For more info on
birding in the Sabie area, contact:
Kathe Rohrs on
082 410 4408.
Data Book Categories
50% chance of going
extinct in 5 years
20% chance of going extinct in 20 years
10% chance of going extinct in 100 years
Likely to become Vulnerable in the near future
For birding the best sizes
are 8 x 32 or 10 x 40 roof-prism
binoculars. They are slender, lightweight and easy to
hold. The first figure is the linear magnification and
the second figure the diameter of the front lens in
Binoculars with higher magnifications are,
generally, not suitable for birding as they are
difficult to hold steady.
Examine the edge of a white building which is in
full sunlight through the instrument. Then move the
image towards the edge of the field of vision.
If coloured fringes appear on the edge of the wall
the instrument suffers from chromatic aberration. If
the wall appears to bend or become blurred,
spherical aberration is present. A good
instrument should show neither of these effects.
Parking your vehicle in
remote areas or walking alone in the grassveld,
forests or plantations is not recommended.
Sabie area is truly a birder's paradise.
Not only is there a huge variety of the more
common bird species, but a number of globally
and nationally threatened species also occur
in the area.
Blyde River Canyon
Mac-Mac Escarpment & Forest
Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site
brand new Birding Route was announced recently!
The Sabie2Kruger Birding Route
follows the Sabie River - from it's
source in the mountains above Sabie
town, through Hazyview town, and
into the Kruger National Park to the
more info see the Hazyview
Four IBAs (Important Bird Areas) have been
identified in the Sabie area. This page
deals exclusively with the rare bird species
of these IBAs.
Aim of the IBA Programme
function of the IBA programme is to
identify and protect a network of sites,
at a biogeographic scale, critical for the
long-term viability of naturally occurring
bird populations, across the range of
those bird species for which a site-based
approach is appropriate.
Blyde River Canyon (IBA No. ZA008)
Located 40 km from Sabie and 8 km north of Graskop,
the Blyde River Canyon (700 m deep in places)
stretches for nearly 20 km as it cuts a spectacular
path through the granite of the great South African
escarpment. This 50 000 ha IBA site includes the
Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and the Swadini and
Manoutsa portions of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg
escarpment, which falls outside the reserve, and the
forestry-owned areas of Mariepskop, Salique, Hebron,
Welgevonden and Onverwacht State Forests.
parking for your vehicle is available at
Bourke's Luck Potholes. Enquire at
the Nature Conservation offices as to
where you may or may not walk in the
The vegetation varies from large patches of
high-altitude Afromontane forest in the valleys; to
forest-related bush clumps along the edge of the
escarpment; to open tree savanna; to montane grassveld
on the open exposed slopes.
This is the only site in South Africa that supports
breeding Taita Falcon. One pair of the
critically endangered Blue Swallow still breed here,
and occasionally additional birds are found foraging
or moving through the area. The cliffs of
Manoutsa hold over 660 pairs of the vulnerable Cape
Vulture, making it the world's fourth largest
colony. The gorges also hold breeding pairs of
the Black Stork and Peregrine Falcon (both
near-threatened species), as well as the Cape Eagle
The quiet backwaters of the river support the
vulnerable Pel's Fishing Owl, Whitebacked Night Heron
and African Finfoot, and the near-threatened
Halfcollared Kingfisher. The surrounding grassland
supports the endangered Blackrumped Buttonguail; the
vulnerable Striped Flufftail, Stanley's Bustard, Blue
Crane, Ground Hornbill, Grass Owl and Bald Ibis (which
breed within the reserve along the cliff gorges); the
near-threatened Secretarybird; as well as the
Buffstreaked Chat. Gurney's Sugarbird occur on
the protea shrubs on the hillslopes.
The forest and forest edge supports the
near-threatened Crowned Eagle, Orange Thrush and Bush
Blackcap, as well as Forest Buzzard, Buffspotted
Flufftail, Cinnamon Dove, Knysna Lourie, Barratt's
Warbler, Olive Bush Shrike, Chorister Robin, Brown
Robin, Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary. The
near-threatened Bat Hawk has been recorded in the
thick riverine woodland and it is possible that the
vulnerable Delegorgue's Pigeon still exists
here. The vulnerable Martial Eagle is frequently
seen soaring over bushveld dominated parts of the
reserve, which also holds Whitethroated Robin and
Gorgeous Bush Shrike.
Other common sightings include Grey Cuckooshrike,
Kurrichane Thrush, Starred Robin, Yellowthroated
Warbler and Whitebellied Sunbird.
Graskop Grasslands (IBA No. ZA009)
This 10 000 ha site lies within South Africa's
mistbelt region and consists of two patches of
fragmented grassveld, separated from one another by a
plantation. The first grassland patch lies
immediately west of Graskop town, 30 km from
Sabie. The second patch lies 8 km north of
Graskop town, 40 km from Sabie.
parking for your vehicle within this IBA
is problematic. You could park your
vehicle in Graskop town.
The terrain consists mainly of gently undulating sour
grassveld with some hilly terrain, rocky outcrops and
sheer cliffs. Shrub thickets occur along the
rivers and patches of fynbos elements are also
present. Isolated forest are restricted to the
valleys. Encroachment by exotic plantation trees
is a common site.
These two fragmented grassland patches hold the second
largest population of breeding Blue Swallow in South
Africa. The vulnerable Stanley's Bustard and
Ground Hornbill, as well as and other grassland
species such as the Buffstreaked Chat and the
near-threatened Blackwinged Plover and Broadtailed
Warbler occur here.
More Info on the Blue Swallow:
Wildlife Trust-Blue Swallow Working Group
Mandy McNamara 082 530 1230
The protea shrubs are hosts to Gurney's
Sugarbird. Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary are
fairly common sightings. The endangered Blackrumped
Buttonguail and the vulnerable Striped Flufftail may
also occur on this site.
Mac-Mac Escarpment & Forest (IBA No. ZA010)
This 35 000 ha site is located within the South
African mistbelt, between the towns of Sabie and
Graskop. This IBA consists of the Mariti,
Waterhoutboom, Mac Mac, Frankfort, Bergvliet,
Kripkraal, Rietfontein, Waterfal, Tweefontein and
Ceylon plantations. It includes the Sabie River
in the south and the Mac Mac river in the north.
The Bridal Veil falls, Lone Creek falls, the Mac Mac
falls and the Mac Mac Pools are also within the
boundaries of this IBA.
Secretary Bird day-walk at the Mac Mac
Pools is part of this IBA. Secure
parking for your vehicle is available at
the Pools (you pay a nominal fee at the
This site consists of a patchwork of commercial
plantations that still hold superb patches of
fragmented indigenous forest, as well as some
remaining grassland and sheer cliffs. Other
habitat types include rocky outcrops, gullies,
streams, mountain slopes and patches of fynbos.
This area is important for some cliff-nesting
species, such as the near-threatened Black Stork and
Peregrine Falcon. The rivers running through
the area support small populations of the vulnerable
Whitebacked Night Heron and African Finfoot.
The remaining grasslands hold a relatively large
population of the vulnerable Ground Hornbill.
Other grassland specials include the endangered
Blackrumped Buttonguail and the vulnerable Striped
Flufftail. Buffstreaked Chat also occur in the
grasslands, whilst Gurney's Sugerbird are found in
association with protea shrubs.
The forest patches are the most interesting
natural habitat within the complex, supporting
the near-threatened Crowned Eagle, Orange Thrush and
Bush Blackcap as well as Forest Buzzard, Knysna
Lourie, Chorister Robin, Brown Robin, Barratt's
Warbler, Swee Waxbill and Forest Canary.
Other species include the vulnerable Grass Owl and
Ground Hornbill, and the near-threatened Ground
Woodpecker, Blackwinged Plover, Halfcollared
Kingfisher and Broadtailed Warbler. Rare visitors to
the area include the critically endangered Blue
Swallow, the vulnerable Bald Ibis, the
near-threatened Secretarybird and the Blackbellied
Blue Swallow Natural Heritage Site (IBA No.
This 225 ha site is located 15 km southwest of Sabie
on the Long Tom Pass between Sabie and Lydenburg at
an altitude of between 1 400 and 1 740 m
above sea level.
Misty Mountain Chalets is part of this
IBA. Secure parking for your
vehicle is available at the
resort. Obtain permission from
the resort owner to visit this IBA.
This site on the east-facing side of the escarpment,
combined with its high altitude, receives an annual
rainfall of well above 1 000 mm. The habitat
includes gently undulating grassland and thornveld
slopes, small streams, rocky outcrops and open rock
cliffs. Much of the vegetation has been replaced by
large dense stands of tall, exotic plantation trees.
This site holds small numbers of the critically
endangered Blue Swallow, and the near-threatened
Buffstreaked Chat, Secretarybird, Peregrine Falcon
and Blackwinged Plover. The near-threatened
Lanner Falcon is an occasional visitor to this
IBA. Other, more common sightings, include
Kurrichane Thrush, Whitethroated Robin, Swee Waxbill
and Forest Canary.
afforestation in the Sabie area has
transformed the grasslands so
dramatically that very little of the
natural landscape remains.
Afforestation totally altered the
species composition as well as the
macro-structure of the natural
vegetation. In addition, the
concentration of a large number of
trees had a profound effect on the
hydrology of the area, resulting in
the drying up of streams and
wetlands. Furthermore, the
effects of habitat fragmentation,
changed burning regimes, road
construction and altered drainage
patterns all cumulatively impact
negatively on bird diversity.
conclusive evidence that commercial
afforestation has already had a major
impact on grassland birds, and the
potential for further negative impacts
on endemic and threatened species is
Bird Areas of southern Africa. By Keith N. Barnes
(editor) 1998. BirdLife South Africa, Johannesburg.
Birding Route. BirdLife South Africa
The Eskom Red
Data Book of Birds of South Africa, Lesotho and
Swaziland. By Keith N. Barnes (editor) 2000. BirdLife
South Africa, Johannesburg. ISBN: 0-620-25499-8.