The wider Gauteng birding region is situated at between 1000 and 1800m above sea level. Gauteng has a range of different biomes all within comfortable driving distance (1.5 hrs from the city centres) which enable one to pick up in excess of 200 species in a mornings birding.
The once extensive grassland biome has been transformed but there are still a number of good patches including Suikerbosrand which is in the Southern parts of the province. During the summer this area teems with birds and one can pick up specials such as Orange River Francolin, African Grass Owl and Tinkling Cisticola not to mention a number of Highveld species.
Moving away from grasslands one will encounter numerous wetlands offering a diverse range of water birds as well as specials such as Greater Painted Snipe, Baillon’s crake, Red chested Flufftail, and Greater Flamingo. Rarities that have pitched up in Gauteng include Slaty Egret, Spotted Crake, Western Marsh harrier and South Africa’s first record of an Asiatic Dowitcher.
Within the cities there are a number of botanical gardens as well as nature reserves that offer extremely good birding opportunities. Acacia thornveld in northern Gauteng and the adjacent Limpopo and North West provinces offer the highest diversity of bird species and a trip to site such as Zaagkuildrift, Borakalalo and Vaalkop Dam can produce over 150 species in a day.
The bustling province of Gauteng incorporates South Africa’s political and commercial capital cities namely Pretoria and Johannesburg which are world class cities. There is a wide range of accommodation, fantastic restaurants and world class birding. Gauteng also has a number of well experienced bird tour operators who provide a fantastic service to visiting birders. This coupled with an extensive infrastructure and accommodation system provides the visiting birder with an ideal birding destination as well as a platform for a birding holiday.
The majority of people view Gauteng as the financial capital of South Africa and not worth anything more than a quick visit on their way to some of South Africa’s more well known destinations. Despite the province being one of the smaller and more densely populated provinces few people realize that Gauteng is one of South Africa’s premier birding areas. There are approximately 400 species in the region, including 60 southern African endemics. Gauteng has the largest number of birders as well as contributors to the South African Bird Atlas Projects. The popularity of birding in Gauteng has recently seen the launch of a book dedicated to birding in the province.
The Gauteng region has been divided into five areas.
The eastern part of the Witwatersrand, known as the East Rand, and extends from Germiston in the west to Springs in the east, and south down to Nigel, and includes the towns of Boksburg, Benoni, Brakpan, Kempton Park, Edenvale, and Bedfordview. The natural vegetation of this region consists of Highveld grassland on gently rolling terrain. It also includes the catchment of several rivers, seasonal wetlands and permanent pans which ensure a high diversity of waterbirds.
Johannesburg is located in the eastern plateau area of South Africa known as the Highveld, at an elevation of 1,753 metres. Johannesburg is located on the south side of the prominent ridge called the Witwatersrand and the terrain falls to the north and south. The Witwatersrand marks the watershed between the Limpopo and Vaal rivers as the northern part of the city is drained by the Jukskei River and the southern part of the city, including most of the CBD, is drained by the Klip River. The north and west of the city has undulating hills while the eastern parts are flatter. The city boundary stretch from Orange Farm in the south to Midrand in the north and includes Diepsloot, Randburg and Roodepoort. This area was predominantly a grassland region but large quantity of planted trees in the suburbs of Johannesburg has permitted many woodland birds to move into the city during the last few decades. The remaining natural areas on the outskirts of the city host a number of birds that are endemic to this region.
The Northern Gauteng birding area consists of 6,368 square kilometres and stretch from Centurion in the south to Hammanskraal in the north and Bronkhorstspruit in the east. The area is representative of two Biomes: Savanna towards the north and grassland to the south. The vegetation varies from a dense, short bushveld to a rather open tree savanna. The advantage of the geographic is that the area offers more than 400 birds species. Birding is good year round: during the drier winter months the area host bushveld species from the north, while the summer brings the arrival of migrants.
The Vaal Birding Route extends from the green hills of Devon in the east to the Vredefort Dome in the west. Within this region occurs a wide variety of habitats including extensive highveld grasslands, rolling hills cloaked with a variety of woodland types and extensive natural pans and wetland areas. The vast shoreline of the Vaal and the richly diversity of riverine habitats along the Vaal, the Klip, the Suikerbos a
nd other rivers, all contribute to a region which is rich in natural treasures. Vaal has a relatively small altitudinal range, from about 1 300 m to 1 900 meters above sea level. Despite its small area and lack of sub-tropical woodlands, Vaal has over 360 species of birds, including a number which are more easily seen here than anywhere else.
The West Rand extends from Randfontein in the west to Roodepoort in the east, and includes the town of Krugersdorp. Carletonville and Westonaria are included as being part of the Far West Rand. This region offers woodland, mountain and grassland birding since the area is bounded by the Magaliesberg Mountains and slopes into the bushveld. The steeper southern slopes (cliffs) are ideal breeding ground for the Endangered and Vulnerable Cape Vultures as well as other raptor species. Several major rivers flow through this region. The Cradle of Humankind which is a World Heritage Sites are also situated in this area.