Outdoors Information

Bird Safaris: Timbavatis Most Desired Plumage


Normally when you think Safari you think Big 5. The spotlight or limelight is traditionally on lions, cheetah or elephants. But when do the birds get some of the attention?

With outlandish names like the Chestnut-Vented Tit-Babbler and the Jameson's Firefinch, just imagine what some of these eccentric buzzards actually look like? What strange frequencies dart from their beaks and why is it that people call them by such far-out names?

The Timbavati Game Reserve is perfectly situated in the Lowveld area where more than 500 species of birds are waiting to cripple your eyeballs. Timbavati is part of a migration route for a broad variety of birds flying in from the far reaches of Africa and the tropical regions. Large populations of the Raptor family are there to greet them whenever they land. These raptors include - Wahlberg's Eagle, Black-breasted Snake Eagle and the Bateleur Eagle.

It has been said that overseas visitors may well see more species on their first day in Timbavati than they would have seen in their entire life in their own country.

We are however going to be focusing our lenses on Timabavati's most popular beaks, the likes of which can only be found in this particular area. This grouping of birds represents the bird sightings most desired by Timbavati's visitors. Known around the area as the Big 6 of birding, they are usually found at the top of every birdwatcher's list.

The Most Popular Birds on Timbavati's Sightings List

1. The Kori Bustard
2. Martial Eagle
3. Saddle-billed Stork
4. Lappet-faced Vulture
5. Ground Hornbill and the
6. Pel's Fishing-Owl

If you're looking To Find These Tricky Characters, Remember This:

- You don't look for birds as much as you listen for them.

- You can't be a good birder without developing a little patience.

- "The early bird gets the worm" is a clichd expression based on fact, so start out early.

If you're intent on spotting all of these birds you'll need to spend at least a day scouting thick riverside forest, open bushveld and the river banks of Timabavati.

Promising areas include the various bird hides designed specifically for birding and especially the picnic sites in the area that attracts birds for obvious reasons.

Tips To Point You In The Right Direction

The Kori Bustard is strictly terrestrial and prefers wooded grassland areas and dry savannas; its feeding time is in the early mornings making it the best time to see one.

The Martial eagle is the largest of the African eagles and is found throughout the African savanna, in any type of terrain from mountains to flat plains, the edge of deserts to wooded country. This bird has been known to take down whole impala.

The Saddle-billed Stork can normally found near rivers. Look for their large stick nests in the tops of tall trees.

The Lappet-faced Vulture also resides in stick nests located at the top of short trees. They prefer open, arid habitats. They can be found fighting over bones near the site of a kill.

The Ground Hornbill prefers steppes and savannas with fairly low grass growth, which makes their search for food easier. They have very large territories of about 100 sq. kilometers.

The Pel's Fishing Owl is the rarest sighting of all because of its nocturnal habits and restriction to large watercourses. A good time to catch this one is during the night, preferably on a night drive. As you know, they are fishing owls so near water is the best place to start looking.

The birds mentioned above are easy to identify but are by no means the least of the birds you will encounter in the Timbavati Game Reserve. More than 500 hundred species offer the discerning eye of an ornithologist and a layman alike. Enjoy the sights and sounds of a Birding Safari in Timbavati. It's worth coming here just for the birdlife.

Umlani Bush Camp offers open-air accommodation located in the Timbavati Game Reserve, which is part of the Greater Kruger National Park. The fences between the Kruger Park and Timbavati have been dropped offering access to a pristine wilderness area of approximately four million hectares, situated in the Lowveld area.


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