Endemic bird species of the Cape Whale Coast region

Many visitors to the Overstrand local municipal area (named the Cape Whale Coast for marketing purposes) are attracted by the diversity of endemic species to be found in the region. Endemism refers to species that are restricted to a certain region and that can be found nowhere else in the world. Southern Africa is fortunate to have a high level of endemism in all forms of life and South Africa, as a country, is considered by some to be the third most biologically diverse country in the world. A whopping 49 of the Southern Africa’s endemic bird species and 16 of the near-endemic species are found within the Cape Whale Coast region – see the lists below. With these 65 species alone the region boasts more endemic birds than most countries have to offer. A further advantage is that most of these species are fairly easily accessible and several guides, eager to part with appropriate local knowledge, are readily available.

A Cape Rockjumper surveys its territory.
Cape Rockjumper (Anton Odendal)

Stereotypically most people believe that the “Cape endemics” mostly consist of birds associated with the Cape Floral Kingdom. This “kingdom” with 9 000 plant species (almost 70% of which are endemic), ranks among the wonders of the natural world. Several exciting and often endemic bird species are attracted to this habitat type and can be tracked down relatively easily in several different localities spread throughout the Cape Whale Coast. Most of these birding destinations are readily accessible and often feature dramatic sea and mountain landscapes. Top destinations for these “Fynbos specials” include the world-renowned Rooiels site, the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens in Betty’s Bay, the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve at Kleinmond, the Fernkloof Nature Reserve in Hermanus and several privately owned properties throughout the region, to mention a few. Entrance to these reserves is often free or available at a minimal cost. The endemic birds associated with these Fynbos habitats are the difficult-to-find Fynbos Buttonquail, Southern Black Korhaan, Cape Rockjumper, Protea Canary, Cape Siskin, Cape Sugarbird, Orange-breasted Sunbird and Victorin’s Warbler.

A further group of endemics is associated with the cold Benguela current along the west coast of Southern Africa and consists of the Cape and Crowned Cormorants, Cape Gannet, Hartlaubs’s Gull, African Black Oystercatcher and African Penguin. Some of these species are also readily found in the Overstrand region at destinations such as Stony PointHarderbaai in Onrus, the Danger Point peninsula and the Franskraal shoreline. These fourteen species are hugely sought-after by birders from other provinces and countries and form the backbone of marketing efforts to attract bird-watchers to the province.

A Southern Boubou peers attentively into the shrubbery.
Southern Boubou (Anton Odendal)
Two African Penguins preen in the midday sun.
Preening African Penguins (Anton Odendal)
A Karoo Prinia looks into the sky attentively.
Karoo Prinia (Anton Odendal)
A Cape Grassbird sings from the top of the fynbos.
Cape Grassbird in fynbos flowers (Anton Odendal)

The region’s impressive list of endemics does, however, not end there. Species that prefer more mountainous and hilly habitats include Jackal Buzzard, Grey-winged Francolin, Cape and Sentinel Rock Thrushes and Ground Woodpecker. Look for these species at locations such as Rooiels and the Fernkloof Nature Reserve in Hermanus. Endemics or near-endemics attracted to forests or thickets include Cape Batis, Southern Boubou, Forest Buzzard, Southern Tchagra and Knysna Woodpecker. The top spots where these species might be found in the Overstrand region include the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens at Betty’s Bay and Witkrans near Gansbaai.

Many birders are amazed to find out that several fairly common species often found in suburban gardens such as the Cape Bulbul, Fiscal Flycatcher, Karoo Prinia, Cape Spurfowl, Southern Double-collared Sunbird, Swee Waxbill, Cape Weaver and Cape White-eye are in fact also endemic. And then general species such as the Cape Grassbird, Black Harrier, Cape Longclaw, South African Shelduck and Cape Shoveler have not even been mentioned yet. To crown it all, this list is by no means comprehensive.

The Western Cape in general and the Overstrand region, in particular, have limitless potential for attracting South African and international bird-watchers to our shores due to the huge number of endemic species found here.

Members of the Dyer Island Conservation Trust now also offer pelagic birding cruises from Kleinbaai. This product further enhances the region’s reputation as a top birding destination.

Endemic birds species recorded in the Cape Whale Coast region

  1. Batis, Cape/ Kaapse Bosbontrokkie
  2. Boubou, Southern/ Suidelike Waterfiskaal
  3. Bulbul, Cape/ Kaapse Tiptol
  4. Buttonquail, Fynbos/ Kaapse Kwarteltjie
  5. Buzzard, Forest/ Bosjakkalsvoël
  6. Buzzard, Jackal/ Rooiborsjakkalsvoël
  7. Canary, Cape/ Kaapse Kanarie
  8. Canary, Protea/ Witvlerkkanarie
  9. Cormorant Bank/ Bankduiker
  10. Cormorant, Crowned/ Kuifkopduiker
  11. Crane, Blue/ Bloukraanvoël
  12. Flycatcher, Fairy/ Veevlieëvanger
  13. Flycatcher, Fiscal/ Fiskaalvlieëvanger
  14. Francolin, Grey-winged/ Bergpatrys
  15. Gannet, Cape/ Witmalgas
  16. Grassbird, Cape/ Grasvoël
  17. Gull, Hartlaub’s/ Hartlaubse Meeu
  18. Harrier, Black/ Witkruisvleivalk
  19. Korhaan, Southern Black/ Swartvlerkkorhaan
  20. Lark, Agulhas Long-billed/ Overberglangbeklewerik
  21. Lark, Cape Long-billed/ Weskuslangbeklewerik
  22. Lark, Cape Clapper/ Kaapse Klappertjie
  23. Lark, Large-billed/ Dikbeklewerik
  24. Longclaw, Cape/ Oranjekeelkalkoentjie
  25. Mousebird, White-backed/ Witkruismuisvoël
  26. Oystercatcher, African Black/ Swarttobie
  27. Penguin, African/ Brilpikkewyn
  28. Prinia, Karoo/ Karoolangstertjie
  29. Rockjumper, Cape/ Kaapse Berglyster
  30. Rock Thrush, Cape/ Kaapse Kliplyster 
  31. Rock Thrush, Sentinel/ Langtoonkliplyster
  32. Scrub Robin, Karoo/ Slangverklikker
  33. Shelduck, South African/ Kopereend
  34. Shoveler, Cape/ Kaapse Slopeend
  35. Siskin, Cape/ Kaapse Pietjiekanarie
  36. Spurfowl, Cape/ Kaapse Fisant
  37. Starling, Pied/ Witgatspreeu
  38. Sugarbird, Cape/ Kaapse Suikervoël
  39. Sunbird, Greater Double-collared/ Groot-Rooibandsuikerbekkie
  40. Sunbird, Orange-breasted/ Oranjeborssuikerbekkie
  41. Sunbird, Southern Double-banded/ Klein-Rooibandsuikerbekkie
  42. Tchagra, Southern/ Grysborstjagra
  43. Vulture, Cape/ Kransaasvoël
  44. Warbler, Victorin’s/ Rooiborsruigtesanger
  45. Waxbill, Swee/ Suidelike Swie
  46. Weaver, Cape/ Kaapse Wewer
  47. White-eye, Cape/ Kaapse Glasogie
  48. Woodpecker, Ground/ Grondspeg
  49. Woodpecker, Knysna/ Knysnaspeg

Near-endemic species recorded in the Cape Whale Coast region

  1. Barbet, Acacia Pied/ Bonthoukapper
  2. Bokmakierie
  3. Bunting, Cape/ Rooivlerkstreepkoppie
  4. Bunting, Lark-Like/ Vaalstreepkoppie
  5. Bushshrike, Olive/ Olyfboslaksman
  6. Canary, White-throated/ Witkeelkanarie
  7. Canary, Yellow/ Geelkanarie
  8. Cisticola, Cloud/ Gevlekte Klopkloppie
  9. Cisticola, Grey-backed/ Grysrugtinktinkie
  10. Cormorant, Cape/ Trekduiker 
  11. Goshawk, Southern Pale Chanting/ Bleeksingvalk 
  12. Penduline Tit, Cape/ Kaapse Kapokvoël 
  13. Sparrow, Cape/ Gewone Mossie 
  14. Sparrowlark, Grey-backed/ Grysruglewerik
  15. Warbler, Chestnut-vented/ Bosveld-Tjeriktik 
  16. Wheatear, Mountain/ Bergwagter