through the bush indicating seasonal change; weaver nests are hives of activity; breeding plumage intensifies in colour and shape - particularly noticeable in the Violet-backed Starling* and African Paradise-Flycatcher
06h35-17h35
12-28
Sept
First itinerant rains mark the arrival of spring; dramatic flowering of widespread Knob-thorn Acacia gives southern Kruger a yellow hue; Apple-leafs and African Weeping-wattle in flower; Flame creepers flower in riverine forests; good game viewing because vegetation is still thin
Migrant arrival intensifies with many European species joining African migrants - cuckoos call noisily through the bush indicating seasonal change; weaver nests are hives of activity; breeding plumage intensifies in colour and shape - particularly noticeable in the Violet-backed Starling* and African Paradise-Flycatcher
05h54-17h50
12-28
Oct

Traditional start of the rainy season; however, climate cycles appear to becoming more variable and less predictable; new leaves in flush on trees; mopaneveld colour shifts from orange-brown to green; grasslands full of new growth; White Kirkias in flower; Sickle-bush begins flowering; pans begin to fill; plenty of game and bird activity around water sources; steep rise in daytime temperatures creates thermals for raptors

Raptors, bee-eaters and other migrants arrive in great numbers from Eurasia and Africa; all birds noticeably more active as insect numbers radically increase and trees are in flower; many fruit-eating and insect-eating species begin breeding as food sources become assured; warbler calls become part of the early summer soundtrack; Black-bellied Bustard* engage in their distinct mating displays
05h22-18h02
16-32
Nov
All plants in vegetative flush as rainfall is usually double that of October and high summer temperatures kick in; tree cover increases; grasslands richer and thicker
Insectivore breeding season at its height with a thirtyfold increase in insects since September; Thousands of kestrels and late summer migrants from eastern Europe and Asia arrive; vultures more visible because of increased carnivore activity in the bush
05h00-18h22
16-32
Dec
Height of summer; very hot and humid with occasional to regular thundershowers; vegetation thickens; landscape very colourful with veld flowers in bloom; Long-tail Cassia trees distinctive because of their long pods; Wild-plum begins fruiting; Sausage-trees easy to identify because of big fruit that remain on trees until June
Major period of bird activity as all migrants are in the Park; food is plentiful and summer breeding is at its peak; birds are nesting all over the Park; raptors prey on eggs and fledglings; birds are most susceptible to snakes at this time of the year as egg-eaters raid their nests; Tinkerbirds very visible; lots of raptors over the eastern grasslands; water birds abundant along all major rivers; fruiting trees nourish breeding populations of turacos, barbets, African Green-Pigeon and Trumpeter Hornbill
05h00-18h33
18-34
Jan
Usually the height of the rainy season, with long thundershowers interspersed with clear days and occasional soft rain; daytime temperatures are at their most extreme; colourful landscape with summer flowers in bloom; Marulas begin fruiting; Combretums start displaying their distinctive four-winged pods
Most birds are rearing young; this is a vulnerable time as many raptors like the African Harrier-Hawk prey on helpless fledglings; flocks of queleas are very common in the central grasslands and are targets for many raptors; birding parties common in grasslands and around fruiting trees; insect populations remain high; rollers, shrikes and hornbills very conspicuous
05h19-18h52
18-34
Feb
Hot and humid with high rainfall during long-term wet cycles; this can be a flood season as the Kruger water table is usually saturated and heavy rains can lead to rivers bursting their banks; hot and humid conditions; plants are at their most nutritious; vegetation dense and colourful with many summer flowers still in bloom; grasses are easiest to identify because they are all in seed
Prime birding time as all the migrants are settled, the breeding birds are in full plumage and fledglings are beginning to mature; food is abundant, with sunbirds particularly prolific in flowering trees; reed beds are alive with noisy bishops, widow-birds and weavers; raptors are particularly active
05h42-18h39
18-33
Mar
End of summer with the last thunder- showers; temperatures remain high during the day; often windy; can be a bit chilly at night; this is the end of the flowering season for many of Kruger's plants; Wild Date-palm in fruit attracting many birds
Insect numbers begin declining as the rainy season ends; first migrants depart, among them the Steppe Eagle; kestrels begin gathering in large flocks to prepare for their return flights to Siberia; cuckoos on the move through the Park
05h57-18h13
18-33
April
Seasonal shift towards autumn; Tree Fuchsia begins long flowering season attracting sunbirds and fruit-eaters; noticeable drop in daytime temperatures; sometimes windy, evenings are chilly, occasional sporadic late rains
Most migrants depart by mid-April for Eurasian and African breeding grounds; many species feed heavily to improve their condition before winter; insect and fruit sources decline; breeding male plumage begins to fade; resident raptor courtship displays begin
06h11-17h41
13-28
May
Autumn; many deciduous trees begin dropping their leaves; end of fruiting season for lots of bushveld trees; sometimes windy; most of the eastern grassland pans dry out
Pressure on the food chain begins easing in the wake of the migrant departure - almost 50% decline in bird species as migrants head north into Africa or to Europe and eastern Asia; colourful resident species apparent such as Lilac-breasted Roller and Black-collared Barbet; parrots begin breeding as they prefer drier seeds; woodpeckers breed because of the availability of larvae in dried tree trunks
06h26-17h19
13-28
June
Winter sets in; days are mild to warm; evenings are chilly to cold; bush dries up significantly and brown replaces green as the key tone in the landscape; vegetation dies back as deciduous trees are all bare and grass cover recedes; rain is rare, Sacred Coral-trees have bright red flowers; Impala Lily in flower; Cape Honeysuckle in flowerl
Raptor breeding season; courtship displays among the larger raptors; woodpeckers very active; bird numbers pick up a little with the arrival of altitudinal migrants from the escarpment coming down to Kruger for winter feeding; permanent water holes are active birding sites; Southern Yellow-billed Hornbills very visible along roadsides; Bateleurs dominate the skies
06h40-17h13
9-26
July
Winter at its height; days are warm, occasionally hot, but temperatures drop quickly at sunset and nights can be very cold; no rain; good visibility through the dry bush; high fire risk time; mopaneveld colours change from green to yellow and orange
Raptors raise fledglings; cainism amongst many raptors as first-born chick ensures the death of the second hatchling in nature's most extreme sibling rivalry; resident raptors very active during the day; African Fish-Eagles call loudly during territorial displays; bird-watching is better in the south and extreme north where there is great diversity of resident species; low birding activity in the mopaneveld until the first rains
06h42-17h23
9-26
Best Birding Guide to Kruger Park
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