drakensberg birds

Drakensberg Birds at Witsieshoek

If birding is on your list of leisure activities, then the viewing the many Drakensberg birds near Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge is a fantastic choice. Home to over 300 recorded bird species including the critically-endangered Bearded Vulture and the Lesser Kestrel, it offers an abundance of sightings for the enthusiast.

With numerous micro-habitats ranging from high altitude alpine sites to forested river valleys, the Drakensberg makes up about 37% of all non- marine avian species in Southern Africa, some of which are found nowhere else in the world.

There is a growing number of local mountain and bird guides who can help you find and identify the local birdlife.

The Bearded Vulture is often spotted from the panoramic Vulture Reastaurant at Witsieshoek Lodge itself and is one of the lodge’s many draw cards. Weather permitting,  Witsieshoek elder, Jeremia,  places bones from the restaurant kitchen at a specific site close to the newly refurbished chalets in the mornings (on clear days) to draw these incredibly handsome raptors closer for visitors. Here are some tips for photographers.

The vultures generally take the bones and then drop them from a great height onto flat rocks to to shatter them and extract the marrow. This bird was commonly known as the lammergeier, from the German for “lamb-hunter”. Environmentalists encourage the use of the modern Bearded Vulture name because the ‘lamb-hunter’ moniker is both inaccurate and part of the reason for the demise of the birds.  Be sure to have your camera ready for spectacular shots of these rare birds soaring over the valleys below.

Other endangered species in the Drakensberg region include the large Wattled Crane, the cliff-dwelling Cape Griffon and the Cape Parrot. Amongst the rest, you are likely to see include the Bush Blackcap, Rudd’s Lark, the Drakensberg Rockjumper, the Yellow- Breasted Pipit and the Drakensberg Siskin.

A recent list of sightings around the lodge and on nearby trails include:

Verreaux’s Eagle
Jackal Buzzard
Black Harrier
Bearded Vulture
Cape Vulture
Speckled Pigeon
Cape Turtle Dove
Laughing Dove
Lanner Falcon
Rock Kestrel
Red-winged Francolin
Karoo Prinia
White-necked Raven
Pied Crow
Common Fiscal
Familiar Chat
Cape Robin-chat
Sentinel Rock-thrush
African Stonechat
Malachite Sunbird
Yellow-throated Petronia
Dark-capped Bulbul
Red-winged Starling
Cape White-Eye