Western Cape Birding | Melozhori Birding Guide Blog


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Melozhori Birding Guide

Across the low-lying flats east of Cape Town, mountains rise from the undulating landscape; these are the Hottentots Holland – so named by early Dutch settlers who considered them the ‘homeland’ of the indigenous Khoi khoi people. Over the mountain peaks, between the Langeberg and the Atlantic Ocean, is the Overberg – a region which provides a diversity of much-coveted bird species, from Cape Vultures to Blue Cranes.

Situated in this region is Melozhori Private Game Reserve offering birders a number of rare species to find. Located close to Stormsvlei, the area is home to varied vegetation types and here you’ll find valleys covered in indigenous acacias, Karoo-type landscapes dotted with vygies and kraalbos, as well as renosterveld and fynbos-fettered mountains. These provide home to over 130 bird species – including South Africa’s rarest endemic raptor, the Black Harrier and a breeding pair of Verraux’s eagles.

Take a look at five birds to look out for at Melozhori.

‘The mountains rise nobly at a couple of miles distance or so, their bases were lost in a bluish vapour – greenish hillocks rose between us and them – ’tis between them and the mountain, in a glen, the woods are to be found which have been reckoned so luxuriant.’

Lady Anne Barnard, 18th century unofficial First Lady of the Cape:
Diary entry, 1798.

5 Birds not to be missed at Melozhori

Cape Vultures

Endemic to Southern Africa, Cape Vultures are classified as ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List. In 2015, Cape Vultures were officially listed as ‘Endangered’ and it is estimated that only 9000 individuals remain. Threats to these beautiful birds include electrocutions, collisions with energy structures, changes in land-use patterns and poisoning through the carcasses of animals they feed.

As one of the largest vultures in Southern Africa, Cape Vultures have an impressive average length of 100cm and an average wingspan of 2.4m. The species can currently be found in Botswana, Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho, Zimbabwe and South Africa. They are now extinct in Swaziland.

Much like other vultures, they live in colonies but are loyal to one partner for the duration of their lifetime. They can live up to 30 years of age. You can read more about Cape Vultures on our dedicated blog.

Blue Cranes

Melozhori Private Game Reserve serves as a haven for an array of fascinating bird species, with one of the most captivating being the majestic Blue Crane (Anthropoides paradiseus). As the national bird of South Africa, the Blue Crane holds a special place in the hearts of wildlife enthusiasts and conservationists alike.

However, despite its cultural significance and striking appearance with its slate-blue plumage and elegant feathers, the Blue Crane faces significant challenges in its survival. Classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, the population of these magnificent birds has been declining due to habitat loss, agricultural expansion, and collisions with power lines.

The conservation efforts at Melozhori and various other reserves across the country aim to protect and preserve this iconic species, ensuring that future generations can continue to admire the grace and beauty of the Blue Crane in its natural South African habitat.

Black Harrier

Melozhori is home to the very rare Black Harrier (Circus maurus), South Africa’s rarest endemic raptor and a symbol of both beauty and vulnerability in the country’s avian population. With only an estimated 1000 mature breeding birds remaining, this elegant bird of prey has been pushed to the brink of extinction. In a devastating blow to its survival, the Black Harrier was reclassified from ‘vulnerable’ to ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List in 2015.

The once thriving populations have dwindled due to various threats, including habitat loss, human disturbance, and illegal hunting. As the conservation community rallies to protect this iconic species, initiatives are being launched at various reserves and protected areas across South Africa to secure the Black Harrier’s future and ensure that its presence continues to grace the skies of this beautiful nation.

Secretary Bird

Among the most fascinating of the bird species found at Melozhori is the striking Secretary Bird (Sagittarius serpentarius). With its unique appearance characterized by its long legs, elegant crest of feathers, and distinctive facial markings, the Secretary Bird is truly a sight to behold. The bird gets its name from its crest of long feathers that look like the quill pens 19th-century office workers used to tuck behind their ears.

This remarkable bird of prey plays a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of the reserve, as it preys upon a variety of small animals and insects. Despite its captivating presence, the Secretary Bird faces challenges to its survival in South Africa. Habitat loss, electrocution on power lines, and accidental poisoning from pesticides pose significant threats to the species.

However, dedicated conservation efforts at Melozhori and throughout the country are striving to protect and preserve the Secretary Bird’s habitat and ensure its continued presence in the wild.

Denham’s Bustard

One of the most captivating inhabitants of Melozhori Private Game Reserve is the Denham’s Bustard (Neotis denhami). With its tall stature and striking plumage, this bird commands attention as it gracefully roams the reserve’s grasslands.

However, despite its awe-inspiring presence, the Denham’s Bustard faces significant threats to its survival in South Africa. Classified as “vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List, the species has experienced population declines due to habitat loss, disturbance from human activities, and collisions with power lines.

Conservation efforts are critical in safeguarding the habitat and well-being of the Denham’s Bustard, ensuring that its unique beauty and vital role in the ecosystem continue to be celebrated for generations to come. By fostering awareness and actively protecting this iconic bird, we can contribute to securing a brighter future for the Denham’s Bustard in South Africa.

Bird Species List

Other interesting and unusual sightings at Melozhori:

Keep an eye on our regularly updated blog for more facts about wildlife and birdlife in the Melozhori Game Reserve. Book now to bird the Overberg with us at Melozhori!


Image credits:
Melozhori Private Game Reserve
Jacques de Speville

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