Bird watching in Cape Town was not something that I paid a great deal of notice to, until, a few months ago, we started putting fruit feeders out in our garden. Originally, we had tried a glass bottle feeder, but after finding it full of dead bees one morning, I realised that something safer, bee-friendly and better was needed. With the help of some bamboo skewers and garden wire, I rigged up a very simple (but incredibly effective) feeder on which apple or orange could be hung from the tree. At first, adorable little Cape White Eyes began to come to see what was up for breakfast. Soon, they were joined by many different types of birds – noisy Cape Weavers, clownish Cape Bulbuls, sweet pairs of male and female ‘Mossies’ (Cape Sparrows) and once or twice, a Robin Chat.
Quite soon, word had spread among these feathered friends, and I was prompted to make a second feeder. After some minor design fixes, putting out fruit for the birds became an essential part of my morning routine. Watching these fascinating creatures has opened up a whole new world, and has made me more aware of just how many different birds are found here in the Cape. In fact, there are estimated to be over 610 species recorded in Cape Town alone, with 60 of the 86 endemic South African birds to be found within the Western Cape.
With that in mind, I thought it was high time I started doing some research into bird watching spots in Cape Town, to learn more about where to see birds in various parts of the city and its surrounds.
Best Spots to Enjoy Birding in Cape Town
Whether you are sitting in a garden in the suburbs, a park in the heart of the City Centre or you are headed out to take in some nature on a hike or walk, birding in Cape Town is easier (and far more entertaining) than you may have thought.
All that you really need is a decent guide or bird book that lists species common to the Cape region, and a bit of observation. Binoculars can be useful too, but more important is an interest or passion for nature and all of its wonders. Some places worth visiting to see a diversity of different bird species in the Cape include the following:
1. Table Mountain National Park
Cape Sugarbird, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Protea Seedeater
2. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Orange-breasted Sunbird, Cape Bulbul, Forest Canary
3. West Coast National Park & Langebaan Lagoon
Greater and Lesser flamingo, African Black Oystercatcher, Black Harrier
4. Simon’s Town & Boulders Beach
African Penguin, Crowned Cormorants, White-backed Mousebird
5. Intaka Island, Century City
Malachite Kingfisher, Karoo Robin, Yellow-billed Egret
6. Strandfontein Sewage Works
Hartlaub’s Gull, Great White Pelican, African Marsh Harrier
7. Cape Pelagic Region
Arctic Terns, Shy Albatross, Sub-Antarctic Skua
8. Rondevlei Nature Reserve & Cape Flats Wetland
African Spoonbill, White Stork, European Shoveller
9. Suburban Regions
Cape Siskin, Greater Striped Swallow, Cape Sparrow (also known as Mossie), Cape White Eye
10. World of Birds, Hout Bay
Saddle-billed Stork, Ground Hornbill, Verreaux Eagle Owl
Birding is quite truly one of those gifts that keep on giving. First, there is the joy of watching highly social species eat, argue and chatter, as other bigger birds come in and bully the smaller ones away from the fruit. Then, there is the fun of learning how to tell the difference between various bird calls – such as the happy fruit eating trills and the angry cat noticing sounds. There is also the fun of starting to notice different species whenever you venture anywhere. Spotting a hawk swoop down onto a roof, or a fairly rare species suddenly appear on the pavement as you are walking to the shop. Pretty soon, you begin to develop a growing appreciation for nature and all of its endlessly amazing species.
Have any interesting stories to share on your experiences with bird watching in Cape Town? I’d love to hear them! Share your thoughts in the comments below and let me know which species you see the most often in your part of the city!