Changing bird profiles in the Overberg region – Part 2: Forest species

At a recent monthly BirdLife Overberg talk we gave an overview of interesting, rare and vagrant bird species that had been recorded in the Overberg region since the start of the pandemic. In this article we review relatively ‘new species’ for the region usually associated with the coastal forest areas along the eastern seaboard of South Africa. One would usually expect to find these species along the Garden Route, the Eastern Cape and further north-east. 

BirdLife Overberg members and others had been reporting on birds recorded in the Overberg region on a monthly basis since April 2020 and here we discuss some interesting records of so-called forest species. A number of species not previously seen as typical ‘Overberg birds’ have been recorded at theGrootvadersbosch and Marloth Nature Reserves in the Swellendam area. Here the Cuckoo Hawk, Scaly-throated Honeyguide, Red-necked Spurfowl, Black-bellied Starling, Knysna Warbler and Yellow-throated Woodland Warbler serve as exciting examples of species increasing the avian diversity of the Overberg region. 

Other species are being reported from a variety of sites over and above the two mentioned reserves.  The Olive Bushshrike is recorded fairly regularly from the De Hoop and De Mond Nature Reserves and from various sites in the Gansbaai district. The same applies to both the Black-headed Oriole and the Knysna Woodpecker. The latter has in fact photographed as far west as the Fernkloof Nature Reserve in Hermanus. The first record for the Long-crested Eagle for our region caused great excitement with birders in the Overberg, but this species is now being found fairly often in the area along the Breede River. An adult Palm-nut Vulture was present in Swellendam some years ago, but earlier this year an immature bird caused huge excitement with birders from the Malgas area. 

The African Wood Owl has been recorded regularly from the Swellendam area in the past and it now seems as if this bird’s distribution is moving further west. Recent breeding records have been confirmed from the Elgin valley. Two other surprising species should be noted. The African Emerald Cuckoo was reported in two summers from the Harold Porter Botanical Gardens in Betty’s Bay. The Half-collared Kingfisher seems to be resident in the Swellendam area. 

None of the mentioned species (and those mentioned in the previous article and others to follow) appears in the distribution maps for the Overberg in bird guides. This implies that very few birders in the region are contributing to SABAP2, the bird atlas project. We would like to encourage all birders in the region to start using the BirdLasser app as this is a relatively easy and effortless way of contributing to SABAP2. Browse around on the BirdLife Overberg website at to find out more about how it works.  The involvement of more birders in these monthly counts will certainly contribute significantly to our efforts to market the Overberg region as a top birding destination.In the next article we will highlight surprising historical records of species gleaned from old reports that had been confirmed in the Overberg since the start of the pandemic.

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