Published: 12 August 2015
By:Gill - Cliff Lodge
The Overberg has more than 330 bird species with at least 20 endemic species. (Nearly 80% of South Africa’s 53 endemic bird species are found in the Western Cape.)
This impressive diversity is due to the variety of habitats in the area. There are many Important Bird Areas (IBA) in the Overberg. These are sites of global conservation significance, selected according to international criteria and using birds as indicators. These include:
- The Overberg wheatbelt, with the world’s largest Blue Crane population, Stanley’s Bustard and Cape Vultures (both vulnerable), White Storks and fynbos endemics.
- De Hoop Nature Reserve, with more than 260 bird species in a variety of habitats
- The Eastern False Bay Mountains, including the Kogelberg and Hottentots Holland nature reserves
These areas are easily accessible from De Kelders and Gansbaai.
The lowland coastal area around Gansbaai presents a variety of habitats and food sources to birds. The many fruiting trees and shrubs attract fruit-eating species such as Cape Bulbuls and Mousebirds, as well as insect feeders. Sugarbirds and sunbirds also use the area as stepping stones to the mountains where there is an abundance of fynbos.
Nearly half of South Africa’s 63 diurnal raptors have been recorded in the Overberg. By comparison, only 30 species occur in the whole of North America and 38 species in Europe. The light brown solitary Steppe Buzzards are migrants from Eurasia and are often seen on the phone and power lines along the R43 to Hermanus. Jackal Buzzards are also often seen in the area. Black Harriers (near threatened) are endemic to southern Africa and are often recorded around De Kelders, especially in early summer. Rock Kestrels are a common site, often in pairs on our weather vane. One of the most common birds of prey seen along the roadside is the Blackshouldered Kite.
Spotted Eagle Owls are a common sight on the cliffs and overhead lines. Barn owls are also seen and heard occasionally.
The Overberg is the home of South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane. This graceful bird is critically threatened. The Overberg farmers have joined forces with Cape Nature Conservation in a very successful Blue Crane conservation programme, and numbers are now increasing. Blue Cranes form large flocks on the farmlands around Gansbaai and Caledon. They pair for life and are territorial.
Dyer Island, just off the coast of Gansbaai is a breeding ground for many sea birds such as Jackass Penguins, cormorants and Cape Gannets. Other coastal species that may be seen in De Kelders are terns, plovers, gulls and of course the striking African Black Oystercatcher, one of South Africa’s rarest coastal birds. Oystercatchers breed from October to March and are very vulnerable to disturbance by people and vehicles. These birds are often seen on the rocks and beaches along the Gansbaai coastline.
Want to go bird watching? Read more about the Birds of Gansbaai