Rooiels – in search of the Cape Rockjumper


A Cape Rockjumper surveys its rocky landscape home.
Cape Rockjumper (Richard Masson)

The “Cape Rockjumper site” at Rooiels is probably the best place on earth to find this hugely sought-after endemic species and BirdLife Overberg’s logo bird. The site forms part of the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve and the Boland Mountains Important Bird and Biodiversity Area (IBA – SA 107). It is further important to note that this site is on private property with the result that visitors are requested to observe the code of conduct for bird-watchers as described by BirdLife South Africa.

Getting there

The Rooiels site is reached by taking the R44 from Gordon’s Bay to Kleinmond and at Rooiels turning right into the second turn-off at Porter Road. (34°18’ 10.22”S 18°49’12.18”E). Drive along this road until a gate is reached (34°18’27.50”S 18°49’03.47”E), park outside the gate and go further on foot. Kindly ensure that the road is not blocked. It is best to visit the site when the wind is not blowing.

BirdLife Overberg members search for the Cape Rockjumper at Rooiels.
In search of that Rockjumper (Anton Odendal)

Tips on finding the birds

Here are some recommendations on finding those elusive Cape Rockjumpers: 

  • These birds are most active during their breeding season in spring and early summer. 
  • The Rockjumpers are normally found in the rocky slopes towards the mountain about 500 yards beyond the gate, even though they are sometimes located close to the gate. Knowing the bird’s piping call will help to locate it. 
  • They often sit on rocks and then drop down into the Fynbos, disappearing from sight only to re-appear again a few yards away. 
  • At other times they would fly for about ten to fifteen yards from one rock to another before dropping from sight again. 
  • Patient observation and scanning the rocky slopes is needed. 
  • The males are very territorial and during breeding season often fan their tails in display – a dream sighting for both avid birders and nature photographers.

Other sought-after species

A Grey-backed Cisticola peers through the shrubbery.
Grey-backed Cisticola (Anton Odendal)
A Cape Rock Thrush attentively scans its surroundings in the rocky landscape.
Cape Rock Thrush (Anton Odendal)
A Ground Woodpecker surveys the rocky landscape.
Ground Woodpecker (Anton Odendal)
A Cape Sugarbird feeds on Brunia stokoei flowers.
Cape Sugarbird feeding on Brunia stokoei (Carin Malan)

The Rooiels site is however not only about finding Cape Rockjumpers. The pristine Fynbos, together with rugged boulder-strewn mountain slopes around “False Hangklip” host a huge diversity of endemic species. It is not uncommon that first-time visitors locate more than ten endemic species within a few hours spent here. Expect to find the Cape Bunting, Cape Grassbird, Karoo Prinia, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Southern Double-collared Sunbird, all being abundant at the site. The Cape Bulbul, Grey-backed Cisticola, Fiscal Flycatcher, Cape Spurfowl, Cape Weaver and Cape White-eye are also common. To crown this all there is also a possibility of locating other sought-after species such as the Jackal Buzzard, Cape Siskin, Victorin’s Warbler and Ground Woodpecker.

BirdLife Overberg members hike through the Rooiels fynbos.
BirdLife Overberg members in Rooiels fynbos (Anton Odendal)

Other resident species that are recorded regularly include the Yellow Bishop, Familiar Chat, Rock Martin, White-necked Raven and Cape Rock Thrush. The Sentinel Rock Thrush has been photographed here, but is regarded as being uncommon. Verreaux’s Eagles regularly breed against the cliffs and often provide great entertainment patrolling the skies with the immature fledgling of the season. Also look out for the Rock Kestrel, Neddicky, Cape Robin-Chat and Malachite Sunbird that occur here less often.

Some interesting coastal birds are also often on view along the distant shore, with the result that the use of spotting scopes is advised. The Cape and White-breasted Cormorants, Hartlaub’s Gull and Kelp Gulls, African Black Oystercatcher and Swift Tern occur commonly, with Cape Gannets often foraging out to sea. The Rooiels site also often produces wonderful views of large pods of dolphins and sightings of whales in season. 


The Rooiels site is generally regarded as one of the best spots in the Western Cape Province to observe and study several of the endemic species associated with the Fynbos Biome. The very popular Cape Rockjumper serves as an extra bonus.

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